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Door County: A Coveted Kayaking Destination


Our newest video series, On the Water, highlights the many spectacular ways to spend time on the water in the Door County. Each video focuses on a specific topic, covering board sports, fishing, sailing, beaches, marinas, and kayaking. Kayaking has long been a favorite Door County activity for many visitors, and when you watch this video you can see why. Being on a kayak offers a whole new perspective to how you see Door County.

The 300 plus miles of shoreline in Door County truly are a kayakers dream come true. The shape of the peninsula means that there is rarely a day where you would not be able to find a place with good conditions for kayaking. On the eastern shores, the lakeside, you can see stunning sunrises and explore the wilder waters of Lake Michigan. On the western shores, you will find calmer and warmer waves accompanied by sunsets. There's dunes, rocky bluffs, sandy beaches, shipwrecks, islands, inland lakes, creeks and streams and estuaries. There is simply endless ways to experience Door County via kayak. 

A group kayaks along limestone bluffs and caves.

Before you hit the water, be cautious of the very real dangers involved in water activities. Lake Michigan is a large body of water and has unique qualities that require proper preparation and consideration for the safety of anyone going out on the water. If you are inexperienced with kayaking, a guided tour is highly recommended.

Here are some safety tips that everyone taking part in water recreation should have in mind every time they push off from shore.

1. Check the weather.

It may look sunny and calm, but wind can pick up and storms roll in with little visible warning. Check what’s in the forecast for the next several hours, specifically wind condition and waves, but also water temperature. The waters of Lake Michigan, especially off the peninsula’s eastern shore, can be chilly even in mid-summer. 

2. Make a plan.

Anytime you head out on the water, let someone know you are heading out, and when you expect to be back on shore, and let them know you’ll contact them when you’re there. Tim Pfleiger of Door County Adventure Center said your float plan should Include how many people are in the party, color of vessels and color of personal flotation devices. He also suggests putting a copy of the float plan in the windshield of your vehicle.

3. Go with someone.

This isn’t always possible, but if you have the option, go out with a friend.

4. Wear your safety vest.

Don’t ditch it on shore, don’t just bring it with you. You won’t have a chance to put it on if disaster strikes. Wear a properly fitted Coast Guard-approved personal flotation device. Pack your personal gear, such as your cell phone, in a waterproof bag and tie it to your boat so you don’t lose it if you capsize.

5. Bring a signaling device.

This could be a whistle, flashlight, or cell phone.

6. Know your craft

Not all kayaks are meant for big water or bad weather. Learn the limitations of your kayak, canoe, or boat. Pfleiger provides an example: “If you’re paddling a traditional kayak that requires a spray deck, then you should have a spray deck on it so the water doesn’t come into your cockpit and cause instability and possible capsizing.

7. Stay near shore.

Lake Michigan is BIG water. Keep the shore in sight at all times. Even a little wind can create wave action that makes it difficult to get back to shore, and bad weather can quickly make it difficult to navigate and find your bearings on the water.


See these and additional tips from the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary on our Water Safety guide.

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