Head to Door County, Wisconsin, for a slice of Americana as sweet as cherry pie. Here is our itinerary for a memorable summer weekend in Door County.
With cooler temperatures and a delightful string of small towns up and around the peninsula, Door County, Wisconsin, has been a regional summer destination for years. Now travelers from outside the Midwest are flocking to Door County, just like the abundant birds, to enjoy land and lake activities. Visitors are rewarded with quaint lake retreats and a vibrant culinary scene using prized seafood and cherries of the region. Here’s the best itinerary for how you can spend a great summer weekend in Door County, Wisconsin, weaving in the best outdoor activities and flavors of the area.
Best Summer Weekend in Door County
Jutting out into Lake Michigan, Door County is a peninsula northeast of Milwaukee and south of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Using Wisconsin Highway 57 and Highway 42, travelers can drive through the string of lakeside hideaways. Though drivers need to pay close attention to the name of the county roads, most are labeled by letters like A, Q and ZZ roads.
Day One of Your Summer Weekend in Door County—Exploring the Lake Michigan Side
Lake Michigan is one of the Great Lakes, and cities like Chicago and Milwaukee sit along its lakeshore. Though the water forms ice in the winter, it does warm up drastically in the summer months. From June through August, average water temperatures rise from the 60s to the low 70s around the lake.
Brunch at Sturgeon Bay
Start your best summer weekend in Door County with a hearty brunch at Scaturo’s Baking Company and Café, a family-owned bakery and restaurant where locals send their friends. Grab a table for traditional breakfast items, like an omelet featuring Wisconsin-made cheese. For an afternoon snack, peruse the bakery case, where you’ll find amazing goodies like the Nutella Stuffed Cookie sprinkled with salt. Open daily from 5 a.m. through lunch.
Before heading out, Sturgeon Bay is the best place to pick up anything you forgot to pack. If you’re interested in maritime history, consider touring the Door County Maritime Museum at 120 N. Madison Ave.
The Lake Michigan Side of Door County
The Lake Michigan side of Door County offers cool lake breezes when the rest of the Midwest is sweating through their shirts. Even in summer, visitors can explore the outdoors all day in comfort—I certainly did. This side of the peninsula is quieter and less developed than the Green Bay side though it’s easy to drive back and forth on any given day.
Kayaking on Lake Michigan
If the weather is warm, one of the best ways to enjoy a Door County getaway is on the water. Since the water is typically calmer earlier in the day, take a guided kayak tour first.
Outfitted with a tandem kayak, share the paddling with your kayak partner as an experienced guide leads the way on a paddling adventure. Glide along the rocky shore to Cave Point County Park with the Cave Point Kayak Tour by Door County Kayak Tours. The Cave Point Kayak Tour is $79 for the 2-hour tour and includes your equipment.
Passing a handful of vacation homes along the way, see rocky inlets and small beaches. Once you reach Cave Point County Park, a scream of delight as a kid jumps into the water will compete with the sound of the waves.
From the water, enjoy a few minutes watching the cliff jumpers wiggle their feet and grab their nose before splashing into the green, crystalline water below. Further along, the Cave Point County Park features a small cave amount the cliffs of limestone and dolomite. If the water is calm, the guide will explore the small cave during your excursion.
Cave Point County Park
With limestone and dolomite rock ledges, the shore is the show at Cave Point County Park. The best way to see its ledges, inlets, and caves is from on the water.
Cave Point County Park offers picnic areas, restrooms, and a half-mile hiking trail. It’s open daily from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Before heading out for some beach time, stop by Bley’s Grocery across the street from Door County Kayak Tours. Find items for a picnic along with wine, beer, and Door County items, like Renard’s Artisan Cheese’s Cherry Cheddar. I recommend the dark chocolate-covered dried cherries by Cherry De-Lites for a sweet snack.
Whitefish Dunes State Park
Visit Whitefish Dunes State Park—the longest beach in Wisconsin to get some beach time at the warmest time of the day. Soft white sand makes it hard to believe it’s a lake beach, not the ocean. Enjoy a beach experience with clear blue water and sand bars for wading. The water clarity will amaze you, it did me.
