For example, Door County has several vineyards and wineries along with a microbrewery called Shipwrecked in Egg Harbor that brews several different beers. And for those who would enjoy an excellent locally distilled vodka straight up or in a cocktail, the Door County Distillery located at the Door Peninsula Winery in Carlsville uses only locally grown grains as part of their secret distilling process. At Coppers Corner in Fish Creek, there is a cellar that features the largest variety of bulk olive oils and balsamic vinegars sold anywhere in the United States, and they serve excellent spirits and fare as well. Door County is also cherry orchard country and the freshly baked Danish, pies, and other pastries found here are phenomenal. Stop at Orchard Country Winery for some wine tasting and out back, check out the cherry-pit-spitting competition track marked off in feet. It goes from 5 feet all the way up to 50, with the longest distance achieved in spitting a cherry pit being 48 feet. While at the winery you can enjoy a horse-drawn sleigh ride, something most of us have never done before.
Even if you are on a soft adventure, you must stop at Peninsula State Park near the village of Fish Creek. You can rent cross county skis and snowshoes at the turn off from Highway 42 into the Park, at a place called Nor Door Sport and Cyclery. However, we took a mile-and-a-half hike along the snow-covered trails out to see Eagle Bluff Lighthouse, and it was no challenge even without skis or snowshoes. Eagle Bluff Lighthouse was built in 1868 and has a fifth-order Fresnel lens in the tower that is used as a beacon at night. The lighthouse was automated in 1926 and no longer needs a keeper. One hundred years ago, a lighthouse keeper's job required someone who could spend months alone and who would religiously climb to the top of the lighthouse and light the flame at dusk. This flame, the only light source, was then magnified by the lenses in the Fresnel.
The circular stairway takes you to the top, where you have a 360-degree view from 76 feet above the waterline. From up there, it's a clear view over to Horseshoe Island and far out into the lake. And, if you're really daring, every January 1, the local Jacksonport Polar Bear Club takes its annual dip in Lake Michigan. Last year, about 800 people plunged into the 33-degree water to earn bragging rights. We met one local, Jon Jarosh, who's done it for the last 18 consecutive years.
On the Lake Michigan side of the peninsula are two must-see stops. At Whitefish Dunes State Park, a looped hiking trail begins at the Nature Center and takes you along the frozen, ice-covered beach and then up and through the woods along a cross-country skiing and snowshoe trail. Here you pass a recreated Native American camp where you can see how the first Americans gleaned shelter from this winter wonderland for thousands of years. Immediately up the shoreline from the Nature Center is Cave Point County Park. Over the millennium, the power of Lake Michigan's waters have washed and carved away the shore and bluffs, creating huge caves that during the wintertime are draped with ice. Be careful ground along the edge is very slippery!
There are a couple of terrific restaurants in the area. One is the White Gull Inn in Fish Creek, where they offer a traditional fish boil. Over an outdoor wood fire, a huge kettle of water is brought to boil, corn on the cob and whole potatoes are dropped into a basket, and salt and large chunks of freshly caught whitefish are added. When it's ready, the basket is lifted out, and the contents are served in a buffet-style sit-down dinner inside.
The other eatery is Al Johnson's Swedish Restaurant in Sister Bay They're known far and wide for their breakfasts, which include Swedish Pancakes (their Applewood-smoked bacon, sausage, country fried potatoes, and eggs are great additions). They have been operating for 60 years, and during the morning breakfast hours, they're packed. Rolf Johnson, the son of the man who founded this restaurant in 1949, still uses his father's original receipe and on a typical morning he makes and serves hundreds of Swedish pancakes. We toured the galley where Rolf starts by creating pancakes, each measuring three feet by four feet. As the pancake cooks on a grill that's as old as the restaurant itself, it is divided up into many, many servings.
God bless the Swedes.