I have been fortunate enough to have Door County be a part of my life for more than 30 years. Only a four hour drive from Chicago, the peninsula that juts out of Wisconsin into Lake Michigan is really indescribable. Really. You read your travel articles about Door County, Wisconsin… the “Cape Cod of the Midwest!!” they proclaim. The articles are good but do they really paint the picture for you? People tell you “Oh I have been there and it is amazing… and… “ And what else do they say? Did they go for a quick trip? Did they do touristy things? There are some fantastic tourist attractions! Did they stay for more than a couple nights? What season did they go during?!?!… Because “The County” changes with every season. Did they… get detailed in their description? See? Again… indescribable.
Did that person tell you about getting off one of the two main highways and venturing into the middle of the county? Did they tell you that the famous Wilson’s Ice Cream Shop in the town of Ephraim has more to offer than just ice cream? Did they mention the home made root beer for cryin’ out loud!!!
… Go see Lautenbach’s Orchard Country and walk the cherry orchard while the trees are in bloom above you and dandelions are at your feet?
Did they tell you about waking up at 5am on an August morning and heading out to the beach with your oldest daughter to photograph the sunrise over Lilly Bay?
Did they tell you of all the colors of Lake Michigan?
Did they get to tell you how when at dusk most nights you look out over Lake Michigan and the water is like glass to the point where you cannot tell where the water ends and the sky begins.
Those of us who spend our nights on the Lake Michigan side of the peninsula don’t get the actual sunsets. (Thus the need to wake at 5am to see the sunrise!) But we do get to see how the setting sun sets the eastern clouds on fire. This photo is an HDR (see HDR Photography) and it is heavily edited and developed further in Lightroom but the real experience is just as vivid.
So… do them travel articles ever talk about timing your vacation just right so you can experience the County Fair in Sturgeon Bay? Indescribable.
The Farm!!! You regulars know what I’m talkin’ about!
People you have met who have been to Door County… Did they visit the most awesome petting farm in the entire United States, “The Farm” just outside of Sturgeon Bay? Itself a true farm that cares for many of The County’s young animals that belong to other local area farms. Did they tell you if they had a chance to meet and chat with “The Farm’s”… farmer? I call the above photo “Sleeping In Piles”.
Door County grows mostly tart cherries like those used in pies. They are Montmorency cherries and they are harvested in late July. There are other cherry varieties as well. The process of harvesting is amazing. Orchard Country has a good info page about harvesting on their website but you can also get a tour of the orchard. Although I have a personal bias toward the Lautenbach’s and their beautiful orchard I have to say there are many beautiful family owned orchards in The County. You could easily spend a weekend visiting them all.
This year we have spent a good amount of time in Sturgeon Bay. This was not always the case. Sturgeon Bay was for shipbuilding, fishing and a place to dock your boat. As a non-local and mostly short-week or weekend visitor the urge to head north to scenic little places often puts you right past Sturgeon Bay. Don’t make this mistake. The transformation of the town over the past 30 years is really something. Great dining, beautiful shops, parks, a great farmers market, friendly atmosphere… I could go on.
I think we managed to hit all of our favorite dining establishments this year but for a couple. The Inn at Kristofers is always a special treat and this year Julie and I celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary there with family. Over the Labor Day weekend we made certain to have a late lunch at the Bayside Tavern in Fish Creek. This is always such a festive place to be on an active holiday weekend. But as Julie and I know it is a great place to be in the off season… especially on a cold winter day! I already mentioned Wilson’s Ice Cream. Oh!!… and you have to get to your favorite supper club! For our family that is the Nightingale in Sturgeon Bay. And this year we got adventurous and tried a new place. How rare of us. We liked our brunch the first time we visited the Bluefront Cafe in Sturgeon Bay so much that later in the season we went back for dinner. What a fantastic place. Great friendly service, very nice Sturgeon Bay atmosphere and very tasty and fresh food and ingredients.
This Roasted Tomato Soup with Pesto was excellent at Bluefront.
So you all keep reading the travel articles and talking to people who have been there… but it is time to take the plunge… time to go visit The County. The ride is not that long. You get go through beautiful Milwaukee and the rolling fields just north of Port Washington. I have the scenic route saved somewhere here on the computer. Just ask and I’ll send it to you or you can always just head straight to Green Bay and then take the Hwy 57 exit to Sturgeon Bay. You’ll get there.
And when you get there don’t forget to drink all the different kinds of…