A Complete Guide To Peninsula State Park
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Nestled in the heart of Door County, Peninsula State Park is hands down one of the most popular states for camping. With its extensive hiking trails and scenic views, is a favorite destination for campers and hikers alike in the East Wisconsin Waters area.
Peninsula State Park is a 3,776-acre Wisconsin state park with eight miles of Green Bay shoreline in Door County. Peninsula is the third largest state park in Wisconsin and is visited by an estimated one million visitors annually.
A Complete Guide To Peninsula State Park
One of the best things about Peninsula State Park is that it’s so close to Door County – a must-see area when visiting Wisconsin. But what if you’re not into camping? There is so much to see and do in the area that it is worth checking out, even if you are staying at another property in the area.
From hiking the Eagle Bluff Lighthouse to Nicolet beach, Peninsula State Park has so much to offer the person that simply wants to connect with nature.
Love hunting out the fall colors? Peninsula State Park has an impressive variety of colors and trees, so you won’t be disappointed when venturing out for the splendor of nature.
History of Peninsula State Park:
In 1909 the land that Peninsula State Park sits on was purchased for less than $20 per acre. One year later, the Wisconsin legislature officially establishes the park. That made it the second State Park of Wisconsin.
Early projects included miles of roads, scenic lookouts, campgrounds, two towers, and initial portions of two golf courses. That, when added to the incredible beauty of the area, makes it easy to see how an estimated twenty-thousand people visited Peninsula State Park during its 1919 season.
With the Great Depression came the Civilian Conservation Corps. With a camp of 208 men, there were completed projects like rebuilding Eagle Tower, constructing stone fences, clearing hiking trails and roads, planting trees, and refurbishing the ski jump and toboggan run near today’s Nature Center.
During World War 2, A German Prison Camp was set up in Fish Creek and the inmates were used for everything from picking cherries to park construction projects.
Peninsula State Park is more than just camping. There are plenty of activities for people who don’t want to sleep out in their tent or RV while visiting Wisconsin. There’s so much open space and natural beauty that you can experience without sleeping out under the stars.
Peninsula State Park Camping
Peninsula State Park offers a diverse range of camping areas for visitors to enjoy. There are many campgrounds that have everything from tent sites to electric and water hookups, showers, flush toilets, and more!
Considered Wisconsin’s most complete park, Peninsula has 468 campsites, three group camps, a summer theater, an 18-hole golf course, sand beach, biking, hiking and ski trails, 150-foot bluffs, a lighthouse, and eight miles of Door County shoreline.
The topography is varied, with rolling hills and open meadows in addition to woodlands that cover about 80% of the park’s landscape. Hiking trails are plentiful, with many looping through forests or over bluffs overlooking Lake Michigan on one side and Green Bay on the other.
Nicolet Bay is divided into two parts, North and South. The Nicolet Bay camping area has one-hundred and eighty-eight campsites sites, thirty-three of which have electricity. There are shower/flush toilet buildings throughout the campground.
This is where we normally pitch our pop-up. Tennison Bay is the largest campground in the park; it has one-hundred and eighty-eight campsites, fifty-six of which are electric. Tennison has two shower/bathroom facilities and three flush toilet facilities (without showers).
There is a playground and kayak launch at the north end of the campground. Tennison is the only campground open year-round.
Weborg is Peninsula’s smallest campground, with twelve electric sites and one shower/toilet building. These sites are popular with RV and trailer campers. Weborg is near the park’s Fish Creek entrance and has views of downtown Fish Creek.
A concrete pier at the tip of Weborg Point is popular with recreational fishermen. The Weborg Point shelter is available for reservations.
Welcker’s Point is an eighty-one-site non-electric campground located at the northern peninsula of the park. Welcker’s is popular among campers with tents and small trailers because of the heavily wooded nature of the surrounding forest.
It is also at the head of many hiking and biking trails (including a path to Nicolet Beach) and has a reservable shelter just outside the campground, which is a popular place for visitors to view bats 30 minutes after sunset during summer evenings.
Peninsula State Park Amphitheater
Formerly known as American Folklore Theatre, the Peninsula State Park Northern Sky Theater seats up to 650 people and hosts concerts in June, July, and August that can usually be heard from your campsite!
