People have been drawn to the Lake Michigan coast of Wisconsin for millennia. The Native American inhabitants of the most popular part of the Lake Michigan coast – Door County – were there as far back as 11,000 years ago. It’s easy to see why that peninsula and the surrounding area have long attracted people to its shores. Fishermen, farmers, pioneers and countless others have called this region home through the years; it was only within the last one hundred years or so that this part of Wisconsin has enjoyed a lot of tourist attention. Dotted with scenic villages and gorgeous beaches, the Lake Michigan coast of Wisconsin is hard to beat when it comes to vacation travel.
Sightseeing and Attractions: Door County – Wisconsin’s Best Kept Secrets
Door County is well known – and much loved – among travelers to Wisconsin’s Lake Michigan coast. This 75-mile-long peninsula boasts many exciting and unique attractions for people to enjoy. If you venture out this way, think about doing at least one of the following:
Cana Island Lighthouse
There are many lighthouses along the shores of Lake Michigan, but a truly unique one can be found in Door County. Known as the Cana Island Lighthouse, it was established in 1870 and is still in operation today. You can only get close to it on foot, which usually involves wading through water that is two to three feet deep. Still, the excursion is well worth it to be able to take in the scenic sight for yourself.
You can witness the powerful erosive forces of water, wind and time by stopping in at Cave Point. Head over to Jacksonport to the limestone cliffs that lie along the shore of Lake Michigan. These cliffs have been slowly but steadily worked upon by the crashing waves for thousands of years; several unique caves and other features have been worn into those cliffs over time.
Peninsula State Park
At 3,776 acres, Door County’s Peninsula State Park is a prime place to visit if you’re interested in enjoying outdoor activities along the Lake Michigan coastline. Scenic bluffs and stunning beaches are par for the course at this well-run park, as are hiking and biking trails. By visiting this state park, you can get a better feel for the nature and topography of this part of Wisconsin.
Gills Rock Maritime Museum
Lake Michigan has played an integral role in the history of this section of Wisconsin. In Gills Rock, you can visit the Gills Rock Maritime Museum to learn more about the area’s proud lake-faring traditions. Exhibits about shipwrecks and commercial fishing are available here; models of famous ships and the actual engines from a few of them can also be viewed at this compelling place.
Best Kept Secrets For Families & Couples
The Lake Michigan area of Wisconsin is a veritable playground for couples and families alike. In addition to the many great beach and hiking opportunities, the region has plenty of other topnotch attractions to enjoy, such as:
The Miller Art Museum
Wisconsin’s Door County peninsula has a strong artistic tradition. Over in Sturgeon Bay, you can enjoy the fruits of local Wisconsin artists’ labors by visiting the Miller Art Museum. 20th century Wisconsin artists are featured here, and there is always a revolving array of other exhibits to check out as well.
Farming has always been a very important part of life in Wisconsin. Bring the kids to The Farm, in Sturgeon Bay, to let them see what farming in this region is all about. This wonderfully hands-on place allows the kids to feed a wide range of animals. There are also opportunities to milk a goat, hold a piglet and participate in a number of other fun activities.
Sample a bit of the local wine by stopping in at nearby Simon Creek Vineyard and Winery. This topnotch place uses only real glass when offering samples to its visitors, and the bottling room is one of the highlights of the interesting tours that are given here.
Eating - Sample the Local Cuisine
If there’s one food that is largely synonymous with the state of Wisconsin, it’s cheese. All along the state’s Lake Michigan coast, you can find true artisan shops that peddle the very best, freshest cheese imaginable. Steer clear of the large chains and seek out small, mom and pop style shops to get the authentic Wisconsin cheese experience. After you’ve tried some, you’ll never look at regular yellow cheese in quite the same way again.
When To Go & How to Get There
Most people arrive in the Lake Michigan portion of Wisconsin by flying in to Green Bay International Airport. People who need to get across the lake from Michigan can take a ferry, and those who are arriving by car can come in on one of several major freeways and interstates into the region. The point is, getting to Door County and the rest of coastal Wisconsin is relatively easy to do.
Late spring and early autumn are both decent times to be in Door County and the rest of the Lake Michigan coast of Wisconsin, but if you really want to get into outdoor activities while here, you need to come in the summer. Summer time in coastal Wisconsin is a true delight, and you’ll be able to get the most out of what the region has to offer during that season.