When you look at a large body of water like a lake, sea, or ocean, do you wonder what it’s like on the other side? Until a couple weeks ago, we had circled all of Lake Ontario, Lake Erie, and Lake Huron, but not Lake Michigan. We’d spent lots of time on the eastern shore of Lake Michigan and wondered what it’s like on the other side, especially Door County. Ok, you know where this is going… we just visited Door County and it is awesome!
We traveled to the western shore of Lake Michigan on the SS Badger, which runs between Ludington, MI and Manitowoc, WI twice daily in the summer. For all the details check out our post: Ludington, Manitowoc, and the SS Badger In Between!
From Manitowoc, WI we headed north toward Door County. Door County makes up most of the Door Peninsula, a large peninsula on the western shore of Lake Michigan. The northern part of Door County is technically an island because of the shipping channel that runs through Sturgeon Bay, the largest town in the county.
Door County is approximately 70 miles long and beautiful towns dot both the east and west coasts. We planned to start on the eastern shore and explore each town.
Our first stop was Cave Point County Park, however we were there 4th of July weekend and it was very crowded. We decided not to stop and continued on to Jacksonport where we found a great little park for a picnic. Something to note about Door County that we loved… there are “County Parks” (click here for the map) all over that are beautiful and no charge. Some have picnic tables and large lawns and others are hiking trails to scenic overlooks. Either way, they are great!
After our picnic we headed to Bailey’s Harbor and fell in love with this beautiful little town. However, we had a problem. We planned late and couldn’t find any vacancies online for anything… seriously… everything appeared sold out and we thought we’d have to head south to Green Bay for the night! But… things worked out great and we found a little motel within walking distance of Bailey’s Harbor that just had a cancellation!
After settling in to the motel we walked to Bailey’s Harbor which is super relaxed, casual, and very welcoming. There are a number of dining options in Bailey’s Harbor and we picked the Cornerstone Pub for its casual atmosphere, menu items that we’d all like, and great patio. Todd had the Flying Dutchman burger, I had a cobb salad with salmon, and Daniel had chicken tenders. Everything was fresh and really good.
While looking around we noticed Bearded Heart Coffee and decided to try it out before heading out the next day and loved it. Though we just had coffee, we noted that Bearded Heart Coffee also has a small but very good looking food menu.
Gill’s Rock is the town at the end of the peninsula and the departure point for the 30-minute ferry ride to Washington Island. We didn’t visit Washington Island, but have it marked as a must-do for our next Door County trip. In addition to the ferry, Gill’s rock has a couple cute shops and a really nice County Park with a great playground.
We’d been in the car a lot, and were thrilled to find a beautiful community park and hiking trail just outside of Ellison Bay on the north west side of the peninsula. We hiked the trail to a scenic overlook and a bit beyond where the trail meets the road.
As we headed south we found another great Community Park before reaching Sister Bay and stopped for a picnic. We didn't do any hiking at this park, but we did enjoy the beautiful scenic overlook.
When we were in Bailey’s Harbor someone mentioned that Sister Bay is the place to be. When we got there we could see why! There are tons of awesome looking restaurants, bars, a big marina, beach, and people having lots of fun. We want to visit again when it isn’t so crowded!
Sturgeon Bay is much larger than the other towns in Door County, but is still really welcoming and has a relaxed lake vibe. In addition, Sturgeon Bay is the home to Fincantieri Bay Shipbuilding. We were fascinated to see big ships in various stages of production!
We stayed at Holiday Music Motel, which is a funky little motel on the river in downtown Sturgeon Bay. We weren’t sure what to expect and were pleasantly surprised… our room was recently renovated, very comfortable and clean, and the retro look is really fun. In addition, the breakfast provided is really good and the staff are friendly and very helpful!
There are lots of dining options in Sturgeon Bay and we headed over the bridge outside of the motel with a couple restaurants in mind. As soon as we crossed the bridge we saw the patio of Sonny’s Pizza on the river and looked no further! We love to eat outside on the water and Sonny’s patio has both river and lake views!
In addition to the great patio, Sonny’s Pizza’s food is great. Todd and I both had excellent Greek salads and we all enjoyed the thin crust pizza.
A general comment about lodging in Door County
Aside from Sturgeon Bay, we didn’t see any chain motels or hotels in Door County. There are lots of B & Bs and small motels. Though you might prefer to stay at a chain motel or hotel, Sturgeon Bay is a significant drive from the north part of Door County and the towns are so cute that it’s worth venturing out a bit and trying a B & B or local motel.
Wrapping it up
The other side of Lake Michigan is awesome! We had a fantastic time in Door County and look forward to visiting again!
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