The Door: A heavenly vacation spot belies its death passage name

Hike, bike or take the Door County Trolley through Peninsula State Park for great views of Green Bay. Jodie Jacobs photos

Hike, bike or take the Door County Trolley through Peninsula State Park for great views of Green Bay. Jodie Jacobs photos

The best part of vacationing in Door County, WI is the way its delightful harbors make you feel you left work and daily stress miles back at the last stoplight.

The county actually begins back a ways on a thumb shaped peninsula that separates Lake Michigan from Green Bay (the body of water, not the city). There are a smattering of stoplights at its southern end.

But once you cross a drawbridge over Sturgeon Bay, a shipping waterway cut across the peninsula to  connect Lake Michigan to Green Bay, you enter a world where a curve in the road reveals yet another scenic view and where villages have a few scattered stop signs, not stop lights.

However, to experience the dangerous waters where Lake Michigan waves bump against those from Green Bay that give the peninsula its name, you should drive north about 40 miles from Sturgeon Bay to Gills Rock and then a short distance to Northport. There you would take a ferry across to Washington Island.

Among the stories floating between the peninsula and the island is a tale of how when one native tribe lured another tribe to cross from Washington Island to the peninsula, those who attempted the crossing died in the stormy waters, thus giving the crossing the name Death’s Door.

Safe? Yes, though sometimes the trip can be rocky. But the Washington Island Ferry is so popular the best plan is to check the season’s schedule and get to its departure ramp at Northport ahead of time so there is room for your car.

While exploring look for Island Stavkirke, a recreated 12th century Norwegian church and the Jacobsen Museum of island artifacts.

OK, you’re here, meaning at the Door County room, condo, guest house or cottage or other lodging you booked ahead of time, and you are already gazing out at the quiet blue expanse of Green Bay or the ever changing colors of Lake Michigan.

Ah, but an hour later comes the stomach rumble, so next is investigate food options. Do ask your accommodation manager because Door County is loaded with good restaurants and diners so choosing one is a matter of what kind of food you’re in the mood for and how far you want to go.

Eat at Al Johnson's or park there to see the goats on top of the restaurant.

Eat at Al Johnson’s or park there to see the goats on top of the restaurant.

For lunch consider Chef’s Hat Café for one of their yummy soup and salad combos and Nanaimo Bar desserts or Wilson’s for their great cheeseburgers, home-made root beer and ice cream sundae. They’re both in picturesque, historic Ephraim across from Eagle Harbor.  Walk off dinner by exploring the village’s shops and museums.

When ready for dinner, you can go back to Ephraim to experience the fish boil at the Old Post Office.

Or go to The Cookery in Fish Creek  for fabulous chowder, really good pork chops or fish and  apple crisp for dessert.

Or dine upscale in Sister Bay at the Boathouse on a lobster mac and cheese or shrimp and oysters,with a great view of the bay or at Lure in a former church that has delicious cheddar biscuits, crab cakes and coconut beer battered shrimp. For bistro, pasta dishes or creative beers on tap, stop at Egg Harbor’s Liberty Square.

The next morning start the day with yummy cherry filled French toast at Fish Creek’s White Gull Inn or with Swedish pancakes at Al Johnson’s in Sister Bay. Both establishments have been Door County landmarks for years.

A must gallery stop is Edgewood Orchard in Fish Creek to do its sculpture walk.

A must gallery stop is Edgewood Orchard in Fish Creek to do its sculpture walk.

No matter how long you stay, you likely won’t get to all the great eating places on The Door or to all its activities.

Where to eat merely is one challenge of Door County vacationers. Choosing which state park to hike or bike, which golf course to play, which boating activity to do, which winery or cheese market to visit and how many art galleries to see for that special piece of pottery to take home, can be bewildering unless you realize you have to return to The Door.

Tip: Try another season. If there in the summer, plan to come back in the fall when the colors are spectacular.

 

Jodie

 

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