Before starting my plans to visit Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin, I had no idea the area is known as Door County. Now I know that people familiar with the area will say they are vacationing in Door County, but may go to a certain area or all over the peninsula. It’s like we say in the South about going to get a coke — when we get there, we order anything but a coke. I am a Texan, and this was my first time visiting Wisconsin. Now, I have a whole peninsula to explore!
I’m blown away at this top Midwestern destination, and I can see why people refer to it as the Cape Cod of the Midwest. The temperature never climbed past 78 degrees while we were there — this is by far a Texan’s dream vacation spot. If you like outdoor activities, beautiful sunsets, cool evenings, great food, and quaint towns, you’re going to love spending a summer vacation in Door County.
Door County is located in northeastern Wisconsin and covers the 60-mile peninsula that extends into Lake Michigan — that’s a lot to cover. However, don’t try to see it all in one trip — we found that impossible. Pick a town or two to visit, then come back and visit the rest. Be sure to stop by the visitor’s center at 36 S. 3rd Avenue, Sturgeon Bay to pick up brochures, maps, information on attractions, and ask questions.
My trip included learning what “bubbler” meant (a water fountain), enjoying Wisconsin cheese curds for the first time, and having a true Old-Fashioned! My friend and I were hosted on this trip, and we enjoyed every bit of it. All opinions here are my own.
Hike The Ice Age Trail Segment At Potawatomi State Park
The Ice Age Trail runs 1,000 miles or so through Wisconsin and is broken up into segments. Hiking it all at one time (and some do) is a huge undertaking. At Potawatomi State Park in Sturgeon Bay, it’s the final point of the trail or the eastern terminus. But you can most definitely start there, too. Actually, you can start anywhere on the trail. Serious hikers keep records of the segments that they’ve hiked. I can say I have hiked one segment of the Ice Age Trail… and that feels good to say! To understand more about the Ice Age Trail, visit 11 Things To Know Before Tacking Wisconsin’s Ice Age Trail.
Jump Off The Cliffs At Cave Point
Ask anyone around, and they’ll tell you that Cave Point is a fun and exciting thing to do in Door County. It’s a well-known area for jumping off cliffs into the water. Admittedly, I did not jump, nor would I, but I watched plenty who did over and over again. I think if the water below weren’t so cold, I would have done it, or at least seriously thought about it. If you’ve got kids or grandkids, they would love it, and you may enjoy watching… or not. It’s a little scary, I thought.
Caves And Dunes Kayak Tour
Kayaking Lake Michigan when we did was like walking up a hill — a steep hill. Kayaking is one of my favorite outdoor sports to do when I travel (or even in my hometown), and I’ve always enjoyed it. However, this time, the enjoyment was there — but it was more of a workout than fun. Don’t get me wrong, the scenery was wonderful, our guides were great, and kayaking inside a cave was the bomb, but I could have done without the waves — which made it harder to paddle. If you’re up for a kayaking adventure tour, check out Door County Adventure Center for an incredible time and awesome views. Maybe the weather will cooperate for you. Oh, they take you to Cave Point, where you can watch people jump from the cliffs into the water.
Sit And Gaze Out Into The Bay
Sometimes you just need to sit and take a breather, especially when walking around all day. While in Fish Creek for the afternoon, we looked for public restrooms and came upon a nice grassy area with benches overlooking the bay. This was down Spruce Street, and the restrooms were across the way, too. We sat, we gazed out into the bay, and caught our breaths, then we were on our way. Felt good. I’m pretty sure no matter where you are on the Peninsula, you’ll find nice areas to sit and relax.
Sturgeon Bay Segway Canal City Tour
Tooling around town on a motorized Segway is not only fun but an awesome way to see it all and not have to walk all that way. We covered some major ground, including the historic steel bridge, the shipyard at the bay, and the historic district in town. Segway The Door Tours took good care of us as we had never ridden a Segway before. If you’re new at it, your tour guide will give a short lesson and will make sure you are comfortable and confident to ride it. It seems a little intimidating at first, but I promise you’ll get the hang of it in no time.
Book A Tour At Door 44 Winery
Door 44 Winery is owned by Steve and Maria, a husband and wife team that took a chance on growing grapes in a beer-drinking state. A decade later, they have proved that yes, you can indeed grow grapes in Wisconsin. Booking a tour is a great way to see their beautiful new state-of-the-art facility situated on a 6-acre vineyard, sample some award-winning wines, get a lesson or two on winemaking, and end with a glass of wine of your choice. Of course, you can skip all that and just relax on the patio and enjoy the beautiful view with wine in hand. Either way, you’re in for a treat.
Shop The Quaint Towns Of Door County
We had time to do some shopping in Sturgeon Bay, Fish Creek, and Sister Bay, but the peninsula runs 60 miles, so that’s a lot of shopping. There are quite a few charming shops in both areas we were in, and in some areas, stores stay open late. We were lucky and came upon an outdoor market in downtown Sturgeon Bay. I love supporting entrepreneurs and cannot pass up a flea market or anything of the like.
Walk, Bike, Jog Sturgeon Bay
Need or want to take in some exercise time? It’s easy to do all three on the walkways in Sturgeon Bay. Bike rentals are available at Nor Door Sport of Sturgeon Bay and Bay Shore Outfitters if you don’t bring your own. On our walks, we marveled over the Cherries Jubilee public art.
These colorful cherries were all around town and signified the celebration of 21 years of public art in Sturgeon Bay. I have no idea what I’m going to do with all those photos I took of them, but the one above was my favorite.
Take Your Favorite Tour On The Door County Trolley
Get off your feet and take a ride on the big red trolley! Sign up for a tour on one of 15 themed tours offered on the Door County Trolley. Choose from lighthouse tours to ghost tours to family-friendly tours — it’s certain to be a great time no matter what tour you choose!
Door County Maritime Museum
This may be inside, but you have to go inside to see the amazing views outside! Door County Maritime Museum has added the new Jim Kress Maritime Lighthouse Tower Observation Deck to the museum in May 2021 and it provides impeccable views of Sturgeon Bay. Whether you’ve never been or haven’t visited lately, the new tower will get you outdoor views as you’ve never seen before! We could have stayed up there for hours.
Choose A Restaurant With Outside Seating
Outdoor seating has become a trendy way to enjoy food, friends, and fun, and Door County has caught on. Maybe not in the winter months, but for summers, it’s the thing to do! We enjoyed wood-fired pizza at Wild Tomato in Fish Creek on its outdoor patio along with Wisconsin cheese curds — amazing! Sonny’s Italian Kitchen & Pizzeria in Sturgeon Bay has the best pizza around, and its location is right on the bay next to the bridge where you can watch walkers, joggers, and bikers. You may even get to see the bridge go up now and again. Don’t limit your meal to just pizza, though. I had an amazing chicken parmesan dinner that was so plentiful, I finished it off the next day for lunch! If time allows, try a new beer at Bridge Up Brewery located downstairs at Sonny’s Kitchen.
Pro Tip: Locals were very quick to advise us on places to dine, shop, and play and recommended that we come back in the wintertime for something different. Though Door County’s peak season is summer, some do vacation there in the wintertime as well. If this is something you would like to explore, check out Best Things To Do In Door County In The Winter.
Wisconsin is famous as a winter wonderland, but summers in this Midwestern state can prove to be an exciting place to vacation: