Summertime in Door County, Wisconsin is a lovely place to escape from the many demands of everyday life. Come to Door County on the Wisconsin peninsula which boasts miles and miles of beautiful waters and coastline, charming villages and acres of cherry trees and lavender fields. It is truly a one of a kind experience to enjoy cherry and lavender season here where you can do everything from picking your own pail of cherries and lavender bouquets, discover how they are grown and harvested, taste locally made cider, wine, and beer, sample delicious cuisine, and all the while taking in breathtaking scenery along the Lake Michigan and Green Bay Coast.
If you are not familiar with it, Door County boasts miles of gorgeous coastline, charming villages, and acres of cherry trees and lavender fields. These agricultural pursuits have resulted in farm-to-table dining born not out of trendiness, but tradition. The photo opportunities are endless – from bright purple stretches of lavender to lakeside sunsets in gradients of pink, orange and cherry red.
I was given the unique opportunity to vacation in Door County during its lavender and cherry season (July 27-30, 2020). It was an amazing experience that I will treasure with fond memories of things that that I learned about and encountered while there.
In Door County, I lodged at the beautiful and picturesque Landmark Resort in Egg Harbor. Landmark Resort is a perfect choice to reside at when visiting Door County for a getaway weekend, family reunion, definition wedding or simply traveling solo. The lovely scenery at the resort boasts quiet charm and simple hospitality that goes above and beyond. The hotel offers free wireless internet, swimming pools, whirlpools, a fitness center (currently closed due to Covid-19), a game room and casual dining. The resort is open year round.
I stayed in a beautiful and spacious one bedroom condominium unit. It consisted of a bedroom, generous closet space, bathroom, living room and kitchen. The decor was simple yet modern. I also had a small balcony overlooking the trees and Lake Michigan. It was wonderful to wake up early each morning, and take in the tranquility on that balcony while eating my breakfast. Another highlight at the resort was a quarter mile long hiking path that led to a public beach.
Each of the dining establishments that I ate at in Door County did an excellent job of service,while taking precautionary measures against Covid-19, including acceptable social distancing of the crowd at tables, and wearing masks. My first evening began with meeting my fellow media tour journalists and fellow Geiger staff members at a casual lakeside restaurant called Fred and Fuzzy’s Waterfront Bar, where I sampled delicious Door County cherry margaritas, a perfect grilled three cheese sandwich and a veggie plate with pita and fresh homemade red pepper hummus. Dessert was a sumptuous chocolate layer cake. While we dined, we witnessed a beautiful lakefront sunset, which Door County is well known for (besides cherries and lavender). The owner of Fred and Fuzzy’s, Greg “Fuzzy” Sunstrom was a smiling and joyous host of the evening. We could all tell how much he loves the restaurant and assisting guests with the best possible Door County dining experience.
The next two days were chock full of the best that Door County had to offer: experiences involving cherries, lavender, boating, water adventures, beautiful sunsets, culinary stops, history lessons, and cider and beer tastings.
The first morning at Door County I had a quick, delicious breakfast at a popular coffee and breakfast spot cleverly named Kick Ash Coffee in Ellison Bay, which takes residence in a previously used church with a lovely stained glass on the walls. Kick Ash, owned by Karen Berndt, specializes in locally made coffee beans, baked products, homemade granola, and much more. (I was especially fond of the gluten-free cherry almond and lavender granola, which paired well with Greek yogurt and berries).
After breakfast, we were ready for a day trip at Washington Island, the biggest of 34 outlying islands, lying off the northern tip of the Wisconsin peninsula. It is an enchanting land of white limestone beaches, Scandinavian history and fields of lavender. Washington Island covers approximately 35 square miles and has a year round population of around 700 people. The island is located five miles off the northeast tip of the Door Peninsula.
Washington Island, famed for its lavender, cider and beaches with smooth, white stones, is accessible by ferry and a short 20 minute ride across the Death’s Door passage. The ferry, provided by Washington Island Ferry Line, Inc., took us on a boat ride with beautiful scenery, a refreshing breeze and gorgeous, blue waters. Death’s Door is the English translation for Porte Des Morts. This was the name given to this treacherous water passage by early French explorers, based on Native American stories they heard and their own perilous experiences. Navigation in this narrow stretch of water can be difficult due to the clashing lake and bay currents. Numerous 18th, 19th and early 20th century shipwrecks can be found there.
While on Washington Island, we first stopped at Fragrant Isle, a lavender farm and shop. The experience was new, unique and educational. The warm, relaxing and alluring scent of lavender followed me everywhere I went, while discovering everything there is to learn about the different types of lavender. We were hosted by Fragrant Isle’s owner, Martine Anderson, her husband and Julie Imig, the marketing director, and were taught how lavender is grown and harvested, the century old tradition of extracting its essential oils, as well as its many uses. Fragrant Isle is the largest single-site lavender grower in the Midwest with nearly 30,000 plants and 14 different varieties of lavender.
Fragrant Isle also had a lovely gift shop, where you could purchase everything known to man involving lavender, such as beauty and bath products, baked goods and refreshing drinks. For lunch, I ate a delicious French-inspired lunch consisting of spinach feta and sweet potato quiche, lavender macarons and dark chocolate lavender truffles, on their beautiful patio while overlooking the purple and white lavender fields.
Also while on Washington Island we stopped by and visited two iconic attractions. The first was a Stavkirke, built by island craftsmen and blending ancient Norse tradition with a new form of worship. Called “Church of Staves,” that recalls the days of Viking shipbuilding. Built in 1991 and dedicated in 1995, it was a beautiful tall, brown structure that was an impressive feast for the eyes. The ornamental detail was amazing. I was disappointed that we could not go in to see the lovely decorated interiors, which were closed off due to the coronavirus pandemic.
After the Stavkirke viewing, we sat down and put our feet into the cool, crystal clear waters of Schoolhouse Beach, which replaces your usual sand with unique white limestone polished rocks. It is only one of five beaches worldwide with these kinds of rocks. I constructed my own tower of limestone rocks, which is a tradition when visiting this beach.
We then took the ferry back to the mainland and stopped at Island Orchard, an orchard owned and produced by Bob and Yannique Purman. The orchard specializes in local production of apples, vinegar and cider. I had the opportunity to sample bottles of the award winning cider, which boasts over 17 different varieties, 6 cider vinegars and 35 types of apples. The ciders were delicious and offer a dry, complex style of cider. Next, we sampled fresh Door County cherries, pie and other delights, at Seaquist Orchards, the county’s largest single producer of cherries (with over 1,000 acres of cherries).
We then had a lovely dinner at the much loved Harbor Fish Market and Grille, which is housed in an historic building from the early 1900s in Baily’s Harbor. The restaurant is famed for its seafood dishes and nightly fish boils in the summertime. While my fellow journalists dined on calamari and oysters, I feasted on a delicious meatless cheese ravioli and charred broccoli.
After the dinner, it was recommended to watch a breathtaking sunset at Anderson Harbor, an iconic harbor, dock and store built in 1858. The harbor and store was built by Aslag Anderson, a Norwegian born mill-wright. The dock served as the transportation center for the area from its sailing days through the steamship era of the 1920s. Fast forward to the present, and the store houses and sells locally made art. It is a favorite pastime and tradition for people who dock their boats to paint their names and the date of their boat docking, onto the outside wooden tiles.