Winter in Door County Wisconsin

Hi everyone,

This week we make a winter visit to Door County in northeastern Wisconsin. I’ve written about Door County extensively in the last five years (for one example click here) or so after we started serving as campground hosts at Potawatomi State Park. This gig gave us a lot of time to explore the Door (rhyme intended!) but we’ve never been there during the cold and snowy part of the season. That dry spell ended during a long weekend the last week of  January when we stayed in an AirBnb in Sturgeon Bay for four nights. Here is a bit about our winter time visit.

Since I had some business to conduct in Madison before making the three hour drive to Sturgeon Bay, we didn’t leave until about 2 PM. It was dark and moonless when we arrived at the Lily Pad Cottage situated right on the Sturgeon Bay Shipping Canal. Here’s the view (taken the next morning) from our 400 square foot abode. We learned there were 11 Great Lakes shipping vessels in dry dock over the winter for repairs. Door County-Winter-7096Door County-Winter-7097

The Lily Pad was small but very comfortable with a nicely appointed kitchen and a great view of the canal. One evening we were treated to some fireworks across the canal, didn’t have to leave the comfort of our temporary home.IMG_7428IMG_7424IMG_7426IMG_7411

Our terrific Airbnb host was Alisa. We had snow three of the four nights we spent in the Lily Pad, she was out clearing the path bright and early every morning. The cottage was very clean and well appointed so if you are looking for a place to stay in Door County click here to check this place out.IMG_7423

A return trip to Door County wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the Sturgeon Bay Canal North Pierhead Light. The red lighthouse is photographed a lot especially in the summer but I think the winter views are even more dramatic. Someone told me that a couple of weeks before the ice was much heavier on the Light and the walkway. I probably could have walked on the walkway for a closer photo but I promised my Traveling Partner who waited in the Red Rider, I would be careful. And it was very icy.Door County-Winter-7045Door County-Winter-7051

These are a few photos of the ice buildup along the shoreline and a short video of the interesting ice formations bobbing with the waves.Door County-Winter-7041Door County-Winter-7043

Up the road from the Pierhead Light, we stopped by the Whitefish Dunes State Park for a look at the shoreline. The trail from the parking lot was slushy after the overnight snow. The Park had a candlelight hike scheduled for the evening but we decided to skip it as it was on the cool side for us. We expect they had a good turnout. Door County-Winter-7054Door County-Winter-7056

About a half mile away from Whitefish Dunes is the popular Cave Point County Park. There were quite a few people visiting this park to see the formations that the wind, waves and cold temperatures produce along the Lake Michigan shoreline. Again, I think we missed the “peak” season for the ice build up but regardless it was quite spectacular. I should mention that some visitors made their way along the icy surface very close to the edge so they could take a photo. Not me, in February 2019 a man fell into the water while taking photos at Cave Point, wasn’t found for a month. Need I say more!IMG_7396Door County-Winter-7061Door County-Winter-7063Door County-Winter-7077IMG_7408Door County-Winter-7087IMG_7409IMG_7402Door County-Winter-7065


On one of the days during our visit, we took Highway 42 from Sturgeon Bay to Gills Rock and Northport at the very tip of Door County. On our 42 mile drive, we drove through Peninsula State Park to see the sights in the winter. Some of the roads were closed but we did see Horseshoe Island from one of the overlooks. As you can see the skies were cloudy and overcast, as they were during most of our time in Door County.Door County-Winter-7098

At Northport, we watched as the Washington Island Ferry loaded passengers and cars for the 30 minute 4.5 mile trip over to Washington Island. The ferry runs year round transporting people and goods back and forth from the Island.Door County-Winter-7110

As we made our way to Gills Rock and Northport we came across the Curvy Road designed by landscape architect Jens Jensen. Why all the curves? There are several theories but the one that is most believable is that Jensen wanted what he called the “Ideal Highway” to slow down traffic and allow travelers to view the scenery. It’s one of the most photographed scenes in the Midwest, I like it best in the winter when the snow clearly defines the road. The photo below is heading east, the second is the return, heading west.Door County-Winter-7108Door County-Winter-7112

Not far from the Curvy Road, I saw this scene in the middle of a field near Highway 42. It prompted me to stop for a few photos first with my 24-105 mm zoom then with the 70-200 mm zoom. Door County-Winter-7120Door County-Winter-7125

I wondered what the story was of the photo above so we stopped at the Pioneer Store in Ellison Bay. We had a very nice chat with the proprietor, Carol Newman, about the table, chairs and flowers in the middle of the field. Carol didn’t know the story but thought it might be by an artist who lives nearby. Then we talked about the Aplets, Cotlets, and Orchard Bars we found in her store. I have a distant relative that works at the company that makes these very tasty treats in Cashmere, Washington. Carol said she took a chance on them when she was at a food show in Chicago and found them to be good sellers. We bought a supply to snack on during our drive back to Sturgeon Bay. Carol is a delightful person so please stop by and patronize her general store when in Door County. When I was writing this story, I was fact checking the address and location and found out that this store is the longest continuously operating business in Door County. I also found out that the current building is about 10 years old after the original building was destroyed in an explosion and fire in the early morning of July 10, 2006. The cause was a leaky underground gas line that also destroyed four other buildings and killed a couple visiting from Michigan. Carol rebuilt after that tragedy as a service to her loyal customers. If you are curious, click here to learn more.IMG_7416IMG_7418IMG_7420

