May I Introduce You to Door County?

Door County.  Where?  Should this question be your response, you are not in the minority.  But should you overlook Door County, called the Cape Cod of the Midwest, you are making a mistake.

Keep reading to learn why.

But first, let me tell you just where Door County is located.  This region is the Wisconsin peninsula that juts into the water between Green Bay (to the west) and Lake Michigan (to the east).

Door County is the state’s largest county with 300 miles of shoreline and a population that explodes between Memorial Day and Labor Day.  Named one of the top 10 vacation destinations in North America, it hosts two million visitors a year.

During my recent discovery of Door County, I asked Jon Jarosh with the Visitor Bureau this question.  If one had limited time, what top five activities would he recommend to best showcase Wisconsin’s largest county?  Here goes:

  1. Water activities.  Sister Bay is the hub of on-the-water fun, from swimming and kayaking to sailing.  Our treat was to be one of the first passengers on the Edith M. Becker, a 62-foot Class B tall ship (translation: a traditionally-rigged sailing vessel), the newest addition to the harbor.
  2. State parks.  Door County is home to five of Wisconsin’s state parks: Newport State Park, Peninsula State Park, Potawatomi State Park, Rock Island State Park and Whitefish Dunes State Park (known as “five jewels in the crown”).  One of my mornings was spent barefoot along the shores of Lake Michigan exploring Whitefish Dunes in the white-sugar-granulated sand.  An additional prime perk is the county’s 11 lighthouses, most of which were built during the 19th century and are listed in the National Register of Historic Places.  Cana Island Lighthouse (the state’s most photographed) has 97 steps (I counted them) and an unobstructed view.
  3. Fish Boil.  Showcasing a peek into the area’s back-in-the-day style of communal cooking, fish boils are popular meals for tourists and are prepared with flair.  We went to Rowley’s Bay and “Peter Rowley,” the greeter/historian explained it all—potatoes, onions and whitefish from the local waters are cooked in a large kettle over a wood fire. At the end of the cooking, kerosene is thrown on the fire and the dramatic “flame up” causes the water to boil over. The result: mouth-watering fish and vegetables—served with melted butter.
  4. Wisconsin foods.  Door County is known for its cherries, resulting in cherry everything and I sampled it all—cherry pie, cherry candy, cherry wine, cherry coffee and my personal favorite, a cherry margarita at the on-the-water locals’ favorite Fred & Fuzzy’s.  Note that many of the cherry orchards offer “pick your own cherries,” so grab a basket and enjoy.  If it’s Wisconsin, there’s cheese.  Cheese curds are a long-time tradition.  And in the interest of proper research, I sampled cheese curds all along the way—again, Fred & Fuzzy’s received my vote.  Coffee is not to be missed.  Full disclosure: I gave up coffee several years ago, and yes, I had coffee every day throughout Door County.  My choice was the Door County Coffee & Tea Co. (tip: arrive at breakfast time and enjoy your coffee with one of their homemade egg dishes).
  5. Cultural performances.  What an unexpected gift I received when I discovered Door County’s top-notch, professional cultural offerings.  American Folklore Theatre is set in the woods in the town of Fish Creek and its production of locally written and produced “Victory Farm” rated right up there with plays I’ve seen in New York and London.  And though the setting of Midsummer’s Music Festival was in a renovated barn (the venue continually changes), the music transported me to Vienna—it was world-class.

Bonus activity:  Washington Island.  As Door County’s largest island (36 square miles), it is home to one of the largest Icelandic communities outside of Iceland and is located north of the “tension line” (the line marking the halfway point between the Equator and the North Pole).  Washington Island is reached by ferry crossing the treacherous strait that connects the waters of Green Bay to the open body of Lake Michigan; and it’s probably because of this isolation that Washington Island seems miles further than its actual seven miles from Door County mainland.

There you have it.  Door County is special.  It’s American flags being flown everywhere and it’s Adirondack chairs scattered about the green lawns and parklands for the purpose of simply sitting back and smelling . . . in this case . . . the cherries.


Carmel Valley San Diego Community | Cynthia Dial

As a freelance travel writer and photographer since 1988, Cynthia Dial has visited the world’s seven continents (most recently Antarctica) in quest of a good story . . . from getting her hair cut in Paris, horse whispering in Hawaii and touring Burma (Myanmar) only months after Aung San Suu Kyi’s release . . . to celebrating Summer Solstice within Finland’s Arctic Circle, hiking to Machu Picchu and visiting Molakai’s former leper colony atop a mule alongside a plunging cliff.  In short, she experiences and writes about topics at the top of many readers’ bucket lists.  Cynthia is author of the award-winning non-fiction book, Get Your Travel Writing Published.  Now in its third printing, it was published in London, England, and sold worldwide (U.S. distributor is McGraw-Hill).  Among her outlets are national and international newspapers and magazines including, Time magazineHemispheresDestinations Weddings & HoneymoonsShapeDallas Morning News and the Toronto Star (which featured her around-the-world shopping column, Shopping Trips).  She also contributes to TraveLife Magazine (distributed throughout Canada) and (a luxury portal receiving 2.1 million monthly hits).  Cynthia’s radio experience includes World Footprints Radio (formerly Travel’n On) and the Travel Hub show on WorldTalk Radio, on which her No Passport Required segment was a regular feature.  She additionally appears as a travel specialist on  The travel-addicted writer admits that each time she steps onto an international flight, boards a train or steps onto a ship’s promenade deck to go to work, she congratulates herself on her career choice.

Follow me around the corner and around the world as I share the ins, the outs, the good, the bad, the funny, the sad – all pieces of the traveling puzzle.” – Cynthia Dial


Carmel Valley San Diego Community | RIDE Cyclery Encinitas

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