Points of View
Door County is a traveler’s dream, full of charming towns, breathtaking waterfronts, pretty lighthouses and lots of cherries. From bottom to top, here are seven ways to experience the peninsula’s beauty.
Jutting out into Lake Michigan on the eastern coast of the Door Peninsula, Whitefish Dunes State Park in Sturgeon Bay is a day-use park with 865 acres to explore. Pack a picnic to enjoy on the beach, take a long stroll down the sandy shoreline and pay a visit to Old Baldy, the tallest sand dune in Wisconsin, measuring ninety-three feet tall. Or head inland to fourteen miles of hiking trails that crisscross a northern hardwood forest.
Farther up the east coast, tucked in Baileys Harbor, is the Ridges Sanctuary. The oldest nonprofit nature reserve in Wisconsin is also a designated State Natural Area, an Audubon Important Bird Area and a National Natural Landmark. And it’s beautiful, too! Sign up for a hike with a naturalist, who will lead you along a trail that winds through a variety of terrain, from thick forest to open fields to a windswept beach, and educate on the local flora and fauna.
Nearby, discover the Cana Island Lighthouse. Built in 1869, it is among ten active lighthouses in Door County. From May to October, visitors can climb a narrow staircase within the tall white tower to a balcony located just under the two-story lantern. The lighthouse’s lens sits roughly eighty-two feet above lake level, and the lookout offers unparalleled panoramic views of rugged Cana Island and vast Lake Michigan beyond.
Over on the west coast in Fish Creek, the 3,776-acre, 102-year-old Peninsula State Park offers the chance to see Door County on two wheels. Rent bicycles from the nearby Edge of Park shop and hop on the Sunset Trail. An easy, mostly flat, ten-mile path provides a pretty introduction to the park, taking riders through cool forests, meadows and marshes and past beaches and a lighthouse. Biking is a
scenic—and fun—way to see this revered natural resource.
A bit upshore, Sister Bay is the place to kick off a kayaking adventure. After meeting your guides and fellow paddlers at the Bay Shore Outdoor Store, everyone piles onto a bus that heads to a beach. The location of each tour depends on the weather and water conditions of the day, but Door County offers plenty of options on both sides of the peninsula. Following an on-land kayaking lesson, you’ll hit the water, with your guides pointing out birds, geographical and geological points of interest—and maybe even a shipwreck.
After a full day in the Door, unwind at Fred & Fuzzy’s Waterfront Bar & Grill. Grab a table near the docks at this casual, upbeat eatery that opens for the season in late May. Order a round of cheese curds, burgers and signature cherry margaritas and listen to the night’s musicians jam on the open-air stage. The only thing that might divert your attention is the setting sun dipping down to the water.
Door County isn’t just for relaxing, as evidenced by Gravity Trails up in Ellison Bay. The zipline course makes for a thrilling excursion. Each participant scales a rock-climbing wall up to the first and highest platform. It’s only about twenty feet tall, but plunging yourself from it for the first time does require a leap of faith. Then the real fun begins as you whiz past trees to two other platforms before planting your feet back on solid ground. (And if zipping sparks a thrill-seeking streak, consider Skydive Door County, which opened last year in Sturgeon Bay.)
Katie Vaughn is associate editor of Madison Magazine.
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