Marine News from the Great Lakes

Door County, Wisconsin

Published: Sunday, May 23, 2010
By: Door County

A Boaters Delight

What is it that makes Door County, Wisconsin such an appealing and popular destination for boating? Is it the 300 plus miles of scenic shoreline? Is it the 10 historic lighthouses that can be viewed from the water? Is it the scenic bluffs along the county's western coast or the majestic beaches along the eastern coast? Is it the islands, waterfront villages or quiet bays to explore? It is! It is all of these things that draw boaters of all types to Door County, and many more.

Albeit clichéd, the undeniable fact is that Door County has something for every boater - from relaxed sailboat cruising to high-speed powerboat getaways and everything in between. Door County truly has it all for anyone who wants to share in the nautical experience.

An unparalleled attraction is the wide open waterways and the range of on-the-water recreational options that are available in this Wisconsin peninsula. Whether it's for a day, a weekend or a week, cruising the waters of Green Bay and Lake Michigan that surround Door County and anchoring at an island or in one of the communities on a warm summer day is most alluring. If you want a little adventure beyond the lapping of waves and warm sunshine, utilize the transient boat slips available in almost every community to find the land lubber in you. Enjoy some shopping, dining and an attraction or three before heading back on board. There are also a lot of great lodging options close enough to the docks should you or someone you're boating with prefer to sleep on land.

The southern area of the county - including Sawyer Harbor, Sand Bay, Riley's Bay and Little Sturgeon, offers great fishing and relaxation opportunities. Explore Sturgeon Bay with its waterfront Door County Maritime Museum, shipbuilding, marine service yards and great downtown shopping and dining. Lots of transient boat slips are available in several areas throughout the historic downtown Sturgeon Bay waterfront.

The Village of Egg Harbor's brand new marina (opening May 2010) will be a popular place to dock. Hike up the hill for great shopping and dining opportunities. Fish Creek offers lots of shops, restaurants and nightlife within a few blocks of their public marina. Don't miss the iconic red and white striped canopy of Wilson's Restaurant in the village of Ephraim for an ice cream cone or a mug of their home-made root beer. The Ephraim marina is a short distance away from shops and restaurants.

The marina in Sister Bay makes this harbor well worth a stop-over, as does the large and recently expanded waterfront park, recreation choices, shops and dining options in downtown Sister Bay. Ellison Bay and Gills Rock also beckon you to stop in for a visit on your way north. Pick up some fresh smoked fish at Charlie's Smokehouse or enjoy a meal at the Shoreline Restaurant in Gills Rock before traversing "Death's Door," Door County's namesake water passage located off the tip of the peninsula. Crossing the Death's Door water passage can be a bit complex and is not suggested on days with rough seas, but the sense of accomplishment in navigating islands, buoys, ferries and freighters make for great stories. Anchor at one of the harbors on Washington Island for a step back from the mainland and the mainstream to enjoy a relaxing time and a taste of laid back island life. Enjoy an ice-cold Island Wheat ale, made with organic wheat grown on Washington Island, to celebrate the journey. If you're cruising along the Lake Michigan side of the peninsula, be sure to check out Baileys Harbor and dock at the public marina downtown for a short walk to dining and shopping.

Also, be sure to visit one of several parks while you're here, including Nicolet Bay Beach in Peninsula State Park, or Whitefish Dunes State Park. You'll find lots of boaters anchored off either of these parks in the summer season, and many more find their own special place to enjoy the spirit of Door County.

If you'd prefer to leave your boat at home, everything you could want including sailboats, pontoon boats, kayaks, paddle boats and more can be rented from outfitters at select harbors throughout the county. If you'd prefer to be a passenger rather than a captain at the helm, try a day out charter fishing with a knowledgeable, licensed captain, or hop aboard one of several boat tours that are offered throughout the county including lighthouse tours, shipwreck tours, island tours and more. Or climb aboard a charter sailboat for a romantic sunset cruise along the county's western coast and relish in the moment as the sun slips beyond the horizon.

The boating season typically lasts from late April until the last diehard boat is hauled out before the ice arrives for winter in November. For true boating aficionados, there is always the promise of a smooth ice boating season on either Clark, Europe or Kangaroo Lake, three of Door County's inland lakes.

A list of marinas with transient slips, boat tour options, boat rental businesses, outfitters and complete visitor information is available through the Door County Visitor Bureau. Visit or call toll-free 1-800-527-3529 for personal assistance all year long.

tags: Destination, Lake Michigan

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