For some of us, Door County is a near-mythical place north of the tension line that evokes memories of rocky beaches and refreshingly cold waters; the fiery drama of a fish boil and cherry pies bought at road-side stands; families racing go-karts and miniature golf competition; goats on a grassy roof at Al Johnson’s and ice cream treats from Wilson’s; and taking stairs two-steps-at-a-time to the top of Cana Island Lighthouse or Eagle Tower for sweeping views of green and blue waters of Lake Michigan or the Bay of Green Bay, respectively.
All that and much more awaits visitors to the thumb-like peninsula that juts into the lake in the northeastern corner of Wisconsin, a smooth-rolling drive less than four hours from Lake County.
“We have some great new stuff, definitely fun things for families looking to make some great new memories,” says Jon Jarosh, Chief Communications Officer for Destination Door County. “We saw a down year in 2020 due to the pandemic, but last year things started to come around and this year is certainly shaping up to be a good season for us which is fantastic.”
As principal cheerleader for the county, Jarosh shares lots about what’s new for visitors this summer. In Peninsula State Park between Fish Creek and Ephraim on the bay side, Eagle Tower is now wheelchair (and baby stroller) accessible due to the 850-foot long Canopy Ramp. The view from atop the tower (on a 200-foot bluff) is of the bay, islands and across the water to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.
In Sturgeon Bay, a city that serves as the gateway to Door County, the Maritime Museum offers local historical perspectives, as well as a new replica lighthouse that offers visitors a climb up an interior staircase (or quick elevator ride) for views of a busy working waterfront.
For a real lighthouse experience, there’s the Cana Island Lighthouse in Bailey’s Harbor. A climb up 97 steps to a steel deck circling the top of the 153-year-old structure offers views of Lake Michigan and the peninsula. On the lighthouse grounds, newly accessible by riding in a tractor-drawn hay wagon over a now-submerged causeway (due to high water levels), visitors can learn what it was like for lighthouse keepers and their families living on the small island.
In the realm of lodging updates, Jarosh reports that the venerable Alpine Resort, on the Egg Harbor shoreline, is celebrating its 100th anniversary this season. Last year, the family of the original resort owner sold to an out-of-state investor that spent last year refreshing Alpine’s collection of cozy cottages with fully updated baths, climate control, and Wi-Fi. The original lodge is still undergoing renovation, but a new restaurant, Burton’s on the Bay, was due to open in May featuring wood-fired pizza, sandwiches, fresh seafood, steak and pork entrees, nightly specials, and Fish Fry on Fridays.
With the abundance of world-famous cherry orchards (apple, too!), Door County has offered sweet fruit wines for decades. Now a collection of wineries growing area-appropriate grapes has emerged providing more sophisticated palates an interesting array of wines. Jarosh says the newest set to open this summer is Anchored Roots Vineyard & Winery in Egg Harbor. Founded by a couple with a combined 12 years in the Washington State wine industry, the 38-acre property includes a production facility, tasting room, and vineyard on-site. Currently the vineyard is growing a variety of grapes including, Marquette (think Pinot Noir) Frontenac Gris, Adalmiina, and more.
To learn more about what’s new in Door County Jarosh recommends that a good way to plan a Door County visit is by clicking over to DoorCounty.com.