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Trip Report: Wisconsin’s Door County Is 'Cape Cod Of The Great Lakes'
Wisconsin’s Door County has long been on my radar. Anyplace that’s hailed as “The Cape Cod of the Midwest,” has got a lot to live up to. I wasn’t disappointed when I recently visited. Much of the Door Peninsula is rural with agriculture – farms, orchards, and wineries – and numerous little villages tucked into bays along the coastline.
The county, which sticks out into Lake Michigan like a long, slender thumb, is 75 miles long and averages about 15 miles across. It offers about 300 miles of shoreline to explore with a blend of diverse activities. Hike to lighthouses scattered around the peninsula, kayak among numerous off-coast islands, mountain bike in the state parks, sip wine at jazz concerts while watching beautiful sunsets over Green Bay, and shop numerous small galleries and specialty stores.
On the way up the peninsula, take a tour on The Chicago Fireboat and Door County Maritime Museum to learn about Sturgeon Bay and the creation of the canal in the 1800s that opened easy access from Lake Michigan to Green Bay.
Staying at the Ridges Inn & Suites in Baileys Harbor on the Lake Michigan side offered easy access to outdoor activities around the northern half of the Door.
Three state parks offer a wealth of outdoor activities for hiking, mountain biking and wonderful beaches.
Whitefish Dunes State Park, on the Lake Michigan side, attracts more annual visitors than any other day-use park in the Badger State. It offers three miles of sandy shoreline and windswept dunes.Peninsula State Park, located on the Green Bay side, offers a dramatic landscape. Limestone bluffs rise 200 feet above the park’s cobblestone shoreline. Nicolet Bay’s secluded beach is considered one of the 10 best in the Midwest, according to Midwest Living. The Sunset Trail, a 10-mile hiking, biking graveled pathway, runs past the beach and underneath rocky bluffs as it circles the park. Another 14 miles of woodland trails are available for mountain biking. Newport State Park, at the tip of the peninsula, is Wisconsin’s only designated wilderness park with over 11 miles of shoreline and wonderful hiking and mountain biking trails.
The Ridges Sanctuary, in existence since 1937, preserves ancient dune ridges home to dozens of rare wildflowers. Located in Baileys Harbor the 1,600-acre preserve with hiking trails and boardwalks is considered one of the most biological diverse areas in the state.
Cruise the shores and islands of Green Bay with Door Country Adventure Rafting, an exciting high-speed tour boat that gets you up close to many of the best sites on the bay. It dances across the bay to a pulsating musical sound track. For kayak tours check out Lakeshore Adventures where you glide over shipwrecks in Baileys Harbor, and Door County Adventure Center in Rowley’s Bay for a tour of the Mink River.
Check out the traditional Door County fish boil dinner with freshly caught lake whitefish cooked in a cauldron over an open fire at Rowley’s Bay Resort after a kayak tour. It’s been a Door County tradition for over a century and very tasty.
Other places I recommend for dinner are Grasse’s Grill; Wilson’s Ice Cream Parlor, a Door County tradition since 1906 for old-fashioned sodas and sandwiches; Fred and Fuzzy’s Waterfront Bar and Grill, waterfront dining on Little Sister Bay; Wild Tomato Wood-Fired Pizza and Grille in Fish Creek. Craft brew drinkers check out Door County Brewing in Bailey’s Harbor.
For more information, log onto Door County Visitor Bureau.
Photos: Top -- Take a stroll like this couple at Whitefish Dunes Park; Right -- Here's a view of the Door County Peninsula; Bottom -- Want some adventure? Go river rafting. (Mike Terrell)