Fantastic food. Local drinks. Art, music, and outdoor adventure opportunities galore. For all of these and so many more of your favorite things packed into one area, look no further than Door County, Wisconsin.
There are so many reasons why we love the Door – every time we visit, we feel transported to a new world with seemingly unlimited things to do. Fortunately, we’ve had a few years to explore all over the peninsula, and we’re here to offer up some of our highest recommendations for your next visit to this beautiful place. We call these “Adventure Pairings” – one-two punch combos of an outdoor activity plus a nearby stop for food, drinks, or an aspect of local culture.
1. Glas Coffee House + Potawatomi State Park
At the entrance to the world of Door County is Sturgeon Bay: the city where chain restaurants end (seriously, they’re banned by law north of this point) and true adventure begins. And while you’re here, we humbly request that you stop at Glas Coffee House, bring your favorite book, and hunker down with your choice of caffeinated beverage. Glas champions sustainability efforts by purchasing local goods, using recycled and compostable materials, and rewarding bikers with a 10% discount. And the Triathlon Smoothie is, quite frankly, where it’s at.
A few miles northwest of town is Potawatomi State Park, one of the county's five state parks, and one of the most underrated. We particularly love Tower Trail for a pleasant, lower-traffic day hike. Start this 3.6 mile loop by parking at the Nature Center and walking east, where the trail begins along the shore of Sturgeon Bay. The first 1.5 miles doubles as a leg of the Ice Age Trail, Wisconsin's majestic 1,200 mile trail that weaves across the entire state. In fact, at the end of this leg is an observation tower that marks the eastern terminus of the Ice Age Trail. Go ahead and treat yo'self to a fantastic panoramic view at 225 feet above sea level. After this point, Tower Trail continues by winding south through lush green forest back to the trailhead.
- Bonus stop: Looking for a meal on the go? One block west of Glas is a Mobil gas station -- yep, stay with us here -- inside is Kinara Urban Eatery, which will either have a hot bar ready to rock or to-go options in the refrigerated case. This is, no joke, some of the best authentic Indian we've ever had. Trust.
- Here’s your handy Potawatomi State Park trail map. Bring your WI State Park sticker if you have one, or you'll owe $8 - $11 to cover your entrance fee.
2. Greens n’ Grains + Egg Harbor Beach
Egg Harbor used to be a pass-through town on your way up or down Highway 42, but in the last few years it has become a hub of local culture, food, and activities. On the north end of the main drag is our go-to stop for all things healthy and natural: Greens N’ Grains. We're not sure if its that lovely purple paint or the peaceful demeanor of the helpful staff, but this place just radiates welcoming energy. As soon as you walk in the door you’re enveloped by a warm, hometown atmosphere. Make sure to try the locally-made Tapuat kombucha or a delicious latte from the coffee shop.
Just half a mile south is Egg Harbor Beach: a beautiful stretch of sand where you can usually find calm, warm water thanks to the protection of the surrounding land. These conditions make for a perfect place for first-timers to try out stand-up paddleboarding. Take off from the beach to cruise around the harbor and soak up plenty of summer sun. Make sure to stay until evening, when you’re likely to catch an amazing westward view of a sunset over Green Bay.
- Bonus stop: Speaking of fantastic combos, if you’re visiting on a Monday, why not make a day of it and try a session of Yoga on the Beach?
- Inside GNG, grab a copy of Edible Door magazine for local food stories and recipes.
- Don’t have a SUP of your own? No problem: rentals of all kind are available right on the beach thanks to DC Adventure Center.
3. Eagle Trail + Wild Tomato
Eagle Trail is, in our opinion, the best day hike not just in Peninsula State Park, but Door County entirely. Heck, it's one of the best in the state. This 2-mile loop is short and so, so sweet. Difficult enough to get your heart pumping, easy enough to feel supremely at peace while hiking through its white cedar forests. Make sure to pause at the lower stretch of the trail, where you can look out over the lapping waters of Lake Michigan with 200-foot limestone bluffs towering up behind you.
