Door County is one of my favorite vacation spots near Chicago and I recommend it often to friends, family and anyone that will listen. Here is a rundown of my absolute can’t miss restaurants, activities and places to shop on the Door. I’ve thrown in a few that I haven’t personally experienced (yet) but I’ve done the research and I’m pretty confident they are up to my personal high standards 😉 I’ll be there later this summer and I hope to find some new faves to share!
Use this guide to plan a last-minute trip now or plan ahead for summer 2020! Door County is really a year-round destination so I hope to publish another list for fall/winter. I’ve never been in the fall to see the colors change but it’s supposed to be gorgeous.
Where to Eat and Drink
Wickman House – 11976 Mink River Road, Ellison Bay
My favorite restaurant in Door County. Not in a “I’m on vacation so I’m pretending this is really good” way. Wickman House is the real deal. Go early, pop inside to the bar for one of their excellent cocktails, and then sit outside and enjoy the view of the gardens and grounds. Reservations must be made in advance (months if you can) and definitely ask to be seated in the enclosed patio that wraps around the restaurant. Can’t get a rez at Wickman House? Try their cute wine bar in Ephraim, Trixies. They’ve also opened a casual taco place I can’t wait to try.
Old Post Office – 10040 N Water St, Ephraim
No trip to Door County is complete without witnessing a fish boil. Old Post Office is across from the waterfront so time your visit with sundown and ask to be seated outdoors. Save room for the excellent cherry pie! If you are staying in Fish Creek and you want to walk to dinner, White Gull Inn also has an excellent fish boil.
Czarnuszka Soup Bar – 9922 Water St, Ephraim
This hidden gem is a delightful place to stop for a quick, inexpensive and satisfying lunch. There’s a rotating menu of four different soups and there’s always vegan and gluten-free menu options in the mix.
Cloud Nine Juice Bar + Cafe – 2570 County Road Q, Sister Bay
The best smoothies on the Door plus a full menu of coffee, sandwiches, breakfast items and salads. Also a cute place to work (nope nope, you’re on vacation!) or read.
Not Licked Yet – 4054 Main St, Fish Creek
After your dinner at Wild Tomato head here for some of the tastiest frozen custard in Wisconsin. You’re in luck if the Flavor of the Day is Door County Cherry Vanilla. Get it in a sundae with hot cherries and fudge and then go plant yourself in a chair by the creek. There’s a small playground for the kiddos and they sell bags of popcorn to feed the ducks that gather nearby.
Wild Tomato – 4023 State Hwy 42, Fish Creek
Sometimes we will go here twice in one trip because the wood fired pizza is so good. Three locations but this one is my favorite. Get there early and expect to wait for a table (the outdoor bar makes the wait a little easier). Every month they offer a different Donation Creation, with a $1 from each special pie sale going to a local nonprofit.
Door County Creamery – 10653 N. Bay Shore Dr, Sister Bay
Great spot to pick up sandwiches for a picnic lunch. They raise their own goats (there’s usually a few goats hanging out in a pen in front of the shop) and make some of the freshest chevre you’ll ever taste. I’ve never done a tour of their farm but it sounds like a fun way to spend a few hours. We also love to stop in here after dinner for their goat milk gelato.
Shoreline Restaurant – 12747 Hwy, Gills Rock
At the tip of the door, this place has to-die-for smoked whitefish dip. It’s one of our more recent discoveries but we will be back. There’s a few cute gift shops nearby and Charlie’s Smokehouse if you can’t get enough smoked fish.
What to See and Do
Peninsula State Park – 9462 Shore Rd, Fish Creek
Our trips to Door County aren’t complete until we’ve biked the 10 mile Sunset Bike Route. There are several great waterfront lookout points to stop and enjoy the view (or pant heavily if you haven’t biked in a while). There’s also a beach along the route with one of my favorite souvenir shops. You can bring your own bikes or rent them from Edge of Park located right at the entrance to the park.
The Ridges Sanctuary – 8166 State Hwy 57, Baileys Harbor
We love taking self-guided hikes through this beautiful and peaceful protected state natural park full of wildflowers and wetlands. Ask in the nature center and they’ll tell you which trail will take you to the beach.
Peninsula School of Art – 3900 County Road F, Fish Creek
I’ve never been here because the offerings never line up with my trip. But it looks like a fabulous art studio that offers workshops for all ages.
Cana Island Lighthouse – 8800 E Cana Island Rd., Baileys Harbor
Who doesn’t love a lighthouse? Water flows over the causeway to the island so you can wade there (ankle deep usually) or you can take a haywagon ride across.
Washington Island – Various
The island really deserves its own post but I’ll try to cram it all into this paragraph 😉 Start by taking the ferry in the morning (the earlier the better, plan on spending all day). You can drive your car or bikes onto the ferry and then you’ll have your own transport once you are there. If you bike, be prepared for about a 20 mile ride if you want to see everything. Another option is riding the ferry and then taking the Cherry Train tram tour. Must see and do: Schoolhouse Beach, Stavkirke Church, Fragrant Isle Lavender Farm, Farm Museum, Albatross Drive-In, Nelsen’s Hall Bitters Pub, Mountain Park Lookout Tower, Fair Isle Books.
Door County Kayak Tours – Various
Kind of embarrassed to admit I’ve never kayaked in Door County. But I’m planning to rectify that soon with a tour of Cave Point County Park. I chose this tour company because they offer professional photos of your group. They also offer stand-up paddle boarding and quad bike rentals.
Northern Sky Theater – 10169 Shore Rd, Fish Creek
This is an amphitheater located inside Peninsula State Park. Most of the shows are original, family-friendly musicals. Bring bug spray (they also provide some) and blankets since it can get chilly at night.
Sail Door County – 10707 North Bay Shore Dr, Sister Bay
This experience will be another first for my family, Door County or anywhere. We’re planning on taking a sunset trip on the Edith Becker, a 65-foot schooner that’s sailed around the world. You can bring food and drink on board so we will probably stop at Door County Creamery for some wine and cheese. Check out their sister company, Parasail Door County if you’re brave 😉
Island Orchard Cider – 12040 Garrett Bay Road, Ellison Bay
Stop here for a refreshing cider tasting flight and buy souvenir bottles of their artisanal french-style cider to take home. It’s not sold anywhere in Illinois so stock up. If you’ve got non-drinkers or little kids in your group, they offer a really delicious glass of house-made cherry vanilla soda.
Sister Golden – 4147 Main St, Fish Creek
If you visit only one store in Door County, make it this one. My favorite store on the Door to pick up exquisite home decor and art. Check out their amazing Frida Kahlo flower prints.
Seaquist Orchards – 11482 WI-42, Sister Bay
A good place to shop for all your obligatory cherry-themed gifts. Honey, jams, dried fruit, fudge, etc. They have it all. And out back there’s a free pedal car track to keep the kids occupied. We’ve been known to stop here just for a quick ride 🙂
Feel free to shoot me an email if you have specific Door County questions. Happy to help! Email firstname.lastname@example.org.