Door County-Fall 2023

Today’s post is 1950 words, 38 photos, a 9 minute read. Enjoy

Hi everyone,

Welcome back to Traveling With Tom. If you missed my recent trilogy on sites in the Madison area click here, here, and here.

This week I’ll take you back to Door County Wisconsin. My regular readers will know that I’ve written about Door County a lot over the years. I can’t help it, every trip we make to the Door peninsula is such a pleasure, we never tire of going there to see some our favorite places again and again. In this post, I’ll take you on a tour of some of  those favorites.

Potawatomi State Park

When in Door County we often lodge in the campground at Potawatomi State Park a few miles south and west of Sturgeon Bay. This time was no exception. It was the first week of October, we expected to see a bit more fall color but alas, it was just at the beginning. In the second photo, the maple tree at the entrance to the campground had the most color we saw on the peninsula. This tree is a bellwether, it signals the start to the fall color season. Anyway, a drive through Potawatomi is an always a pleasure in every season of the year.

Peninsula State Park

Sticking with state parks, there are five in Door County (can you name them?), we often make a stop at Peninsula State Park at Fish Creek. The new Eagle Tower opened in 2021 with a fully accessible 850-foot ramp that takes visitors up 60 feet to overlook the Bay of Green Bay. From this height, one can see a few islands and off in the distance the village of Ephraim. On our walk up, I took a few photos of the barely changing colors. After the tower, we make the drive through the rest of the park. Even through it was a weekday, the park was busy.

The Summer Kitchen

One of our favorite places to eat lunch when driving around Door County is the Summer Kitchen north of Ephraim. They usually have four or five self-serve soups to choose from as well as a half sandwich and a cherry themed dessert. Service is quick and the atmosphere homey. It’s across the street from the Island Lavender Company. A nice place to stop for a bite.

Wilson’s Restaurant and Ice Cream Shop

As I mentioned earlier, we’ve been to Door County many times over the past several years but have never eaten at Wilson’s Restaurant and Ice Cream Shop in Ephraim. Wilson’s is one of many iconic landmarks in Door County, it’s been serving ice cream and lunches since 1906.

Usually, there is a line waiting for a table or order an ice cream sundae or a shake. On this cool, fall day there wasn’t a line and there was a place to park the Red Rover nearby. This was our chance. We thoroughly enjoyed our meal and the cherry pie with vanilla ice cream. Wilson’s closed for the season on October 15 and won’t open until next May. Glad we finally had the chance to experience Wilson’s.

Pink Bakery

Staying on the food theme, we stop for treats at the Pink Bakery in Egg Harbor. It’s tucked behind Mojo Rosa’s Sports Bar and Grill and next to the Main Street Market. The day of our visit, the owner was staffing the counter. She told us the bakery is for sale, she’s run it since 2007. She also owns Mojo Rosa’s, the Village Cafe (a good place to eat too), and two other restaurants. Her husband is retiring and she’d like to do more traveling after working hard to keep five businesses going. Apparently, there are developers interested in building a hotel on the property. If that happens and someone buys the Pink Bakery and all the recipe’s, they’ll have to relocate. Either way, the Pink Bakery has provided us with good treats over the years. Thank you!

Seaquist Orchards

Further up the Door Peninsula, there are a series of cherry and apples orchards with roadside markets. The Seaquist Orchards Farm Market near Sister Bay is one of those nice markets where visitors can purchase just about anything made with cherries and apples. Seaquist grows mostly tart cherries on about 1000 acres and several varieties of apples on 50 acres with Honeycrisp being the most popular. We usually walk out the door with some purchase, sometimes for gifts, sometimes to enjoy ourselves. I’m always attracted to the old tractors displayed along the road. When you see the tractors you know you’re there.

Kick Ash

I’m a big fan of Kick Ash granola. This means a drive far up the Peninsula to the village of Ellison Bay. Their store is located in a building that was once a church. Upon entering, the aroma of brewing coffee hits you, it’s a popular spot for having a coffee and a gluten free pastry. The store also doubles as a book store were the owners carry some popular and unique titles. In addition to stocking up on granola, I often walk out with a new book under my arm. Trust me, this is a place not to be missed.

Door County Candle Company

When driving the 45 mph speed limit through the village of Carlsville, note the Door County Candle Company on the left hand side of the highway. I wouldn’t ordinarily hit the brakes to stop at a place that sells just candles but I make an exception for Door County Candle. I stop to support a business that gives back to the community and world in a big way. Door County Candle hit our radar when Ukraine was invaded by the Russians in February 22. Christiana, the owner, is of Ukrainian descent and began to make a blue and yellow candle, the colors of the Ukrainian flag. The profits from the sales of this candle were designated for humanitarian relief in Ukraine. She sold thousands of candles with the help of her staff and a cadre of volunteers. My Traveling Partner, The Eldest, and I spent three hours in the summer of 2022 to help to make and process candles for shipping. Over $1,000,000 has been raised for Ukraine. She did the same thing to support the people of Maui when the devastating fires swept through Lahaina earlier this year. With every candle that Christiana sells a portion is donated to a charity. Next time you find yourself in Door County, hit the brakes when you see Door County Candle. Make a purchase and help those in need.

