The Door County Peninsula is beautiful anytime of year — including winter. While summer screams of thrilling water sports and camping, winter calls to the romantic and adventurous traveler for snowy, peaceful nights beneath the starry lit sky. But that’s not all winter brings. During this season Lake Michigan is frozen, it’s ice fishing season, and cross county skiing showcases the rocky shoreline replete with crystal icicles.
That said, if you’re planning to visit Door County during the winter months, the best way to get there is to fly into Austin Straubel Airport in Green Bay. From here, you can rent a car, then in about an hour’s drive you’ll reach the peninsula. Other airports close by are Appleton Airport and General Mitchel Airport, but these airports are much further away.
Alternatively, if you’re coming from a neighboring city or state, road tripping is always a great option as you’ll witness the hilly countryside of Wisconsin blanketed in snow. To make the most of your visit to Door County, renting a car is your best option if you don’t drive in. The county is about 18 miles wide. However, once you’re in downtown areas like Sister Bay or Egg Harbor, everything is completely walkable.
Things to do in Door County in the winter
Horseshoe Bay Farms
Known as a historic landmark for its agricultural and community-focused presence in Door County, Horseshoe Bay Farms is listed on the National and State Register of Historic Places. Tour the farm during winter to find a whimsical, snow-bound five tower sculpture constructed of 125 sticks that are derived from oak, ash, and maple trees.
Horseshoe Bay Farms: 7212 Horseshoe Bay Rd, Egg Harbor, WI 54209
Open Door Bird Sanctuary
Several injured birds that are unable to be released into the wild call this 34-acre bird sanctuary home. Wander through the premise to meet these incredible birds of prey up close and personal as you listen to educational stories from trained guides under the gentle winter skies. Expect to greet a Barred Owl (named Radar), a giant Bald Eagle (called Fisher), a Long Earred (named Forest), a Peregrine Falcon, and many other beautiful birds. The bird sanctuary is opened seasonally, but offers private tours year round.
Open Door Bird Sanctuary: 4114 Co Rd I, Sturgeon Bay, WI 54235
Rent an E-bike from Door County Kayak Tours
Anytime of year is the best time of year to rent an electric bike. One of the best places to rent a cold-weather-ready fat tire e-bike is through Door County Kayak Tours. Purchase your rental online, then scan the barcode at the entrance to fill out your electronic waiver. The location itself is an ideal place to start your biking adventure as it’s near peaceful country roads that lead towards frosty coastal plains. In a short 20 minute ride you can reach White Dunes State Park, and from there, you can ride to the Cave Point County Park to see the limestone sea caves concealed with pearly icicles.
Door County Kayak Tours: 6329 WI-57, Jacksonport, WI 54235
Named after the memorable egg battle, this small town boasts of frosty shorelines and expansive skylines. Roam around downtown to uncover the tastiest sweets, perfect for warming up after an adventurous day out. Snag some artisan bread or indulge in some pastries and cookies from Pink Bakery & Catering which stays open during the winter season. There’s also shopping and other dining options available.
Peninsula State Park
Situated along the cusp of the Door County Peninsula shoreline is this stunning state park founded in 1909. Spanning roughly 3,776 acres from the coastline to wilderness, this park is a treasure waiting to be explored anytime of the year. Wander along the numerous hiking and biking trails or, for the adrenaline seekers, take a stroll on icy Lake Michigan. Make sure to use caution as its very slippery, and wear layers.
Newport State Park
If you’re a fan of stargazing, one of the best activities to do in Door County during the winter is to attend a candlelight hike at Newport State Park. It was named by the Dark Sky Association as one of a handful of Dark Sky Park in the country. With the help of dim candlelight, trust your instincts as you let your feet guide you down the snowy path to a spectacular beach illuminated by the starry sky. The experience is simultaneously magical yet exhilarating.
The Ridges Sanctuary
Listed on the National Natural Landmark is a 1,600-acre nature preserve called The Ridges Sanctuary. Founded in 1937 in the Bailey Harbor area, this land trust has complex ecosystem. Walk along the accessible wooden boardwalks to view the conifer forest, see various species of birds, and have the chance to see roughly 500 plant species. Purchase a day pass to tour the grounds anytime of year and don’t forget to stop by main office to learn more about the preservation and research efforts this organization is doing.
Gallery Hop in Ephraim
Nestled in the center of the Door County is the Scandinavian village of Ephraim, which dates back to 1853. Throughout this quaint town is several historic buildings, some of which listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and charming galleries featuring distinctive artwork from artists far and wide. Start at The Blue Dolphin House to view a contemporary collection, then make your way to the Fine Line Designs Gallery to see artwork from over 90 acclaimed crafts people. Both are free to attend.
