Sturgeon Bay, Whitefish Dunes, Door County, Wisconsin, RebeccaWanderlusting

A Door County Road Trip – Part 2

**please note this trip was quite a while ago, but it was unfinished so here we are.**

The best part of passing out early on vacation is getting an early start the next day.  I had a lot of exploring left to do, and I wanted to drive through Door County, making stops at all the places that had been recommended to me or that I had noted for myself to check out.

The Holiday Music Motel had a continental breakfast set up in their little diner nook on the first floor, so I helped myself to some muffins and coffee.  The whole hotel had a fun retro look, and I very much enjoyed sitting at the singular table in the kitchen and watching people filter in and out to grab coffee and baked goods.

Once I had my fill, I headed over to Potawatomi State Park for a brisk morning hike.  I bought the out of state pass for $11 so that I could go back to Whitefish Dunes later that day too.  The ranger that sold it to me recommended the Ice Age Hike, so that’s where I started.

Sturgeon Bay, Door Count, Potawatomi State Park

The path ran right along the shore, halfway between the lake and the road.  The majority of the lake over here was frozen over still, but the sun warmed me as I walked.  Because it was still early, I didn’t run into anyone on the trail.  It was so peaceful.  The views of the lake popped up intermittently between the trees, creating a very picturesque scene.

Potawatomi State Park, Sturgeon Bay, Door County

After walking a ways down the path, little yellow markers led me up stone stairs to the road.  The path picked up on the other side, but the terrain was very different.  There were no more pine trees, just birch and ash trees that were still barren from the winter.  I was planning on hiking to the old fire tower, but only got fifteen minutes into the hike before I lost my nerve.  The forest was deserted and I couldn’t get the Blair With Project out of my head! There was also a bird whose call sounded like a crazy woman laughing, and that was the final straw.  I hightailed it out of there and went back the way I came.  Much better.  I got back to the car and drove past the boat launch just to take in the view before continuing my Door County road trip towards Bailey’s Harbor.

Potawatomi State Park, Sturgeon Bay, Door County

Once there, I stopped at Cornerstone Pub for lunch, where I was one of the only patrons, so I chose a table with a view of the water.  I ordered a solidly Wisconsin meal of cheese curds, seafood chowder and a New Glarus Moon Man – it was super heavy, but also super worth it.

Wisconsin, Door County, Cheese Curds

My next stop was Island Orchard Cider in Ellison Bay, but I made a quick detour to the Ridges Sanctuary to see the view I had from the restaurant up close.

Ridges Sanctuary, Door County, Wisconsin

The cider house was on my list of Door County must-sees, and I was so glad I stopped in.  It was very cute and the cider was delicious.  I tried the tasting portions of the Lavender, Pear, Cherry, and Brut Ciders and sat outside to enjoy them.  The Cherry and Lavender were the best, so I bought a large bottle of each to take home with me!

Island Orchard Cider, Ellison Bay, Door County

After making my cider purchase, I jumped back in the car and moved towards the Ellison Bluff Overlook.  I had to turn off the main road onto a dirt one to get there, fearing for my rental car as I hit multiple potholes on the way.  The view that awaited me once I parked and walked down a set of wooden stairs though was one for the books.  It was the kind of view that might make you cry.. or puke.. or do whatever you had to do to not move from that spot.  The small wooden path jutted out from the bluff and looked over Lake Michigan, lined on one side with pine trees and limestone cliffs.

Ellison Bluff Overlook, Door County

The gradient in the water moved from a brilliant emerald green to the deepest blue; it was stunning.  I didn’t want to leave that view, but I still had more to see.  So I tore myself away and took the very scenic drive to Fish Creek, a town of many cute shops and restaurants.

Scenic Drive, Door County

I needed a new book for the rest of my trip, so I stopped into the Peninsula Bookman.  The store was chock-full of new and used books, which made it very fun to browse through.  After searching for twenty minutes or so, I landed on “The Lord of the Flies”, which I’d never read before.  I walked around Fish Creek a bit, but a lot of the stores weren’t quite open for the season yet, so I made my way back toward Sturgeon Bay.

I wanted one more hike at Whitefish Dunes before dinner, and decided to walk the other way around the lake from the day before.  This trail kept near to the lake, but the dunes hid most of the view.  A ways down, I came to a board walk that lead to a beautiful view of the lake.

Whitefish Dunes, Hike, Door County

There was quite a bit of snow on this trail, which made it extra adventurous in my mind.  I decided to take the trail up to “Old Baldy”, the tallest dune in the park that boasted a GREAT view from it’s observation deck.  It was a long hike, and there was nobody else on the trail.  All I could hear were the waves on the other side of the dunes and the occasional crow.  It was actually really peaceful.  Until I finally made it to Old Baldy and it was CLOSED.

I was so frustrated by this sign that I marched myself right passed it and up to the observation deck anyways.  I wish I could say the view was worth it.

On the way back down, the light was perfectly golden and it made the forest around me look so dang pretty.  The smell of the pine trees was almost enough to make me pack my bags and move up North.  All of my senses were content with the rest of the hike.

