Top 12 Spots to Visit in Door County, Wisconsin
we just got back from a wonderful trip in Door County, Wisconsin and I just have to share what we did. I hope that these tips and tricks help you have a wonderful trip if you ever visit Door County too!
This week's theme is all about cozy. The wonderfully warm and homey feeling of being at peace and comforted. I just love finding ways to embrace “cozy” and my #basicness through avenues outside of layered sweaters or snuggly blankets. So when we booked a trip to Door County, WI in September, I knew that the Penninsula in Fall would be the ultimate “travel cozy.”
I am still so into “mini-adventures” lately. Having something to look forward to is one of the best ways to care for my own mental health and I love making memories to look back on.
We began our trip by driving up to the Penninsula and arrived in Sister Bay, Wisconsin. Because the Brewers were playing the Cubs, we just had to find a sports bar in the area. Enter Husby’s Food and Spirits on Bay Shore Drive in Sister Bay. I am such a sucker for some bar food and brews and enjoyed the overall environment. Staff were friendly and prompt and our food was of decent quality. I got a Philly Cheesesteak Sandwich with coleslaw and TJ got Wings and fries. The diner coffee was actually quite lovely on such a breezy, cool day and just what I needed after a 6 hour drive.
After some warm food in our bellies and caffeine in our blood, we decided to explore the main drive in Sister Bay. It was quite chilly so we stopped into the cutest little boutique called Spot and I bought myself a totally cozy and a totally fall scarf. This was definitely a smart choice because after this, we decided to explore the pier.
I remembered this same pier from a time we visited Door County when I was a child and each time it truly blows my breath away. I love visiting this place and I always feel like I’ve left Wisconsin and time traveled to a sleepy little coastal town.
We walked down the drive and saw the infamous goats atop Al Johnson’s Swedish Restaurant. While we didn’t eat there on this trip, I’ve heard they do have pretty good, Swedish food and the meatballs are worth the trip. They also built a new bier-garten structure next door complete with lawn games; had it been a bit warmer we might’ve sat for a drink or two.
After this we finally checked into our hotel and we stayed at the Birchwood Lodge. We booked a suite thanks to a kind gift from my mom and her husband, and paid about $300 total for two nights. If we went on our own, I think we might have looked for more reasonable options, but the cleanliness and spaciousness of our suite was truly a luxury we enjoyed. I simply loved our room which had a front porch, gas fireplace, and large walk in shower.
The Birchwood Lodge Suite Tour
Once we spent some time unpacking and settling in our hotel room, we decided to choose an indoor activity since it began raining. What better activity than cider tasting at Island Orchard Cider in Ellison Bay? This was a wonderful little microbrewery that houses the product from apples and pears grown on Washington Island.
Now I am not a cider/wine/beer aficionado and am not familiar with the correct vocabulary, but we tasted five options which included their Brut mix, which is the base for all other ciders. We also tried their Oak Aged cider, which is similar to the Brut just aged longer in oak barrels in addition to the Pear Reserve and Ginger cider. We also tried the Still Beauty which is closest to a wine/champagne. Overall our favorite was definitely the Ginger cider, where the ginger was brought in from Hawaii.
I left with a souvenir t-shirt since the last time we toured a location TJ got a super awesome commemorative t-shirt that I almost got. The rule in our household now is = you buy the t-shirt, you always get the t-shirt.
After this we went and got dinner back in Sister Bay at the Boathouse. It looked like a lovely little harbor seafood dinner club with white shiplap and nautical decor situated directly across from the bay.
I was excited to try the deep fried perch and TJ ordered the salmon. I was a bit disappointed with how pricey the meal was for how casually it was presented; checkered paper for an entree complete with dinner salad seemed to be a juxtaposition that didn’t jive and for over $80 for dinner, we weren’t too impressed. That said the cocktails were wonderful and the atmosphere was pleasant.
The weather forecast for the next day was predicted to be chilly with little to no rain so I wanted to do all of our outdoor exploring this day. We drove up to Northport and then over to Newport State Park where we got out and walked down to the lakeshore. I’m always so surprised at how loud the waves are!
