Fall Kayaking in Northern Door County


View from kayak bow

View from kayak bow

We know fall is en route. Days are shorter and evening air is brisk. A hint of smoldering leaves wafts on the breeze. Even as we prepare our homes for the cold winter and pack away summer clothes, one summer activity is still timely. September and October are prime kayaking months in Door County. With the buzz of Labor Day behind, the roads and harbors are tranquil and inviting. Where you choose to paddle is up to you, though with the right weather and gear any spot can be outstanding.

If you’re a sea kayaker, the view of the fall colors from Lake Michigan or Green Bay is truly spectacular. On a calm day, less-experienced guests can easily enjoy Baileys Harbor right from the Blacksmith Inn’s own dock in provided kayaks. The views along the shore include the beach at Ridges Park, Toft’s Point, and the Old Baileys Harbor “Bird Cage” Lighthouse.

If you have your own boat, venture north of Ellison Bay to Garrett Bay. There the water is easily accessible at a boat launch. Just east of the launch is the wreck of the Fleetwing, visible on a very calm day. The west side of the bay affords views of small bluffs and the occasional bald eagle.

For a unique paddling experience, take the morning car ferry to Washington Island, car and kayaks in tow. Drive to Schoolhouse Beach and launch on the expanse of smooth stones. You won’t believe how clear the water is here!

If touring or recreational kayaks are your preference, inland lakes and rivers offer plenty to discover. Put in at Rowley’s Bay and paddle inland to the Mink River Estuary, a beautiful and unique ecosystem popular for fishing and birdwatching. Another more secluded spot is Europe Lake, accessible by the boat launch at Europe Lake Liberty Grove Park. West of Gills Rock, the lake abuts the Europe Bay Woods State Natural Area, which is a peaceful campground between the western shore of Europe Lake and Lake Michigan.

Another popular inland paddle spot is Kangaroo Lake, just a few miles south of the Blacksmith Inn. The Coyote Roadhouse on the west side of the lake allows kayakers to use their grassy lawn to launch, though it is polite to ask permission. The lake’s south end is ringed with year-round residences and summer homes, but the part north of County Road E is almost entirely surrounded by several nature preserves, making it a quiet place to see wildlife. The fall colors will be visible in full force here.

Fall is the perfect time to enjoy plenty more hours in a boat, though kayakers should be prepared and cautious in any season. Bring appropriate safety gear and protect your cell phone in a waterproof container. Be sure to check the weather before and while kayaking. If you’ve never kayaked before, consider taking a guided tour. Precautions and a little route planning will ensure you have a memorable fall paddle. Check availability at the Blacksmith Inn so you have the perfect place to relax after a day on the water.

Distance from the Blacksmith Inn: 0-30 miles—You choose!

Pre-registration required: Call ahead or book a guided tour or rental online; many rental companies close at the end of September

Cost: Varies, plan to pay a small boat launch fee