Sturgeon Bay, Whitefish Dunes, Door County, Wisconsin, RebeccaWanderlusting

By the time I made it back to the car, I was very happy with my day but also pretty exhausted.  I went back to the hotel to freshen up and then went to The Inn at Cedar Crossing for dinner.  It was mediocre in service and cuisine, but I did enjoy the wine and reading my new book.  Despite the so-so end to my trip, Door County was everything I wanted and more.  The hiking, ciders, and cheese curds were enough to make me wish I was a permanent resident.  I can’t wait to make the drive up again!

Whitefish Dunes, Door County

Have you explored Door County? Which Door County town is your favorite to stay in?

Sturgeon Bay, Door County, Wisconsin, RebeccaWanderlusting

A Door County Road Trip -Part 1

Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin came on my radar early in the year because my sister had gone up there for a conference and couldn’t stop talking about it afterwards.  She gushed about the cute town and the lush state parks until I just had to check it out for myself.  I booked a rental car and a few nights at the Holiday Music Motel in downtown Sturgeon Bay and then I was off for a long weekend at the end of April.

Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin, Door County, RebeccaWanderlusting

I drove the four hours straight through, listening to an audio-book entitled “800 Grapes” (good, not great, but perfect for a long drive).  My first stop, once I arrived in Door County, was Whitefish Dunes State Park.  There was a $5 fee for an hour of hiking, which I paid at the visitor center.  I set off, aimlessly hiking down a path that was set next to the rocky coast of Lake Michigan.   There was still snow on the ground that far north, so that and the fact that I was there before the tourist season picked up in Door County meant that I had the park pretty much to myself.

Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin, Door County, RebeccaWanderlusting

Once I got further into the wooded area along the lake, there wasn’t really any defined path.  I switched between walking on the rocks by the shore and through the trees where the ground was covered in pine needles and dotted with patches of ice.  It was windy, and the waves on Lake Michigan crashed into the rocks, spraying up water.  The views throughout the park alone were worth the drive up there, and there was still so much to see.  Right next to Whitefish Dunes is Cave Point County Park, but they might as well be the same park as they run into each other.  The “cave” was an unassuming rock formation that dipped into the lake, the waves splashing in and out, soaking anyone that stood too close.

Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin, Door County, RebeccaWanderlusting

I couldn’t get over the view from each outcropping.  The lake was a perfect sapphire blue.  My time was halfway up when I reached the cave, so I turned around and went back the way I came, taking it slow to soak up all that fresh air.  I decided to come back to Whitefish Dunes again at some point while I was in town.  It was just too pretty to not take another hike there.

Since I had driven straight to the park and then hiked, I was so hungry by the time I got back to the car.  I didn’t have any phone service to try and look up where to go, so I drove towards downtown Sturgeon Bay.  I stopped at Grammy’s Country Store, and they recommended the Door County Firehouse on 3rd Avenue for lunch.  I took them up on their suggestion and set myself up at a high top in the bar side of the restaurant.  I felt compelled to order a Spotted Cow and got a pulled pork sandwich too.  I know I was really hungry, but that had to have been one of the best sandwiches I’ve ever had.

Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin, Door County, RebeccaWanderlusting

After lunch, I went and checked into the Holiday Music Motel.  The motel is a renovated space that has gained a good amount of attention for their affinity for live music and their retro decor.  Once I actually got to my room, I immediately showered and took a glorious nap before heading out to explore the downtown area.  I walked along the lake first, which was beautiful in the late afternoon sunshine.  The bridge and the rocks along the shore were so pretty, the water perfectly clear.

Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin, Door County, RebeccaWanderlusting

I meandered over to the local fancy Italian restaurant, Trattoria Dal Santo, for dinner.  They sat me at a lovely table for one, and I immediately picked out the Montepuciano by the glass to start.  The waitress commented on the book I was reading (“In The Woods” by Tana French”) and we had a nice conversation about books and the absence of bookstores in the area.  Apparently the local bookshop had closed recently (though I’m told they now have a new one).  I ordered the Scalllopini Marsala for dinner, which came with a garden salad to start and mashed potatoes on the side.

Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin, Door County, RebeccaWanderlusting

The food was delicious, and the ambiance in the restaurant made it all the better.  I savored each bite and took my time, reading while I ate.  The staff was so wonderful, and let me hang out longer than the average dinner check, which I appreciated.  After I finished, I walked over to the Door County Maker Space, which is an event space/concert venue/center for the arts.  They were having a singer/songwriter showcase.  I was a little bit late, and the place was packed, but luckily, the guy manning the door let me bypass the cover charge.

Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin, Door County, RebeccaWanderlusting

I stayed for a few songs, and then it was intermission time.  Everyone seemed to know each other, which was nice to see, but not the best case scenario for an outsider.  I felt a little awkward, so I moved out and went across the street to Roots, a wine bar.  I got into a discussion with the bartender about what was going on in town that evening.  She gave me a newspaper to check out the local section and directed me to the Stone Harbor Pub to see a local cover band.

The pub was right on the lake, and I sat at the bar with a (couple of) Spotted Cows, content as could be.  They had the Celtics vs. Bucks game on the TVs, and I stayed through the end of the game, cheering for the Bucks, since I was in Wisconsin.  The cover band was pretty good too!  They were called the Tighty Whiteys.  I walked back to the hotel after awhile to have a glass of local wine and watch a movie.  It was a great first day in Sturgeon Bay and I was looking forward to what tomorrow would bring.

Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin, Door County, RebeccaWanderlusting