Is Door County an Island?

You may have seen social media posts, blogs, and even bumper stickers that describe Door County, Wisconsin as an island. Because of this, you may be wondering if Door County is an island. This blog post will answer this question for you.

grid with an image of a door county map, the rock island lighthouse, and a sunset in Green Bay and the text "Is Door County an Island?"
Via Hello Door County

Is Door County an Island?

No. Door County is not an island.

While this question has a firm and simple ‘no’ as an answer, it does bring up multiple interesting topics.

One of these topics is the islands of Door County. Even though Door County itself isn’t an island, it has many islands within its jurisdiction.

The question “Is Door County an island” also raises another question: “What is an island?”. This is another interesting topic to take up. You see, there might be some debate as to whether the portion of Door County from Sturgeon Bay to Northport is an island or not. Most would say, “No.” But, some would say, “Yes.”

Door County Is Not an Island

Door County is a political and administrative division of the State of Wisconsin. Another way of saying this is that Door County is a jurisdiction. This jurisdiction is not an island, and it covers geographical areas that are not an island, either. Door County is not an island.

When many people think of Door County, they think of the land north of Sturgeon Bay. This geographical area is often called “Northern Door County.” Northern Door County certainly has some islands.

Some people might believe that the land between Sturgeon Bay and Northport is an island, although this is debatable. Most people call this part of the Door Peninsula, although some people might consider it an island. We will talk about this debate a little bit later in this post.

However, there is also a “Southern Door County.” This part of the county extends south from Sturgeon Bay for anywhere between ten to fifteen miles, depending on where you measure from. Villages in this area of the county include Brussels, Maplewood, and Forestville. There is no debate that this southern portion of the county is not an island, being firmly fixed to the rest of Wisconsin by land.

Not only this, but Door County also has jurisdiction over the waters that surround the land it has jurisdiction over. If someone commits a crime in the bay of Green Bay a mile from Sister Bay, that crime might be investigated by the Door County Sheriff’s office. By definition, water is not an island.

Because of these reasons, we can firmly say that Door County is not an island. Nobody should debate this point.

Door County Has Islands

While Door County is not an island, it certainly has islands. Washington Island and Rock Island are the most famous and easily accessible islands in Door County. But, these are not the only ones.

Chambers Island is another inhabited island in Door County. Chambers Island sits in Green Bay, to the west of the Door Peninsula. Plum and Pilot Islands are famous for the lighthouses located on them. Plum and Pilot Islands sit in the famous “Death’s Door” Passage between Northport and Washington Island.

Besides these islands, there are many other islands like the Strawberry Islands and Detroit Island.

Is Northern Door County a Peninsula or an Island?

As we mentioned earlier, the area from Sturgeon Bay to Northport is usually considered a peninsula. But, some people might argue that it’s actually an island. Why would there be this confusion?

Until 1882, there would have been no debate about this question. There was a thin and low strip of land on the east side of Sturgeon Bay that connected Northern Door County with Southern Door County. This area was often called “Portage,” because people would portage boats between Lake Michigan and Sturgeon Bay here.

However, in 1882 the Sturgeon Bay Ship Canal was completed. This is a canal that makes a water connection between Lake Michigan and Sturgeon Bay.

This water connection now means that Northern Door County is surrounded by water.

One definition of an island is that it is a “piece of land surrounded by water.” If this is the case, then Northern Door County is an island.

There are other pieces of land that have been turned into what some consider manmade islands. Cape Cod in Massachusets and the Peloponnesian Peninsula in Greece are two examples.

What is an island?

Given that common definition, it would seem that Northern Door County is an island from Sturgeon Bay to Northport. However, things get a little more complicated when we look at other definitions.

The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea defines an island differently. It says that an island is “a naturally formed area of land, surrounded by water, which is above water at high tide.”

By this definition of an island, Northern Door County does not qualify, since the water channel that cuts it off from Southern Door County is manmade, not naturally formed.


Is Door County an island? Geographically speaking, the answer is without a doubt, “No.”

However, Door County certainly has many islands, and some people describe Northern Door County as an island, too. Most don’t see it this way. They simply see Door County as one peninsula, with a canal cutting through it.

But, some people do consider Northern Door County a manmade island. It all comes down to definitions.

Many people love the feeling they get in Door County of being cut off from the rest of the world, away from obligations, away from commutes and concerns, away from the corporate commercialism rampant in American life. For them, Door County is a psychological island that offers them rest and recuperation.

That might be the most important definition of an island of all.

Source: United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea

About the author
Mark Stoneman
Hi! My name is Mark! I have been a resident of Door County for almost ten years now, and I'm glad to help you say "Hello" to Door County. I believe that travel helps to change lives, and because of that, I want to help you improve your life through travel.