Door County Weekend: Part One

Unfortunately, this summer Eric and I aren't able to go on a "big," vacation (but that's okay, because we'll have a pretty amazing one to take in May of next year...). With summer passing us by and the two of us itching to get away, last weekend we planned a quick three-day weekend trip to one of our favorite places in Wisconsin: Door County.

We went to Door County last year, but unfortunately it rained almost the entire time we were there. With sunny skies and comfortable temperatures predicted for the weekend, we were excited to squeeze in as much Door County fun as we could. Eric was so excited for the trip he began making a detailed itinerary a few days in advance... 

We left bright and early at just before 6am Friday morning. We wanted to allow plenty of time to get up to DC, mainly so we could stop at little attractions on our three-hour drive up if we felt the need. Our first stop was just north of Kewaunee, where, naturally, we couldn't pass up the opportunity to take a photo with the World's Largest Grandfather Clock.

The grandfather clock is about 20-25 feet tall, and is located right out front of a Top of the Hill gift shop. It's big. It's a clock. It's a real big clock on the side of the road. Why wouldn't we pose for pictures with it?

Headed north, we decided to stop at the Crescent Beach boardwalk in Algoma. They've got a really pretty, nicely-combed beach and the boardwalk stretches out to Lake Michigan and along the shore for a ways.

After checking out the beach for a bit, we hopped back in the car to head through Downtown Algoma.

We were going to jet straight through town until we passed this awesome, kitschy-looking antique store, Dodge Antiques. We couldn't help but stop to take a look around for a bit.
There were a bunch of old bikes, wooden crates, road signs and furniture sitting outside the shop. The owner told us the inside offered two large rooms and a basement area filled with more antiques to peek in at. When he saw me whip out my camera, he told me the most photographed piece was the old "Indian in the Cupboard" in the back. Apparently, it was featured on the first episode of "American Pickers."

Frankly, the thing kind of creeped me out. It was so lifelike. The American Pickers didn't end up buying the piece (obviously), even though it was priced at a steal for $5,000...

Other oddities we saw at Dodge antiques included this completely bizarre "Dreaming of a Reggie White Christmas" sign...
Which is painted in weather-resistant paint, sure to brighten up your holiday decor for only $495...

The store had a lot of old toys for sale, too. This tiny "Wee Rocker" was so cute.

And I loved all these vintage toy cars... the precursor to Big Wheels!
We didn't end up buying anything, but it was a fun stop and a good excuse to stretch our legs on our road trip.

We didn't make any more stops after Algoma, as we were excited to get up to Door County to get in some biking. Check-in to our motel wasn't until 3pm, but arrived in DC right around 10am so we drove straight to Peninsula State Park to do a little biking. We changed into our gear at the main office and started out on the Sunset Trail.

After about half a mile we turned off to bike some more single track mountain bike trails, rather than stay on the paved/gravel trail. I hadn't been mountain biking in a while, so I was a little nervous, but the trail wasn't too incredibly technical and I easily managed my way through. It was a lot of fun to be back on single track!
We rode around eight miles or so of mountain bike trails, then headed north on the Sunset Trail for another 7-8 miles to check out the views from the lake shore.

After posing for a couple pictures by the water, we headed back to the car to see if we could get an early check in at our hotel, the Ephraim Shores. It was 2pm at this point, so we were pretty sure they'd let us in early, which they did!

Ephraim is an incredibly cute, quaint little town on the shores of the bay. As luck would have it, it also happens to be the only dry township in Door County, which means no bars to throw a few back at and no alcohol to be ordered at any of the restaurants. We didn't care about that part so much, as we had plenty of active things to do on our schedule that wouldn't be fun to attempt with a hangover.

Our hotel overlooked the water, which you could see (through the parking lot outside) right from our french doors in our room.
I also loved how they included a little packet of dried cherries with our complimentary toiletries in our room. Door County is known for its bevy of cherry products (the climate there, on the peninsula is perfectly suited for growing cherries), so the included packet of cherries was a nice homage to the culture of the area.

