Charming coastal villages. Gorgeous, rugged coastlines and inlets. Succulent food harvested from fishing boats. Wisconsin’s Door County has been called the Cape Cod of the Midwest, and for good reason. Occupying a peninsula that juts more than 60 miles northeast into Lake Michigan, Door County is an escape from the outside world. Take a loop around the peninsula and learn what makes this place so special.
1) Sturgeon Bay
Located on Door County’s a long, narrow peninsula, Sturgeon Bay is the biggest town on the route. So it’s a great place to stock up on winery and brewery tours, farmer’s markets and museums. History buffs should drop into Door County Maritime Museum and the Door County Historical Museum. The Farm is farm-like family fun – baby goats and more.
2) Peninsula State Park
Drive 24 miles • 34 minutes
Peninsula State Park features an 18-hole championship golf course, camping sites, hiking trails and bicycle paths. Snow on the ground doesn’t mean an end to the frivolity. Instead, prepare to bust out the skis for groomed ski trails, snowmobiling and sledding. Bring the kids to family-friendly White Cedar Nature Center, which hosts a number of hikes, nature-based arts and crafts, and outdoor skills workshops to keep the kids’ minds off the TV remote control and into the beauty of the surrounding forest. Founded in 1853 as a Norwegian Moravian religious community, Ephraim is an historic and lovely small town with an excellent waterfront location and a beautiful historic district. Take in summertime concerts at the town’s waterfront. Or catch live theater at Northern Sky Theater.
3) Mink River Estuary
Drive 15 miles • 24 minutes
For an even closer glimpse of life on the water, the Mink River Estuary at Door County’s northern tip is regarded as one of the finest places for paddling in the Midwest. Canoeing or kayaking the serene waters is the perfect way to observe the more than 200 migratory birds that pass through the untapped wilderness each season.
4) Bailey’s Harbor
Drive 16 miles • 21 minutes
Heading south, your next stop is Bailey’s Harbor. Cana Island Lighthouse kept old-time sailors safe on Lake Michigan’s waters. It’s worth a visit — view the historic lighthouse and the lighthouse keeper’s home. Reel in the big ones with a guided fishing tour. How about a watery adventure in a glass-bottom kayak? Zip line anybody? Or treat yourself to a great meal at the local Yacht Club Resort. Drive 22.4 miles to return to Sturgeon Bay and complete the loop.
5) Whitefish Dunes State Park
Drive 11 miles • 18 minutes
Though Whitefish Dunes State Park on the peninsula’s eastern shore is one of the most popular parks in the state, it still feels untamed. Surrounded by beech forests and wetlands, the shoreline alternates between sandy beaches and rocky coves and boasts dunes that rise as high as 90 feet above the waterline. Hiking trails and a beachside boardwalk make it easy to explore the terrain at your leisure. For sweeping lake scenery, check out the eastern shore’s Peninsula State Park highlighted by Svens Buff.
Drive 14 miles • 22 minutes back to Sturgeon Bay to complete the loop.