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As the map tells it, five miles separate Fish Creek and Ephraim, but you’d hardly know it. On the way north, as you pass the north entrance of Peninsula State Park, a modest jumble of development appears, and then vanishes, and shortly the fringes of beautiful link Ephraim appear.
By the way, that’s EE-frum. Another of those endlessly long Door County villages along a vivid harbor, Ephraim isn’t the oldest community in the county, nor are its structures the most historically distinguished. But aesthetically it may have them all beat, and in many other respects, the community is the most perfectly preserved slice of Door County.
The quaintness isn’t accidental—for a while the village dictated via social pressure that all structures were to be whitewashed in proper fashion. And it stuck. The town is set along gorgeous Eagle Harbor. An enclave of pious fortitude, it was settled by Norwegian Moravians and christened Ephraim, which means “doubly fruitful” in Hebrew.
Sights and Activities
The oldest church in the county, the Moravian Church (9970 Moravia St., 920/854-2804), built out of necessity when the village founder’s living room no longer sufficed, is, appropriately enough, along Moravia Street. It was built in 1857 out of cedar from the Upper Peninsula (local logs were too rough for such a sacred house); they offer free tours of this church on Thursdays at 1:30 p.m. Also on Moravia Street, the Pioneer Schoolhouse Museum doubles as a repository of local history. Local art displays, with various media represented from juried shows and chosen by local arts associations, are worth a view. The final historic structure along the street is the Thomas Goodletson Cabin, an 1857 original (inside and out) and one of the peninsula’s first cabins.
Down off the bluff are the Anderson Barn and Store. The ruddy barn was built in 1870. During the summer, it’s open for browsing; the salient square silo is a rarity. Built in 1858 by Aslag Anderson, one of the original Scandinavian settlers, it sports old-time store items along with museumlike pieces. All structures save for the church operate as one museum (920/854-9688, 11 a.m.–4 p.m. Mon.–Sat. mid-June–Aug., Fri.–Sat. Sept.–Oct., $3, $5 including tour).
Summertime walking tours of all the historic structures depart at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday-Friday (usually, but call to verify) from the Anderson Barn.
Recreation and Events
South Shore Pier, in the heart of the village, has a large number of water-based recreation and tour opportunities. Hour-plus catamaran cruises (starting at $28), including a sunset cruise, depart seven times daily aboard the Stiletto (920/854-7245). Or rent your own pontoon boat, kayak, Waverunner, paddleboat, or fishing boat from the South Shore Pier (920/854-4324). Other operations offer kayak and windsurfing lessons and rentals; one even has parasail rides, which was only a matter of time.
The highlight of the entire year in Ephraim is the Scandinavian summer solstice celebration Fyr Bal Festival. Bonfires dot the shoreline and fish-boil cauldrons gurgle to commemorate the arrival of summer. A “Viking chieftain” is crowned and then blesses the ships and harbor. The accompanying art fairs are less Norse in nature.
Understated and good for the wallet, Trollhaugen (WI 42, 920/854-2713, www.trollhaugenlodge.com, $79–169) just north of the “action” in the village is part motel, part lodge and log cabin. It’s in a quiet wooded setting with updated lodge decor. Splurge for the log cabin, though the rooms are what you’d expect (not bad at all).
Not far away from here, there are those who have insisted to me that the Eagle Harbor Inn (9914 WI 42, 920/854-2121, www.eagleharbor.com, $98–269) is, for dollar spent, the best inn in Door County, if not the Midwest. Now that’s saying a whole big mouthful but if they’re wrong, it’s not by much. The elegant nine-room inn (with two multiperson suites) is antique-strewn and offers a sumptuous country breakfast in the garden. The one- to three-bedroom cottages on nicely wooded grounds are also very appealing.
I quite like—no, love— Lodgings at Pioneer Lane (9998 Pioneer Ln., 920/854-7656 or 800/588-3565, www.lodgingsatpioneerlane.com, $169 and up), which has themed rooms. This often results in embarrassing tackiness, but these are impeccably executed with kitchenettes, fireplaces, private porches or balconies, and superb detailings. And the owners get rave reviews from pretty much everybody. (So be nice to ’em!) By far this is the best new entry for this edition. It’s north of Wilson’s ice cream parlor, then right onto Church Street.
There are precious few restaurants here; the lodges and resorts take most of the food business.
I’m generally on the manic run and so really appreciate Good Eggs (9820 Brookside Ln., 920/854-6621, 7 a.m.–1 p.m. daily May–Oct., $5–9), set back off WI 42, where you can build your own omelet, wrap it up in a tortilla (try the cilantro), and dash. Or sit at their tables and relax with the water view.
A step-up in price is the casually creative Chef’s Hat (Hwy. Q, 920/854-2034) off the main highway. Pear and pumpkin soup and a sandwich pretty much sums it up.
The Old Post Office (10040 WI 42, 920/854-4034, breakfast and dinner only, $5–10) in the Edgewater Resort is known mostly for one of the biggie fish boils in the county, but also for Belgian waffles.
Another touted lodging dining room is The Second Story (10018 Water St., 920/854-2371, 8 a.m.–8 p.m. daily May–Oct., $5–12) at the Ephraim Shores Motel, offering family-style soups, sandwiches, quiches, seafood, a salad bar, and wondrous Norwegian meatballs. Foodie friends have opined that the dessert tray is worth a visit!
It’s nearly a Door County law that you stop at Wilson’s (9990 Water St., 920/854-2041, from 11 a.m. daily May–Oct.) old-fashioned ice cream parlor, right in the heart of the village. Opened in 1906 and serving pretty much ever since, it’s got ice cream cones as big as bullhorns, as well as burgers and homemade soups and salads. (Stick to the ice cream.) You’ll feel as if you’re in a Norman Rockwell painting hanging out on the white-framed porch.
© Thomas Huhti from Moon Wisconsin, 5th Edition