Situated front and center, amongst Door County’s most alluring natural attributes, lie two towns that any vacationer would cherish. In these locations, aged structures, donned in white clapboard attire, cluster around a docile state highway. Encompassing these buildings, limestone bluffs and pristine waters serve as picturesque backdrops, creating aesthetics that would invite thoughts of New England. Yet, the shops, eateries, beaches and lodgings ensure uplifting Great Lakes endeavors. The two towns, about a five minute drive from one another, are known as Fish Creek and Ephraim, Wisconsin.
Both of these towns were pioneer settlements, established around the time Wisconsin had earned its statehood. One town owes its origin to fishing and logging, the other to a group of Moravians who sought religious refuge in the Midwestern wilderness. One lies at the base of a precipitous limestone bluff, which is capped with trees. The other, as geology allowed, is built upon a slightly less severe grade. Both adhere to the shores of a Lake Michigan bay, and, because of that, offer all sorts of watersport activities. Not to mention, both of these charming settings are located at entrances to Wisconsin’s second oldest and third largest State Park: Peninsula State Park.
Ephraim, as its name suggests, is the site of a former Moravian community. For years, the town remained dry, meaning local restaurants were not allowed to offer alcoholic beverages. Recently, that law has been stricken from the books. Today, the town, which plays home to a landmark ice cream shop and restaurant known as Wilson’s, offers many thrilling vacation activities.
Things like jet skiing and parasailing might satiate that adrenaline junky, not to mention sun and fun in the form of beach going. In contrast, the cottage style shops and galleries, resting below the hill, allow for an experience seemingly from a bygone era. A few historic structures meld with the steeply pitched, green hillside. Among them, stands a church which is nearly 170 years old.
To the south, just a short drive down State Highway 42, a town known as Fish Creek awaits. Here, on a lengthier strip, hip restaurants, fun shops, quaint bed and breakfasts and other attractions, most set in the signature clapboard facades, instill refreshing vibes.
In historic Founder’s square, one could visit a cottage style candy or fudge shop, or, during the throes of summer, partake in a genuine Door County fish boil.
In addition to those inviting qualities, a large marina allows for Great Lakes tour stops, as lodgings right next door provide comfy stays. And places like the Bayside Tavern are timeless, yet remain trendy.
As I had mentioned, Peninsula State Park’s entrance is right near these communities. The park, along with emerald green landscapes, towering bluffs and vistas of the bay, offers your typical outdoor adventures. Add golfing to that list…Oh, I didn’t even mention its multi facility beach and 1860’s lighthouse. A tower atop a bluff is also in the works. As you can imagine, this park is a very popular spot.
As far as entertainment, there are some very novel options nearby. If you’re a movie buff, the Skyway drive-in theatre showcases classic double features, rendering nostalgic smiles. If traditional theatre is your thing, Peninsula Players is the oldest resident summer theatre in the country. The lavish gardens, set on a wooded shore, alone, are worth a visit.
Of course, tours also abound nearby. There are the trolley, Segway and boat excursions to choose from. Needless to say, boating and fishing chances are everywhere. And come mid to late July, the local cherry orchards allow visitors to pick buckets of Montmorency tart pie cherries.
As an added bonus, I found a winery, one with its own vineyard, not too far south of these locations. This stylish fermentation hub came complete with tasting choices and cordial staff members.
Interested? Well then, you just might need a place to stay. As far as accommodations are concerned, there are a variety of boarding options. Quaint bed and breakfasts, comfy lodgings,classy resorts and historic hotels reside in and around these two vacation communities.
After all that is mentioned, planning a weekend getaway, or a solid week of fun, requires tough decisions. With spots like Fish Creek and Ephraim, the choice is practically made for you. Finding the time to visit this casual area, graced with scenic landscape, is the only dilemma.
Here’s to bliss in a setting dubbed the ‘Cape Cod of the Midwest’.