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Nestled between Lake Michigan and Green Bay, the verdant Door County peninsula in Wisconsin offers 300 miles of beautiful coastline, charming villages, wineries, orchards, and so much more. In my opinion, it is the perfect place to plan a romantic escape.
Door County is an ideal getaway for couples because there is a plethora of quaint motels and beautiful bed and breakfasts that are immaculately kept, and the majority of them come with lake views. In addition, most of the lodging is within walking distance to restaurants, which means you can enjoy a relaxing stroll back to your room on those warm summer nights or crisp autumn evenings after dinner.
There are plenty of activities to do here that are ideal for couples looking to spend quality time together. There are many wineries you can day trip to, state parks to hike or bike together, quiet bays to enjoy swimming or kayaking, and upscale restaurants that offer candle-lit dinners. If you’re ready to slow down and reconnect with your partner, try these secrets to planning the best romantic getaway in Door County.
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Breakfast At The White Gull Inn
Start your morning at the White Gull Inn, a historic bed and breakfast located in the charming bayside village of Fish Creek. This beautiful building has been standing at the end of Main Street since 1896 and offers an onsite restaurant featuring early American décor with a cozy and warm ambiance.
So why breakfast at the White Gull Inn? Well, only because they were the winners of Good Morning America’s best breakfast in the USA challenge!
Specifically, it was the Inn’s cherry-stuffed French toast that was declared as the best breakfast. The now-famous French toast dish includes two golden-brown slices of egg bread with pockets of Wisconsin cream cheese and Door County Montmorency cherries.
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Their nationally recognized dish has had diners lined out the door every morning ever since the White Gull Inn was featured on the popular TV show, and this was indeed the case on our visit. We arrived around 8 am and were told there would be over a two-hour wait! Yes, that’s how badly visitors to Door County want to eat here. And it’s no use making a reservation, as it is walk-in only. Your best bet is to arrive early, and if there is a wait, put your name down and go for a stroll through town or go for a short walk on the beach. The good news is that they serve breakfast until two in the afternoon, so you won’t miss out. Know that it is well worth the wait!
Go On a Lighthouse Tour
A visit to the Door County peninsula wouldn’t be complete without visiting a lighthouse! This area is home to eleven lighthouses and taking the time to see them can be a fun activity during your romantic getaway.
These local treasures will give you an excuse to explore this picturesque part of Wisconsin by leading you to some of the prettiest shorelines, beaches, and islands.
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The top three lighthouses worthy of your time include Baileys Harbor Lighthouse, Cana Island Lighthouse, and Eagle Bluff Lighthouse.
Bailey’s Harbor Lighthouse is probably the prettiest of the Door County Lighthouses and is a great subject for photography enthusiasts. The Cana Island Lighthouse is an excellent choice for adventure lovers because getting to this maritime structure involves riding on a tractor-pulled wagon from the mainland to Cana Island across Lake Michigan. Lastly, the Eagle Bluff Lighthouse, which is tucked inside Peninsula State Park, offers tours during certain times of the day along with gorgeous views of Green Bay.
Take A Romantic Drive
The Door County Coastal Byway is a 66-mile stretch of highway that begins north of Sturgeon Bay and follows the Green Bay shoreline, reaching its most northern point at Gills Rock and then heading south along the eastern side of the peninsula back to Sturgeon Bay.
Being road trip enthusiasts, we were very excited to explore Door County’s hidden treasures by road, and we were not disappointed.
The drive led us to several quaint villages, sparkling lake views, and unusual landmarks like the graffiti-covered building at Anderson Dock.
The scenery is stunning, especially during the fall, which is when we happened to be visiting. One place you can’t miss on your road trip is Jens Jensen’s Curvy Road, a winding stretch of road between Gills Rock and Northport.
Of course, you don’t have to drive the entire section of this byway as it does take up a lot of time, especially if you want to stop in at some of the villages or explore state parks found along the way. Deciding where you would like to see the most and just concentrating on that area is my recommendation.
Sample Apple Cider At Island Orchard Cider
Island Orchard Cider in Door County is a little gem tucked away down a side street in Ellison Bay. This cider house specializes in handcrafted traditional French cider, which is light and wine-like. They are also much drier and refreshing and have higher acidity than American-style ciders.
The reason behind the dryness of the ciders here is due to the bitterness of the apple varietals used compared to ciders produced using dessert apples, which have a deeper, sweet flavor.
It’s no secret that Midwesterners prefer their food and drinks to be extremely sweet, which can be shocking to the palate for visitors from the west or east coast. I don’t know about you, but I can’t handle overly sweet drinks, so these hard ciders were absolutely perfect!
What is also impressive about this place is that they grow all of their own apples on Washington Island, which is just a short ferry ride away off the tip of the Door County peninsula. They harvest all of the fruit by hand beginning in late September through mid-November, and it is then boated over to Ellison Bay.
This cider house is a fantastic spot for a romantic date or for pre-dinner drinks with your significant other because it has such a relaxing and casual atmosphere. You’ll have a lot of fun just choosing drinks for your cider flight as there is an array of different options.
Even if you are a beer or wine lover, you are bound to find a drink that suits you here as the owners have managed to create options that are, for example, reminiscent of an IPA, such as the Hopped Brut cider, or the Brut Apple Reserve, which is much like drinking a bubbly wine.
Attend A Fish Boil
One of the most iconic things you can do in Door County is to attend a fish boil. Unlike the fish fry, which is common in the Midwest, the fish boil involves boiling fish.
The fish boil has become a Door County tradition with origins in Scandinavia. The unusual cooking method was developed to feed the many loggers who worked in this area during the late 1800s. It involves cooking fresh-caught whitefish and potatoes in a large cauldron over a roaring outdoor fire. At the end of the cooking process, kerosene is thrown on the flames, which helps to burn off fish oils. The result is a spectacular overflow of water that extinguishes the fire beneath. This last part of the cooking process is a real hit with guests!
While there are several locations for you to experience the fish boil in Door County, I recommend booking at the Old Post Office restaurant if you are after a more intimate and romantic experience. I say this because the restaurant is located right across the road from Lake Michigan, so you can enjoy lovely water views while you dine. Also, the Old Post Office turns the whole fish boil experience into an elegant affair by dressing dining tables in beautiful white linen and offering all guests a candle-lit dinner. They even have waiters that come around and de-bone the fish at your request!
Where to Stay
Door County is a large peninsula, and for those who haven’t been before, it can be difficult to decide which part of Door County to stay in. Something you’ll want to remember is the further north you go, the smaller the communities become and the quieter it is.
The most charming villages in Door County are Fish Creek, Ephraim, and Sister Bay. In all of these communities, you’ll find cute motels and charming bed and breakfasts that are perfect for a romantic escape. Try VRBO for a quick overview.
Use this interactive map to find your haven for your romantic getaway:
You will need to keep in mind that these destinations are popular places with Wisconsinites, and therefore accommodation can be booked out months in advance on weekends and holidays. As an example of how popular these destinations are, we visited mid-week in October, and even on a Monday and Tuesday night, we struggled to get a reservation.
Nestled between Lake Michigan and Green Bay, verdant Door County offers 300 miles of beautiful coastline, charming villages, wineries, orchards, and so much more for a perfect romantic escape.
The best way to get to Door County is to drive up from Milwaukee. You can rent a vehicle from the Milwaukee Airport and drive straight up along I-43 to Sturgeon Bay. For a more interesting drive that allows you to explore a little more of Wisconsin’s shoreline, detour between Manitowoc and Algoma.
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