Two unique theaters showcase original musicals from “one of the most exceptional professional troupes in the country (Chicago Tribune).” Find yourself nestled in the woods under the stars at the Peninsula Park outdoor stage. Relax indoors at the intimate, new Gould Theater.
They usually run three comedic shows over a summer season. The amazing setting has you tucked into the forest of one of Wisconsin’s most-loved state parks. Under the pines and starry sky, we’ll lift your spirits.
Campers at the park receive up to a 20% discount on all Northern Sky summer shows.
Peninsula State Park Activities
There are so many things to do at Peninsula State Park in Wisconsin, it’s hard to know where to start. One of the most popular activities is hiking as there is so much beauty surrounding you. The park also has biking trails that are perfect for cross-country skiing during winter or mountain biking during the summer. Other popular activities include hunting, fishing, and kayaking.
Biking at Peninsula State Park
There’s a bike trail for everyone, from easy to difficult and all distances in between. If you want to go fast, head out on North Trail or South Trail where there is no stop-and-go traffic like other parks might have during peak season.
Throw your bike in the back of your car and get ready for a beautiful ride on one of Wisconsin’s best biking trails! We recommend Outer Drive, which is located off State Highway 42 near Peninsula Boat Launch.
There are also more difficult trails in Peninsula State Park, such as the North Shore Trail or South Shore Trail. These routes will lead you to some of the best views on Lake Michigan – absolutely worth it!
The Sunset Bike Trail is a 5.1-mile (8.2 km) paved/gravel trail that starts at the Sunset Point parking area and ends in Fish Creek. This is a great trail for beginners who are looking to get their biking legs!
Did you forget your bike? No worries – you can rent one. There are several places in the area to rent bikes – including Peninsula Boat Launch, Horseshoe Bay Resort, and the Door County Visitor Center.
Peninsula State Park Bird Feeding
The peninsula is home to a lot of birdlife. When you are visiting make sure to stop by some of the feeding stations and check out all the different species! The
Cedar Nature Center has several feeders, including one that is accessible for wheelchairs.
In 1977, 47 species of birds were counted in the forests and campgrounds of the park – that is great for any ornithologist!
Chickadees will feed on the hands of visitors at Peninsula State Park’s Nature Center. Visitors can bring their own black oil sunflower seed to feed to birds making this a fun and pretty much free activity to do with the kids.
Peninsula State Park Cemeteries
Visitors can explore the park’s cemeteries and gravesites, which are a glimpse into Wisconsin history.
There is no charge for entering but donations to help maintain this historic site are always welcome! The gatehouse houses small exhibits about early settlers in Door County.
You will see some of the most significant settlers in Door County and should always be to visit them, lest they be forgotten.
Two established cemeteries, the Claflin-Thorp Cemetery (also called the Pioneer Cemetery) and Blossomburg Cemetery, hold some of our county’s most treasured forefathers and mothers and our more recent beloved characters.
Peninsula State Park Disc Golf
One of my favorite things to do is play disc golf at Peninsula State Park. It’s one of the best courses in Door County, and it has 18 holes that are spread over a variety of terrain – some wooded areas, open fields, cedar trees.
Peninsula State Park Eagle Lookout
Not to be confused with the Eagle Tower, the Eagle Lookout is a 170-foot high cliff on the west side of Peninsula State Park. The cliffs are composed primarily of limestone and sandstone with many large outcroppings that offer views across much of Door County.
The Eagle Trail, which runs through most of the park, offers expansive views from one end to another (except for the deep valley of Big Creek).
The Eagle Tower was a 76-foot tall observation tower located atop the 180-foot limestone Eagle Bluff. The tower offers views of the park, surrounding islands, and the Michigan shoreline. The most recent tower was built in 1932 to replace the original tower built on Eagle Bluff in 1914.
It was just updated in 2020 and now is handicap accessible.
Peninsula State Park Eagle Bluff Lighthouse
In 1875, the first of two lighthouses were built on Eagle Bluff. The lighthouse was constructed to warn ships away from a reef that extended across the entrance to Porte des Morts Bay at the mouth of Big Creek and led into fish-filled waters sheltered by landmasses on either side. In 1926, this original lighthouse was replaced by the current lighthouse.
