Cheese curds, fish boils & cherries galore, all in the Door

Photo courtesy of Jodie Jacobs
Often called the “Cape Cod of the Midwest,” this 75-mile long peninsula offers an abundance of outdoor, culinary and cultural activities throughout the year. Surrounded by Green Bay to the west and Lake Michigan to the east, Door County is known as an art colony, housing talented painters and potters who’ve taken up residence in these pristine woodlands. With five state parks and 10 lighthouses, coupled with wineries, orchards, performing arts theatres, renowned galleries and shops, the Door is truly a special retreat. Drive up and down Highway 42. You’ll discover many little towns, each with its own special charm, making Door County an ideal family or romantic getaway. Good reason why it was named one of the top ten vacation destinations in North America by Money Magazine.

Garden Gate Inn, Sturgeon Bay

Innkeeper Robin Vallow has a sign in her foyer that says, “Come as a guest, leave as a friend.” I would agree. Her warm, welcoming hospitality and gracious accommodations made for a delightful stay. It’s a convenient walk to downtown, dining and shopping. Breakfast is theatre here and you’ll catch a different act each morning, accompanied by music and candlelight. Ingredients are fresh grown for Cherry Baked French Toast, pina colada muffins, and 3-cheese Egg Bake. Open year-round. 920-217-3093.

Take your pick of the crop

Door County is Montmorency red tart cherry country. So whether you want to pick your own in July or visit one of the many orchards for cherry-based delicacies, this is the place. Country Ovens in Forestville makes a full line of delicious Cherry De-Lite products, including juice, chocolate-covered cherries, jams and more. . At Orchard Country Winery & Market, you can pick from cherry pies, jams, fruity wine and tasty pie filling. Watch the video while you’re there and see how the cherries are harvested.

Catch a Door County Fish Boil

Brought over by the Scandinavians who settled in upper Wisconsin, the Fish Boil continues to be a popular Door County diversion. You’ll find many to choose from, but one of the most popular is hosted at the White Gull Inn, Fish Creek.

It all starts with freshly-caught Lake Michigan whitefish, cut in chunks and cooked outside in a pot over an open fire with small red potatoes. (Some add onions for extra flavor.) When the fish oils rise to the surface, the Master Boiler tosses kerosene on the flames under the pot. A huge burst of flames causes the boilover, spilling the fish oils over the side of the pot and leaving the fish perfectly done and steaming hot. The fish and potatoes are served with garden fresh coleslaw, homemade breads and homemade Door County cherry pie for dessert. The White Gull Inn’s Cherry-Stuffed French toast was also awarded the Best Breakfast in America by Good Morning America.

Art everywhere

You’ll not only find many art galleries throughout the county, you’ll find studios where you can see artists at work or have an opportunity to create your own masterpieces. The Door County Plein Air Festival, July 18 – 23, is the annual fundraiser for the Peninsula School of Art in Fish Creek. Watch 40 nationally-recognized artists paint all around the county, including such notable landmarks as Black Smith Inn in Baileys Harbor, the historic Noble House in Fish Creek, and Sister Bay’s spectacular sunsets. The Peninsula School offers year-round workshops for novice to advanced artists with facilities for painting, drawing, metal arts, ceramics, sculpture and photography., 920.868.3455

Other recommendations: Outstanding dining at the Lautenbach family’s Log Den, a 10,000 square foot cabin in Egg Harbor. Best Root Beer ever at Wilson’s Restaurant & Ice Cream Parlor, in Ephraim, since 1906. An old time Trolley Tour around Door County’s scenic bluffs and area lighthouses; ghost tours, too. And Door County Coffee and Tea in Sturgeon Bay is a must-stop, just to take in the rich coffee aromas.

Oh yeah, about those Cheese Curds…they’re a Wisconsin specialty. Mild flavor, smooth texture and they squeak, so you know they’re fresh. Great fried, too!

Check out the Door County Visitor Bureau at (920) 743-4456, visit or stop by the Visitor Center on Highway 42/57 as you enter Sturgeon Bay.

Photo of Door County coastline courtesy of Jodie Jacobs