Recharge in Wisconsin’s Winter Wonderland – Picturesque Door County

Whether it’s a snowshoe getaway, romantic escape, or desire for winter activities, a visit to Door County, Wisconsin, is the perfect antidote for changing your attitude by simply changing your latitude.

Door County is truly a slice of heaven, and less than an hour’s drive north of Green Bay, Wisconsin. Visitors will discover miles of snowshoeing solitude, small villages that resemble Cape Cod, a plethora of intimate dining options, and classy historic inns. What better way to spend a day or long weekend during the quiet months of winter?

adult and child walking to lighthouse in Door County

Explore the Cana Island Lighthouse in Door County, Wisconsin. Photo: Creative Commons

Winter in Door County

The county’s southern reaches begin at Sturgeon Bay, the county seat and only city. Door County has about 30,000 full-time residents, with a third of those living in Sturgeon Bay. While a busy summer weekend can draw more than 200,000 visitors, such is not the case during the quiet of winter.

From December through February, the Door County palette is blanketed in layers of snow, adding to its beauty and serenity, and reminiscent of a Currier & Ives lithograph. This is also the quiet time throughout the county and a time that many visitors use as a recharging escape from everyday life demands.

Couples, in particular, take advantage of these quiet winter months when planning a Door County visit. “We see a lot more hand-holding and couples just relaxing during the winter months,” says Jon Jarosh, Door County Director of Communications and PR. To that end, restaurants aren’t crowded, snowshoe trails are wide open, and traffic jams are non-existent.

winter activities Door County: frozen waterfalls in Cave Point County Park

Cave Point County Park is drenched in white during winter. Photo: Destination Door County

Snowshoeing Options Plentiful

Door County features five state parks, 19 county parks, local parks, nature preserves, and state natural areas. In all, more than 23,000 acres of public and preserved land within Door County are available, many of which are open to snowshoeing and other winter activities.

Here are a few parks, trails, and preserves to explore:

Cave Point is known more for its dramatic ice formations along the shoreline, resulting in fantastic photos!

Also, located in Baileys Harbor, the Ridges Sanctuary became the Badger State’s first land trust in 1937. Not only can you rent snowshoes here and walk the numerous trails, but you can also receive a comprehensive overview from one of several Ridges naturalists. Their snowshoe trail walks include an overview of the ridges and swales’ cultural and natural history, highlighting the peace and beauty of the winter woods.

No need to worry about bringing your snowshoes or buying a pair for your adventures in the area. Several businesses rent snowshoes in various communities. You can rent snowshoes at Nor Door Sports and Cyclery in Fish Creek or Bay Shore Outfitters, both in Sturgeon Bay and Sister Bay.

Read More:
Northern Michigan & Wisconsin Snowshoeing Treasures
Winter Photography Tips for Snowshoers

winter activities in Door County: group of snowshoers on a tour at Ridges Sanctuary

Group snowshoe tour at Ridges Sanctuary. Photo: Destination Door County

Après snowshoeing

With more than 5,000 rooms available to rent, Door County offers various options for apres adventures and relaxing after your day of snowshoeing and winter activities.

The White Gull Inn

The White Gull Inn in Fish Creek has served the public since 1896. All of the White Gull rooms, suites, and cottages are meticulously maintained and restored, all with private bathrooms, and most with fireplaces and whirlpool baths. Two years ago, the White Gull Inn was the winner of Good Morning America’s Breakfast Challenge for its Cherry Stuffed French Toast.

welcome sign at White Gull Inn in Door County

The White Gull Inn open year-round for apres experiences. Photo: Destination Door County

Another highlight of the White Gull Inn is the delightfully delicious fish boil, held on Friday nights during the winter months. This Scandinavian tradition has been a staple of locals for well over a century, and visitors love the show.

The White Gull Inn has been serving weekly fish boils since 1959. Cooked over an open fire by a master boiler, the huge pot is heated to boiling. Then, filled with fresh-cut pieces of Lake Michigan whitefish, potatoes, and salt, and served in the White Gull dining room.  Lemon, melted butter, garden-fresh coleslaw, and homemade bread all accompany the meal. For dessert, you can look forward to homemade Door County cherry pie.