In addition to the beach, enjoy over 14 miles of hiking trails. With interpretive signs, hiking at Whitefish Dunes State Park is a great activity for most, as hiking trails are mostly under two miles. Take the Red Trail to the largest dune in Wisconsin, Old Baldy, at 93 feet tall. From its observation platform, you get views of Lake Michigan.
The Whitefish Dunes State Park offers a Nature Center with more information about the dunes. Also, find activities for kids, including cool souvenir badges if they complete an activity book.
Note: No lifeguard is on duty and part of the beach is known to have rip currents. No boat launch at the park. Dogs are welcome. This is a day-use park.
The park is open daily from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. Admission is $11 per vehicle.
Harbor Fish Market and Grille
One of the best things about Door County is how close and casual most spots are, including dinner. Since Door County is on a peninsula surrounded by water, seafood is the go-to for dinner.
Head to Harbor Fish Market and Grille, located on the water with amazing sunset views. You can enjoy a leisurely dinner, starting with a cocktail infused with local Montmorency Cherries grown nearby. Inside a historic building from the early 1900s, the restaurant has been a Bailey’s Harbor mainstay for over 20 years.
Harbor Fish Market and Grille offers a seafood-centric menu, and you can’t go wrong with the local fish—the Whitefish or the Bailey’s Harbor Walleye. Both are light in texture, and each offers delicate meat.
For lobster lovers, order the lobster boil with a fresh Maine lobster. The calamari and lobster bisque starts vacay meals off right. The three-course lobster boil is a favorite and is served several nights a week. The menu includes beef and chicken and a breakfast and lunch menu.
Harbor Fish Market and Grille is open daily from 7:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Day Two of Your Summer Weekend in Door County—Wandering the Green Bay Side
Back in the mid-1800s, Door County felt like home to immigrating Scandinavians with its dense forests, water teeming with fish, and rocky shorelines. The weather, both summer and winter, felt familiar as well. Today, find Scandinavian influences across the region, from the food to the architecture.
Start with a Swedish Breakfast
If this is your first-time trip to Door County, you’ll want to see the goats of Al Johnson’s Swedish Restaurant. Goats graze happily on the sod roof of the traditional Swedish log cabin building for most of the day. Goats love to climb and munch, so they live their best lives in Door County.
After taking in the goats, head inside for one of the must-dos for your summer weekend in Door County. Celebrate the best meal of the day by ordering the house specialty—the Swedish pancakes. They are the go-to item on the menu. Paired with whip cream and Door County cherries, it’s a plate of wow. For guests looking for protein, the Swedish meatballs are served with lingonberries, another must.
Al Johnson’s is located at 10698 N Bay Shore Dr. in Sister Bay and is open daily from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Be sure to check out the biergarten next door.
Afterward, go shopping (and walk off the carbs) along North Bay Shore Dr. in Sister Bay to find Scandinavian-inspired gifts and Door County products.
Peninsula State Park
After a hearty breakfast, head to Peninsula State Park for a few hours and consider a bike ride. With bikes at the trailhead of the 10-mile Sunset trail, the outfitters at Edge of the Park Rentals can set you up with a bike and helmet (even a trailer if you’re traveling with kids).
The Sunset Trail is ideal for two-wheel adventures with its relatively flat, gravel path. The trail is mostly shaded and offers amazing views of Green Bay along its route.
For those wanting a snack after their ride, picnic tables are available at Fish Creek, Weborg Point, Nelson Point, Nicolet Beach and Pines Area, and Eagle Terrace.
While the view from the Sunset Bike Trail is lovely, head to Peninsula State Park’s 60-foot Eagle Tower for an even better view. It’s a newly constructed accessible tower along a truss tower to a viewing platform, 253 feet above the water below.
At the top, you’ll find interpretive signs detailing the major sites. You might be mesmerized by the number of shipwrecks along the shores of Door County in the 1800s—each is marked on the map.
You can climb the gentle incline to the top and take the stairs down, although if you’re using wheelchairs or strollers, you can use the ramp both ways.
