Are you looking for a fun and exciting way to explore Door County, but only have one day to do it all? Look no further! In this blog post, we will guide you through a perfect one-day itinerary for experiencing Door County in a day. With suggestions ranging from historical museums to picturesque lighthouses and vibrant downtown areas, you’ll get a taste of what makes Door County so unique and charming. So buckle up, and let’s dive into the “Door County in a Day” adventure!
This one-day itinerary for Door County will take you up the east, Lake Michigan shore of Door County in the morning and early afternoon. In mid-afternoon through the evening, you will travel down the west, Green Bay shore of Door County.
First Thing in the Morning: Door County Maritime Museum
If you’re planning a day trip to Door County, Wisconsin, I recommend starting in Sturgeon Bay at the Door County Maritime Museum. This museum provides a great introduction to the unique history, ecology, and economy of the area, with a focus on its maritime heritage. It opens at 9 AM, and I suggest arriving early to avoid crowds and make the most of your visit.
The exhibits cover a wide range of topics, including shipwrecks, commercial fishing, and the role of the Coast Guard in the region. You’ll also learn about the geology and ecology of Door County, which is shaped by its location on a narrow peninsula that juts out into Lake Michigan.
I found the museum to be fascinating and informative, and I recommend allowing yourself about an hour and a half to explore the exhibits fully.
Mid-Morning Fun: The Farm in Door County or Cave Point County Park
After spending some time at the Door County Maritime Museum, you might be ready for some mid-morning fun. Fortunately, there are two great options nearby: The Farm in Door County and Cave Point County Park.
The Farm in Door County is a living museum of rural America, showcasing life on a working farm in the early 1900s. It’s a great spot to learn about traditional farming methods, interact with farm animals, and even try your hand at milking a goat. The farm’s interpreters are knowledgeable and engaging, and I found the experience to be both educational and entertaining.
Cave Point County Park
Alternatively, if you’re looking for some natural beauty, Cave Point County Park is a must-see. The park features stunning views of Lake Michigan, with rugged cliffs and caves that are a popular spot for kayaking and swimming. I loved walking along the trails and taking in the stunning scenery. It’s a great spot to appreciate the natural beauty of Door County.
Whichever option you choose, you can’t go wrong. Whether you’re interested in history or nature, these mid-morning spots are sure to delight.
Refuel at Baileys Harbor for Lunch
By midday, you might be starting to feel hungry. If you’re in the Baileys Harbor area, there are several excellent options for a delicious lunch. I recommend checking out one of the local favorites, such as Chives, Cornerstone Pub, or AC Tap.
Chives is a contemporary American restaurant that emphasizes locally sourced ingredients, creative flavor combinations, and beautiful plating. The menu changes frequently, but you can expect dishes like seared scallops, lamb chops, and artisanal cheese plates.
Cornerstone Pub is a cozy, family-friendly spot that serves up classic pub fare with a twist. The burgers are juicy, the fish fry is crispy, and the homemade pizzas are a must-try. It’s a great option for a casual lunch with friends or family.
Finally, AC Tap is a beloved dive bar that’s known for its friendly atmosphere, cold beer, and hearty sandwiches. The menu features classic sandwiches like Reubens and Philly cheesesteaks, as well as more unusual options like pulled pork grilled cheese. It’s the perfect spot to grab a quick bite and soak up some local color.
No matter which restaurant you choose, you’re sure to find a satisfying meal in Baileys Harbor.
Early Afternoon: Climb to New Heights at Cana Island Lighthouse
After a delicious lunch in Baileys Harbor, it’s time to continue your Door County adventure. I recommend making your way to Cana Island Lighthouse for some mid-afternoon fun.
The lighthouse is a historic landmark that dates back to 1869 and has been beautifully preserved over the years. It’s located on a small island that’s accessible via a causeway, which adds to the sense of adventure.
Once you arrive, you can climb the 97 steps to the top of the lighthouse for panoramic views of Lake Michigan and the surrounding landscape. It’s a bit of a workout, but the views are well worth the effort. Along the way, you’ll learn about the history of the lighthouse and its important role in maritime navigation in the area.
Even if you’re not up for the climb, the lighthouse and its grounds are still worth exploring. There are several interpretive exhibits that provide fascinating insights into life at the lighthouse and the history of the area.
Overall, a visit to Cana Island Lighthouse is a great way to spend a mid-afternoon in Door County.
Late Afternoon: Explore Downtown Sister Bay and Ephraim
Late afternoon is the perfect time to explore some of the charming towns that make up Door County. One of my favorite combinations is downtown Sister Bay and Ephraim, which offer a variety of sights and experiences.