Baileys Harbor Anclam Park

On the “quiet side” in the village of Baileys Harbor, we often stop at the Anclam Park and walk out on the jetty for a nice view of Lake Michigan. Note how the tree bends away from the prevailing winds, I hadn’t noticed that before. In addition to the view of the bay, they have nice restrooms. Another good reason to stop!

Cana Island Lighthouse

Just north of Baileys Harbor, watch for the sign to turn off to the Cana Island Lighthouse. It’s one of the many popular places to visit in Door County. The lighthouse is on an island that can be reached by walk across the causeway or riding on a tractor-pulled wagon. We were here earlier in the year, the water level was much higher, those walking got their feet wet. This fall, the water was much lower making the walk easy and dry. The lighthouse was closed so we didn’t make the trip across. We’ll save that for next summer when we plan to spend the month of July in Door County.

The Ridges Sanctuary

When visiting Door County, the best information about events and activities can be found in the weekly free newspaper, the Door County Pulse. During our stay, we noticed there was a walking tour of  The Ridges Sanctuary located in Baileys Harbor. The Ridges was Wisconsin’s first land trust that protects over 1600 acres of one of most diverse ecosystems in the state. The ridges and swales that are featured in this sanctuary were made by the receding shoreline of Lake Michigan. Ridges are the higher ground where trees and shrubs are prevalent. Swales are between the ridges, some featuring shallow water where frogs, turtles, cattails, sedges, and other water loving plants are abundant.

We met Anna, the Sanctuary Education Director, our guide for this program in The Ridges Nature Center where she explained the basic concept of the Ridges and why it’s protected.

Anna stopped several times during our walk to share some of the many features in this unique landscape. We learned that the Ridges is home to several varieties of wild orchids, eleven species of conifers, Monarch butterflies, Emerald dragonflies, and over sixty species of birds.

As a bonus, we stopped by the Bailey Harbor Range Light that is located on the Ridges. We learned that volunteers can apply to stay in the house for a week in exchange for doing some maintenance and leading tours. Apparently, it’s quite a popular program for the privilege of sleeping in a lighthouse. 

This was a delightful tour. We spent nearly two hours walking and learning. A highly recommended activity for the low cost of $10 per person and that includes the $5 trail fee.

Cave Point County Park

A trip to Door County wouldn’t be complete without at least one stop at Cave Point County Park. The water was calmer than usual. We’ve been there when the waves crashing onto the limestone shoreline would spray water on us. A relatively quiet day didn’t stop people from taking a look. The parking lot was nearly full even on this weekday. I think the best time is in the winter when the splashing water freezes to the rocks and surrounding trees. It’s quite a sight.

Miller Art Museum

The Miller Art Museum is co-located with the Door County Library in Sturgeon Bay. This museum was given to the people of Door County by artist Gerhard Miller and his wife Ruth. Gerhard, a native of Door County, was an accomplished artist, teacher of art, poet, and writer. He excelled in drawing, watercolor, and egg tempura, a method commonly used by medieval and Renaissance painters. The Miller Art Museum owns over 100 of Gerhard’s work that is exhibited on a rotating basis. By the way, Gerhard lived to be 100 years old.

During our visit, the 48th juried exhibition was on display. This exhibition featured the work of artists from around Wisconsin. While I liked all the works of art, I especially enjoyed seeing the photography. The second photo is an example of a landscape that I’ve tried to photograph myself. I found Thomas Jordan’s work very well done and deserving of a Special Merit Award by the juror’s. I also like the patterns, lines, and textures in the third photo by Emily Roedl. While this exhibition has ended, there’s always a new one coming. Stop by, there is no admission, and the art is stunning.

Northern Sky Theatre

One evening we attended When Pigs Fly! at the Gould Theatre near Baileys Harbor. This fun play tells the story of a Door County farm family trying to win a vanilla pie contest for the $50 prize. The actors sing funny folk tunes as they try to lift the curse on the farm and win the contest. It was an enjoyable evening with a lot of laughter and foot-tapping.

Sturgeon Bay

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the city of Sturgeon Bay. We always stop by the Third Avenue shops for a look around. My Traveling Partner likes the Barn Door Quilt Shop and we both check out the new gadgets at the Cornucopia Kitchen Shop. We often walk out of the Novel Bay Booksellers with a book or two. 

That’s it for this week. Stay tuned next for week for an anniversary edition, my eighth.

Until then, happy travels!


2 thoughts on “Door County-Fall 2023

    1. There’s a lot to see and do. Door County is about three hours northeast of Madison. If you are thinking of coming on the journey, spend some time on the front end or after the journey in Door County. It’s best to make reservations early as it’s quite busy in the summer tourist season. Take care and thanks for checking in. TM

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