Eagle Bluff Lighthouse (located in Peninsula State Park) is an 1868 lighthouse that still guides boats through the Strawberry Chanel. Tours are available in advance. Daily park admission is $11 per vehicle and is open from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Dinner at Mezzanine
After several hours exploring Peninsula Park, head out for an early dinner at one of the newest tables in the Fish Camp. Mezzanine offers a rooftop patio that is perfect for dinner and a view. Start dinner with signature cocktails like Door County Cherry Mule or the Spanish Gin and Tonic. Then relax and graze a charcuterie board featuring Wisconsin cheese and sausage or the house breaded cheese curds. It’s a getaway on the water, so the pan-fried whitefish with zesty slaw seems fitting for Door County.
Don’t let its cherry pie pass you by. It’s a not-to-be-missed indulgence with tender pastry and tart cherries served with fresh whip cream.
Mezzanine, located at 7821 Horseshoe Bay Rd. in Egg Harbor, is open from 8 a.m. to 1 a.m. during the summer season.
Live Theater in Door County
Catch the latest show at Northern Sky Theater in Peninsula State Park. The outdoor theater has stage lights, padded seats, and live music. It’s a novelty for state parks to offer professional theatre shows and the summer-long show at Peninsula State Park is a must for the best summer weekend in Door County.
Enjoy the latest production, written especially for the season and centered around the area. During my visit, Love Stings was on the marquee. The play featured professional actors and staff centered around a Door County Bee Farm and intertwined love stories. In a cute and catchy musical perfect for families, theatergoers enjoy live performances under the stars with a canopy of rustling trees.
Northern Sky Theatre, located at 10169 Shore Dr., gives performances Monday to Saturday evenings in the summer, with an alternating line-up of shows. Tickets start at $22 a seat, and you can reserve them online.
Day Three of Your Summer Weekend in Door County—Head to the Tip of the Peninsula
Spend your last day in Door County at its tip. Here, the scenery is a bit wild and rugged. Also, if you want to explore the islands off the Door Peninsula, the Washington Island ferry departs from this area.
Legendary Sweet Rolls for Breakfast
Inside Rowley’s Bay Resort, the sweet scent of cinnamon and pecan rolls baking at Grandma’s Swedish Bakery has tempted generations of vacationers. The sweet rolls, made with family recipes, are large enough to share and weigh half a pound. The bakery stands out as one of the best things on your itinerary for a summer weekend in Door County.
If you’re looking for some adventure, Rowley’s Bay Resort offers kayaking and fishing steps from its door. It can arrange a host of outdoor activities for your group. Lodging is also available at Rowley’s Bay Resort, located at 1041 County Rd ZZ. in Ellison Bay. The bakery is open daily from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. (closed on Wednesday) during the summer season.
Newport State Park
If you love the outdoors, Newport State Park features more than 2,300 acres of protected wilderness (Wisconsin’s only protected wilderness park) along the shore of Lake Michigan. It is located at 475 County Rd NP in Ellison Bay. It is open daily from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m., and admission is $11 per vehicle.
Savory Cooking School
If you’re like me and enjoy the flavors of an area, arrange to take a cooking class while in Door County. Take home a new recipe as a souvenir, like a Door County specialty, when you attend a cooking class at Savory Spoon Cooking School in Ellison Bay. Housed in a historic school building, you learn cooking tips and techniques from Janice Thomas as she guides you through several recipes. Sampling is encouraged.
You can book classes by reservation or on most weekends.
Sample Dry Cider at Island Orchard Cider
The Island Orchard Cider offers a sophisticated alternative to locally brewed beer for adults. Learn about the local apples (grown on nearby Washington Island) and their European heritage. Island Orchard Cider is on the dry side. It has won several recent tasting awards. Island Orchard Cider, located at 12040 Garrett Bay Road, is open daily from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tastings start at $2.
Take a Coffee Break
In the old Trinity Lutheran Church, Kick Ash Coffee is part coffee shop and part coffee roaster. Enjoy brewed coffee drinks (no espresso), tea drinks, and snacks. I recommend the Door County Granola, made in-house and toasted in the basement.
Kick Ash Coffee, located at 12001 Mink River Rd. in Ellison Bay, is open daily from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Wilson’s Restaurant and Ice Cream Parlor
Since 1906, the ice cream treats at Wilson’s Restaurant and Ice Cream Parlor have been made the old-fashioned way, at a soda fountain. Wilson’s is a tradition for some families, serving equal doses of ice cream and nostalgia. You might not be hungry for food with treats like malts, shakes, and sundaes, but the food is also fun and tasty. The menu includes burgers, sandwiches, dogs are more—most served in red baskets.
