Door County, Wisconsin

Posted by Ron on February 19th, 2010 filed in Travel

This past weekend, Jaime had Friday and Monday off of work for Lincoln’s Birthday and President’s Day so we decided to make the most of it and go on a road trip.  My dad kindly offered us a timeshare week as a wedding present (holy crap, the wedding is less than two months away!), so we had our pick of 10 places for the weekend within driving distance.  We settled on The Rushes in Baileys Harbor, Wisconsin, about 4.5 hours north of us, in the famous Door County.

The Rushes is a great timeshare resort.  They had a pool, a jacuzzi, a game room, a lounge, ice skating rink, and four miles of trails.  They even lent out skies and snowshoes free of charge.  Our unit was 2 bedrooms (1 king and 2 doubles) and 2 bathrooms with a full kitchen, fireplace, and 40″ LCD TV.  Definitely more than enough for the two of us!

We arrived just before the official check-in time and went through the local paper (also provided by The Rushes) to decide on Sonny’s Pizzeria in Sturgeon Bay for dinner.  We made a quick pit-stop at the coast of Baileys Harbor to take in the view and then drove down to Sturgeon Bay.  While parking, we were greeted by the locals with a friendly middle-finger.  Luckily, the trip only went up from there.  The pizza was yummy, though if you’re used to Chicago-style stuffed crust, I’d advise against it here.  Afterward, we headed back to The Rushes and watched the opening ceremonies of the Winter Olympics over a nice fire.

We got up early Saturday and drove to Northport Pier to catch the ferry to Washington Island.  In the Winter there’s only one ferry to take if you want to come back in the same day, so we had to catch the 9:30 ferry out and the 1pm ferry back.  We soon discovered that no one does this in the Winter and we’d be the only tourists on the island of 650 people.  We decided against ferrying the car because it’d be twice the cost of just us and the map appeared to be very walkable.  The map was very deceptive.

The ferry ride was a lot of fun.  It took about 30 minutes and we were breaking ice most of the time.  We arrived at the island and headed towards the Ferry Terminal (a small building with a lobby).  There were two people staring at us and greeting us as we arrived.  We thought, “Wow, this island is really friendly!”.  That is until they looked at Jaime and said “Molly?”  We picked up a couple pamphlets at the terminal and began the seemingly short walk to town.  We skimmed the pamphlets while walking and discovered that the town is over three miles away.  Still doable but not ideal given the short amount of time we had there.

After about half a mile, a lady in a Mini-Cooper pulled over and asked us if we wanted a ride into town.  We happily accepted and suddenly had a very friendly personal guide for the main attractions of the island!  We saw the local post office that is somehow for sale, the liberal coffee shop, the three-year-old Performing Arts Center that is about to be torn down because the walls are literally caving in, the local newspaper building, the electric plant, and the K-12 school that “is dying with only 60 kids left.”

She dropped us off at the north edge of town and we thanked her profusely.  We walked two blocks back to one of only two open establishments along the entire three mile stretch.  It was the KK Fiske Restaurant that was actually holding a chili cook-off that afternoon.  The only other open place was a liquor store.  The maps we had showed dozens of businesses lining both sides of the street over the course of a mile.  Clearly the island does not have many/any visitors in the Winter.  We had a great breakfast at KK Fiske and I tried the local Capital Brewery – Island Wheat beer while Jaime sampled the local Bloody Mary.  The glasses they were served in would make great souvenirs so we persuaded the waitress to sell them to us.  After that, we made the long trek back to the pier for our ferry back.  Sadly, no one offered a ride this time.

We then drove through Peninsula State Park and stopped at a few lookout points.  A lot of the roads were closed because of the snow, so it was a pretty quick drive through the park.  We took a short break at the timeshare and then headed back north to Newport State Park for the 19th Annual Candlelight Ski, Hike or Snowshoe Event.  What a great concept and it was a lot more fun than we were expecting.  There were 300 candles in cut-open milk jugs spread out over the course of a mile.  At the end of the trail, there was a bonfire with people sitting around it, and a small shelter with free cookies and hot chocolate!  Kudos to the Wisconsin State Parks for this wonderful event.

Sunday morning, we set out to the highly rated Door County Coffee & Tea Co. in Carlsville (Sturgeon Bay on the GPS).  We definitely agreed with the hype and picked up a few items from their attached country-style store.  Afterward, we headed to downtown Sturgeon Bay to see the results of the Fire & Ice Festival held the day before.  There were ice sculptures all around down and several large snow sculptures in nearby Sawyer Park.  I then looked at the map and saw that there was a lighthouse nearby, so we set the GPS to take us out in the middle of nowhere to check it out.  It turned out to be Sherwood Point Light House which was featured in a picture I really liked in the timeshare’s recreation center!  It also happened to be U.S. Coast Guard property including fancy U.S Government No Trespassing signs all over the place.  Needless to say we snapped a few pictures and high-tailed it out of there.

Heading back towards Baileys Harbor, we decided to make a detour to Whitefish Bay since it was one of the few cities we had yet to drive through.  It’s a very small town that was not built up with any tourist amenities, which was quite refreshing.  On the way out, we drove in the direction of Whitefish Dunes State Park, but didn’t want to pay for another $10 daily state park pass, so we opted for the nearby Cave Point County Park (free!).  It was a good choice.  It’s a small park, but it’s all gorgeous rocky coastline.  The weather was a benefit here and provided huge icicles and walkable frozen Lake Michigan all along the coast.

Feeling outdoorsy now, we continued on to the Cana Island Lighthouse, also found on our small newspaper map.  I read somewhere that it was the most photographed lighthouse in Door County, but still wasn’t sure what to expect.  We followed the long road out there and suddenly it just died at a small wooden fence.  Beyond the fence was a rocky/shell-y path that you walked across to get to the island.  There was an abandoned ticket booth that collects a fee from tourists, but apparently us and the four other people we saw leaving weren’t worth manning the post.  We had the island to ourselves and enjoyed a nice walk around the island before heading back to the timeshare.

That evening we enjoyed a nice romantic dinner at the Glidden Lodge Restaurant, right on the waterfront.  It was a perfect setting for a relaxing dinner to cap off the weekend, and an extra surprise since we picked it on a whim from a small nondescript newspaper ad.  In the morning, we went to a Norwegian-themed shop/restaurant called Solbjorg/Sister Bay Cafe and enjoyed a great unique breakfast.  It was snowing for the first time so we decided it was time to hit the slopes!  By hitting the slopes I mean cross-country skiing across mostly flat ground.  We were apparently doing it wrong too, so we said we’d look up Youtube videos for any other new activities in the future.  After that, we started the long trek back home!

So that’s it for our first journey to Door County, and our first timeshare experience.  Both of them were great firsts!  We’re hoping to head back to Door County over the summer to go camping and take in all of the local shops that were closed this time around.  The next trip report from us will be the honeymoon, destination not yet determined!

Pictures from this trip can be found here:
http://planetnothing.com/photos/v/door-county/

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