On the Road in Door County

Drive up Wisconsin’s Highway 57 “bayside” and you’ll find a land that time almost forgot. Along the way, discover maritime history, parks and—at this time of year—cherries galore.

By Jen Ede

Door County is sometimes called the Cape Cod of the Midwest—and like the Cape, it’s popular in the fall. Dotted with quaint villages, the 70-mile-long Lake Michigan peninsula also offers outdoor activities such as forest trails and the dramatic sand dunes of Whitefish Dunes State Park. To take it all in, drive north along Highway 57, connect with Highway 42 to reach the peninsula’s tip, and then dip south. Read on for the full scoop on this Wisconsin favorite.

Merry Maritimes

Door County is named after “Death’s Door,” the treacherous stretch of water that connects Lake Michigan to Green Bay, and has a significant seafaring past. Start your drive in Sturgeon Bay, a historic harbor city known for its boat-building traditions. Visit the Door County Maritime Museum on the working waterfront, and then head to The Blue Front Café for a light lunch. Nearby, the locally beloved Sunflour Artisan Bakery makes cherry scones from scratch.

Antiques and Agriculture

History buffs will love the Northeastern Wisconsin Antique Power Association’s 32nd Annual Valmy Thresheree & Antique Machinery Show (August 15-17). Or consider visiting The Farm, “A Living Museum of Rural America,” which brings together history and agriculture on the site of a former orchard first planted in 1862.

Island Excursion

From tiny Gills Rock at the tip of the peninsula, ride the Island Clipper ferry a half-hour to Washington Island. Here, you can rent a bike to go exploring; stop by the recently opened Fragrant Isle Lavender Farm and Shop; or build limestone (not sand) castles on one of the world’s only smooth-stone beaches. Back on the mainland, Island Orchard Cider’s tasting room offers artisanal cider on tap, while nearby Wickman House dishes up farm-to-table cooking.

Cherry and Nature Preserves

Your trip to Door County wouldn’t be complete without sampling the state’s plump cherries (8 to 12 million pounds are harvested a year). At Orchard Country Winery & Market, a 100-acre farm with a shop, you can pick your own tart Montmorency cherries, buy homemade jam and more.

Wrap up your trip at The Ridges Sanctuary in Bailey’s Harbor, which has a wonderful nature center as well as five miles of rustic trails and bridges. Cool your heels in the water at your final destination, Whitefish Dunes State Park, one of the country’s largest and most extensive dunescapes.

The Blue Front Café
86 W. Maple St., Sturgeon Bay; 920-743-9218; thebluefrontcafe.com; lunch for two, $20*
Door County Maritime Museum
120 N. Madison Ave., Sturgeon Bay; 920-743-5958; dcmm.org
The Farm
4285 Hwy. 57, Sturgeon Bay; 920-743-6666; thefarmindoorcounty.com
Fragrant Isle Lavender Farm and Shop
1350 Airport Rd., Washington Island; 920-737-5064; fragrantisle.com
Island Clipper
12731 Hwy. 42, Gills Rock; 920-854-2972; islandclipper.com
Island Orchard Cider
12040 Garrett Bay Rd., Ellison Bay; 920-854-3344; islandorchardcider.com
Orchard Country Winery & Market
9197 Hwy. 42, Fish Creek; 920-868-3479; orchardcountry.com
The Ridges Sanctuary
8270 Hwy. 57, Bailey’s Harbor; 920-839-2802; ridgessanctuary.org
Sunflour Artisan Bakery
611 Jefferson St., Sturgeon Bay; 920-818-0130; sunflourartisanbakery.com
Valmy Thresheree & Antique Machinery Show
5005 Country View Rd., Sturgeon Bay; 920-743-6849; valmythresheree.com
Whitefish Dunes State Park
3275 Clark Lake Rd., Sturgeon Bay; 920-823-2400; dnr.wi.gov
Wickman House
11976 Mink River Rd., Ellison Bay; 920-854-3305; wickmanhouse.com; dinner for two, $60
  • *Estimated meal prices do not include drinks, tax, or tip.
  • NOTE: Information may have changed since publication. Please confirm key details before planning your trip.
  • Published: August 2014