Even though I don’t have a yellowed clipping to prove it, I must have read a newspaper article on Wisconsin’s Door County 30 years ago in the Dallas Morning News travel section. Or perhaps it was in the Chicago Tribune or another one of the beefy Sunday papers that came across my desk at work. That’s how we got our information in those days.
And I must have had itchy travel feet that day because Door County made it to the bucket list 30 years ago. I really wanted to go there, but life made me wait until now.
Look at your right hand, palm facing you. The thumb is Door County, a peninsula between Green Bay and Lake Michigan. Wisconsin’s largest cherry producing region, Door County is also home to wineries, other agriculture production, artists and no chain hotels or restaurants. The idea of cycling from farm to farm along Door County’s backroads sounded intriguing. Although we altered that plan, my husband and I still spent an enjoyable two days in this region called “the Cape Cod of the Midwest.”
We found the two main highways on the peninsula too congested for bicycling. And, the county roads were hilly, the 55 mph speed limits made us too uncomfortable and they or were too far away from all of the cherry stands, restaurants and farms that we wanted to visit. So, we kept our cycling to off-road paths and explored the quaint villages and shops by car.
We started with the Sunset Trail in Peninsula State Park, just north of Fish Creek village. We parked along the street at Fish Creek and rode to the trail. Bicyclists entering that way do not pay admission. The 9.6-mile trail has some hills and loose gravel, but the serene forests, glimpses of the bay and lighthouse made the ride fun. We also explored Door County’s only rails-to-trails multi-use path, the Ahnapee State Trail, a 44-mile rural and mostly shady path in the southern part of the peninsula. It’s a bit isolated, as many rails to trails are. We didn’t encounter a single cyclist during our 90-minute ride.
We saw lots of bike rental shops and vacationers but not a lot of people riding during our visit to Door County. We did find a Door County bicyclist map from the tourist center and another one from the the local Nor-Door Sports and Cyclery Shop. There were some key differences in recommended routes between the two, so I would suggest checking out the routes yourself in the car before pedaling. The bike shop hosts group rides at various levels, which would be another option.
What to see in Door County:
- Sunrises and Sunsets. Click here for recommended spots to watch.
- Farm Stands are the thing here has Door County is Wisconsin’s leading producer of cherries. Our favorites were Seaquist Orchards north of Sister Bay, where we not only sampled cherry muffins and salsa but other regional products, and Schopf’s Hilltop Dairy at Carlsville — wonderful cashew caramel ice and education on dairy farming.
- Outdoor Theaters. Productions go on under the stars nightly during peak tourist season, and there’s even a drive-in movie theater on the peninsula.
- Fish Boils and Scandinavian Restaurants. Being from Louisiana, we are seafood snobs when it’s anything but shrimp or crawfish so we didn’t try those. We did like the Swedish pancakes (but not the Swedish meatballs!!) at Al Johnson’s, Scandinavian restaurant in Sister Bay. It was storming the day we were there so we didn’t see the other thing this place is famous for—–goats on the roof!