A few other local restaurants feature fish boils, including Pelletier’s Restaurant & Fish Boil in Fish Creek, Old Post Office Restaurant in Ephraim, Rowleys Bay Resort in Ellison Bay, and the Viking Grill & Lounge in Ellison Bay.

Eagle Harbor Inn

The Eagle Harbor Inn, located in Ephraim, has served the public for more than 80 years. This quaint inn is set on five acres offering a peaceful and serene atmosphere for relaxing and rejuvenating.

Another option is the Eagle Harbor Inn’s Wine Trail Package, which highlights local wineries: Stone’s Throw, Lautenbach, and Simon Creek.

sunset over Eagle Harbor

Sunset over Eagle Harbor, Door County. Photo: Creative Commons

Dörr Hotel

Though it won’t open until late May 2021, the Dörr Hotel is worth mentioning as an apres option. The community of Sister Bay will welcome its first new hotel in the last 17 years. The Dörr Hotel will feature 47 rooms, including nine fireplace suites, accompanied by incredible sunsets from private balconies. Other amenities include a comfortable lobby, large fireplace, and premier concierge services.

Chanticleer Guest House

Sturgeon Bay’s Chanticleer Guest House is a secluded bed and breakfast set in a century-old but nicely restored farmhouse. Located on 30 private acres, just a half-mile north of Sturgeon Bay, Chanticleer also offers four nearby cottages overlooking a half-acre pond. Guests select suites, cottages, or cabins, all guaranteed to provide the setting of your choice.

Read More: Apres Snowshoe: A First- Timer’s Guide

Not to be missed

While in Door County, there are a few other experiences that you won’t want to miss while on your winter getaway.

Door County Maritime Museums & Trails

The Door County Maritime Museum‘s website offers a comprehensive overview of the area’s three museums: Door County Maritime Museum in Sturgeon Bay, the Cana Island Lighthouse Museum in Baileys Harbor, and the Death’s Door Maritime Museum in Ellison Bay. With the tag line of One History…Three Ports of Call, the website shares some of the stories and memorabilia that make these interesting museums.

Door County’s rich maritime heritage includes several hundred 18th, 19th, and early 20th century shipwrecks spanning the 300 miles of county coastline. The Wisconsin Maritime Trail system explains some of these historic shipwrecks’ details and offers kiosks along shorelines throughout Door County.

man on WI Maritime Trails

Jon Jarosh, Door County Director of Communications at WI Maritime Trails. Photo: Destination Door County

Wine Tour & Sleigh Ride

Visitors also enjoy horse-drawn carriage rides on an expanded outing called the Winter Wine Tour and Sleigh Ride. Held on Saturdays from December through March, these cozy sleigh rides through wintry landscapes in Door County. The ride also includes wine tasting and a fireside lunch at the classy English Inn.

Cheese, Please

Renard’s Cheese is to die for! Celebrating its 60th anniversary in 2021, Renard’s produces an incredible array of cheeses that will please every palate. They also offer factory tours, specialty items that pair with cheeses, like locally produced wines. Lunch is also available at the store.

two people cross county skiing on Wisconsin Door trails

In addition to snowshoeing, you can cross country ski in picturesque Door County. Photo: Destination Door County

Go Enjoy Winter in Door County

Door County has so much to offer! A weekend or a week, for that matter, may not be enough time to explore all there is to see and do. Your first visit will only whet your appetite for more. To discover Door County for yourself, check out their comprehensive visitor’s guide. The Door is always open!

What recommendation do you have for visiting Door County, including snowshoe trails and winter activities? Please share with us in the comments below.

Read Next:
10 Ways to Get Outside & Explore Your Local Backyard this Winter
Snowshoeing Along the Ice Age National Scenic Trail
Plenty of Snowshoe Options in Wisconsin’s Northwoods Region
Snowshoeing Close to Home: On a Wisconsin Flowage & Wildlife Area
Out-the-Back-Door Exploring XC Skis, Boots, Bindings & Poles

About the author

Rick Stedman

Rick Stedman is an avid snowshoer and golfer. He currently lives in Olympia, Washington.

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