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- A Perfect Week in Door County
- Wisconsin for Recreationists
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Sister Bay can sure get congested on a typical summer Saturday—symbolic of its status as the largest community north of Sturgeon Bay (though the population is a mere 695). It’s also the only spot north on the peninsula where a minor mall reveals itself. Named for twin islands offshore, the bay—not offering quite the windbreak of Eagle Harbor—never got much notice from southbound steamers until Scandinavian settlers discovered the dense forest land in the surrounding hills and erected cabins in 1857.
Sister Bay’s quaint village park, with one of the prettiest stretches of beach around, hosts the huge Fall Festival and is the linchpin of a fine community network of parks, which offer regular doses of free big band, jazz, country, and folk concerts—one definitely each summer Wednesday afternoon. Also on the south edge of town is the Old Anderson House Museum (intersection of WI 57 and Fieldcrest Rd., 920/854-7680, tours: weekends and holidays mid-May–mid-Oct., free) a restored house dating from 1895; this baby was built in Marinette, Wisconsin, and dragged across the ice to get it here.
Bayshore Outdoors (920/854-7598, www.kayakdoorcounty.com) has daily guided kayak tours, along with rentals of cross-country skis, snowshoes, and bikes.
Getting a room for around $60 isn’t too hard in Sister Bay—a Door County rarity! One of the cheapest motels on the Door is the delightfully rustic Century Farm Motel (10068 WI 57, between Sister Bay and Ephraim, 920/854-4069, $60 and up). A real country farm, it’s got four individual units with TVs and refrigerators. There are no frills here, but it's almost homey nonetheless.
Also good is the rustic, century-old Liberty Park Lodge (north on WI 42, 920/854-2025, www.libertyparklodge.com, $99–144). The main lodge has rooms dating back to Door County’s tourism beginnings, now lovingly redone. Also available are Cape Cod–style woodland and shore cottages. Overall, a rich balance of old and new. And for the price, you cannot beat it.
A definite hop up, and perhaps a steal, Little Sister Resort (10620 Little Sister Hill Rd., 920/854-4013, www.littlesisterresort, $115–220) sits in a cedar forest setting south of Sister Bay off WI 42 near a gorgeous bay. These very comfortable surroundings also cater to families. You’ll need to brew some coffee to go through the mind-boggling array of cabins and chalets, but this place is worth the money.
Forty-five large (up to 600-square-foot) and attractive rooms are available at the Country House Resort (715 N. Highland Rd., 920/854-4551 or 800/424-0041, www.country-house.com, $120–337). All feature refrigerators and private waterside balconies, and some have whirlpools and other miscellaneous amenities. The grounds cover 16 heavily wooded acres with private nature trails and a 1,000-foot shoreline. It’s just south of the main “drag” off WI 42, then toward the bay.
For the “only in Wisconsin” file: The Sister Bay Bowl and Supper Club (504 Bay Shore Dr., 920/854-2841, daily April–Jan., Sat.-Sun. otherwise, $4 and up) right downtown does have bowling. But, believe it or not, it offers one of the better fish fries around—great if you’re wearying of fish boils!
Or, right nearby, the best sandwiches in the county, this author says, come at the D.C. Deli (10663 WI 42, 920/854-4514, 9 a.m.–8 p.m. Mon.–Sat., 9 a.m.–3 p.m. Sun., $9), a smokehouse and restaurant that had a brisket so good that it once made my legs wobbly.
The Mission Grille (intersection of WI 42 and WI 57, 920/854-9070, breakfast, lunch and dinner daily, $5–25) at the junction of the two big highways is an early-20th-century church-turned-cozy restaurant. It features unpretentious but superb New American cuisine and atmosphere (and wine list). Vegetarians aren’t ignored. The summertime dining on a trilevel patio and veranda is one of the most relaxing dining spots around.
The name Sister Bay Cafe (611 WI 42, 920/854-2429, breakfast and dinner with varying hours Apr.–Nov., $3–14) is misleading. It’s got your basics, but better, the creative dinners shine, and then there’s a whole slew of authentic Scandinavian fare, including a Norwegian farmer’s stew; red fruit pudding with cream; and beef and pork patties styled after a Danish dish.
The most famous ethnic eatery in the county, if not the state, is Al Johnson’s Swedish Restaurant (702 WI 42, 920/854-2626, 6 a.m.–9 p.m. daily, $5–18), where cars regularly screech to a halt when drivers see the legendary live goats munching the sod roof. The menu offers Swedish and American food. Pound after pound of Swedish meatballs is served nightly, and other favorites are the Swedish beefsteak sautéed in onions and lingonberry pancakes for breakfast. It’s often standing room only, and the restaurant doesn’t take reservations. It’s so lively it prob’ly ain’t yer best bet for a romantic anniversary dinner. On a sad note, famous Al passed away in 2010, a great loss for the county.
You’ll find impeccably well-thought-out and executed “regional international” cuisine, and certainly a meal worthy of splurging on, at the Inn at Kristofer’s (734 WI 42, 920/854-9419, from 5 p.m. Wed.-Mon. May–Oct., $15 and up). Tiny in size but eminently dependable in its fare, the inn is a highlight of any true culinary experience in Door County. Just a recent heavenly example: Chicken Roulade with local cherries and Japanese herb bread crumbs with a lingonberry (local) reduction. This place will wow you. The inn also gives gourmet cooking lessons.
On the north end of town, the Waterfront (10947 WI 42, 920/854-5491, 5–9 p.m. Tues.-Sun., $24–37) is run by a couple with three decades in Door County’s restaurant business and is well-known for its seafood.
© Thomas Huhti from Moon Wisconsin, 5th Edition