Boating, Sailing, & Paddling
in Door County
The Mood Above Board
Whether you’re an angler, a sailor, a paddler, a devout canoeist, or a family looking to get its feet wet for the first time, Door County has a way to get you on the waters surrounding the peninsula and its 34 islands. Nearly 300 miles of Door County shoreline mean the opportunities to get on the water are endless. Most of the county’s waterfront towns and villages offer docks and marinas with public slips or places to rent a boat.
Find a list of public boat launches in Door County.
Know Your Motor- & Wind-Powered Vessels
Power Boats & Pontoons
There are several boat rentals that offer pontoons for big groups, speedboats for watersports, rafts for high-speed fun, pontoons for slow-moving adventures, and jet skis for those with the need for speed. Boat rentals are typically done by the full or half day, while jet skis are generally rented by the hour. The boat operator will provide you with all the training and gear needed for your day on the water.
The county offers everything from a guided sailboat tour around the tip of the county to lessons to captain your own vessel. Witness the county’s 11 lighthouses from the water, just as early Great Lakes navigators did, or relax and let nature whisk you into the sunset.
Scenic Boat Tours
There's no better way to see the county and learn about its history and landscape than on a scenic boat tour. Let the captain entertain you with stories and tales about what makes Door County so special. Take a few hours to explore the majestic bluffs, historic lighthouses, surrounding islands and more.
Know Your Paddle-Powered Vessels
Kayaks & Canoes
Spending a morning or afternoon paddling the lakeshore or an inland lake can either be relaxing or exhilarating. It all depends on where you go and how you choose to paddle. Many local kayak suppliers also offer kayak tours, such as tours of Cave Point, Mink River Estuary, the Niagara Escarpment, sunken shipwrecks, lighthouses, and various islands, bays, and harbors. Life jackets and paddles are generally included with boat rentals, and most kayak providers offer single and tandem options.
Stand Up Paddle Boards
As stand up paddle-boarding continues to gain steam all over the country, more and more locals have opened rental businesses so visitors and residents alike can explore the area's waterways up close. Some providers offer tours, and some even offer SUP yoga and other on-water activities, but no matter your skill level, SUP paddle-boarding is a great workout and fun way to spend an afternoon.
Leave No Trace: Kayaking Basics
Stick to Trails
When launching and landing your boat or stopping for a break, do your best to use durable surfaces, such as areas where vegetation is absent, established boat launches, rock, sand, gravel, or dry grass. Shoreline vegetation is fragile and can be easily damaged by visitors and their boats. When traveling to and from the water, always stick to established trails and pathways.
Leave It as You Find It
Avoid introducing invasive plant and animal species by cleaning equipment between trips. Always wash, drain, and dry your kayak before putting it into a new body of water.
Keep Wildlife Wild
Kayaking is a great way to experience Door County’s wildlife. Even on the water, be sure to keep your distance from wildlife and keep your noise levels down so that you can experience wildlife in their natural habitat. Avoid wildlife during sensitive times including mating, nesting, and spawning. Do your research and be aware of when and where wildlife might be during these times.
Dig into Maritime History
If you love the lore of the lakes, you’ll love the Door County Maritime Museum in Gills Rock and Sturgeon Bay. The flagship location in Sturgeon Bay offers a treasure trove of artifacts, stories, videos, and interactive displays. Learn about the county’s vital role building Naval vessels in World War II and dig into the history of the lighthouses that have guided ships to safety. Many of the guided boat tours offer local insight on shipwrecks, surrounding islands, and iconic spots that are even more spectacular from the water.
Local Bodies of Water
Want to pass for a local? Call the surrounding waters by their rightful names. To the west is Green Bay, usually referred to simply as “the bay.” To the east is Lake Michigan or “the lake.” While you may be tempted to call the waters off Sister Bay or Egg Harbor “the lake,” picky locals will revel in correcting you on this dead giveaway that you’re from south of the county line. You can also earn bonus points around here by knowing your inland lakes and what kinds of activities are appropriate for each.