Where to eat and drink in Door County
Door County Coffee & Tea Company
Coffee and tea are ubiquitous as being the best way to kick start your morning. Whether you prefer toffee pretzel coffee or seasonal flavors like candy cane coffee that have lingering notes of peppermint, Door County Coffee & Tea Co. has an abundance of flavors to choose from. The menu also has chai tea lattes, hot teas, hot chocolate, and more for non-coffee drinkers. When you enter the cafe, head to the front counter to order your entree, then snag a cozy spot near the fireplace to enjoy your meal. On the breakfast menu there’s baked oatmeal (both gluten-free and vegan friendly), breakfast burritos, and baked egg scrambles, while the lunch menus offers salads, soups, and sandwiches.
Door County Coffee & Tea Company: 5773 WI-42, Sturgeon Bay, WI 54235
Door Peninsula Winery
If you’re a history buff, this is one place you won’t want to miss in Door County. The winery was founded in 1974 in a former schoolhouse that consisted of two rooms. To this day, a single school desk, lit by a spotlight, sits in the basement of this building to honor the former school. Door Peninsula Winery is the largest winery in the county, serving a wide array of wine ranging from blends, sweets, and reds to ice wines with a sweet undertone.
Door Peninsula Winery: 5806 WI-42, Sturgeon Bay, WI 54235
Door County Distillery
To add to this list of firsts, Door County Distillery is the first distillery in the area to serve hand-crafted vodka, barrel-finished gins, and small-batch spirits infused with various aromas such as java, cherry, and apple. Enjoy a tasting in the tasting room or sip and relax in the spacious lounge room with wooden walls that resemble a barrel, enjoying views of the copper and silver colored distillery tanks.
Door County Distillery: 5806 WI-42, Sturgeon Bay, WI 54235
One Barrel Brewing Company
When it comes to enjoying a night on the town, nothing quite compares to the lively yet laid-back ambiance found at One Barrel Brewing Company in Egg Harbor. Overflowing with fun and games like Uno or Jenga, this tavern features gluten-free cider, beer, and seltzers. Cozy up during winter with a rosé hard cider, then order a wood fired pizza from Pizza Bros as you play games and laugh the night away.
One Barrel Brewing Company: 2001 Atwood Ave, Madison, WI 53704
White Gull Inn
When freshly caught whitefish and potatoes meet a pot of boiling water cooked over open flames, you get a fish boil — a cultural tradition in the Door Peninsula. Seasoned with only salt, watch the Master Boiler cook the fish to perfection adding kerosene to the fire for a giant combustion of flames, ultimately causing the pot to boil over.
White Gull Inn: 4225 Main St, Fish Creek, WI 54212
Al Johnson’s Swedish Restaurant
In the quaint village of Sister Bay is one of the region’s most popular brunch spots, Al Johnson’s Swedish Restaurant and Butik. Known as the restaurant with goats on the roof, here you’ll find traditional dishes and drinks from Sweden. Try the Swedish pancakes topped with a generous portion of plump lingonberries and a side of Swedish meatballs if you’re looking for a hearty breakfast. On the lighter side, you’ll find my personal favorite, a vegetable hash loaded with a variety of sautéed veggies and a side of pickled beets, perfect for any vegetarian traveler. Don’t forget to wash it all down with a refreshing glass of lingonberry lemonade.
Al Johnson’s Swedish Restaurant: 10698 N Bay Shore Dr, Sister Bay, WI 54234
Sister Bay Bowl and Supper Club
Your time in Wisconsin isn’t complete without dining at least once at a supper club. If you’re new to the supper club scene, don’t worry. This locally owned joint has an old-fashioned bar to relax at until your table is ready and a vintage bowling alley for the family. Order one of the famous old-fashioned cocktails and request a seat by the window overlooking Sister Bay as you gobble up a crisp salad with homemade Italian dressing and blackened salmon, lightly floured lake perch, ribs, or a pork chop.
Sister Bay Bowl and Supper Club: 10640 N Bay Shore Dr, Sister Bay, WI 54234
Where to stay in Door County in the winter
White Lace Inn is a charming bed and breakfast found in the city of Sturgeon Bay. The idea came to be when property owners Dennis and Bonnie decided to spare an 1880s house from being torn down by buying the home. After major renovations, they began adding antique decor and furniture, then opened for business.
Now the property features four houses in total (i.e. Main House, Garden House, Washburn House, Hadley House) each with their unique charm. For those craving a romantic and cozy winter getaway, I highly recommend staying in the Main House in the Romantic Retreat room. Here you’ll find a spa bathtub, a two person shower, and just down the stairs you’ll find the quaint dining area dishing up tasty breakfast options like homemade pumpkin bread or French toast.