Travel the Door Peninsula and you’ll be treated to a scenic drive any time of the year, but fall is a particularly fabulous time to cruise along the colorful orchards, forests, and shorelines that make Door County famous in Wisconsin and beyond. So, gather a crew of your favorite people and get ready to be charmed by the spectacular scenery and unique stops along the way.
Keep up with the ever-changing autumn hues and time your trip perfectly with our Fall Color Report.
Journey to the Top: Sister Bay to Northport, via Hwy 42
Head north on Highway 42 via the Door County Coastal National Scenic Byway for 66 miles of staggering Green Bay Bluffs and sandy dunes along Lake Michigan. Then, get your camera ready for the finale: the famous Jens Jensen Winding Road that comes alive each year with breathtaking fall color.
Between Sister Bay and Ellison Bay, you’ll pass a landmark worth savoring: Seaquist Orchards Farm Market. Anders Seaquist planted his first cherry tree on this property in the early 1900s and since then the multi-generational family business has grown to over a thousand acres of fruit trees that produce around 6 million pounds of cherries every year. Bring home a jar of homemade cherry applesauce or grab a slice of cherry pie straight from the source.
For another unforgettable detour, take the exit towards Ellison Bay Bluff County Park where wooden boardwalks and easily accessible trails lead you right to the edge of sheer, 100-foot limestone cliffs overlooking the Great Lake. Autumn is extra special here, as you can catch a glimpse of mountain maples, red pines, and other colorful trees that anchor their roots in the rocks, as well as the migratory birds such as tundra swans and wood ducks on their way south for the winter. And if you’re feeling brave, venture out on an enclosed catwalk that extends out over the bluffs for a true birds-eye view.
From there, it’s a short, scenic drive to the Northport pier, where families are welcome to grill out and watch the Washington Island Ferries transport fellow travelers to and from the islands in the bay across the famous Death’s Door passageway. Reflect on the day’s adventures and enjoy some quality time with the people you love.
The West Coast of the Midwest: Egg Harbor to Ephraim, via Hwy 42
For a drive that rivals any ocean roadway, hop on another section of the Door County National Scenic Coastal Byway that hugs the water while guiding you through the beloved Peninsula State Park. Stretch your legs with a hike to Eagle Bluff Lighthouse or pack your mountain bike and tour Sunset Trail that boasts gorgeous views through falling leaves.
Stop and refuel in Fish Creek with a Sundae of Broken Dreams (aka broken pretzels) from Not Licked Yet Frozen Custard. The family-owned spot also has a full lunch and dinner menu that prioritizes local ingredients as well as a large playground that brushes up against the actual Fish Creek, so the kids can play while the adults relax and take in the natural beauty from the comfort an Adirondack chair.
If you’re looking for a little bit of magic, stop in at Edgewood Orchard Galleries (also in Fish Creek) where an outdoor sculpture garden makes for a fairytale walk in the woods. Afterwards, wander inside the refurbished historic barn that houses a plethora of paintings, glassware, and jewelry crafted by regional artists for the perfect memento to remember your Door County drive.
End your day in Egg Harbor with a five-star dinner at Burton’s on the Bay in the Alpine Resort where you can enjoy an upscale meal with a dazzling view and stay in your own private cottage right on the water. You won’t soon forget the memories made while spending this fall season in style with those who matter most.
Two Coasts in One Day: Sister Bay to Bailey’s Harbor to Kangaroo Lake, via Hwy 57 and County Roads Q & E
Compare both sides of the peninsula on this drive that has something for everyone. Begin in Sister Bay and head south on Highway 57 until you see the signs for Koepsel's Farm Market, the oldest farm market in Door County. Here, you can choose from a huge variety of homemade jams, pickled veggies, and chocolate-covered cherries to keep you stocked for the rest of your fall road trip.
Jump straight into the fresh air and fall colors at the Ridges Sanctuary in Bailey’s Harbor, a nature preserve and National Natural Landmark with miles of diverse trails and two range lighthouses to explore. After, kick back with a craft beer from Door County Brewing Company in the cool air of the beer garden or warmth of their rustic taproom. Plan ahead and line up your visit with a live music event to make the fun last late into the night.
But if you aren’t ready to stop there, continue onto County Road E to cross Kangaroo Lake and take in the changing colors of the lowland marsh. Follow Logerquist Road to around the rest of the lake to end your autumn road trip in a sea of gorgeous fall foliage.
For even more fabulous fall rides in Wisconsin, check out these 11 Scenic Drives.