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Door County is a great place to vacation with your dog, with plenty of dog parks, open spaces for hiking, and places to explore.
For the outdoor type, Door County has five state parks. Leashed dogs are allowed in most areas of the parks. I suggest stopping at the park office to confirm where dogs are allowed and to get suggestions of the best places in the park to visit. I recently visited Peninsula State Park in Fish Creek with a couple of my dogs. This park allows dogs most everywhere except Nicolet Beach and any sand beach areas. We hiked some trails, played in the water on the rocky shoreline and took a little picnic break.
Whitefish Dunes, near Sturgeon Bay, is one of the only parks that allows dogs on the beach. There is a specific pet beach with access about a .75-mile walk from the parking lot. Walk your pet from the parking area down the Red trail and then onto the beach.
Rock Island State Park is a personal favorite and was one of the first places my family vacationed in Door County before we owned a home or business in the county. A camping trip or day trip to Rock Island is a commitment but well worth the effort. It requires two ferry rides and there are no vehicles on the island so if you plan to camp, plan to carry EVERYTHING and pack accordingly. Be sure to make an advance reservation for your campsite and note that there are specific dog friendly sites.
There are stores and shops on Washington Island but none on Rock Island. Bug spray is a must and don’t wander off the trails as poison ivy can be an issue. Your reward is some great hiking trails, picnic spots, lots of shoreline, and the unique stone boat house. Dogs are allowed on the grounds of the historic Pottawatomie Lighthouse, but not allowed in the lighthouse itself. Tours are offered daily from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. from Memorial Day through Columbus Day.
For the Mariner: There are several boat tours ranging from Kayaks to sailboats and scenic cruises that welcome your dog. Door County Adventure Rafting recommends their classic tour out of Fish Creek which passes the Eagle Bluff Lighthouse, Eagle Cave, Horseshoe Island and much more.
Fish Creek Scenic Boat Tours suggest their day tours at 1:00 and 3:00 pm. Classic Boat Tours welcomes well behaved dogs, and Bella Sailing Cruises has a resident dog so your dog must get along well with other dogs. They also ask that you check when making reservations to see if there are other guests booked and if there are any objections to dogs.
Door County Kayak Tours suggests you choose a calm day and make sure your dog has a life jacket. Unfortunately, my seafaring dog has been off at training so I was not able to try any of these tours first hand. I am very much looking forward to doing so. As always, keep your dog’s enjoyment in mind. Make sure they are comfortable on the water and in a boat.
For the artistic type: If you and your dog are into the visual arts, there are a couple of options. For live theater there is the Northern Sky Theatre located inside Peninsula State Park. Your seats are wooden benches and the stage is outside so this is a weather dependent activity. The shows are family friendly musicals and two rotate throughout the week. If you bring your dog, they ask that you sit on an aisle in one of the side sections. There are tables for a pre-show picnic, and there is usually a bonfire after the show. Don’t forget bug spray!
Another unique theater is the Skyway Drive-In Movie Theater, which first opened its gate on July 26, 1950. Movies have lit up the screen every summer since, making it the second longest continuously running drive-in in Wisconsin. You must keep your dog on a leash or in your car. There are usually two movies each night. If you pay for one, you can stay for both. Note that they do not take debit or credit cards.
For the shopper: There are many shops in Door County that welcome your dog. Pet Expressions in Ephraim and Carlsville may be of the most interest to your furry friend as they have a wide variety of dog items including treats and toys. For the more sophisticated shopping dog, other shops offer everything from outdoor gear to home furnishings and everything in between.
Stop by the Door County Visitor Center in Sturgeon Bay and pick up a paper copy of the Visitor’s Guide, which does designate shops and other businesses that are dog friendly. If you have your heart set on taking your dog to a specific shop, I always suggest you call ahead to confirm dogs are welcome. Personally, I usually stick my head in a shop and ask if it is OK for me to bring my dog in before I walk in with them. Occasionally there will be someone in the store who objects and I just prefer to avoid any awkward situations.
Festivals: Finally, most of the festivals in Door County are dog friendly. Always check out the websites or call ahead, but generally, leashed dogs are welcome. We have been taking our dogs to the Sister Bay Fall Fest for years. Sometimes it seems like there are more dogs than people! Speaking from experience, I can say the crowds and activities can be too much for some dogs. The color guard rifle salute in the parade always confuses our hunting dogs and the large crowds are simply more than one of my corgis can handle. On the other hand, my folks’ corgi, Riley, usually rides in the parade with my dad when he pulls a float and loves every minute of it. Riley is such a ham!
Door County offers something for everyone, and every dog. The variety of activities can provide wonderful opportunities for dogs and their owners to explore and unwind in one of our region’s most beautiful and enjoyable destinations.
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