The park’s Eagle Bluff Lighthouse is open to visitors from Memorial Day through Labor Day, and it offers tours on weekends during those months. The tour includes a climb up 126 steps to reach the top of the tower where there are sweeping views of Wisconsin’s only saltwater shoreline and the surrounding countryside.
Visitors can also explore the restored 1902 lighthouse keeper’s home museum, which includes exhibits about maritime history and local flora and fauna.
The former lighthouse keeper’s home has been a museum since 1963. Park admission and a donation is required to tour the lighthouse.
Tour-goers are encouraged to bring their cameras since there is a large viewing window that looks out over Big Creek at its mouth as well as views of Eagle Bluff Lighthouse on the shoreline.
Peninsula State Park Water Sports
Water sports are a major draw for summer campers and day visitors alike
Peninsula State Park has watercraft rentals, fishing spots, plenty of opportunities to swim in the lake or Bay.
Peninsula State Park Fishing
The fish species in the waters of Peninsula State Park are plentiful. Anglers can catch walleye, northern pike, and bass but there is also an opportunity to find a variety of panfish like bluegill, crappies, or sunfish.
Some of the more common fish in Peninsula State Park are carp, catfish, and bullhead.
Just make sure you have your fishing license and you are good to go year-round.
Peninsula State Park Swimming
The Beach at Peninsula State Park
The park’s sandy swimming beach—popular with campers and very crowded during warm summer days—is located at Nicolet Bay.
Nicolet beach at Peninsula State Park is perfect for a swim or just relaxing on the sand. The water may be too cold to go in during winter, but in summer there are plenty of people who come out and enjoy an afternoon by the lake. There is a public boat launch in the park but you need to be aware that there’s limited parking.
One of the easiest ways to have an enjoyable walk during your stay at Peninsula State Park, especially if it’s early summer and flowers are blooming everywhere, is by following the shoreline. The trail starts at the campsites and then follows along Lake Michigan, so it’s an easy walk for everyone.
There is an accessible beach that can accommodate wheelchairs
Peninsula State Park Kayaking
A kayak trip is a great way to see Peninsula State Park and the surrounding area. There are many different routes you can take so there’s one perfect for everyone!
Once on the water, you can paddle past towering limestone bluffs, pass Eagle Bluff lighthouse, Chambers Island, Horseshoe Island, Eagles Cave, Eagle Harbor, and Eagle Bluff.
You don’t need any experience or equipment, just a little common sense (like wearing lots of sunscreen).
Peninsula State Park Kayak Rental
You rent your canoe or kayak from Cedar Nature Center and paddle to the peninsula. There are also a lot of companies that will rent to you – who also offer tours. Like Door County Kayak Tours.
Peninsula State Park Cliff Jumping
There are a few famous cliff jumping spots in the park.
Actually, it is legal to jump from any of Peninsula State Park’s cliffs into Lake Michigan as long as you do not interfere with other visitors or go out on the rocks at night.
It would be best to check up on these rules before your visit.
One of my favorite places is a somewhat hard-to-find spot on Cliff Drive, that overlooks Lake Michigan and has some of the most beautiful views in Door County.
It does require walking through some woods for about half a mile but it’s well worth it!
Hiking at Peninsula State Park
Visitors can explore the area’s rugged shoreline and varied forests on hundreds of miles of hiking trails.
There are guided hikes offered, which include a variety of topics such as animals in different habitats or geological formations. Guided tours last about two hours and leave every hour from April through October.
You might want to check on that before you go as COVID-19 had changed a few things that involved park staff last year.
The park also offers self-guided walking tours. Near the Cedar Nature Center is a self-guided loop of about two miles which takes visitors past some of the park’s most scenic spots including Eagle Bluff Lighthouse and Big Creek at its mouth.
The trails are open to hikers, bicyclists, dog walkers, and horseback riders. Due to restrictions on pets in the park, dog walkers are encouraged to take pets on a leash, but we will cover the dog policy in a bit.
Peninsula State Park Hiking Trails
When talking about hiking, we should mention the hiking trails
There are a lot of hiking trails in Peninsula State Park.
