This expansive state park perches on a peninsula on the larger peninsula, with a view west across a bay swiped from Cape Cod and a towering overlook with rocky cliffs dropping away to Lake Michigan’s Green Bay. And yet for all its wild, natural beauty, the park has its own 18-hole golf course, and the front gate opens right into the buzzing tourist center of Fish Creek. This is getting away without being far away – from anything.
1. On the Water
The park has 8 miles of mostly rocky shoreline, and the only sandy swimming beach lies along Nicolet Bay, along with sand volleyball courts, a boat landing and kayak rentals – though paddlers usually launch at Tennison Bay. A fully accessible fishing pier welcomes anglers of all ages and abilities near Weborg Point.
With five Camping and a whopping 468 sites, this may be the mother of all camping destinations in Wisconsin. Even with all that capacity, reservations are essential. North and South Nicolet Bay Campgrounds are the closest to the swimming beach and boat and bike rentals. Tennison Bay has a playground and the paddler launch but no beach, while Welcker’s Point has no electric sites. Weborg has only 12 sites but is close to the fishing pier.
Know an individual or group committed to bridging divides in our community? Nominate them for a Unity Award by Oct. 31.
Ten trails totaling 20 miles are rated easy, moderate and difficult. The Sentinel is an easy 2-mile loop with a 0.6-mile stretch that is accessible, while the 2-mile Eagle Trail loop passes under 150-foot rocky cliffs and is the most challenging, with steep sections and uneven terrain. Most of these interconnect, so the hardcore hiker could combine trails for a longer trek. The best bet for little ones is the half-mile, self-guided White Cedar Nature Trail, which offers a sort of mini-course in ecology. Birders can pick up a checklist at the office.
After the removal of the old tower in 2016, the new Eagle Tower opened in 2021. The 60-foot structure puts you 253 feet above the lake, with 95 steps to the top or a winding, 850-foot ramp that makes it accessible for wheelchairs and strollers – and functions as a canopy walk as you rise above the treetops. The view, of course, is magnificent.
The 9.6-mile packed-gravel Sunset Bike Route is accessible to all, an easy, scenic ride along the park’s western edge and into the woods. The 12 miles of mountain-biking trails are set apart, zigzagging into the woods and requiring a state trail pass ($5/day or $25/year). Bikes can be rented at Nicolet Bay beach and private outfitters just outside the park entrance.
It’s not every state park that has a professional acting troupe and an open-air theatrical stage. Northern Sky Theater puts on original productions throughout the summer here in the woods under the stars. Northern Sky also has an indoor venue with a schedule of its own less than 3 miles from the park. Or take in a double feature at the good old-fashioned Skyway Drive-In less than a mile from the eastern entrance.
Set 76 feet above the lake, Eagle Bluff Lighthouse began guiding ships around the cluster of islands offshore here in 1868. Today, docents guide you through its restored interior and its storied history.
Rainy Day Ideas
3655 PENINSULA PLAYERS RD., FISH CREEK
While Door County boasts plenty of art galleries, here you are the artist for the day. Paint, glaze ceramics, make mosaics, create jewelry or fuse glass for sun catchers under the tutelage of experienced artists.
9197 WISCONSIN 42, FISH CREEK
Spend the day hitting up the various orchard stores, starting with Lautenbach’s Orchard Country Winery & Market minutes from the park.
Dodge rain drops along Third Avenue, an old-school “Main Street” with four blocks of shopping: antiques, clothing, candy, gifts, an indie bookstore, eateries, a brewpub and more.