Introduction to Door County:
A 5-Minute Primer
Welcome to Door County, Wisconsin
We know you’ve got plenty of options when it comes to Great Lakes vacations and midwestern getaways, so take a few minutes to explore this introduction to Door County and learn why the region is one of the top vacation spots in the US for couples, families, solo travelers, and large groups alike.
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Just the Facts: Door County Q & A
Where in the world is Door County?
Door County is a region in “the left thumb” of Wisconsin, USA—the small land mass projecting into the water from the east-central side of the state. The county is about a 2.5-hour drive northeast from Milwaukee and a 4.5-hour drive north from Chicago or east from Minneapolis.
How do I visit an entire county?
The short answer is…you don’t! DC is comprised of 2,000+ square miles and more than 19 distinct communities, so your best bet is researching individual towns, choosing 1–3 near each other that suit your getaway style and tastes, and exploring this pocket and its surrounding areas.
How do I get around Door County?
Like many relatively rural areas, Door County lacks public transportation, and its towns are spread out enough that driving between them is a must. So, although you will definitely need a car to get around, the streets and highways will be pleasantly void of buses, high-speed trains, rideshare companies, and taxis.
What’s a peninsula?
A peninsula is a land protrusion almost entirely surrounded by water. In DC’s case, Lake Michigan (east side) and Green Bay (west side) flank three sides; its southern-most base connects to Wisconsin’s mainland. DC also contains Washington Island and Rock Island, both of which are a few miles off the peninsula’s northern shore.
What’s the landscape like?
No, you won’t be climbing any mountains or exploring any deserts here, but our beaches, islands, lakes, forests, woods, meadows, and nature preserves are sure to satisfy your longings to connect with nature. DC boasts five state and 19 county parks, and a lack of light pollution has earned Newport State Park an International Dark Sky Place designation.
What’s the weather like?
Wisconsin has four distinct seasons that more or less create the conditions you’d expect. We won’t pretend the summers can’t be extremely hot or that our winters can’t be brutally cold. They very much can, but those beautiful extremes also result in 3–4 months of perfect beach weather and 2–3 months of stupefyingly gorgeous winter landscapes.
Can I bring my kids? My dog? My iguana?
Absolutely—Door County is a top destination for family trips, and dogs are welcome in many local businesses and public spaces. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a restaurant or attraction that doesn’t cater to kids, but do your research before bringing your pet with you to an establishment.
Let's Get Acquainted
Let's Get Acquainted
“Door County” refers to a 70-mile long region in Wisconsin, USA that contains 34 named islands and dozens of small cities, towns, and communities, each with its own distinct look and feel. The entire region is located on a peninsula, with the exception of the islands. A “handy” way to remember this is to hold out your left hand—keeping the fingers together—and studying the area between your bottom thumb knuckle and the top of the thumbnail. You betcha: we’re the thumb of the Wisconsin mitten.
Explore Door County Locales
Southern Door County
Southern Door is the Entryway to the Peninsula. Here are two of the most popular southern communities:
- All things nautical, such as lighthouses and ferry rides
Find Your Vacation Style
Scroll through this series of images and click a heart icon to indicate you’re interested in the activity depicted. Once we’ve gathered enough information, we’ll help narrow down your vacation style and funnel you to activities, businesses, and attractions you might like. Stick to "hearting" the 3–6 images that speak to you the most; the fewer images you select, the more accurate your results will be.
The Results Are in...
Below we’ve compiled a short list of potential interest groups based on what you “hearted” during the activity. Click on one or more to get a better idea of the kinds of activities that fit this category or click “Start Over” to take the quiz again. To explore additional vacation styles, navigate to Experience.
Nature & Spirituality
Try this if you seek: woods and waterways, places of worship, and the natural world
Hip & Unique
Try this if you seek: quirky small towns, corner bars, and one-of-a-kind experiences
The Finer Things
Try this if you seek: high-end dining and wine, shopping, and arts and cultural experiences
Try this if you seek: water sports, off-trail hiking or biking, and outdoor exploration
Try this if you seek: sunset picnics, fine dining, local wines, and couples' activities
History & Culture
Try this if you seek: edification at museums, heritage sites, lighthouses, and iconic attractions
Sport & Recreation
Try this if you seek: time in the great outdoors—golfing, swimming, biking, winter sports, and more
Try this if you seek: family-friendly activities, such as museums, arts and crafts, beaches, and parks
Door County’s People, Places, & Things
Get to know the region on a deeper level by exploring its history, natural landscape, and most iconic sites.
A (Very) Brief Overview
of Local Maritime History
Door County is defined by its proximity to Lake Michigan and the Great Lakes. These waterways are why many nomadic settlers would camp here, and they’re how the earliest permanent settlers got around and sustained life. Residents have worked as fishermen, mariners, and shipbuilders, and others worked as loggers and farmers, relying on ships to transport their wares. In the 20th century, Door County’s shipyards were producing as many as five ships a day to keep up with the military’s demand for large boats and other sea vessels.
A Quick Foray into
the Nature of Door County
From a 93-foot sand dune and the jagged walls of Cave Point to The Ridges Sanctuary and the lavender fields of Washington Island, Door County is a lesser-known treasure trove of ecological wonders. Nature and its endless splendors are woven into both town and city design as well as daily life, as evidenced by passionate locals who operate nature-based businesses, artists constantly inspired by the landscape, and those who’ve chosen to make their homes among pines and rivers and wide-open spaces.
A Tiny Taste of Iconic Door County
If you want to see into the heart of any culture, start by looking at its cuisine. The menus, recipe books, and dinner tables of Door County are likely to contain cherries, lakefish, meat, cheese, and Scandinavian and Western-European dishes. But food is just one avenue for understanding a culture. Visitors can also look to the roadside Belgian chapels, British-Victorian homes, Swedish-influenced Stavkirke and Björklunden chapels, and Viking-inspired Thordarson boathouse to get a feel for the people who settled Door County and made it what it is today.
The 7 Must-Instagrams of Door County
- The ‘I was here’ exterior of the Hardy Center
- Goats grazing on a Swedish restaurant’s roof
- A fish boil at one of many local eateries
- The twists and turns of Highway 42
- Some gloriously ruddy limestone walls at Cave Point
- Impossibly smooth stones on Schoolhouse Beach
- A heart-quickening view from a Death’s Door-crossing ferry