By Jodie Jacobs
Imagine a small town where goats on a restaurant roof can cause a traffic jam and where a neighboring village celebrates the summer solstice with a Fyr Bal festival that reflects its Norwegian heritage.Picture hiking or cross-country skiing past deer where trails can lead by roaring waters or sailing past lighthouses into scenic harbors.
But before you leave you have to snap the cherry blossoms and tulips if it’s spring or the glorious fall colors if its October. However, it does not matter which season you visit, you likely will not leave without cherry jam, chocolate covered cherries or cherry pies.
The getaway is Door County, a peninsula of tiny, picturesque villages that stick out like a thumb from northeastern Wisconsin. A short drive from the City of Green Bay, the peninsula separates the calm waters of Green Bay from the more turbulent waves of Lake Michigan
East Coast boaters who do the Loop up through the St. Lawrence into the Great Lakes and down the Mississippi to the Gulf, pull into harbors on the Door to restock the larder with good Wisconsin beer, cheese and some fun land time. Mid-Westerners merely drive up for some downtime. Artists from across the country go there to participate in the Peninsula School of Art’s annual prestigious July Plein Air Festival. www.peninsulaschoolofart.org/events/dcpaf/
But for many other folks who are looking for a place to kick back, The Door, as it is called, is not yet on their radar. It should be. Because if flying in to Green Bay and renting a car, once across the canal that separates the scenic, vacation part of the peninsula from the mainland, McDonalds and Holiday Inns are left behind. It’s time to drop the bags, check out the towns and relax by the water.
The Bustling Side
The Door has a split personality. Its Green Bay side is lined with small villages that overflow with excellent restaurants, boutiques and inns.
That goats on the roof are munching on the grass-covered Al Johnson’s, a Swedish breakfast and lunch place in Sister Bay somewhat near the north end of the Door. www.doorcounty.com/discover/sister-bay/ Ephraim, a neighboring town of Norwegian and Moravian ancestry, holds the Fyr Bal Festival on the beach.
However, there are festivals, harbors and boating excursions at almost all the villages. The inns, lodges and condos throughout the peninsula have brochures and friendly desk people with suggestions on what to do and where to go. But here are five things to put on your list for a special Door visit.
- Drive, hike or bike Peninsula State Park in Fish Creek. It has a beach, a historic lighthouse and great views of offshore islands. http://dnr.wi.gov/topic/parks/name/peninsula/
- Do some of the art galleries. Walk through the sculpture park at Edgewood Orchard Gallery in Fish Creek, www.edgewoodorchard.com/content/ and browse Fine Line Designs Gallery in Ephraim for fine paintings to take home. Both galleries are places you will want to return to and recommend to friends. www.finelinedesignsgallery.com/
- Drive to the north end of Sister Bay to Seaquist Orchards Farm Market to sample jams or veggie dips and buy yummy fudge. http://www.seaquistorchards.com/
- Make a dinner reservation if going upscale or throw a shirt over the bathing suit if casual. Eat well and enjoy breakfast or lunch at Chef’s Hat where the locals go. http://chefshatdoorcounty.com/ Take an ice cream break under the red awning at Wilson’s in Ephraim (ever one does). http://wilsonsicecream.com/ Splurge on dinner at Lure in Sister Bay or at Chives Door County in Baileys Harbor on the Lake Michigan side of the peninsula.
- Watch the sun set over the bay. It’s a perfect end to a relaxing day. If your accommodations aren’t on the water, bike, hike or drive to a harbor or public beach. http://doorcounty.com/what-to-do/beaches
The Quiet Side
Vacationers who want to contemplate the lake and take long nature walks and relax away from the crowds, usually choose accommodations on the Lake Michigan side of the peninsula. There is also the Cana Island Lighthouse on this side and the Baileys Harbor lights. www.doorcounty.com/experience/lighthouses/ Roads crisscross the verdant farmland of the peninsula so even quiet side vacationers can easily visit the shops and eateries on the Green Bay side.
If time allows
Take the ferry from the north tip of The Door to Washington Island ( if you don’t get seasick) for a glimpse of Icelandic culture and interesting museums. Check out the Door’s wineries. Reserve a spot at a restaurant’s Fish Boil. It is a Door tradition. Be sure to stop on the way home at Door County Coffee and Tea Co. in Carlesville at the south end of the peninsula for freshly roasted beans to take home and maybe do breakfast there.
For accommodations and other help visit Door County Visitor Bureau or call 800-527-3529. http://doorcounty.com/. Photos courtesy of Door County