A Guide to Door County’s Favorite Beaches: Part 1

Door County has beaches galore, each with its own claim to fame in waterfront fun, and catering to the different kinds of visitors: swimmers, sunseekers and even furry, four-legged pals. Before planning your next beach day, check this first installment of featured beaches to see which activities and features make them stand out from the crowd.

Open at Last: Whitefish Dunes 

Flooding that washed away the sand had caused the beach at this state park to be closed, but now – finally reopened – it offers numerous activities and is the only dog-friendly beach in this list. Though you may see dogs at some of the other parks mentioned here, the third beach at Whitefish – the park features a continuous, mile-and-a-half stretch with three beach-access points – is the only sand-and-water area where dogs are allowed.

There are a few others – Tennison in Peninsula State Park and Anclam in Baileys Harbor – but Whitefish’s size also allows for other activities. There are unmarked, but understood sections where kids play in the water and where couples plunk down lawn chairs to watch the lake, and there’s plenty of space for people who like dogs and those who don’t to coexist.

Because flooding can still be a problem, it’s recommended to check the park’s website before visiting. As of press time for this issue, the first beach-access point was closed. 

Ruby frolics at the Whitefish Dunes State Park beach. Photo by Rachel Lukas.

Small-scale Swimming: Fish Creek Beach

Fish Creek Beach. Photo by Brett Kosmider.

The smallest beach on this list, but by no means the least mighty, the Fish Creek Beach sits right on Main Street, across from the Blue Horse Beach Cafe. 

Because of its size and the buoys that keep it cordoned off from other kinds of water activities, the beach is a good swimming spot for people who are looking for less populated and less active waters. A new handicapped-accessible pier also takes visitors out for an expansive view of the harbor and Peninsula State Park across the way. 

The beach has more sand than rock, unlike a few on this list, and for people who want to catch some rays, this location’s lack of shade trees puts it at the top of the list for sun worshippers.

Pretty Much Anything: Nicolet Beach 

Mary Staples and her one-year-old grandson, Elliot Field from Waukesha, Wisconsin, play on Nicolet Beach. Photo by Rachel Lukas.

Located in Peninsula State Park, Nicolet offers the largest breadth of activities of the beaches on this list. With a large grassy area and beach, there’s plenty of space for both beachside relaxers and spikeball players.

It’s also the only one with concessions on the beach, and two food trucks – Backbone and Kitty’s Coffee – frequent its parking lot. The Nicolet Beach Camp Store and Rentals offers bikes, kayaks, paddleboards, hydrobikes and inflatables, and for any forgotten beach necessities, there’s a gift shop, too.

For people looking to get away from the water, the beach provides easy access to hiking and biking trails in the park and has sand volleyball courts for visitors who have a competitive streak. 

It also has both shallow and relatively deep water for various kinds of aquatic activities and swimming skill levels, plus buoys and no-wake zones to keep the motorboats and sailboats – there is a boat launch at Nicolet – away from the people without boats. The water is notably warmer as well.

Best of Both Worlds: Sister Bay Beach

Sister Bay Beach offers almost as many activities as Nicolet, but it has rockier sand. On the south side, where there’s more grass and rockier sand, there are kayak rentals and plenty of space for people to spread out to read, have a picnic or play games or grass volleyball on the wide space near the amphitheater.

The north side offers more family-oriented activities with a playground, a dock for jumping off, and softer sand for building castles or wading through in the water.

Sister Bay’s beach has plenty of space, both in and out of the water, with shallow water levels and large grass and sand areas above the shoreline. It’s also right next to Sister Bay’s main street, which offers plenty of restaurants, shopping and (yes!) parking nearby. Photo by Rachel Lukas.

Hold the Sand: Schoolhouse Beach

With all the limestone rocks and crystal-clear water, Schoolhouse Beach is a must-stop when you visit Washington Island. This beach has everything except the annoying sand that finds its way into everything you own.

Though the rocks can be harder to walk on and make it a bit uncomfortable to sit down, there are plenty of picnic tables and benches tucked into the shady forest right next to the beach. (And please leave the rocks where they are – no souvenirs.)

It’s an ideal location for cooling off on a sweltering summer day or for swimming without having to contend with large, crashing waves because the water in the small, northern bay where the beach is located is mostly undisturbed – and cold.