Door County, Wisconsin – like nowhere else, and proud of it!

By | Category: Travel destinations
the lighthouse on Cana Island

One of the many lighthouses – Cana island

You won’t see a certain coffeeshop chain that is ubiquitous everywhere else, nor those golden arches, nor even a billboard.

You WILL see, however, goats grazing on a Swedish restaurant’s grassy roof, a Norwegian stave church, ten lighthouses, flocks of wild turkeys along the road and endearingly named streets such as All Creatures Lane, Tart Cherry Lane, Stone Fence Lane and Fogtown Road.  Door County, Wisconsin, is not only a geographic peninsula, it is figuratively one as well. Protected somehow from the rest of the world, it’s a haven of arts, beauty, nature, peace and charm.

Gazing upon the infinite pastures, filled with cows and sheep, the cherry orchards, and the dense woods, touched here and there with clapboard cottages, you’ll feel like you’re in a Midwest Cape Cod, or perhaps somewhere near home in the British Isles.

Door County is a narrow 75-mile-long ‘finger’ of lush land jutting out between Green Bay and Lake Michigan, with over 300 miles of shoreline.  Named for its once treacherous “Death’s Door” passage onto the mainland, Door County begins at Sturgeon Bay, the only population center resembling a ‘city,’ follows with 24 small towns and ends with the extremely picturesque Washington Island at the tip of the ‘finger.’

door County - cherry blossom

Cherry blossom time

The county is home to more state parks (five) than any other county in Wisconsin, with the highest number of rare species in the state. Whitefish Dunes State Park contains the most popular beach in Door County, and was named one of the top beaches in the nation by Travel & Leisure magazine.  Another gem, Peninsula State Park, features spectacular bluffs, an 1860’s lighthouse and a delightful system of biking and hiking trails.

It’s a four-season treasure trove here. Winter is Wisconsin, well, yes, it’s COLD but snuggle up, dress in layers, and enjoy 250 miles of snowmobile trails. Or get your core warm by cross-country skiing or snowshoeing in more than 100 miles of quiet trails. Ice skating is big here too, and you’ll enjoy special wintertime package prices – ask about the ‘Nature of Romance’ deals offered at many inns. With its heavy Scandinavian heritage, the population of Door County gets outdoors and knows how to enjoy wintertime fun.

Springtime in Door County is splendid, spectacular and simply like nowhere else. Thousands of acres of cherry and apple blossoms are blooming, daffodils and tulips carpet the landscape, while a rainbow of wildflowers decorates the forests and meadows. The county’s showcase event is the month-long May Festival of Blossoms.

sailing in Door County

summertime sailing in Ephraim

Summer is the traditional high season – for generations, families from Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan and other neighboring states have vacationed here – flocking to the scenic shorelines of Green Bay and Lake Michigan for swimming, boating, sunbathing, kayaking, fishing and even ferry travel. There are secluded coves, public beaches, huge sand dunes – just about any kind of beach you’d imagine. Don’t forget to pick, buy and especially EAT some of the incredible Door County cherries – they’re at the height of their season in July. In the evening, take in a shoreline show of the Peninsula Players, the nation’s oldest professional residential summer theatre – after a traditional Door County ‘fish boil’ dinner at one of the many restaurants preparing this dramatic, and delicious feast.

colourful autumn in  Door County

leaf change in Autumn

As the nights grow longer, and autumn spreads its blanket of colors in this lush area, Door County explodes with farmers’ markets, Halloween, apple and cherry festivals and more. It’s an artist’s dream – with russets, golds, cinnamons, and blazing orange calling out to their easels. Indeed, artists’ workshops, galleries, and studios are all over the county – you can even indulge yourself in the unique Hands On Art Studio, where you can partake of a wide range of art projects, with expert assistance, on an hourly, half-day or daily basis. In just a few hours, you can experiment with glass fusing, ceramics, metalwork, welding, and much more.

Perhaps the most endearing part of Door County is the unusual wealth of independently-owned accommodations. Cozy, romantic, whimsical, folkloric and all kept with pride – these inns are worth a trip to the county for themselves alone. One after the other, ranging from rustic to intimate luxury, they are a welcome respite from the cookie-cutter chains we all encounter elsewhere.

harvest produce at Koepsels

a farm market laden with harvest produce – Koepsels

I adored the intimate, so-friendly Bay Breeze Resort in Ephraim, the elegant Blacksmith Inn on the Shore in Bailey’s Harbor and the expansive, secluded Gordon’s Lodge in North Bay – but there is no end to the choices available.

Relax, bike ride, stroll, climb lighthouses, sketch, swim, feast and shop – most of all, enjoy this little bit of America that is still, gloriously, ITSELF.

From the UK, the easiest way to get to Door County is to fly into Chicago  (about 250 miles away) or Minneapolis (about 320 and then hiring a car.

For more information about Door County, click here.

Images © Door County Visitor Bureau

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