Thomas Huhti is a bona fide "born-and-raised Cheesehead," having grown up in Watertown and then later living in Madison. The Wisconsinite is an avid traveler, and has been to Door County more than a dozen times, traveling there at least once a year.
He is the author of "Moon Wisconsin" and most recently "Moon Wisconsin's Door County," a guide book that includes travel information on destinations all along Wisconsin's Lake Michigan coast from the Illinois border to the tip of the peninsula and beyond. Huhti shared some insight with Wisconsin Trails on traveling to Door County.
WT: Do you have a must-visit spot in Door County?
TH: I'll never go to Door County and not visit Newport State Park for biking/hiking.
If I have one absolute favorite spot, and time allows for an overnight on Washington Island, it's biking around Washington Island (early morning or early evening, after the crowds have left on the ferry) and staying in the oldie-but-goodie cottages at Gibson's West Harbor Resort & Cottages. That time-locked place is what the Door used to be like.
WT: What are some eateries worth checking out beyond the typical fish boil?
TH: Coffee stop (and sandwiches to go): Base Camp (Sister Bay). Run by a Frenchman, it's got the best coffee and a special vibe.
Best breakfast: Breakfast wrap at Good Eggs (Ephraim).
Lunch: Honestly, I rarely have time for a sit-down lunch. For me, it's picnic supplies (orgasmic bread from MacReady Artisan Bread in Egg Harbor; cheese/jams/etc from Orchard Country and/or Main Street Market; and I absolutely must top it all off with smoked fish from Charlie's in Gills Rock).
If I do have time to relax, it's almost always at The Cookery in Fish Creek. Man, I've been living on their chowder and perch for nearly 20 years! I freaked when they had a fire in 2008, but the rebuild has made it larger, airier, and even more relaxed. I've also got to give them a nod for seriously subscribing to locally sourced products, etc.
Dinner: I always tell people to head to Wild Tomato in Fish Creek for the wood-fired pizza. Just to get 'that look.' Yup, pizza in Door County. Seriously, I go there for every dinner. And I'm not even a pizza fan!
However, when people want to go out in Door County, they usually mean something 'special.' Now, I always have to tell people that 'fine dining' is everywhere in DC; however, if they expect a quiet night out with tinkling piano keys in the background, they might be disappointed. The absolute mass of people June-Labor Day means that everywhere is about as busy as a Chuck E. Cheese's on a Saturday night, and wait staff (which is, of course, seasonal, meaning you might get a well-meaning but under-informed student) is harried more often than not. Patience!
Having said that, the one place that has never wavered over the years is Trio (Egg Harbor) for lovely Italian and French country cuisine. I may change my tune for the next edition, because a newer steak-centric option - Chop (Sister Bay) - has been sublime.
And of course, as I say in the book, it's nearly a Door County ordinance that everyone stop by old-as-the-hills Wilson's (Ephraim) for ice cream!
WT: What are your recommendations for spots off the beaten path? Where can people get away from the crowds?
TH: Every person who asks me this gets the same answer: I simply cannot believe how few people I see in Newport State Park. It's a magnificent piece of wilderness - the last of its kind in the county - and yet even on a busy summer weekend, away from the parking lot, I may only see a half-dozen people on the trails and further beaches. It baffles me.
If even a half-dozen people are too many, head to Baileys Harbor and nearby Kangaroo Lake for canoeing/kayaking (there is a short nature trail); in addition, you'll find two nearby county parks (Lyle Harter-Matter County Park and Meridian Park State Natural Area) that I'm generally alone in. Perfect to stroll about, ponder that you're halfway between the equator and the North Pole, and munch your granola.
WT: When is the best time to visit?
TH: My trick is to head up immediately after Labor Day. Prices plummet, but everything is still open. Not to mention that the weather will likely not be too hot/humid. Autumn is my favorite time, but prices do rise sharply again. Folks: do your homework. Everybody's "low season" is different. You can always find a deal if you check everybody's calendar closely!
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