We usually work up a decent appetite with this hike. Luckily, there’s some mouth-watering wood-fired pizza waiting right outside the park. Head back into the heart of Fish Creek to Wild Tomato and have your choice of unique and delightful pizzas - yes, there is one with cheese curds on it - while enjoying a cold one with the ambience of the outdoor patio.
- Bonus stop: right in the thick of Peninsula State Park lives an awesome outdoor amphitheater called Northern Sky. Bring a blanket and be treated to original Wisconsin plays while the stars come out above you.
- Here’s your handy Peninsula State Park trail map. Again, don’t forget to bring your WI State Park sticker or cash to cover the entrance fee.
- Long wait time at Wild Tomato in Fish Creek? Check out their new second location in Sister Bay, just 5 miles north.
4. Rock Island + Island Orchard Cidery
This adventure pairing goes out to those of you who are the more ambitious peninsula-travelers. The average visitor usually turns back south around Sister Bay, but not you. You'll keep driving north to the very tip of the Door, where a ferry awaits to take you (and, if you choose, your vehicle) to Washington Island. Rent a bike (or hop in your ferried car) and hit the road for an 8-mile ride to the far side of the island. From here you'll see Rock Island across the bay, Wisconsin's most eastern point and a State Park all its own. Leave your bike or car at the door, because the second ferry needed to reach the island is exclusive to foot traffic only. As you might guess, Rock Island is cherished as a haven of true solitude. A beautiful 5.2 mile trail circles the perimeter of the island, and rustic campsites line the water's edge near the ferry landing. There aren't many greater feelings than being truly off-the-grid, embedded in the deepest and purest parts of nature. Rock Island is one of the rare places where you can find that feeling.
When you finally return to the civilization of the peninsula, it's probably fitting to reward yourself. We recommend doing so at Island Orchard Cider House in Ellison Bay. You'll be treated to a free sampling of delicious hard ciders while learning about how the cider-making process works. The best part? Their ciders are made using apples from the same Washington Island trees you just passed by earlier. Cheers to that!
- Bonus stop: Need to gear up on your way to Rock Island? We recommend Bayshore Outfitters in Sister Bay for any of your camping, paddling, or apparel needs.
- Here's the Rock Island map with trails and campsites.
- Plan your trip accordingly around the ferry schedules.
5. Whitefish Dunes + Door County Brewing Company
Of the 300+ miles of peninsula shoreline, one of our favorite spots for a paddle is an out-and-back on the Lake Michigan side. Launch from the soft sandy beach of Whitefish Dunes State Park and head north. After a quick half mile, you’ll be greeted by the aptly-named Cave Point, where the limestone escarpment has slowly eroded away to form natural sea caves that you can meander in and out of on a calm day. Here the water of the Michi Gami is often a brilliant turquoise and dazzlingly clear… clear enough, some days, to see the remains of the Australasia shipwreck resting below you. Pause on the rocks of Cave Point for a snack, swim, or snorkel before heading back to the beach.
Door County Brewing Company is a short drive up the eastern shoreline to the town of Bailey’s Harbor. This brewery is bona fide family-owned and run, and has been receiving high praise since they opened in 2012. They steal our hearts away by sourcing as many local ingredients as they can. With a great variety of brew styles, live music, and food trucks outside, what’s not to love?
- Bonus stop: Cave Point is just as beautiful on land as it is from the water. For you morning people out there, rumor is there’s a superb sunrise to be found here.
- Here’s your handy Whitefish Dunes State Park Map. Good thing by this stop you've already purchased your WI State Park sticker, because now you get in for free!
All in all, there are just too many fantastic adventures to be had in Wisconsin's thumb, with more eateries and activities popping up every year. What are your favorite destinations in the Door? Leave a comment below and let us know! Cheers and adventure on.