If you grew up in Wisconsin (or Illinois I suppose), chances are you’ve been to Door County. It’s just a vacation staple in these parts, and I spent many a summer in Ephraim sightseeing and eating all the candy I could get my hands on. That being said, I haven’t been up to the peninsula in ages and was starting to miss its maritime charm.
Lucky for me and Michael, my Aunt Debby and close family friend Jean swooped in with just about the best wedding gift a couple of lovebirds could ask for: a honeymoon trip up to Door County. I’m telling you it was just the ticket.
I can’t begin to tell you about the must-see sights and must-eat eats, but I’ll fill you in on a few.
Let’s start with our home base for this whole affair: Sturgeon Bay. Growing up, I only saw Sturgeon Bay as we passed through it, thinking it wasn’t really that Door County compared to the rest of the peninsula. Well, I was a fool because Sturgeon Bay is great.
Our home for the trip was The Foxglove Inn. This place! How can I tell you how great it is? I can’t because its charm is beyond words, truly the stuff of dreams.
This little inn had it all. Beautiful rooms filled with the most opulent but comfortable accommodations, and the most lovely, thoughtful owners. They have the greatest eye for detail and I can’t tell you how much I love that. And did I mention they deliver a beautiful and and totally delicious breakfast every morning? Because they do, and it is to die for.
Michael and I were also fortunate enough to catch the tail end of Steel Bridge Song Fest, a music festival led by the owners of the Holiday Music Motel, which is so cool in its own right. Michael and I stayed their for a short weekend years ago and that place is killer – but that’s another can of worms. We stopped by for a few tunes and loved it.
But enough about Sturgeon Bay and its many charms. Onward and upward into the peninsula! On our full day, Michael and I decided to hike Peninsula State Park – or at least a small part of it. The park is giant and is filled with trails, a lighthouse, lookout points, beaches, a fire tower and so so much more.
Growing up, I had a real thing for lighthouses; I read everything I could about the Great Lakes variety and all the potential ghost stores that went with them. When I met Michael, I found out that he also had an interest in lighthouses (although not with the strange specificity), and we bonded – talk about a love connection. To get to the point, when we came up to Door County, we knew we had to get some lighthouse sightseeing in, and Eagle Bluff (which is inside the park) was the perfect place to start.
There are ten other lighthouses scattered across Door County. We knew we couldn’t fit all of them in (or at least the ones open to the public), so I decided to get the most bang for our buck and drove Michael up to the very tip of the peninsula where I knew we could spot a two from the ferry dock at Gills Rock: Plum Island and Pilot Island Lighthouses.
The one way off in the distance is Pilot Island, and it’s creepy as hell. It used to be called Porte des Morts – yeah that’s right “death’s door.” The passage between the point of the peninsula and Washington Island is known as Death’s Door because it was historically difficult to navigate and was home to many a shipwreck. That’s one thing, but naming a lighthouse and island after death is even creepier to me. I like to imagine this place is haunted. It’s not hard to do with the dead trees and ominous old light out there.
But enough about that for now. I’ll add in a few lighthearted stops. First, a total Door County standard: Wilson’s. This 1950s ice cream parlor scoops cones high and dishes full. I’m not one to bail on my ice cream, but I couldn’t do it, boys and girls. I couldn’t make it to the bottom of my cone for the surprise jelly bean at the bottom. I’m a little embarrassed.
I saved the best stop for last, though. It was pure serendipity that we came across my favorite childhood stop, a shop that was hardly ever open, but when it was – oh when it was! – it was home to all things cat. That’s right, the one and only Kitty Korner.
I won’t lie to you – we spent a good amount on cat toys and catnip here. And that smile is 100 percent sincere.