One Peninsula, Endless Possibilities
Although "Door County" sounds like a single place, the name refers to an area comprised of more than 3,000 square miles, 19 distinct communities, 35 named islands, thousands of diverse businesses, and countless ways to spend a day, week, or an entire season. Explore this quick primer to learn why Door County is one of the top vacation spots in the US and start packing your bags for a Midwestern getaway unlike any other.
Just the Facts:
Door County Q&A
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.
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 get around Door County?
What’s a peninsula?
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?
Can I bring my kids? My dog?
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 on dog-friendly trips before bringing your pet with you to an establishment.
One of the best ways to get to know Door County is to explore the vibrant towns, villages, and communities that comprise it. Some people choose a single community and stay for their entire trip, and others travel between communities to get a fuller sense of place.
Tools & Resources
More on Communities
Quiz: Find Your Travel Style
The Results Are In...
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.
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, local shipyards produced up to five ships a day to keep up with the military’s demand for large boats and other sea vessels.
History Quick Links
A Quick Foray into Local Nature
From a 93-foot sand dune and the jagged walls of Cave Point to 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 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 our forests, lakes, and wide-open spaces.
Nature Quick Links
A Tiny Taste of Iconic Door County
If you want to look into the heart of any culture, start with 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 visitors can also look to the roadside Belgian chapels, British-Victorian homes, Swedish-influenced Stavkirke and Björklunden chapels, Viking-inspired Thordarson boathouse, and other architecture to get a feel for the people who settled Door County and made it what it is today.
Culture Quick Links
The 7 Must-Instagrams of Door County
- The ‘I was here’ exterior of the Hardy Center in Ephraim
- Goats grazing on a Sister Bay Swedish restaurant’s roof
- A fish boil at one of many local eateries across the county
- The twists and turns of Highway 42 that runs throughout the peninsula
- Some gloriously ruddy limestone walls at Cave Point in Sturgeon Bay
- Impossibly smooth stones on Schoolhouse Beach on Washington Island
- A heart-quickening view from a Death’s Door-crossing ferry near Gills Rock