We were both really hungry at that point, so we walked over to nearby Chef's Hat Cafe, an unassuming little spot overlooking the water, for a late lunch. It was really windy outside, so we opted for indoor seating. 

I ordered a turkey, cranberry and gorgonzola wrap, which was absolutely delicious with raspberry vinaigrette dressing.

And Eric got the asparagus quesadilla, which he also really liked. We were both crazy about the kettle chips served on the side. They had a dusting that somewhat reminded us of sour cream and onion, but not quite as strong. Whatever they were seasoned with, it made them taste incredible.

After our lunch, we went back to the hotel to shower and get ready for the evening. We had some time to kill before our fish boil reservations at 7:45, so we drove into neighboring Sister Bay to grab a drink at a bar we'd enjoyed when we stayed there last year: Husby's. We sat and drank a couple beers while watching the Olympics, then went back to Ephraim for dinner.

Dinner was a real treat: a genuine Door County Fish Boil! I'd been to DC twice before, but had never tried a fish boil there. It's essentially like an East-Cost clam bake, where a large group of people huddle around a big kettle to watch their meal (traditionally whitefish, potatoes and onions, all boiled) being cooked, while listening to the boilmaster explain the tradition, the history and how it's done. Our fish boil was hosted at the Old Post Office Restaurant in Ephraim, just steps from our motel. As the name alludes, the restaurant used to be the town's post office, and has been restored to keep all the old, original charm of the building's original era of the early 1900s. 

We arrived at the restaurant right as the sun was setting, providing gorgeous views of the sunset over the bay. 

The fish boil took place behind the restaurant, where a circle of benches stretched around a large black kettle.

Soon, our "Boilmaster," Earl, came out carrying a metal collander of chopped whitefish. He introduced himself, then started by going over the history of the traditional fish boil.

Earl was exactly what I'd pictured a boilmaster looking like. Slight yet solid, weathered, with a gruff voice but kind eyes. He was a great storyteller, and I hung on every word.

The food at a fish boil is simple - seasoned only with salt. Once all the ingredients are boiling in the kettle, the boilmaster douses the fire underneath with kerosene, causing the pot to boil over and the fish oils to spill out from the pot. 

After a few splashes of kerosene, Earl instructed us to stand behind the benches because then the fire was "really going to get going." (We thought we'd already seen some pretty large flames, so we braced ourselves for the real show).

After the fire died down, two cooks from the restaurant came out to gather the ingredients to bring back inside for us to eat. 

Earl thanked us all for coming and told quite a few groan-inducing corny fishing jokes (which, of course, we laughed along with) as the production closed. He also told us to check out his personally-curated list of "must sees" around Door County. We knew this guy would have some great suggestions, so we snapped up a copy of the list right away.

Inside the restaurant, we were served buffet style the food we'd just watched being cooked. Two pieces of whitefish, boiled red potatoes, onions and coleslaw on the side. When we sat down, our waiter offered to debone our fish for us, and we dug in. For being such a simple dish, we both loved it! The whitefish was tender, flaky and mild, and I couldn't stop raving about the potatoes - cooked to just the right level of firmness. After dinner, we each had a complimentary slice of cherry, pie, which was the perfect sweet ending to a tasty meal. 

After stuffing out faces, we returned to our hotel to turn in early.... we had a wake-up call at 6am the next morning, and needed to squeeze in a lot more on our second day. Tune in tomorrow to see our absolute favorite part of the trip, some gorgeous scenery and the dessert that had us both swearing off ice cream "forever" (which inevitably will mean something more like a few weeks, I'm sure...).


  1. Did they explain to you why they douse the fish boil fire with kerosene? I never knew why until the last fish boil I went to at the White Gull in a few months back. (In case they didn't tell: it's to boil over the fish fats and oils that have risen to the top of the pot during the boil!)

    1. Mike, just because you're my friend, I'm going to call you out on glossing over my blog post...

      Stated above: "Once all the ingredients are boiling in the kettle, the boilmaster douses the fire underneath with kerosene, causing the pot to boil over and the fish oils to spill out from the pot."

      hehehe. Next time, I expect full notes taken.


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