Down the road from Ellison Bay and Sister Bay is the quaint village of Ephraim. I made a stop there to photograph The Hardy Gallery located along the shores of Green Bay on the Anderson Dock. While it’s closed during the winter months and behind a rope with a no trespassing sign, the building stands out from it’s surroundings. Nearby is an empty frozen marina where in the summer it’s filled with vessels of all sizes and types from a small row boat to big water yacht. Door County-Winter-7127Door County-Winter-7130Door County-Winter-7131Door County-Winter-7133

The next series of photos are of retired land vessels that we saw driving around the County. The last two of the Ford truck in the barn facing the road, I’ve photographed in the past but I like how the snow outlines the red truck.Door County-Winter-7053Door County-Winter-7116Door County-Winter-7119Door County-Winter-7134Door County-Winter-7136

We stopped by the Potawatomi State Park to reacquaint ourselves with this gem of a park. Here’s a few photos from our visit. In addition to cross country skiing, one of the main activities in the park is ice fishing. The last photo of the ice shanty is a typical site on the bays around door county. In my distant past, I did a little ice fishing, for me it wasn’t about catching fish, it was about being with other people doing the fishing.Door County-Winter-7138Door County-Winter-7145Door County-Winter-7140

Door County cherries are important part of the draw to the area. Every spring the trees sprout fragrant blossoms that turn to sour cherries in mid-July to early to mid-August. Next summer, we plan to pick some of those cherries so my Traveling Partner can make some “Drunken Cherry” a tasty, mild drink we discovered in Ukraine last summer. Stay tuned for tastings next fall!Door County-Winter-7100

When the weather doesn’t cooperate when we are in Door County, we head over the excellent library in Sturgeon Bay. It was also the weekend of the Friends of the Library book sale, we walked out of their with a couple armloads of books for future reading. IMG_7392

We also visited the Miller Art Museum that was having a special exhibit of fiber arts where a friend of ours was exhibiting. The top photo is of a piece by Susan Hoffman of Bailey’s Harbor in Door County. The second photo is a piece by Sandra Wysock from Madison, our Friendship Force friend. It was a very nicely done exhibit, some amazing work by very talented artists.IMG_7386IMG_7387

Saw this etching of owls by Curt Frankenstein with the appropriate title “The Observers.” Thought of The Son-in-law who collects owls.IMG_7383

That’s Door County in the winter, at least from my perspective. One thing, it’s much quieter than during the main tourist season from May through October. Plus there are no traffic jams on their two lane roads or long cues at restaurants for food. A pleasant time to visit.

Next up, more Open World. Stay tuned!

Until then, happy travels!



11 thoughts on “Winter in Door County Wisconsin

    1. Thanks for checking Virginia. If you have the time, check out a couple my other posts on Door County, it’s super beautiful in the summer and fall. Often called the Cape Cod of the Midwest. I’m also doing a lot of virtual travel as this begins, my bucket list of when this situation resolves is getting longer and longer! Take care. Tom

  1. Fun post with lots of great photos! As you may know, Kathy and I finally went to Washington Island in the winter two years ago. The ferry really shook as it broke the ice. I love the ice photos from Cave Point and I’m always a sucker for old barns, tractors, trucks and cars. By the way, I’ve stopped to photograph that table in the field several times over the years but always in the summer. Thanks for the memories and the scenes I have not yet seen (rhyme intended).

    1. Thanks for checking in. Yes, it was a fun time in Door County. While we didn’t have very nice weather, we did get out and about everyday. We wondered what the ride to Washington Island would be like with all the ice in the harbor. I read that for the first year in many, many years the Madeline Island ferry ran all winter long. Do you know the story behind the table in the field? Tom

  2. Nice to see this trip report. That cabin on Surgeon seems very nice. I might have to check it out if I ever get out of EUROPE! I had vacation to MN that is now indefinitely on hold. Seems like you are enjoying winter and nature. Thanks for the beautiful pictures. Some needed peace in this world of crazy.

    1. Thanks for checking in and your kind comments. Let’s hope that we can return to normal in the next six months so you can get out and I can get into Europe. Unfortunately, our lives will be disrupted for quite a while. Take care and wash your hands!

      1. I hope it won’t be six months but it seems to change by the hour here on this side of the ocean. Hubby works for a low cost airline and this may put them under although we hope that won’t happen.

      2. Lots of uncertainty here too. Schools are closed for the next few weeks, restaurants are limited to less than 50 people and most are offering take away service only. I sincerely hope your husband’s job is safe and the company survives. I’m fortunate that I’m retired and don’t have to work but I am concerned about those workers who need the paycheck to support their families. There is a movement starting here to support locally owned businesses to help them out during this trying time. Stay well.

      3. We are very concerned about his job. The airlines are grounding everything. Which had never been done here in modern history (even after 911 Europe remained flying). When he got home yesterday it sounds like one of my prior days in the military in a war zone. So I know what he is dealing with. No way to keep distance when you have 10 people in a room trying brainstorm getting an entire operation of planes out of more than 2 dozen countries. Glad I am retired too but busier now than I have been in months as now projects can’t wait and we are having to prepare for the very worst situation. So I am the home front logistics officer. The boats have been crying to get on the water but… not this week or next week for sure. Just keep blogging so I have something to read besides virus crap. 😊

      4. I like your title “home front logistics officer!” Thanks for the encouragement for writing and photos. I have material for one more post so I’ll have to be creative for my next several posts. There are a few of my early posts that I’ve thought about rewriting, not my best work by far. Or I’ll make a few trips to a couple of local parks where the likelihood of meeting people is small but it’s still cool here and some of the trails are muddy. Or another trip through my photo archives will give me inspiration. I’ll figure out something. Keep me posted on how you are faring with all the shutdowns. You can email me at: Take care.

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