Fall in Door County, Wisconsin: A SEASON FOR YOUR SENSES


Fill your senses with the dazzling colors, pungent smells, and quiet sounds of nature as you hike or bike the dozens of state and county parks in Door County, Wisconsin. 

  • Did you know?  It was the French who named the treacherous waters separating Washington Island from the mainland, “Portes des Morts” or Door of Death.  This is where Door County gets its name (www.doorcounty.com).

Or treat yourself to a relaxing, scenic cruise by car, boat, or horse-drawn wagon. You can even get an eagle-eyed view of the changing colors with a scenic airplane ride. Fall colors begin to turn in late September and usually peak by mid-October. The fall color hotline at the Door County Visitor Bureau provides updates. Call (920) 743-4456, ext. 3, then 6.

For your taste buds, there are roadside stands and farmers’ markets at every turn, offering crisp apples from local orchards, aromatic hot cider, and the bounty of the local harvest. And what would harvest season be without festivals? Door County has some of the best in the Midwest with pumpkin decorations, parades, collector cars, arts and crafts, and fireworks.

Reluctant to let the glow of summer fun fade? Fall offers one more chance to enjoy some of your favorite summer activities such as golfing, antique hunting, sailing, horseback riding, gallery browsing, fishing, and sightseeing.

Whether you’re staying in an elegant inn, cozy B&B, modern resort, cabin, motel or campsite, fall will put you in touch with the peninsula’s natural beauty at its best.

Check out these insider suggestions sure to get you going…

Enjoy an authentic Fish Boil dinner - a dining experience found only in Door County.  A traditional Door County fish boil features fresh Lake Michigan whitefish caught by local fishermen and cooked outside over an open fire, just as it was 100 years ago by the Scandinavian settlers of the Peninsula.   

  •  Did you know? The fish boil tradition began as an economical way to feed large, hungry groups of lumberjacks and fishermen.  Churches picked up the tradition to raise money, and people from all over would come to taste the local fish, potatoes and Door County cherry pie. Eventually area restaurants followed and the Door County Fish Boil became a “not to be missed” event for every visitor.

Board the Door County Trolley for a narrated scenic tour to see breathtaking vistas from Door County’s scenic bluffs overlooking the islands, learning local legend and lore along the way (www.doorcountytrolley.com).

  • Did you know?  Door County Trolley also offers a lighthouse tour, scenic tour, Jewel of the Door tour, progressive dinner outings and more.

Celebrate the season with a tour at Orchard Country Winery & Market in Fish Creek, a fourth generation family business featuring quality fruits and fruit products carefully crafted in the winery and cider mill.  Tour and taste at the winery and peruse the market for specialty products like jams, sauces, cherry and apple products and more (www.orchardcountry.com).

  • Did you know?  Founded in 1985, Orchard Country Winery is a small family owned winery housed in a historic dairy barn, built in the early 1900s.

 

Explore Cana Island Lighthouse in Baileys Harbor with its gleaming white tower and keeper’s home of cream city brick.  This 1869 lighthouse has withstood countless storms, witnessed great maritime dramas and is well-known as one of the Great Lakes’ most photographed lighthouses (www.dcmm.org/canaisland).

  • Did you know?  Door County has the second largest concentration of lighthouses for any county in the US.


Take a guided tour of Whitefish Dunes State Park, the highest sand dunes in Wisconsin and home to eight significant Native American villages from 100 BC to the late 1800s (www.dnr.state.wi.us/org/land/parks/specific/whitefish).

  •  Did you know?  In recognition of the number of past occupations and excellent state of preservation, this site has been placed on the National Register of Historic Places.


Stop at Cave Point County Park to see the picturesque limestone sea caves—the result of Lake Michigan’s relentless pounding against the limestone bluffs.

  • Did you know?  While the sea caves are the big draw, the 19-acre park also features a tranquil ½ mile hiking trail and is a haven for a wide variety of birds.


Attend American Folklore Theatre’s performance of Sometimes a Song: The Music of Dan Fogelberg, an original concert celebrating the songs of Dan Fogelberg, one of popular music’s most gifted and successful singer-songwriters. With classic hits like Longer, Leader of the Band, The Power of Gold and Same Auld Lang Syne, Fogelberg remains a timeless voice in the world of popular song. His thirty-two year career included an amazing variety of material, including forays into bluegrass and folk. AFT’s stellar trio features Scott Wakefield, Claudia Russell, and Paul Helm, who bring their own fresh voices and instruments to Fogelberg’s songs (www.folkloretheatre.com).

  • Did you know?  While this performance will be at Ephraim Village Hall, during the summer American Folklore Theatre performs outdoors under a canopy of trees and stars at the Peninsula State Park Amphitheatre.


Rise and shine to enjoy breakfast with the goats at Al Johnson’s Swedish Restaurant in Sister Bay—featuring an authentic Swedish pancake breakfast with lingonberries, maple syrup and butter (www.aljohnsons.com).

  • Did you know?  The tradition of goats grazing on the sod roof of Al Johnson’s began when a friend gave Al a goat for his birthday. 

