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Archive for November, 2012

I used to hear that Door County was the Cape Cod of the Midwest.  But someone else said “no” Cape Cod was the Door County of the East Coast.  So I guess it’s all in your perspective.
To the west are the waters of Green Bay and on the east is Lake Michigan. There are over three hundred miles of ragged, rocky shoreline, containing ten lighthouses, marinas and quiet beaches.  No matter where you wander on the peninsula, you are never more than ten to twelve miles from water.
Although the county, and miles and miles of cherry tree orchards, starts a little south, most people consider Sturgeon Bay, the start of the peninsula, as locals refer to the area. The area is known for its thousands of acres of cherry trees, but in the last few years wineries have also sprung up.
Viewing a map, the peninsula looks like a teapot spout with Green Bay on one side and Lake Michigan on the other.The waters on either side of the seventy-five mile long peninsula have carved the rocky shoreline into caves and cliffs.At the end of the peninsula are some rocky islands and the waters are so treacherous in that area that the Indians and early fur trappers referred to that area as “porte des morts” or death’s door, thus the name Door County .
There was a legend that the explorer, Robert LaSalle, had a ship sink in this area, so rather than chance the tedious and dangerous hundred mile trip around the top of the peninsula, ships now followed the Indian’s portage through Sturgeon Bay on their way to the trading center of Green Bay.  Sturgeon Bay is known as one of the largest shipbuilding ports on the Great Lakes, and a canal has been built along the old Indian portage trail.  Large ships can now easily pass through the canal between the two bodies of water.
Most of the “action” so to speak, is on the western side.  The eastern side has a couple of towns with resorts on Lake Michigan but most tourists gravitate to the towns of Egg Harbor, Fish Creek, Ephraim, and Sister Bay on the west side. 
Another popular place, especially for campers is Peninsula State Park which is between the towns of Fish Creek and Ephraim.  As you travel through the park, if you take this route rather than the main road, you will glimpse three islands off shore.They are Horseshoe, Chambers and Strawberry Islands.Also, off in the distance, the upper Michigan shoreline can be seen. And, if you find yourself on the peninsula, you should definitely continue your journey to Gills Rock, the very tip.  There it is a short 6 mile ferry ride to Washington Island, if you have time to explore that island.
The town of Fish Creek is the epicenter of the busy bayside and one of the Midwest’s earliest resort communities.  Tucked at the end of Main Street is the White Gull Inn.  It is a white clapboard inn that tourists have flocked to for over a century.  The inn also has three cottages behind it and has wonderful food, including their famous “fishboil.”  Most of the fish served on the menu are caught locally.  There are a lot of great places to stay in Fish Creek and the whole peninsula for that matter, but the White Gull Inn holds a special place in my heart.
When I was in college, the thing to do was work in the resorts on the peninsula.  We did not make a lot of money but we had a lot of fun, especially in the evenings after our duties were done for the day.  I spent two summers at the White Gull Inn.  There were five of us who worked together for the same two years and we were lucky enough to know someone with a sailboat.  On our off hours we would sail around some of the islands that were around Fish Creek.
Some of the other highlights in the area are Wilson’s ice cream parlour in Ephraim, the next town after Fish Creek.  This town was founded by Norwegians and the Nordic influence, including many trolls, can be seen everywhere.  Next up is Sister Bay and a highlight is Al Johnson’s Restaurant.  Al Johnson’s specializes in Swedish pancakes and Swedish meatballs, but more important is the fact that they have grass growing on their roof with goats that are found up there munching away.  I guess you need to visit there to figure out how the goats get up on the roof!
Six miles past Sister Bay is Ellison Bay and then another five miles to Gills Rock.  There is a small grocery store, fishing museum and gift shop and the seagulls are always very noisy here.You can see Washington Island off in the distance or continue around the bend to catch the ferry.
The island is a great place to spend some time if you are able.  Sometimes these waters get very treacherous since Green Bay and Lake Michigan meet here.The Potawatomi Indians lived here two hundred years ago but finally gave up their residence when their canoes kept capsizing, killing many braves. There is a museum with Indian artifacts but the people who live there now are mainly Scandinavian. Most people don’t realize the island is the oldest Icelandic settlement in the United States .
Anyway I have an ullterior motive for highlighting this area.  (Now comes the advertisement…)  As seen below I write romance novels for boomers that read like travelogues.  My Journey Beckons takes place in the Pacific Northwest and is on kindle and book form at Amazon.  Another book, Journey To Port, takes place in Michigan and Wisconsin, including Door County.  It is on kindle but recently has been published in book form and can also be obtained at Amazon or autographed if you order through my webpage (www.kileenprather.com).  So if you enjoy reading my little travel articles, please consider purchasing one of my books, especially since they will make great Christmas gifts.  If you are interested, the autographed Journey To Port is $15.95 but, I am offering a special price of $14.00 which will include shipping (this price is also good for “Journey Beckons”).  If you don’t have a copy of either books, I am offering another special. Take both books for $27.00 & this offer also includes shipping. Both books are also available on kindle for $4.99.    If you enjoy the book/books, please pass the word to your friends.   Send check or money order & name and address to: Kileen Prather—PO Box 435–Port Washington, WI  53074.      (This is where the advertising ends).
And, don’t forget to consider a visit to this area.  It is definitely a little slice of heaven and worth the drive.
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