Hikers can find more than 30 miles of marked and maintained trails that range from easy to challenging, as well as abundant opportunities for off-trail exploration. Some popular hikes include:
- Kiwanis Trail
- The Gables
- Big Creek Bluffs Nature Preserve (includes a 115 ft. high steel tower)
- Eagle Bluff Lighthouse
- Ridges Sanctuary and more.
The Lone Pine Trail is a challenging, four-mile loop within the park that is popular with local hikers.
Peninsula State Park Nature Center
In addition to the wonderful hiking trails, they also have a Nature Center. The nature center has so much to offer visitors! It is an educational and recreational facility that offers programs for children as well as adults on subjects related to the natural history of Door County.
I can’t say enough about nature centers at state parks. We have SUCH a great time exploring them, and all of the programs that they offer.
The White Cedar Nature Center features a display of mounted animals, as well as historic photos and artifacts, and a large diorama of the park. The building was constructed in 1939 as a winter warming house for the nearby ski jump and toboggan run, both abandoned in the 1940s.
The building houses exhibits about the peninsula’s ecosystems, wildlife species found in Peninsula State Park, and the park’s history. Add in education programs, including hikes, campfire talks, and nature crafts year-round? When you visit Peninsula State Park, you need to be sure to spend some time at their nature center!
I might even bring my kid!
Golfing in the area
I am not a huge golfer, but can occasionally indulge in it.
The peninsula offers more than just a great place to camp. They also have golfing available in the area! Peninsula State Park golf course began as a 6 Hole course in 1917, grew to 9 Holes in 1923, and expanded to an 18 Hole course in 1931. They also have a Beautiful 6 Hole Short Course for play.
You can learn all about them on their webiste – even book a tee time
Peninsula State Park and Dogs
Let’s start with the obvious: dogs shouldn’t be left unattended and you should pick up the poop. Waste should be disposed of in dumpsters or trash receptacles.
Dogs are not permitted on hiking trails, but they can be walked outside the park’s conservation areas off-leash or with a leash no longer than six feet in length (excluding retractable leashes). Dogs must always remain under the control of their handlers at all times.
Dogs are permitted in the following areas off-leash or with a leash no longer than six feet in length:
- The prairie west of Pierce Lake Road
- Pierce Creek Preserve on the south end of Peninsula State Park
- The prairie east of Pierce Lake Road
- Big Bay Woods Sanctuary along the Big Bay Shelf Nature Trail
- The Point (inside and outside)
- Carlton Pond Campground & Day Use Area.
Pets are not allowed in the following places:
- Picnic areas and picnic shelters
- Pierce Creek Preserve on the north end of Peninsula State Park
- Big Bay Woods Sanctuary along the Big Bay Shelf Nature Trail
- -The Point (inside)
- No Pets are allowed on the ski trails when they are snow-covered.
ID tags are a good idea if your dog isn’t micro-chipped.
If you do lose your pet you can contact the Wisconsin Humane Society Door County Campus at (920) 746-1111
Rabies could be a thing as there are wild animals like raccoons your pooch could come in contact with so make sure your pooch has all current vaccinations.
Other animals like deer, red fox, coyote, squirrels, and beavers. Black bears, cougars, groundhogs, and wolves have all been spotted at Peninsula State Park.
Peninsula State Park Hunting
Hunting is permitted in the park but not on ski trails, by order of the DNR.
Archery hunting and trapping are allowed in the open areas of the park during the Wisconsin state parks hunting and trapping time frame. At Peninsula State Park, there is a traditional 9-day muzzleloader-only gun deer hunt. There is no other gun hunting in the park.
Let me make that clear: only shotguns are allowed during hunting season (closed to public use). Hunting-related information can be found on the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources website.
Trapping is not permitted in closed areas, as noted on the park hunting map or within 100 yards of any designated use area, including trails. Certain trap types are restricted on state park properties.
Peninsula State Park in Winter
A visit in the winter is a little different than the summer but all the more adventurous. Activities range from snowshoeing, cross country skiing, sledding, and hiking tours.
