Door County is Wisconsin’s well kept secret of 300 miles of shoreline. A family can experience Door County over a 3-day weekend or in a week. Although the locals say that the best time to visit is in Fall (i.e. End of September or early October), you can enjoy it in Summer. We visited Door County over the Labor Day weekend and found it just right. Below is our Door County Experience and we hope you will find it helpful.
We stayed at The Landing Resort in Egg Harbor. The beauty of the resort is it is 20-30 minutes from most of the landmarks and affordable. If your budget permits, we recommend checking out Fish Creek as well. It is further North of Egg Harbor and may make a few of the landmarks 40-45 minute drive but the town itself is more lively.
Note: The entire area has choppy phone connection so we strongly recommend having local area maps handy. Be comfortable in switching back and forth and pay special attention to roads.
We organized our trip into 3-days:
Day 1: Northern Part of Door County,
Day 2: Eastern Part of Door County, and
Day 3: Southern Part of Door County.
Day 0: Reach Egg Harbor, Wisconsin
As Chicago Residents, we took a road trip to Door County. Google Maps said 4.5 hours but with a little one, pit stops, and never ending construction and road work it took us close 5.5 hours. If you are flying in, Milwaukee is the closest Airport and a drive of about 2.5 hours. We reached Egg Harbor in the evening, took a stroll along the Main Street. The street is full of small town charm. We then walked over to Harbor View Park.
1. Harbor View Park:
The Harbor View Park is just serene. Almost every visitor who visits the park is seemingly ultra cognizant of not disrupting it. After walking the park, we sat down on one of the benches to grab a gorgeous view of the sunset.
Sunset at Harbor Beach Point
Harbor View Point Sunset
2. Galileo Restaurant:
On our way back, we stopped by Galileo, an Italian Restaurant with some really great (you guessed it – Italian Food). Between the wine, pasta, and kids menu, you can get a filling dinner albeit slightly on the pricey side.
3. Main Street Park:
We then stopped by the market to pick up groceries such as Milk. Don’t forget to check the shining tree outside the market.
4. Harbor View Grill:
If you want to extend the Harbor View Park scenic view into your dinner then Harbor View Grill is the place. You can either get to roof-top or the ground floor and get the same view. You rarely get such gorgeous view in restaurants at a decent price. The burgers, wraps, and fries are just awesome.
Alternatively, you can also check out Shipwrecked Brew Pub and Restaurant. If we had stayed a day long, we would have gone there for dinner. Grumpy’s Ice Cream is yet another popular spot with kids.
Day 1: Northern Part of Door County – Washington Island, Sister Bay, and Fish Creek
We woke up a bit early to head to Washington Island. When we started, we kind of knew what to expect but we were really and pleasantly surprised. After about 30 minutes of scenic drive through curvy roads covered by trees on both sides, we reached Northport. At Northport, we purchased Ferry Tickets to get to the island. The Ferry also ferried our car over to the Washington Island. After about 30 minutes of Ferry, we were on the island. For Bike, ATV/UTV lovers, there is rental available. With the kid and schedule, we chose to drive around in our car.
NOTE: You cannot access Internet or Cellular connection on the entire island. So we strongly recommend getting the maps as soon as you get off the ferry.
5. School House Beach:
We drove to School House Beach. It is about 15-20 minute drive on the island. The water on the beach is clear. It is one of the Top 5 beaches in the world with natural Limestone rocks. It is a protected beach and taking those limestone rocks might cost you $250 in fine. The beach is marked with area for swimming and has grills, picnic tables, and other things to make a day out of it. Just so you get your expectations right, this is unlike a traditional beach. There is no sand at all and the beach area is small. It is also cozy.
School House Beach
Limestone Rock Tower we built at School House Beach
6. Mountain Park Tower:
We then drove to Mountain Park Tower. After reaching the spot, you have to go up at least 100 stairs and then another 40 stairs to get on top of the tower. Hold your breath, the tower is not commercial. It is old and has been scaffolded. From the top of the tower, you get a breathtaking view of the Washington Island and can overlook into the peninsula as well.
Mountain Park Lookout Tower at Washington Island
7. Historic Island Dairy:
On our way to the Mountain Park Tower, we chanced upon Historic Island Dairy and pulled over. The Lavender farm is one of its kind. Apart from walking around the Lavender farm, we also bought Lavender flavored chocolates (A Must do).
Lavender at Historic Island Dairy in Washington Island
8. Jackson Harbor Soup:
At this time, we were hungry. A quick point to note that if you miss the lunch spots for when you land on the island, you won’t find whole lot (“nothing”) to eat. We exhausted our snacks in the car by now and were on the hunt for food. On the Northern Tip of the island at Jackson Harbor, we found a hidden beauty called Jackson Harbor Soup. The soups and sandwiches were just awesome. We ate warm Cucumber Dill Soup, Sandwiches, and Fries.
There are a lot more things to see at the Washington Island but these are the ones we saw. If you have time on hand, you could explore Rock Island. This island doesn’t accept cars so you would have to take the ferry and bike around.
We left the island a bit early (say after about 4-5 hours). We read that the scramble back to main land gets long during the later half of the day before the last ferry leaves the island.