Wilson’s Restaurant and Ice Cream Parlour is at 9990 Water Street South in Ephraim. It is open daily from 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. from mid-Day to mid-October.
Take Home a Bit of Door County
One of my favorite ways to remember a trip is to take home local souvenirs from the area. You’ll find ample opportunity to do that while you explore Door County.
Lautenbach’s Orchard Country
Pick your own fruit for the ride home at Lautenbach’s Orchard Country. Door County is ideal for growing several crops, including tart cherries and apples.
After blossom season (usually May), cherries ripen in late July or early August. For as little as $5, grab a mini-bucket and pick tart cherries. Apple picking season is later in the fall, from mid-September until early October. Lautenbach’s Orchard Country grows popular varieties like Honeycrisp, Gala, and Macintosh.
The orchard is located at 9197 State Highway 42 in Fish Creek and is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (6 p.m. on Friday and Saturday).
Renards Artisan Cheese
The cheese will make any trip to Door County better. The oldest cheese shop in Door County is Renard’s Artisan Cheese, with three generations of cheese makers. The go-to items are the Cherry Cheddar cheese, though you can find many flavors and ages of cheese in their shop. If you visit during lunchtime, check out its Melt Bistro deli for salads, sandwiches, and pizza.
Renards is at 2189 County Rd. in Sturgeon Bay and is open Monday to Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.
Cherries are on every menu in Door County, and Montmorency Tart Cherry trees line the county roads. The blooms are celebrated along with the harvest. For an easy way to take a taste of Door County home, grab a pack of dried cherries, which are great by the handful or in your favorite recipes for baked goods.
You can find Cherry De-lite products, including Cherry Juice, across Door County. Or visit the Cherry De-Lite store at 229 E. Main St. in Forestville. It is open Monday to Friday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
Fragrant Isle Lavender
Grown on nearby Washington Island, the lavender colors its field purple and white in the summer. To take a bit of Door County home, find a range of home and beauty products scented with lavender.
Fragrant Isle Lavender is located on Washington Island at 1350 Airport Rd. and accessible via ferry and is open daily during the summer season from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. A $5 fee applies to view the lavender fields in July and August.
Where to Stay in Door County
For your stay, consider Harbor Guest House. Open all year, the Tudor exterior leads to six apartments in the main building overlooking a marina. Each is outfitted for extended stays, with a full kitchen, working fireplace, and one or two bedrooms. Harbor Guest House is at 9484 Spruce St. in Fish Camp. Seasonal rates start at $169 a night. It is closed in March.
With all of the little towns scattered across the peninsula, you can find a variety of other inns and B&Bs. We also recommend The Hillside Waterfront Hotel, which sits just steps away from Wilson’s Restaurant and Ice Cream Parlor in Ephraim. The historic hotel dates back to 1901 and today offers understated luxury with lake views.
How to Get to Door County
Visitors will have to drive to the peninsula to experience this itinerary for the best summer weekend in Door County. Central Door County is approximately 60 miles from Green Bay, Wisconsin, which offers an airport and most travel services. Some visitors fly into Milwaukee or Chicago, Illinois. For road trippers, Indianapolis, Indiana, is about 450 miles away, and Minneapolis is about 350 miles away. You will need a car to visit Door County as there is no reliable public transportation.
Articles Related to Your Summer Weekend in Door County
Your Itinerary for the Perfect Summer Weekend in Door County
For a slice of Americana as sweet as cherry pie, head to Door County, where you can indulge in pancakes for breakfast, cheese during the day, and a cherry-infused cocktail in the evening. Though with mild temps, pencil in some outdoor time at one of the numerous parks dotting the area. Let us know how you enjoy your summer weekend in Door County. Check out Wander for more ideas of things you can do during your trip to Wisconsin and other Midwest locations. We also have other great summer travel suggestions.
The Best Summer Weekend Itinerary for Door County
Quoted from Various Sources
Published for: Valentino Pattaya