A World Beneath the Surface
Shipwreck hunting and diving may not be the first activities you think of when you think "Door County," but they're easily some of the coolest. Today, there are around 240 known shipwrecks in the waters of Door County alone (Bermuda Triangle who?), and adventurers can explore about 25 of them in a number of ways, including shipwreck diving, clear-bottom kayak tours, boat rides, and local maritime museums.
Unearth Relics of Maritime History
The waters of Lake Michigan surrounding Door County's peninsula and islands are part of the Saint Lawrence Seaway, the 370-mile system of lakes, rivers, straits, canals, bays, and waterways that connects the Great Lakes to the Atlantic Ocean.
Countless boats, schooners, and ships have traversed this important route as they transported wares to and from businesses around the region. This waterway is also how many Door County shipbuilders would deliver their products to customers in Chicago, Michigan, and beyond.
Over the centuries, thousands of vessels sank—usually thanks to high winds, thunder storms, on-ship fires, and engine/part failures but sometimes due to pirates or bootleggers, resulting in the hundreds of sunken ships and relics haunting these shores.
Further Reading: Wisconsin Shipwrecks
Shipwreck Diving in Lake Michigan
Many shipwrecks and their remnants can be seen from the water's surface just by looking from a kayak or boat, but many more can be seen with proper diving equipment.
A handful of shipwrecks are in less than 60 feet of water, so you'll only need basic snorkeling equipment. But there are many more wrecks in 100+ feet of water, which means you'll need specialized diving equipment and training to explore them.
If you're an experienced diver with the proper gear, the waters of Door County present an incredible opportunity for seeing shipwrecks up close. Even if you're not, you can learn about them at local museums or on a kayak, boat, or scenic cruise.
Further Reading: Journal-Sentinel's
Cross Death's Door Strait if You Dare
Death's Door Strait (AKA Ports des Morts, AKA "Door of the Dead") is infamous for its narrow, rough, and unpredictably windy waters that are now littered with shipwrecks. Once the Sturgeon Bay Ship canal was built in the late 1800s, the number of sinking ships decreased as captains were now able to avoid the strait and protect their vessels from damage.
Today, you can cross Death's Door, but the safest way to do so is by boat or ferry. The waters remain choppy and unpredictable, and attempting to cross on a kayak or another lightweight sea vessel could spell trouble. You can also admire the strait from the safety of Washington Island or the shorelines of the peninsula's tip.
Further Reading: How Door County Got Its Name
LighthousesIf you're crafting a DC trip with maritime fixings, make sure you hit up at least one lighthouse. Door County boasts 11 lighthouses in total, and they can be found up and down the peninsula as well as on nearby islands.
IslandsIslands are as much a part of Door County's maritime history as shipbuilding and waterways. A handful of the region's 35 named islands are accessible by boat and make excellent complements to a shipwreck excursion.
ParksPair your diving adventure with a trip to state or county park—we've got five Wisconsin state parks and 19 Door County parks up here, along with countless municipal parks and greenspaces.
Immerse Yourself in Great Lakes History