In Sister Bay, take a leisurely stroll through the town’s picturesque streets, checking out the unique shops and boutiques. Be sure to stop by the marina to admire the luxurious yachts, and don’t miss the famous goats on the roof of Al Johnson’s Swedish Restaurant. You can even take a picture with the goats or watch them graze on the grass-covered roof.
After Sister Bay, make your way to nearby Ephraim, a quaint town known for its picturesque harbor and historic Anderson’s Dock. The dock is adorned with colorful graffiti and folk art, adding to its already picturesque charm. Every year, artists from all over the country come to paint the dock, creating a constantly changing canvas of vibrant colors and creative designs.
Take your time to appreciate the unique artistry and creativity of the various graffiti and folk art pieces as you walk along the dock. It’s truly a unique and fascinating experience that you won’t find anywhere else.
As you wander through these charming towns, you’ll soak up the laid-back atmosphere and friendly locals that make Door County so special.
Overall, a visit to downtown Sister Bay and Ephraim is the perfect way to spend a relaxing late afternoon in Door County.
Dinner in Fish Creek
As the day winds down, it’s time to start thinking about dinner. Luckily, Fish Creek has plenty of excellent options to choose from. Known for its charming streets and beautiful waterfront views, this town is the perfect place to relax and enjoy a delicious meal.
Some of the most popular restaurants in Fish Creek include Alexander’s, the English Inn, and Wild Tomato. Alexander’s is known for its fresh seafood and elegant atmosphere, while the English Inn offers traditional British fare in a cozy setting. If you’re in the mood for pizza, Wild Tomato is the place to be, with its delicious wood-fired pizzas and creative toppings.
No matter where you choose to eat, be sure to take a leisurely stroll through the town after dinner. The streets of Fish Creek are lined with quaint shops and galleries, and the waterfront views are simply stunning.
As the sun sets over the water and the sky turns shades of orange and pink, you’ll be glad you spent the day exploring the beautiful sights and experiences that Door County has to offer.
Evening: Peninsula Players
As the day comes to a close, there’s still plenty of fun to be had in Door County. One great way to cap off your day is by taking in a show at the Peninsula Players, one of the oldest resident summer theaters in the country.
The Peninsula Players is located on the shore of Green Bay, offering breathtaking views of the water and surrounding landscape. If you arrive early, you can soak up the magical pre-show atmosphere along the bay. The theater sets up campfires where you can sit and enjoy the warmth while the sun sets over the water. The famous “Air Conditioner” cocktails are also served, adding to the festive mood of the pre-show experience.
Once the show begins, you’ll be treated to a professional production featuring talented actors and crew members from all over the country. The theater is famous for its intimate setting and innovative staging, making for a truly unique and unforgettable theater-going experience.
- Start your day at the Door County Maritime Museum, which opens at 9 AM.
- Visit The Farm in Door County or Cave Point County Park mid-morning.
- Eat lunch at popular restaurants in Baileys Harbor such as Chives, Cornerstone Pub, and AC Tap.
- Visit the Cana Island Lighthouse for a picturesque view of Lake Michigan in the mid-afternoon.
- Take a stroll through the shops and marina in Sister Bay or see Anderson’s Dock’s graffiti and folk art in Ephraim.
- Enjoy dinner in Fish Creek at popular restaurants such as Alexander’s, the English Inn, and Wild Tomato.
- Take in a show at the Peninsula Players and enjoy the pre-show atmosphere with campfires and “Air Conditioner” cocktails.
- This itinerary gives a solid overview of the highlights of Door County in a day.
Frequently Asked Questions
Door County offers a wide range of culinary experiences, from fresh seafood to classic American comfort food. Don’t miss out on the famous Door County cherries, which are used in a variety of dishes and desserts. You’ll find plenty of locally sourced ingredients and farm-to-table restaurants, so there’s something for everyone’s taste buds.
Absolutely! Door County is known for its beautiful outdoor scenery, and there are plenty of outdoor activities to enjoy, including hiking, kayaking, fishing, and cycling. You can explore the area’s many parks and nature preserves, take a scenic boat tour, or even go zip-lining. No matter what your preference, you’re sure to find an outdoor activity that suits you in Door County.
While it’s impossible to see everything that Door County has to offer in a single day, you can experience some of the area’s most popular attractions and landmarks by following our itinerary. Be prepared to do a lot of driving and walking, and make sure to plan ahead to make the most of your time.