If you are unfamiliar with Snowshoeing, it is exactly what it sounds like. You strap on a pair of shoes that have cleats at the bottom to attach themselves to the ground and then walk up hills or over hard-packed snow. Peninsula State Park is a great place to snowshoe in the winter because it has stunning views of Lake Michigan and lots of trails
Another way to explore peninsula state park is by Cross Country Skiing.
There are groomed, well-marked ski trails with hills that provide challenging terrain for advanced skiers and enough flat and easy trails for those who are just learning.
We recommend renting skis at the park or in town before you head out, as they will make it easier to get started.
Sledding is a lot of fun to do too.
Bring your own or rent one from the park office, and explore all of Peninsula State Park’s hills.
The main sledding hill is located in Campground A near campsite 30-34. There’s also a toboggan run that you can access by taking the white trail (trail #16) to where it dead-ends at the sledding hill.
The Peninsula Winter Sports Center is open until December 23rd every year and has a well-appointed rental center with cross-country skis, snowshoes, sleds, and more.
Peninsula State Park Wedding Info
Peninsula State Park is a romantic spot for a wedding or elopement.
They’ll help you plan your big day and answer all of the questions about accommodations, catering, park fees, photography, officiants, and more to make sure it’s exactly what you dreamed!
Contact them today at firstname.lastname@example.org
Restaurants near Peninsula State Park
Wild Tomato Wood Fired Pizza and Grille
If you’re looking for a cozy, romantic restaurant near Peninsula State Park – try Wild Tomato. Wild Tomato is a beautiful restaurant with wood-fired pizza, appetizers, and salads with a focus on sourcing local, seasonal, and organic ingredients whenever possible.
In addition to the wonderful atmosphere, they have live music on Fridays from May through October! You can find them at 1407 Wisconsin 42 in Fish Creek, WI.
A good spot for breakfast or lunch near Peninsula State Park is Julie’s Cafe. With its charming, waterfront location in Fish Creek and a healthy menu with lots of variety, it has something to offer everyone!
They specialize in fresh baked goods including delicious muffins, scones, croissants, and other pastries. They also have an impressive soup and sandwich menu.
Julie’s Cafe can be found at 1300 Wisconsin 42 in Fish Creek, WI just a few blocks from the peninsula entrance to Peninsula State Park.
White Gull Inn
Last, but not least, we suggest the White Gull Inn and their Door County Fish Boil. This place is a Door County tradition and an absolute must for anyone staying on the peninsula! A Fish Boil is a true tradition and more about watching it being done and hearing the stories of the master chef.
Fish Boil usually runs around $18.95 and is served with coleslaw, Irish potatoes & rye bread, along with a dessert – we always seem to hit Door County Cherry Pie night. They are open year-round from 11:00 am to close with their hours varying according to season.
Lodging Near Peninsula State Park
We know – not everyone is a camper – some consider Holiday Inn as roughing it. Here are a few favorite places to lay your head if you aren’t pitching a tent.
White Gull Inn
Yes, they are a true Inn with food AND rooms to stay in. If you’re looking for a quaint, cozy inn where you can feel right at home and enjoy the company of new friends then this is your place!
The White Gull Inn has been around since 1884 when it was established as one of Door County’s first hotels. Today they offer lodging in both their main hotel and cottages.
This is a family-friendly hotel with room for the whole clan! There’s plenty of space to get away from it all and enjoy some quality time together.
Homestead Suites offers the comforts of home, plus their amenities are top notch – like a full kitchen in every suite. They have an indoor pool/spa so don’t forget to bring your swimsuits.
The Carriage House
This four-star hotel is a great place to stay if you’re looking for luxurious accommodations. The Carriage House has been around since the late 1800s and it’s located in downtown Sturgeon Bay so you’ll be close to all of the shops, restaurants, galleries, parks…whatever your heart desires! You are only an 8-minute walk from the Skyway Drive-In Theater.
Places To Stay Nearby
Peninsula State Park Address
1220 N. Peninsula Drive, Fish Creek WI. The entrance to the park is on your right and you’ll find yourself at a stop sign that leads into the campground; keep going straight onto North Peninsula Drive
Directions to Peninsula State Park
From I-43 take Highway 42 east and follow the signs
If you’re looking for something to do in Door County year-round, Peninsula State Park is the perfect place!
Check out other Wisconsin State Park Guides
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