9. The Al Johnson’s Swedish Butik at Sister Bay
On the way back, we stopped by Sister Bay. We were lucky to attend the Marine Fest that usually occurs around labor day. The Sister Bay is a quaint, scenic, and friendly neighborhood. We walked around the beach, participated in the festival, and just strolled around all evening.
The Butik is a not to miss attraction. It is a Scandinavian Building with grass on roof top and you can literally see live goats eating grass on the roof top. We spent about 2-3 hours at the bay strolling the entire neighborhood and then headed back to Fish Creek.
Goats on Grass Roof Top
10. Sunset Beach State Park:
After finishing up Sister Bay, we drove to Fish Creek. Fish Creek is one place we wish we spent a lot more time. We would love to stay there next time but it seemed a bit pricey. People from almost every part of Door County congregate here for the Sunset. The Beach Park is itself very small but the sunset is gorgeous.
Sunset at Sunset Beach Park Fish Creek, WI
11. Fish Boils:
One of the attractions is Fish Boil. We called Pelletiers Fish Boil and Grill, got an appointment (make sure you do that), and got a quick tour of fish boil. After some sumptuous dinner, we headed over to Egg Harbor and hit the bed.
NOTE: Fish Boil is a not to miss excitement. Make sure you call early and get an appointment.
Lake Michigan Fish for Fish Boil
Salt into Fish Boil
Fish Boil Grand Finale
Day 2: Eastern Part of Door County – Cana Island, Bailey’s Harbor, and Cave Point
We started a bit late and drove to Cana Island but decided to detour to Hands on Art Studio.
12. Hands on Art Studio:
If you are with children – this is a must do. The studio has canvas art painting, ceramic painting, tile making, metal studio, glass studio, pottery, and just pure art and joy that is absent in big city life. We found out about it from the locals and when we got there the lady at the desk explained to us that apart from painting most of the arts have lead time. For example, our ceramic paintings would go into Kiln and would be ready the next day. Although they deliver, we couldn’t do most of it due to time constraint.
Please note to plan early and get the required appointments.
13. Cana Island:
Cana Island is a small island by Bailey’s Harbor. The Island itself used to be connected to the land through concrete roads but rising water levels meant that the road is now covered by water.
Although the Water is transparent, you can see the road, and few brave people walk over, I would NOT recommend walking across the Lake Michigan currents over to the Island.
We waited for what I called the Hay Ride Tractor. The tractor took 5 minutes to drive across the Lake Michigan currents and drop people off the island and back. The Cana Island itself is a lighthouse. The history of lighthouse is worth the read and the climb up can be a wait (up to an hour). The history and view is definitely worth it.
Crossing Lake Michigan on Hay Ride Tractor
Cana Island Lighthouse
15. Bearded Heart Coffee at Bailey’s Harbor:
From the Cana Island, we drove past Bailey’s Harbor. Bailey’s Harbor seemed like a charming town. We walked across the town and hopped from store to store. The Bearded Heart Coffee at Bailey’s Harbor is a hidden charm. The Coffee, Tea, Avocado Toast, and most importantly Raspberry Lavender Toast is one of it’s kind that we strongly recommend.
16. Cave Point:
If you want to see Lake Michigan in its ferocious form, Cave Point it is. We drove from Bailey’s Harbor to Cave Point. The Strong Currents from Lake Michigan crash onto the shores and have since eroded the rocks. The land ends abruptly and about 10-15 feet below, you will see ferocious waves of Lake Michigan Crashing on to the shore.
NOTE: Do not leave your kids unattended and hold them tight. At this point, it started raining so we headed back to our hotel.
Cave Point Water Lapping by the Shore
17. Wisconsin Cheese Masters at Egg Harbor:
On our way back, we stoped by Wisconsin Cheese Masters. We tasted cheese and purchased few artisan cheese and crackers.
Day 3: Southern Part of Door County – Door County Coffee & Tea Company, Sturgeon Bay, and Potawatomi State Park
18. Door County Coffee & Tea Company:
It was time to head back home. So on our way back, we started with Door County Coffee & Tea Company.
Door County Coffee and Tea company has its own roastery. There is no show and tell of roastery but everything there is worth it – coffee, tea, bakery, and even buying coffee and tea for taking home is all worth it. The Maple Waffle Cookies are highly recommended.
Door County Coffee and Tea Company
19. Sturgeon Bay Bridge:
We drove past the Sturgeon Bay Bridge. Although a lot is written about it, I at least saw it like any other draw bridge. So we drove over it and you may chose to walk around the downtown.
20. Potawatomi State Park/Ice Age Trail:
Our son saw Ice Age Trail in one of the books and was convinced it is related to Ice Age. So we drove up the East Terminus of the state park. Frankly, it was a very pleasant surprise. We spent about 2 hours driving through the park, hiking a mile or so at the Ice Age Trail, and just enjoying the nature. Frankly, I haven’t inhaled air that pristine in a long time. The entire Potawatomi State Park would in itself be a camping or a RV weekend.
Ice Age Trail
Potawatomi State Park
Until Next Time
After that we just drove home and I just penned this blog before I waded into the daily chores of life and leave behind the memories of Door County. As we drove back, we said to ourself – we would be back to Door County soon!