The following Destination Inspiration about Door County is from Newschool Nomads.
For some, the Midwest doesn’t come to mind as one of the first places to Go RVing. Sure, you won’t find towering mountains or majestic canyons, but what you will find are hundreds of hidden gems that make unforgettable camping experiences! Few of these spots are as rich in natural beauty as Door County, Wisconsin. As a former Midwesterner (Hoosier native if you are curious), I say pack up your RV and head to Door County.
Door County is the largest county in Wisconsin and is often referred to as the “Cape Cod of the West.” Not only is it beautiful, but there is an abundance of activities for all ages and interests. Most campgrounds are open from May through October, so you’ll want to plan your trip during those months.
Where To Camp
Finding a great place to park your RV in Door County is easy with plenty of highly rated campgrounds. We stay in Harbor Village Campground. All the activities—waterslides, pools, a lake, games—make it a great place for families, but there are a ton of other options from state parks with beach access to private quiet campgrounds. A quick search will help you find one that’s perfect for you.
Coming in from the south, west or north is straightforward. The main routes will take you through Green Bay. If you are coming from central or northern Michigan, you’ll have to decide if you are going to go north through the Upper Peninsula or south down around Lake Michigan through Chicago. The northern route has less traffic (and tolls) and is beautifully remote, but there is a slower speed limit and possibly a longer drive time depending on your starting location. Wherever you are coming from, if it’s on a weekday you’ll want to plan your drive to avoid heavy traffic hours through Green Bay.
On your way in to Door County give yourself 30 minutes or so to make a stop at Wequiok Falls. It’s not a large waterfall, (and may be totally dry in the summer or frozen in the winter) but still a lovely place to stop and stretch your legs or have a bite to eat at the picnic area.
Door County’s Coastal Byway
Today, we are going to take a driving tour on Door County’s Coastal Byway to see some of the best sites and harbors of the county. The road follows highways 42 and 57 starting just north of Sturgeon Bay and runs north along one side of the peninsula to Northport and then returns along the other side. Your start location will depend on what campground you are leaving from, but here are the sites you definitely won’t want to miss:
Village of Sister Bay
Home to the largest public waterfront in northern Door County, Sister Bay offers a variety of activities. Spend an hour or so to stroll along the beautiful marina, play in the gently lapping waves of Green Bay, or shop the quaint stores.
Whatever you do, make sure you plan to eat at Al Johnson’s Swedish Restaurant and see Sister Bay’s most famous residents, the goats, who live on the roof. Yes, that’s what I said. There is a herd of goats grazing on the sod roof! It’s a delightful stop for children and adults. The Swedish pancakes with lingonberry sauce are delicious. You won’t want to miss this Door County icon.
Ellison Bluff State Natural Area
A little off the beaten path, Ellison Bluff State Natural Area is one of Door County’s hidden gems. It’s a free quiet county park. The trail at Ellison Bluff is an easy shaded walk through a forest of cedar, sugar maple, and birch. The highlight is the observation deck where you can take in spectacular views of towering bluffs lining Green Bay.
Reaching Northport is a little like sitting through the ending credits of a good movie or finishing a race walking even if you planned to run. It’s just satisfying to make it to the end of the line, or top of the thumb, of the peninsula. Northport is a sleepy spot that is home to the Washington Island Ferry. Unless you get a really early start, you probably won’t have time to take the ferry over to Washington Island, but make a note of it for your next trip. It’s a good spot for those who enjoy more rustic and less touristy stuff. You will want to take your car on the ferry or if you are pressed for time you can just ride the ferry over and back to enjoy the views.
Cana Island Lighthouse
Be sure to stop at Cana Island Lighthouse on your driving tour. Located just north of Bailey’s Harbor, it is one of the more popular lighthouses in Door County. Built in 1869, the lighthouse is part of the National Register of Historic Places. The tower is open to climb from May to October. Take note that the last climb of the day is at 4:30 and climbers must be at least 5 years old and 42” tall. Even if you can’t climb, it’s still a fantastic place to visit for views and photographs.
The Other Villages
The Coastal Byway winds through many other quaint towns and villages. You won’t have time to visit them all in one day but keep your camera ready to snap pictures of interesting architecture and sites. And of course, if you see something that catches your eye pull over to explore further.
Exploring Door County by Foot and "Sea"
Today, we are going to cover fewer miles at a slower pace, but that doesn’t mean that there will be less excitement or beauty! We are going to head over to the eastern side of the peninsula to explore the shore along Lake Michigan.
Cave Point County Park
Cave Point County Park is one of Door County’s most popular sites for good reason. It is arguably the most beautiful spot on the island. Located adjacent White Fish Dune State Park, it is a natural wonderland of limestone cliffs that are part of the Niagara Escarpment. There is a trail between the two parks that offers breathtaking views. Be sure to give yourself plenty of time because there are lots of places to climb down and explore. Bring a picnic and find a nice spot along the trail for lunch.
Feeling extra adventurous and want a different perspective of Door County’s magnificent shoreline? Consider doing the most popular guided Cave Point kayak tour. Kayak tours are seasonal and usually require advanced reservations. The tours will take a good part of the day lasting 2.5-3 hours, so plan accordingly.
Photo courtesy of Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources
If Lake Michigan is too rough for kayaking or you just want a more laid-back day, head down to Whitefish Dunes State Park for a relaxing afternoon enjoying the shore and sand.
On your way back to the campground you must plan a stop at Dairy View for ice cream! It’s a beautiful lush Wisconsin working farm. Give yourself enough time to watch the cows, come in for milking, or if you have children, play on the playground or pet the animals. Be sure to grab some cheese curds—YUM!!— from the market before heading home.
I hope I’ve convinced you to Go RVing to Door County! If you haven’t been, it’s time to pack up the RV and hit the road for some adventure in this beautiful county.