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.

Want to explore another way? Use the Trip Planner to create a custom itinerary that remembers your top trip ideas.

Just the Facts: Door County Q & A

star

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.

Door County Map chevron-down

Explore Door County Locales

Washington Island

Death’s Door is just the start of the adventure on Washington Island. Check out this community for:

  • All things nautical, such as lighthouses and ferry rides
  • Incredible hike-in and waterside camping
  • Unique attractions like lavender fields, shipwrecks, and secluded stone beaches
Fish Creek

Style, nightlife, and silent sports adventure can be found in Fish Creek. Come here for:

  • Shopping, street life, and a vibrant dining culture
  • Peninsula State Park and its many outdoor activities
  • Big-name musical performances and a lively theatre scene
Southern Door County

Southern Door is the Entryway to the Peninsula. Here are two of the most popular southern communities:

  • Brussels - Come here for the Belgian chapels and architecture, traditional food, and beautiful countryside
  • Forestville - Get a taste of Door County without the crowds—try motorcycling, biking, and hiking down here
Egg Harbor

There’s small-town, big-time cool in Egg Harbor. Visit this community for:

  • Four top-notch golf courses
  • Outdoor fun and adventure, such as biking, hiking, and boating
  • Festival-packed summers, including a beer fest and a pumpkin fest
Juddville

Don’t overlook the charms of this tiny town. Check out Juddville for:

  • Rusticity, tranquility, and country living
  • Open roads for biking and motorcycling
  • The WriteOn! writing and learning center
Gills Rock

It’s history with a view in Gills Rock. Come here for:

  • The famous “winding road” and other highway attractions
  • Extraordinary views, thanks to the town’s lakeside location
  • A taste of history at the maritime museum
Rowleys Bay

Explore stunning natural beauty in Rowleys Bay. Visit this community for: 

  • Ecological adventures at the Mink River Estuary
  • Birding and wildlife spotting
  • Kayaking, canoeing, and paddle boarding
Jacksonport

Find sandy beaches, quaint shops, and rural charm in Jacksonport. Come here for:

  • The stunning limestone cliffs of Cave Point Park
  • Maifest, the fire-filled celebration of spring
  • The annual Polar Bear Plunge
Baileys Harbor

Natural beauty and natural fun await in Baileys Harbor. Check out this town for:

  • The Ridges Sanctuary and other wilderness areas
  • Multiple historic lighthouses
  • Farmers markets, summer festivals, and the arts
Carlsville

Carlsville is a hub for authentic Door County products. Come here for:

  • Artisan goods and wares
  • The region’s largest coffee roaster, oldest winery, and only distillery
  • A quieter version of DC with lots of open space and country roads
Sister Bay

Sister Bay is a foodie’s favorite on the waterfront. Come here for:

  • Al fresco dining and a flourishing food/bar scene
  • The famous roof-grazing goats and family-friendly attractions
  • Epic sunsets along 1,900 feet of public shoreline
Sturgeon Bay

Sturgeon Bay is the city that lives on, and for, the water. Visit the Bay for:

  • A fascinating maritime history and shipbuilding culture
  • Stunning sites, from multiple parks to lighthouses to Potawatomi Tower
  • The closest you’ll come to big-city conveniences
Ellison Bay

Art and nature collide in Ellison Bay. Visit this community for:

  • A robust arts scene, including The Clearing Folk School
  • Beautiful scenery such as bluffs, lookout towers, beaches, and Newport State Park
  • Summer festivals celebrating arts and crafts, wine/beer, and farm life
Ephraim

History, fine arts, and water sports collide in Ephraim. Visit this town for:

  • Scandinavian history and Belgian chapels
  • The very photogenic Hardy Gallery on Anderson Dock
  • Miles of shoreline for swimming, kayaking, and sun-bathing

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

Nature & Spirituality

Try this if you seek: woods and waterways, places of worship, and the natural world

Hip & Unique

Hip & Unique

Try this if you seek: quirky small towns, corner bars, and one-of-a-kind experiences

The Finer Things

The Finer Things

Try this if you seek: high-end dining and wine, shopping, and arts and cultural experiences

Adventure

Adventure

Try this if you seek: water sports, off-trail hiking or biking, and outdoor exploration

Romance

Romance

Try this if you seek: sunset picnics, fine dining, local wines, and couples' activities

History & Culture

History & Culture

Try this if you seek: edification at museums, heritage sites, lighthouses, and iconic attractions

Sport & Recreation

Sport & Recreation

Try this if you seek: time in the great outdoors—golfing, swimming, biking, winter sports, and more

Family Fun

Family Fun

Try this if you seek: family-friendly activities, such as museums, arts and crafts, beaches, and parks

Take Quiz Again

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.

Item 1

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.

Item 2

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.

Item 3

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.