Door County – the land of fish boils, cherry everything, and five state parks. It’s our go-to place when we have a few days off and this January was no exception. We’ve been to The Door in every season except winter, and had plans to visit Cave Point County Park’s famous icy shoreline and to ski and snowshoe at Peninsula State Park.
With the weather being warmer than usual this Wisconsin winter, the snow activities we had planned didn’t pan out. However, there is always something to do in Door County, and winter didn’t disappoint.
Bursting with tourists during the summer months, Door County has a whole other vibe in the off season. Many shops and restaurants close entirely or are only open select hours on weekends.
After arriving at our first planned destination and finding them closed until April, we did a lot of Googling to make sure the places where we planned to eat would be open.
Traveling through Sturgeon Bay and up HWY 57, our first stop was at Cave Point County Park. With the waters of Lake Michigan constantly pounding the shoreline and consequently freezing, Cave Point is home to some beautiful ice formations.
If you plan on visiting Cave Point, a few tips:
- Don’t be stupid! There’s a warning sign by the shore for a reason – this place is icy and dangerous.
- Wear Yaktrax. These strap onto the bottom of your boots and provide traction when walking on ice.
- Bring a camera! The ice formations here are world-famous. You’ll want to take a ton of photos and make all of your instagram followers jealous.
Cave Point is free to visit, but if you plan on venturing into neighboring Whitefish Dunes State Park, you will need a Wisconsin State Park Pass.
Next, we ventured north through the beautiful lakeside community of Bailey’s Harbor. We’ve been here before, but it was fun to see the difference in the wintertime.
Typically, the Lake Michigan side is known as the “quiet side” of Door County and it was strange to see hotspots like Door County Brewing Company without a ton of cars parked out front. We popped in to grab a six-pack before making a quick stop at the Door County Pulse offices to pick up some of their amazing State Park posters.
Then, we ventured west towards our home base of Fish Creek.
When visiting Door County, our favorite place to stay is Julie’s Park Motel. Conveniently located right next to the entrance of Peninsula State Park, it’s super easy to bike or hike right into the park. Plus, Julie’s is super clean, has the friendliest staff, and they serve Door County Coffee at all hours of the day in their lobby. It’s been our “home away from home” on many of our Door County adventures.
Another bonus to staying at Julie’s is its proximity to Wild Tomato – some of the best pizza we’ve ever had. A quick walk across the street from our hotel and we can be ordering a large “The Fun Guy” pizza and enjoying a craft beer.
The Fun Guy
Peninsula State Park
We’ve been to more than forty Wisconsin State Parks (& counting) and Peninsula State Park is our favorite. With its hundreds of acres of diverse topography and geology, endless recreation options, and the beauty of being right on the water. Those limestone cliffs!
Even though our skiing plans had been thwarted, after devouring half a pizza last night at Wild Tomato, we decided we’d better work off some calories. We drove to Eagle Panorama and parked. This overlook onto the bay is a view to behold at any time of year, and also the start of the Eagle Bluff Trail.
An Ode to YakTrax
YakTrax are a form of “crampon,” a metal plate with spikes fixed to a boot for walking on ice or rock climbing.
We love the YakTrax brand because it is affordable and is a lifesaver (probably quite literally) in icy and snowy hiking conditions.
Click here to find the ones we got, on Amazon.
These are convenient enough to fit in a pocket, so if you’re not quite sure if you need them, bring them along anyway. We found them particularly useful on the steep steps of Eagle Bluff Trail.
After a 1.5-hour hike, the rest of the day we spent exploring a few shops we’d read about and that we knew were open this time of year.
What’s really cool about Door County is you can drive the whole length of the peninsula is about an hour, which means that you can experience each of the many unique communities in the County without a ton of drive time. This is especially possible when there are very few cars on the road!
This past summer, there was sometimes bumper-to-bumper traffic on HWY 42. Now, with a light dusting of snow on the roads, you could go miles without seeing another vehicle.
Top Three Shops of this Trip:
- Top Shelf – Sister Bay
- GreensNGrains – Egg Harbor
- Harbor Ridge Winery – Egg Harbor
Top Shelf has a crazy awesome amount of wine and the knowledgable staff to help you pick out that perfect vintage. Choose from budget-friendly $10 bottles to something more extravagant. We plan to return in the summertime to check out some of the neighboring shops, too, which were closed for the season.
GreensNGrains Natural Foods Market & Cafe is an organic-lover’s dream. The Cafe is closed this time of year, but the market is open daily from 9 am – 5 pm and on Fridays and Saturdays until 6 pm. Stock up on organic essentials – including laundry detergent, personal care products, and food of all kinds. We use and eat organic as often as possible, so a store like this is amazing for our needs!
Harbor Ridge Winery is a cute winery located just south of Egg Harbor. As we arrived, the sky had just started dispensing slowly-falling big fat white snowflakes. This set the perfect backdrop for an afternoon of wine sampling (and ultimately purchasing). The wines here have super cute names like “Give Me One Good Riesling” and “Call Me a Cab” and were fun to try. To sober up afterwards, we visited the Wisconsin Cheese Masters shop next door to sample the best of Wisconsin cheeses.
California Croissant at Egg Harbor Village Cafe
Top Three Restaurants We Enjoyed on this Trip:
- Wild Tomato – Fish Creek
- Village Cafe – Egg Harbor
- Cornerstone Pub – Bailey’s Harbor
Wild Tomato is one of those places that has us returning again and again. The atmosphere, the service, the selection, and the PIZZA are top notch. All ages can enjoy time here. Everything is made fresh and grown locally, so the quality of the food is amazing.
We ended up at Village Cafe kind of by accident, but are so glad that we did. The service was friendly, the food tasty, and the environment fun and upbeat.
Cornerstone Pub in Bailey’s Harbor is exactly what you’d expect of a pub setting, and the food does not disappoint. Breanna had been craving their cajun pasta since having it two years ago. After driving twenty minutes from Fish Creek through the blowing snow, we found out that the pasta was no longer on the menu! That was a bummer, but Breanna had the fish tacos and it was a good consolation meal. Our server said the tacos were a local favorite and had been removed from the menu several times only to be brought back after people complained.
Bottom line: If you have the opportunity to get away for a few days to Door County, do it!