of Door County
Door County may be best known for its quaint harborside villages, outdoor adventure, and unique dining/drinking opportunities, but its historical and cultural sides have plenty to offer as well.
Learning about a place’s historical foundations and cultural traditions can help everyone—residents and visitors alike—be more aware of their personal impact on natural and cultural resources and do their part to preserve them for future generations. For more on this topic, explore Care for Door County, our new environmental and cultural sustainability movement.
To help you infuse some education and edification into your next trip to Door County, here’s a breakdown of local museum options and what you can expect to find at each.
Alexander Noble House Museum
Located in downtown Fish Creek, the Noble House is a Greek revival farmhouse originally built in 1875. Visitors can tour the 10-room home and see period architecture and decor that provides a glimpse into what domestic life would have been like in the early days of Fish Creek. The building is on the National Register of Historic Places.
Belgian Heritage Center
A highlight of a trip to Southern Door is all of the rich examples of area residents’ Belgian heritage, from Belgian chapels along the highways to the Belgian Heritage Center in Brussels (which takes its name from the Belgian capital city). Come here to learn about early settlers from Belgium and how their traditions, foods and drinks, architecture, and language have come to be part of the Door County cultural tapestry.
Corner of the Past/Old Anderson House Museum
Sister Bay’s historical museum houses 15 small galleries’ worth of hyperlocal artifacts residents have collected and donated over the years. In addition to the exhibits and historical items, the museum offers a seasonal scavenger hunt, butter-making demonstrations, crafts, and more for kids.
Crossroads at Big Creek
This learning center in Sturgeon Bay teaches guests about science, history, and the environment and offers educational programs, conservation and clean-up events, and onsite recreation opportunities, including many miles of hiking and nature trails.
Door County Historical Museum
Once named the “Best Small Museum in the Midwest” by the Chicago Tribune, the Door County Historical Museum in Sturgeon Bay has restored 1920s fire trucks, a wildlife exhibit with 100+ species included, and a theater that plays films about the Door County region and its history.
Door County Maritime Museum
The Maritime Museum has two locations in Sturgeon Bay and Gills Rock and also operates the Cana Island lighthouse in Baileys Harbor. At both locations, find interactive exhibits on lighthouses and maritime history, see real ships and ship parts (including a real wooden steering wheel), learn about nearby shipwrecks, see lighthouse lights and boat-engine parts up close, or take a boat-building class.
Eagle Bluff Lighthouse and Heritage Village at Big Creek
The Door County Historical Society operates both the Eagle Bluff Lighthouse and Heritage Village Museum. The lighthouse is located in Peninsula State Park in Fish Creek and offers visitors the chance to walk around a real lighthouse and learn about maritime and navigational history. Heritage Village at Big Creek is a kid-friendly destination for learning about what life was like in the rural Door County region from around 1880-1910.
Ephraim Historical Foundation
Ephraim is one of Door County’s oldest and most historically rich communities. Founded in 1853, the village still embraces and celebrates its Norwegian-Moravian roots, as evidenced in its traditional architecture, pastoral lakeside setting, and numerous historical museums, homes, and sites.
Island Lavender at the Historic Island Dairy
Hop a ferry to Washington Island to visit this beautiful and rustic lavender farm, shop, and museum. Explore the lavender fields in their soothing purple tones, find lavender products and other artisanal items, and learn about the lavender-harvesting process.
The Jacobsen Museum can be found in a rustic lakeside cabin in the woods. Visitors can explore the beautiful property on Little Lake and discover all kinds of Door County artifacts, including ship wreckage, fossils and rocks, Native American artifacts, artwork, and other natural and historical objects.
Washington Island Farm Museum
This farm museum on the north end of the island is the perfect day trip for families and history lovers. In addition to viewing vintage barns and farm buildings that were moved to and reassembled on the property, visitors can see farm animals, take a wagon ride, make crafts, and enjoy historical activities.
Not only do local museums provide a whole new slate of things to do and see, they can reveal an entirely new side of Door County most visitors may otherwise have never seen or even heard about.
The next time you’re in Door County looking for some daytime fun or a way to enhance your appreciation of this incredible place, visit one of our museums or historical sites and immerse yourself in our fascinating history. And don’t forget to check out the Care for Door County movement to learn about our efforts to help preserve and protect the region’s historical and cultural traditions.