Fall is the ultimate time to visit Door County, Wisconsin.
Wisconsin might be an unlikely fall getaway destination to most, but you might be surprised just how beautiful it can be. A few weeks ago, we celebrated our 1 year anniversary. The hubby surprised me with a kid-free weekend trip to Door County.
If you’ve never been to Door County, I assure you, it’s worth the trip. It is literally the worst kept secret, but luckily, it hasn’t lost it’s charm.
Let me start by telling you how I first showed my husband where exactly Door County is. He was standing next to me and I held out my left hand. I told him to pretend my hand was the state of Wisconsin. I pressed my 4 fingers together and had my thumb out at an angle. He gives me a weird look but says “Ohhhkayy”. I wiggle my thumb and say “here’s door county.”
It really is literally the entire area on the east side of the state that juts out into Lake Michigan. (If you’re interested, you can check out an interactive map here.) About 2-2 1/2 hours from Milwaukee taking the freeway. Unless there’s a Packers game at Lambeau… Then plan on 5 hours, or the scenic route up 42 (which I highly recommend even without traffic.)
A beautiful setting, lovely shops and the waterfront make Door County an almost magical place.
When you enter Door County, you’ll know. It will creep up on you, and then be there all at once. On your drive up, you’ll see a winery here and there, maybe Grandma Tommy’s (I’m still confused on that name.) and a handful of farmers markets. As you continue along 42, you see more and more of the charm that Door County has to offer. The roadside produce, the little shops, the waterfront; it makes it almost a magical place.
The real beauty of Door County is the lack of chain… anything. The ONLY chain store they have in the entire area is Shopko. Everything else is mom and pop shops and many of the restaurants and shops were once homes that have been transformed.
Still need more reasons to visit this fall? Check these out:
Something you may not know, even if you’ve traveled to the area before, is that Door County is home to 5 state parks. Yep, five! That is A LOT of park in a very small area.
Peninsula State Park
Peninsula State Park is the one that everyone knows about. It’s right off of 42, which means you can get to it just by taking the one main road through Door County. There’s camping, beautiful lookouts, lighthouses and a tower to climb to see breathtaking views. You can even rent bicycles just outside the entrance.
Whitefish Dunes State Park
This is one park that you need to visit if you want to spot some wildlife. You can get to it from 57 and comes complete with pathways through dunes, forests and wetlands. It also has a nature center.
Newport State Park
Over 2300 acres, the Newport State Park offers camping, miles of shoreline, hiking trails and off-road biking.
Potawatomi State Park
The Potawatomi State Park offers swimming, hiking, hunting and more for the active couple or family.
Rock Island State Park
We saved the best for last. Rock Island State Park is located on Washington Island. You can only get there by ferry. The island is primitive yet and offers a true escape for your getaway. The state park offers swimming, hiking trails, and gorgeous views.
Dinner and a Show
Door county is known for their fish boils. Never heard of a fish boil? You’re in luck! Fish boils started a long time ago as a way to feed a large group of people all at once. Each fish boil includes fish that was freshly caught from Lake Michigan by local fishermen.
The way that a fish boil is cooked in Door County hasn’t changed since the original scandinavian settlers first brought it to the area more than a century ago. The fish are cut into large pieces, placed in a (very) large pot, and cooked outside over an open flame. Potatoes and onions are added along with spices. Everything is boiled together.
Once the food is almost done, a small amount of kerosine is thrown onto the flames. Causing the flames to rise quickly (see video below) and the water inside the pot to boil over. This causes all of the things you don’t want (fish oil and so on) to spill over or burn off. Leaving the food perfectly cooked and ready to eat.
Most fish boils are served traditionally. Each diner stands in a line, grabbing a plate and waiting having staff fill it with fish and potatoes before finding a seat. Dinner is usually finished with cherry pie made from local Door County Cherries.
I’ll be honest, when I first heard of a fish boil and saw it for myself, I thought it was an awesome experience. But I didn’t want to eat it. Finally this year, my husband talked me into it.
This fish is the most delicious fish I’ve ever had. It literally tastes like lobster. I don’t know how or why, and I don’t care. My mouth is watering just writing this!
Breakfast you’ll want to get up early for
Let me introduce you to Village Cafe. Located on the north side of Egg Harbor, it’s the most unique little restaurant you’ll ever walk into. Plus, their food is some of the best I’ve ever had.
As you can see from the picture, their decor is something of a hodge-podge of colors and styles. On the walls and every open shelf, you’ll find items for sale from local artists. If you ever make your way there,
If you ever make your way there, try the eggs benedict or the pocket french toast.
If you’re looking for something really entertaining, check out the Door County Ghost Tours. The gentleman that runs the tour (pictured above) has a wonderful way of getting you into the story he’s telling. It’s spooky enough to give older kids the chills, but not enough to give them nightmares. Plus, the trolley ride is wonderful.
Fall is really the best time of year to make the trip to Door County. The colors of the trees are breathtaking. Thanks to the Door County Visitors Bureau for allowing us to share a few of the beautiful images they’ve captured.
I hope I’ve given you plenty of reasons to visit Door County this fall. Have you been? If so, we’d love to hear about your trip in the comments!