Once we visited the lakeshore it was nearly 11:00am and we were starving so we made our way back to the hotel and decided to dine at the Carroll House Restaurant in Sister Bay. This has got to be one of the most nostalgic breakfasts I’ve ever had.
Everything from the decor placed high on shelves near the ceiling, to the vinyl table covers reminded me of my grandma’s house. They’re known for their waffles here so I had to have the waffle and strawberry toppings. TJ ordered an omelet and the works, complete with bacon and hash browns. What a delicious feast!
Once we ate we changed clothes and got ready to tour a lighthouse and go hiking. We read through a few options on which lighthouse to visit and we decided on Cana Island lighthouse, mostly because the trek to the island did not appear to be a fully isolated island. The website notes the following
“Located on the north end of Baileys Harbor off narrow and rustic Cana Island Road, the island is accessed by walking across a stone causeway, [and] is operated as a museum by the Door County Maritime Museum and Lighthouse Preservation Society.”
But do NOT be fooled. This is not a leisurely walk. With how high the waves were, TJ and I were wondering how we’d get across. Then lo’ and behold, a friendly woman driving a John Deer tractor and a trailer with benches showed up to take us across the pathway. Apparently the waves were in the “yellow” zone that morning and the staff were wondering if they’d even open based on the water, but it was safe enough to complete tours so they opened at normal hours.
Once you arrive you do need to pay the $20 fee to access the museum and climb the lighthouse. So off we went down a small trail where the tip of the lighthouse peeked through the trees. We explored the lakeshore a bit and let others climb the lighthouse while we took in the sights.
Once we made our way into the lighthouse groups of 16 are allowed up at a time and there are about 97 steps to climb. If you’re like me, going up is easy. Going down, combined with the dizzying spiral, made it a bit of a woozy trek. But man the views were so worth it!
Once we toured the lighthouse we wanted to go hiking. We went to Peninsula State Park and got ready to hike the infamous Eagle Trail, complete with is beautiful cliffs and dewy dells. The trail was considered “difficult” and while the overall elevation was pretty flat, the spots near the cliffs were definitely rocky and not easily accessible. Wear hiking boots with good ankle support and a walking stick.
I seriously loved this hike. It was a little confusing to get back to our truck since there were a few trailheads and we took the wrong one back, so we ended up walking a bit on the roadway rather than the trail. By the end of the hike, I was tuckered. out. We needed a nap after all of that climbing and hiking so we drove back to Sister Bay and chilled out for a bit.
For dinner we tried pizza at Wild Tomato which is a wonderfully hip place with farm fresh ingredients and wood fired pizzas. We got their onion ring appetizers, which were not what we expected, but were delightfully stringy and delicious! We ordered our typical flavor of pepperoni and mushroom and loved the smokey taste.
Finally the next morning we got up and had a leisurely breakfast at the Village Cafe, which is another delightful little diner. This time the shelves were complete with decor for every single holiday you could imagine, and you could even purchase some of the artwork and decor hanging on the walls. I almost left with a baseball clock. I ordered their specialty quiche, which had an amazingly flakey pie crust and perfectly moist center along with a pumpkin muffin and fruit. TJ ordered an omelet, bacon, toast and double order of their homestyle potatoes which were delicious! After this we went to the shops in Egg Harbor before heading home.
Last time I wrote a travel post I learned that I loved the mini-adventures we take. I also reflected on the fact that get up and go adventures were nice in their ability to require little planning. Sometimes with my job it’s nice to make a split second decision and not have a set plan and itinerary for everything.
But what I learned this time is that planning additional mini-adventures in the Midwest is worth it too. While we didn’t “plan” what we were going to do once we got to Door County (literally all we had planned was our hotel stay), we did have to call and schedule the trip a few months in advance. I also love how we took a leisurely and cozy approach to taking our days moment by moment. This made for an incredibly relaxing trip with little pressure to get things “done” or “accomplished.”
So needless to say, I’m going to try planning some more mini-adventure trips in the future while also keeping the itinerary fluid and flexible. I hope you found these tips helpful if you ever visit Door County too!
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