Celebrate fall with a visit to Seaquist Orchards in Sister Bay for tour and sampling of the fruits of the season—apples—Macintosh, Ida Red, Golden Delicious, Honey Crisp, Spartan, Jonamac, Cortland, Jonathan and Gala (www.seaquistorchards.com). 

  • Did you know?  As of 2004, Seaquist Orchards consists of 653 acres of cherries, along with 30 acres of apples and a few acres of raspberries, apricots and pears.

Play two nine-hole courses (Blue: par 36 and Black: par 35) at Alpine Golf Course in Egg Harbor with breathtaking views of the bay, majestic bluffs, and glacier-carved natural hazards (www.alpineresort.com/golf).   

  • Did you know?  The ninth hole on the Blue Nine course has been rated “The Most Scenic Hole in the State of Wisconsin.”

Grab a bike at Nor Door Sport & Cyclery and bike Peninsula State Park’s Sunset Bicycle Trail, a 10-mile easy bike path through all types of landscape including marshes, upland hardwoods and conifer stands (www.nordoorsports.com).

  • Did you know?  Even though Peninsula State Park is considered Wisconsin’s most complete park (with hiking, biking, golf, swimming, nature programs, fishing, boating, outdoor theatre and more), 77% of the 3,776-acre park still remains as undeveloped natural areas (www.dnr.state.wi.us/org/land/parks/specific/peninsula/).

Hike a trail at Peninsula State Park—established in 1909, this 3,776-acre state treasure has rocky bluffs that ascend more than 150 feet and is considered Wisconsin’s most complete park with hiking, biking, boating, golfing, swimming, camping, nature programs and sightseeing (www.dnr.state.wi.us/org/land/parks/specific/peninsula/land.htm#hiking).

  • Did you know?  Peninsula State Park provides 20 miles of hiking trails, varying in difficulty, coursing through all areas of the park.

Take a guided walking tour to learn about the Village of Ephraim’s cultural and historical heritage, a blend of Moravian culture and Norwegian ethnic heritage. Founded as a Moravian religious community in 1853 by the Reverend Andreas Iverson, many of the historic buildings - The Moravian Church (1858), the Pioneer Schoolhouse (1880), the Anderson Store (1858) and warehouse, as well as the Anderson Barn (1880) and eight homes in the Village - are more than a century old and all still in use  (www.ephraim-wisconsin.com).

  • Did you know?  This year marks the 150th anniversary of the Anderson Dock and Anderson Dock Store, two very important and unique landmarks in Ephraim’s history.

Visit various galleries and shops in the Village of Ephraim, including Blue Dolphin House and Studio, an 1860s renovated farmhouse showcasing oils, watercolors, fibers, metalwork, mixed media and hand blown glass (www.bluedolphinhouse.com); Fine Line Designs, exhibiting the work of more than 80 renowned artists and featuring original paintings, sculpture, custom wood furnishings, along with stone, metal, wood and glass sculpture and fiber art deep in color and texture (www.finelinedesignsgallery.com); and others

Create your own art and lunch at the Build-Your-Own Food Bar at Hands On Art Studio in Fish Creek, a do-it-yourself Door County destination offering a freewheeling walk-in art experience with classes open to the public in fused glass, metal sculpture, mosaics, wood and ceramics (www.handsonartstudio.com).

  • Did you know?  This one-of-a-kind food experience allows guests the opportunity to build their own hearty sandwich, Euro-style pizza, panini or nachos in a “You tell us how much you want and we put it together and finish it for you in the blender, oven or on the grill” kind of way!

 

Visit the Peninsula Art School and Guenzel Gallery in Fish Creek, a center for education and exploration in visual arts, offering year-round programming including one-to-five day workshops in ceramics, sculpture, jewelry and metal arts, watercolor, painting, drawing, photography, printmaking, mixed media and more; the Guenzel Gallery is the center of activity and the art-filled entry point for students, art appreciators and visitors to PAS with the featured exhibit (www.peninsulaartschool.com).

 

Stop by Potter’s Wheel Studio and Gallery to meet the “grandfather of pottery” in Door County, Abraham Cohn, whose hands have worked the clay for 50 years (www.potterswheelgallery.com).

  • Did you know? Abe and Ginka Cohn, of the Potter’s Wheel Gallery graciously consented to sell a much-needed parcel of their land to make the expansion of the Peninsula Art School possible. Through hard work, generous donors and dedicated volunteers, the dream of a year-round school and the Guenzel Gallery became a reality.  Abe and Ginka continue to reside in their nearby home and run their gallery, continuing to be part of educating future artists.

Saddle up for a horseback ride through wooded trails with Kurtz Corral, Door County’s premier riding stable featuring more than 500 acres to walk, ride or trot with these magnificent animals (www.kurtzcorral.com).

  • Did you know?  Kurtz offers a Tag Understudy Program for those who want to spend an entire day learning about horses—body language, saddling and bridling, leadership skills, safety and care, cleaning and feeding and more.

