Sand dunes, lighthouses, and golf courses helped Door County, Wisconsin, earn the nickname Cape Cod of the Midwest. 

Set on a 70-mile-long peninsula edged with 300 miles of shoreline, Door County separates Green Bay from Lake Michigan. That location makes it possible to watch the sun rise and set over the lake. Plus, no matter where you are, you’re only 15 minutes from the water. 

When to visit Door County

Although most of Door County’s two million visitors come during summer, like Cape Cod, each season has its allures. 

Apple and cherry trees and wildflowers bloom in spring. But temperatures can drop into the 30s, brrr

Summer brings warmer temps, ideal for watersports and swimming. And, of course, plenty of fresh cherries. 

In autumn, leaf peepers come for the vibrant foliage. And an annual fall festival celebrates the season with a parade, food and drink, arts and crafts, and other seasonal fun. Other autumn perks include milder temps, fresh apples, and no bugs. 

Cana Island Light Station

Cana Island Lighthouse in the fall (credit: Destination Door County)

Cana Island Lighthouse in the fall (credit: Destination Door County)

Ride a tractor over a causeway to explore Cana Island Light Station. Getting to the tower deck requires climbing 97 steps, so it might not appeal to those with mobility impairments or bad knees. 

But the panoramic views over Lake Michigan and the Door County peninsula make it worthwhile. Hiking a gentle nature trail provides an alternative for those unwilling or unable to climb.

Whitefish Dunes State Park

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Located adjacent to Cave Point, Whitefish Dunes State Park is the site of the state’s largest and most significant sand dunes. First, check “Old Baldy,” which rises 93 feet above the lake level. Then, stroll along the sandy lakefront or hike 14.5 miles of trails, including a boardwalk through the wetlands.

Orchids, hiking, and lighthouse views at The Ridges Sanctuary

The Ridges Sanctuary, Wisconsin’s first land trust, comprises thirty narrow, crescent-shaped sandy ridges. Mother Nature took 30 to 50 years to form each.

The extraordinary forests and wetlands are home to more than 475 plant species. These include 25 of the 40 orchids native to the state. 

Hiking is the best way to view Baileys Harbor Range Lights, a rare group of lighthouses unique in their architectural style.

Dark skies at Newport State Park

 If you come to spot stars, the real kind and not the actors, Newport State Park is one of the Midwest’s prime destinations for doing so. It is one of only 195 places in the world designated an International Dark Sky Park. Clear night skies show constellations, shooting stars, and other astronomical wonders. 

Observe, bike, and hike in Peninsula State Park

Peninsula State Park Golf Course (credit: Destination Door County)

Peninsula State Park Golf Course (credit: Destination Door County)

Peninsula State Park’s Eagle Tower, a redesigned structure completed in May 2021, is Wisconsin’s first accessible observation tower. While you can climb the 95 stairs, the 850-foot ramp provides some of the area’s most stunning views. 

The tower is but one of this park’s attractions. 

  • Hike the Eagle trail to view 150-foot cliffs, springs, and a forested terrace. 
  • Or ride an e-bike along Sunset Trail. This 10-mile bike path weaves through Weborg Marsh, cedar and maple trees.
  • And golfers can play the 18-hole Peninsula Golf Course, which is celebrating its 100th anniversary in 2023. Or, opt for the new six-hole short course. 

More places to tee off

John Nienhuis/Door County

Door County is great for golfers (credit: John Nienhuis/Destination Door County)

Of course, you can mix golf into your visit at other courses, such as Maxwelton Braes and The Orchards at Egg Harbor. Other public links include Alpine Resort, Cherry Hills, Idlewild and Stonehedge. 

Although Horseshoe Bay Golf Club is private, guests of the Ashbrook Hotel can arrange access to the course.


What’s appealing to the over-50 luxury traveler?

  • Walkways at Eagle Tower and other places make it easy to get around and see more scenic views.
  • In season, indulge in all-you-want cherries and apples fresh from the trees.

Take note

  • Make restaurant and dining reservations well in advance to avoid disappointment, especially during peak seasons.
  • Be sure to order the fresh Whitefish caught by local fishermen.
  • Golfers might want to stay in Egg Harbor, as it’s closer to the courses.
  • Bring good walking shoes to fully enjoy all the scenic wonders.
  • While greens fees in Door County tend to be lower than those at major resorts, food prices can be high, especially in some popular restaurants.

Disclosure: The author visited as the guest of Geiger and Associates Public Relations and Destination Door County.


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