Our daughter, Meghan, and I first had the idea to take a father-daughter trip last spring. Because I came into Ann and Meghan’s lives when Meghan was in high school, she and I have never really had time to do something just the two of us. After all, Ann and I were married at the beginning of Meghan’s senior year of high school, and then she was off to college, then nursing school, and the workforce.

Meghan loves travel as much as Ann and I. She even wrote a blog post about what she’s learned through travel with her mom. While we have been fortunate to have Meghan with us for a number of family vacations in the 11 years Ann and I have been married, it has never been just Meghan and me on a trip. So, we decided to do something about it, and asked our readers, for father-daughter trip ideas.

Father daughter trip ideas Door County

A moment of authenticity: This blog post has fewer pictures than normal because Ann wasn’t there. I always forget to take pictures, especially in restaurants where I am quickly distracted by delicious-looking food. Please forgive me 🙂 

The father-daughter trip idea we picked: Door County, Wis.

One destination suggestion we received from many people was Door County, Wis. I’d visited there when I was in college about 30 years ago, and remembered it being very nice but not much more than that. So, it would basically be a new place for both of us. I ran the idea past Meghan and she liked it. So, we set our plans.


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We left Rochester, Minn., where Meghan lives and works as an ICU nurse. On the way, I engaged in what has been a favorite trip idea of parents for years: dragging your kid on a stroll down memory lane. Our route took us through Appleton, Wis., where I attended college at Lawrence University. So, of course, I wanted to make a quick stop to show Meghan the campus. Meghan, for her part, was nice and happy to humor me.

Steve at Lawrence University Main Hall Postcard Jar

Next, we left Appleton, and finished our drive to Door County. Because of our last-minute planning, there weren’t many vacation rentals available. We booked a cozy Airbnb called Cedarwood Cabin near Bailey’s Harbor. It had more space than we needed but was new and available! It had a central location out in the country but it wasn’t too far from anything.

Set back from the road, it offered privacy and quietness. With multiple bedrooms and bathrooms, we could spread out and each have our own space–a real luxury. Here’s a picture of the bedroom I used.

Door County Wisconsin airbnb

While we didn’t cook on this trip, the property did have a full kitchen and dining area big enough to seat eight people comfortably. Also on the property was a large deck with a fire pit (they even provided s’mores for us) that we didn’t use because of the weather (more on that later).

A sunset sail

We checked in to our Airbnb about 5 p.m. After unloading the car and a quick freshen-up, we drove to Ephraim, Wis., for a sunset sail with Stiletto Sailing Cruises. We were a little early, as were the other passengers, so the captain said we might as well get started. We hopped on board, pulled out from the dock, and then literally set sail.

Father daughter trip ideas sailing in Door County

Sailing is a little different than other forms of boating because it’s quiet. The captain raises the sails then turns the motor off. You quickly realize just how much noise the motor made when it disappears. Under sail, the boat glides across the water without noise while passengers enjoy a soft breeze and beautiful views. Take 15 seconds to see what I mean.

With the drinks and snacks they invited us to pack along, we had a wonderfully relaxing start to our trip.

Locals told us that this summer in Door County has been beautiful, and I believe them. It was certainly gorgeous when we arrived on Friday evening. We finished our sail trip about 8 p.m. and had a tough time finding a place open that late for dinner. So, when you go, be sure to note the closing times of restaurants and plan accordingly.

Door County bay

Village of Ephraim Door County Wisconsin

Don’t worry about rainy days

We woke up Saturday morning to a cool day and steady rain. We drove over to Al Johnson’s Swedish restaurant-famous for its Swedish pancakes and live goats on its grass roof. Note: When it’s raining (or warmer than 80 degrees) the goats are not on the roof.

Door County Wisconsin Al Johnson's Swedish Restaurant

The Swedish pancakes were very thin, almost like crepes, and were folded over. They came with lingonberries which were absolutely delicious. They looked so appetizing that I forget to take a picture. Again, my apologies.

Lavender abounds in Door County

Meghan loves all things lavender, so after breakfast, we made a beeline to the Island Lavender Company. There, we (she) shopped and found different scented soaps and lotions. The shop also offers lavender flavored chocolates, cookies, and even caramel corn!

Door County Wisconsin lavender

It’s a fun shop and a perfect place to do a little early Christmas shopping for anyone on your list who might like luxurious bath products.

Father-daughter trip ideas: a ride on a car ferry

From there, we drove north to Northport and boarded the Washington Island Ferry. I’d visited Washington Island in college and remembered it being beautiful. We drove the car onto the ferry then enjoyed the ride from the mainland past Plum Island and out to Washington Island. On the way, we passed by one of the ferries going the other direction.

On Washington Island, we drove around a bit and took in the views. Because it’s accessible only by a ferry, Washington Island seems to have fewer tourists than the mainland and has a different atmosphere. The island is gorgeous and is filled with beautiful, lush forests.

Door county Wisconsin Washington Island

For lunch, we stopped at a local eatery on the island where Meghan had a cheeseburger and I had a bratwurst with grilled onions. Again, I apologize for no photo, but I will say that it was delicious! From there, we headed back to the mainland and to our Airbnb for a little downtime before our evening tour.

Charcuterie on a trolley

It turns out that Door County is home to the world’s only dining trolley. Who knew? (Not us.)

Door county trolley dining car

For our last activity on Saturday before heading home, we booked a two-hour tour aboard this special dining trolley which has tables for eating while you ride. Our trip included drinks as well as charcuterie featuring fresh Wisconsin cheeses.

Father daughter trip ideas dinner trolley

The trolley left Egg Harbor and criss-crossed Door County with views of the coast as well as visits to various towns along the way. After our first restroom stop (there were several), they served us a beautiful charcuterie box, and we toasted our trip.

Door County trolley charcuterie

By the time we’d eaten our way through our charcuterie box (look, I took a photo!), we made a stop at a beach in Jacksonport on the shore of Lake Michigan. While it was cloudy, I could see this would be a beautiful beach to visit in the summertime. Take 20 seconds to watch this video and imagine relaxing here on a warm summer day.

Our trip ended Sunday morning with breakfast back in Ephraim at the Old Post Office Restaurant. Of course, we didn’t leave Door County before buying a few postcards to remember our trip. Ann and I have been collecting postcards from our travels for years. We write them out and mail them home to ourselves. We display the postcards in a large glass decorative jar that sits on a table in our foyer (hence the name of our blog – Postcard Jar). You can also mail us a postcard for our jar. Just send it to us at: Postcard Jar, PO Box 334, Crete, NE 68333.

Father-daughter trip ideas postcard door county

I have to say, our first father-daughter trip was wonderful and filled with memories I’ll treasure forever. In fact, we’re already thinking about where the two of us can go next year. Do you have any suggestions? Please let us know in the comments section below.