Summer in Door County, Wisconsin: Outdoor fish boils, old-fashioned ice cream parlors and more

Get ready to take plenty of lighthouse selfies.

Sandy beaches, lighthouses, biking, kayaking and outdoor concerts are just a sampling of summer activities in Door County, Wisconsin. See why the 70-mile-long peninsula between Green Bay and Lake Michigan has earned the nickname the “Cape Cod of the Midwest.”

Old- and new-school eats

A Little Bit of Coffee (6332 State Hwy. 57, Jacksonport, 920-823-0028, has a homey feel, a large selection of coffee and teas, homemade pastries and views of Lake Michigan.

Have a Swedish pancake breakfast in a Swedish-style wood house at Al Johnson’s Swedish Restaurant (10698 N. Bay Shore Dr., Sister Bay, 920-854-2626, — and don’t miss the small goat herd munching grass on the roof.

Experience a traditional Scandinavian fish boil at Rowleys Bay Restaurant (1041 Road ZZ, Ellison Bay, 920-854-2385, A splash of kerosene on embers creates an impressive fire ball, bringing the outdoor caldron filled with Lake Michigan whitefish to a boil.

For a sweet treat, Wilson’s Restaurant & Ice Cream Parlor (9990 Water St., Ephraim, 920-854-2041, has an old-fashioned soda fountain serving homemade ice cream flavors (Mackinac Island Fudge and Door County Cherry are popular). Homemade root beer and jukeboxes in the upholstered booths take diners back in time.

Enjoy the seasonal bounty. Seaquist Orchards (11482 Hwy. 42, Sister Bay, 920-854-4199, sells fruit blend preserves. Some of the local fruit harvest is distilled and can be sampled at Island Orchard Cider (12040 Garrett Bay Rd., Ellison Bay, 920-854-3344, And you can always stop by a roadside farm stand for sweet cherries.

The great outdoors

Door County has 300 miles of coastline. Try paddleboard yoga or see the white limestone Niagara Escarpment from a kayak with Door County Kayak Tours (920-868-1400,

On land, the Peninsula State Park has a variety of trails, from the Sentinel, which a 2-mile loop through red pine groves and maples, to the nearly 10-mile, relatively flat Sunset Bike route (rentals through Edge of Park, 920-868-3344,

You won’t leave without spotting a lighthouse or two along the coast. At Ridges Sanctuary (, the newish Hidden Brook Boardwalk winds through forest and marshlands, ideal for baby strollers and people with limited mobility. The trail leads to Baileys Harbor Range Light, a pair of lighthouses that date back to 1869. There are 10 additional lighthouses in Door County, many open to the public.

Star gaze at Newport State Park (475 County Rd. NP, Ellison Bay), one of 48 places around the world recognized by the International Dark-Sky Association.

History and culture

For history buffs, the Door County Maritime Museum (admission $10/adults, $5/ages 5-17, 120 N. Madison Ave., Sturgeon Bay, 920-743-5958, goes from ancient indigenous canoes to World War II ship building. Test your piloting skills with interactive displays.

At night, listen to local performers in town park concerts or see a musical performance at the Peninsula State Park Amphitheater by the Northern Sky Theater (, a professional ensemble with original family-friendly works.


GETTING THERE Find nonstop flights — about 2 1⁄2 hours from New York City to General Mitchell International Airport in Milwaukee — on several airlines. The closest airport is Austin Straubel in Green Bay, which has connecting flights from NYC.

GETTING AROUND Door County is about a 2 1⁄2-hour drive from Milwaukee and an hour from Green Bay, so you’ll benefit from renting a car. When you’re in town, Door to Door Rides is a shared ride and bus connector system (888-337-9485,

WHERE TO STAY Suit any budget, from major hotels to waterfront suites to historic B&Bs.

Mark Laiosa