To while away some time pick up a map for a wondrous National Register Walking Tour of Sturgeon Bay , detailing more than 100 neighborhood edifices. Another personal fave freebie is to wander north of downtown to Bay Shipbuilding—a great place to espy behemoth vessels as they’re being launched or brought in for fixing. You can’t get in the grounds but you can still get some good views.
Also check out great scenery along Lake Forest Road and Highways T and TT east of town. Wow!
One of the oldest of its kind, dating from 1899, the Canal Station Lighthouse originally used an experimental design in which only latticework guy wires supported the tower and lantern. The station was redone after the turn of the 20th century, constructing the skeletal steel framework around the 100-foot-tall light.
Access has become restricted now to the annual Lighthouse Walk weekend, but you can also see it from boat tours from Sturgeon Bay. If you arrive on wheels, the north breakwall is supposedly accessible, though views aren’t all that great.
Ditto the restrictions on access for the Sherwood Point Lighthouse nearby.
Given the county’s proclivity for fruit production, perhaps it’s not surprising that wineries have sprouted up every which way. Technically the only one in Sturgeon Bay itself is Red Oak Vineyard & Winery (325 N. Third Ave., 920/743-7729, www.redoakvineyard.com , hours vary), or at least the tasting room is downtown, where you can sample the wines from California grapes—and one local cherry wine. It’s co-owned by a local Sturgeon Bayer who studied law before finally seeing the light and returning home to follow his passion, and good on him for it!
Eight miles north of Sturgeon Bay, in Carlsville, Door Peninsula Winery (5806 WI 42, 920/743-7431, www.dcwine.com , from 9 a.m. daily year-round, $3 tours) is housed in an old schoolhouse. Tours take in the cellars and winemaking rooms where 40 Door County California-style fruit wines are produced. A good eatery is attached.
An additional couple of miles along WI 42 to CR I (turn right) brings you to Simon Creek Winery (5896 Bochek Rd., 920/746-9307, www.simoncreekvineyard.com , 10 a.m.–6 p.m. Mon.–Sat. mid-May–late Oct., free tours), the county’s largest and newest winery. There’s an added bonus of live music Sunday afternoons. I love their Peninsula cream sherry!
The Door County Maritime Museum (120 N. Madison Ave., 920/743-5958, www.dcmm.org , 9 a.m.–6 p.m. daily Memorial Day–Labor Day, less often the rest of the year, $7.50 adults) is in a sparkling, 20,000-square-foot complex with splendid views of the bay. It synopsizes the shipbuilding industry, and kids love the periscope from a nuclear submarine; it’s part of an ambitious exhibit on the crucial role Manitowoc played in building subs in World War II. Outside, you can also tour (10 a.m.–3:30 p.m. every half-hour during peak season, $5) the big ol’ John Purves, a restored 1919 cherry-red tug.
At 4th Avenue and Michigan Street you’ll find the Door County Museum (18 N. 4th Ave., 920/743-5809, 10 a.m.–4:30 p.m. May-Oct. daily, free) originally built by the WPA during the Great Depression. The Chicago Tribune called it the “Best Small Museum in the Midwest.” The most popular attraction is the old-time firehouse, complete with refurbished pumper vehicles including a horse-drawn model predating the end of the Civil War. Climb-aboard, hands-on vehicles are great for the urchins.
The Miller Arts Center (107 S. 4th Ave., 920/746-0707, www.millerartcenter.org , 10 a.m.–8 p.m. Mon., 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tues.–Sat., free) is in the Sturgeon Bay  library. The top floor houses the permanent collection, with an emphasis on 20th-century Wisconsin artists. One room houses Gerhard Miller’s works.
The Farm (N WI 57, 920/743-6666, www.thefarmindoorcounty.com , 9 a.m.–5 p.m. daily Memorial Day weekend–mid-Oct., $8 adults) bills itself as a living museum of rural America, and it lives up to that. On 40 acres of an original homestead, various old-style dwellings and structures dot the compound, and pioneer implements line the walls. The primary draw for families is the menagerie of farm animals-you can simply never tire of milking a goat, can you? You’ll also find nature trails and informative displays about the diverse peninsular ecology.