 

Cross Death’s Door via ferry and arrive Washington Island—Wisconsin’s largest island (36 square miles) and dubbed “The Crown Jewel” of Door County, it’s located “north of the tension line” (the line marking the halfway point between the Equator and the North Pole).  Founded in 1850, the island became home to immigrants who established the second oldest Icelandic settlement in the US (www.wisferry.com and www.washingtonislandchamber.com).

  • Did you know? From the 1870s to the early 1970s an important industry on the island was potato farming—during peak years (1957-1971) as many as 15 million pounds of potatoes were shipped to other states!


Experience the highlights of Washington Island on a narrated tour – highlights include the Stavkirke - built by island craftsmen and blending ancient Norse tradition with a new form of worship this “Church of Staves” recalls the days of shipbuilding techniques—the stavs (“masts”) of the vertically placed timbers, the arches, joinery and brackets right down to the dragon heads at the “prows”—the structure lives and breathes like a Viking ship; Mann’s Mercantile and Uptown Den Norske Grenda, showcasing two Norwegian cottages brought from Telemark, Norway – the “Hytte” features a Scandinavian gift shop and the double cottage “stabbur,” houses a book shop and craft shop; Schoolhouse Beach, with its unique distinction of being one of only five beaches in the world with all white limestone “polished” rocks; and more 

  • Did you know?  There was once an Icelandic Castle on Washington Island—find out all about it at The Farm Museum!


Wake up and smell the coffee at Door County Coffee & Tea Company in Carlsville—grab a cup of java and learn about what’s in your cup at this family-owned business that still roasts coffee on the premises the old fashioned way…in small batches to exacting specifications (www.doorcountycoffee.com).

  • Did you know?  Door County Coffee & Tea uses the finest Specialty Class 1 Arabica coffee beans grown throughout the world, and roasts in a fluidized-air bed roaster producing a wonderfully even, perfect roast every time.


Browse through Jacksonport Craft Cottage, featuring Wisconsin made Amish quilts, lighthouse items and original works crafted by more than 70 artists (www.jacksonportcraftcottage.com).

  • Did you know?  The Jacksonport Craft Cottage occupies the original main floor of an 1860s era log home that has been restored.

Sniff, swirl and sip at Simon Creek Vineyard and Winery—the most modern winery and largest vineyard in Wisconsin (30 acres) will take visitors through a complete review of the winemaking process from harvest to bottling and casing, ending in the tasting room (www.simoncreekvineyard.com).

  • Did you know? Simon Creek (and Door County for that matter!) lies directly astride the 45 North Parallel, halfway point between the Equator and the North Pole—you couldn’t ask for a better vineyard and winery site!

Stop and smell the flowers on a naturalist-guided hike at The Ridges Sanctuary, Wisconsin’s oldest nonprofit nature preserve, a designated State Natural Area, an Audubon Important Bird Area and National Natural Landmark featuring native wildflowers along its five miles of rustic trails and bridges (www.ridgesanctuary.org).

  • Did you know?  The Ridges Sanctuary is so named because of a series of 30 ridges that dominate the landscape, extending from the Lake Michigan shore to nearly one mile inland.  These crescent shaped ridges and their alternating marshy pools (swales) were formed by the retreating of post glacial waters—a process that began nearly 1,200 years ago.


Stop in at Schopf’s Hilltop Dairy and Dairy View Country Store to see if you can find your way out of the Corn Maze; not your average corn maze, this is a Great Adventure Corn Maze whose services include on-site GPS mapping and computerized corn maze cutting; don’t leave without trying some of Schopf’s homemade ice cream – 20 different flavors to choose from including local favorites such as Door County Cherry, Door County Apple and Maple Nut (www.dairyview.com).

  • Did you know?  Past corn maze themes have been “Door County celebrates 150 years,” “Haunted Corn Maze” and “A Salute to the Pack,” with proceeds going to the Green Bay Packer Foundation.  What will this year’s theme be?  Only one way to find out…

Spend the afternoon browsing in Egg Harbor for home furnishings, clothing, jewelry, art, antiques, specialty food items and more (www.eggharbordoorcounty.com).

  • Did you know?  Egg Harbor is not named for the oval-shaped harbor, or because early settlers spotted a nest of quail eggs. The village is named after a legendary egg battle that took place in the harbor in 1825.  It was recorded that the battle began when men on a trade flotilla began throwing hardtack at each other while approaching land. This first bout ceased due to their continuing need of the staple. Shortly thereafter eggs were flying through the air, some of which occasionally struck people in the head. The leader tried to stop the battle, but the fun was “too fierce to be readily given up.”  The great egg battle stopped only for want of ammunition, and the men “laughed until exhausted.” The next morning the battlefield was so strewn with egg shells that before leaving shore, speeches befitting the occasion were made, and the spot was formally christened Egg Harbor.

Source: Geiger & Associates

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Ellen Barone has been creating words and images for travel and tourism since 1998. She co-founded and publishes the group travel blog YourLifeIsATrip.com and is currently at work on her first book "I Could Live Here".