Just when I thought I’d been everywhere and seen everything in the Midwest, I get an assignment to tour stunningly beautiful Door County, Wisconsin. This 70-mile peninsula—which juts off into Lake Michigan—is a well-known weekend getaway for Chicago and Milwaukee natives, but a low-key, hush-hush tourist gem otherwise.
You know the acronym “IYKYK?” I’ve decided it was created by well-heeled travelers who want to keep Door County a hidden hideaway. With more than 19 distinct communities—each filled with a slew of mom-and-pop eateries and shops—it’s the perfect summer respite. Oh, and did I mention there’s 300 miles of pristine, unfettered coastline? If you’re an outdoorsy type, this place is like the mother ship calling you home. (Mosquitos be damned!)
While I could go on ad nauseam about all the amazing, one-of-a-kind things Door County has to offer, I decided to do a deep dive and procure 15 fun facts about the area. If this place is trying to keep its obscure touristy status, I might as well find complementary obscure info, yes? Read on!
Hey, Boozy Suzie!
The Door County village of Ephraim was the last municipality in Wisconsin to legally allow alcohol sales. In 2016, village residents voted to end the 163-year ban on beer and wine sales, which had been in place since the village was founded in 1853.
Nelsen’s Hall on Washington, Island is the single largest purveyor of Angostura bitters in the world, with more than 10,000 shots served each year to patrons wanting to join their Bitter’s Club. Those suckers are 90 proof. Oy!
Door County boasts more than 2,000 acres of cherry orchards. That equates to a harvest of between 8-15 million pounds of cherries per year. (And, yes, cherry pie is served at every meal, including breakfast.)
One Hit Wunderkind
The guy from Timbuk 3 who wrote “The Future’s So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades” lives here.
Speaking of the Future …
Door County is located in the Central Time Zone. If you’re in the far northern reaches of Door County looking northwest, you can see back into the future. Well, kinda. Parts of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula—located to the northwest of Door County—are in the Eastern time zone.
What’s the Buzz?
The ultra-rare hine’s emerald dragon fly is indigenous to this area.
Door County is home to the second longest cave in Wisconsin, Horseshoe Bay Cave, which has been mapped for more than 3,100 feet.
The area has 11 iconic lighthouses on the peninsula, the largest concentration in the United States per capita.
Door County is one of a handful of places on the earth where you can experience a “big water” sunrise and sunset only 10 minutes apart. The sun rises over Lake Michigan along Door County’s eastern coast and sets over the bay of Green Bay along Door County’s western coast. If you’re along the coast in the northern half of the county you can’t see the other side of the water, so all you see is “big water.” Who knew?
You Cheddar Believe It!
Unless you’re lactose intolerant, a pilgrimage to Renard’s Cheese in Sturgeon Bay is mandatory. Why? Their Old-Fashioned Hoop Cheddar recently took Best in Class, First Place in the 2022 World Championship Cheese Contest. (Yes, it’s a thing. Yes, it’s a huge win!)
And why is it called Hoop Cheddar? The cheese curds are put into a cheese mold, pressed, and formed into the shape of a wheel. The cheese mold they use is called a “hoop.”
Getting Eggy with It
The Village of Egg Harbor got its name from an epic egg battle that took place in June of 1825. Naturally, it was documented in the diary of a traveler named Elizabeth Baird—and her diary is now part of the Wisconsin Historical Society collection.
The 45th parallel runs through the middle of Door County, which means the region is located halfway between the equator and the North Pole.
Built in 1930, the Steel Bridge in downtown Sturgeon Bay is only one of two bridges of its type in the United States—an upper rolling lift bascule bridge. The 1,420-foot bridge is comprised of a counter-balanced, movable span and 12 concrete and steel truss approach spans. The bridge was designed to be operated by hand in the event of a power failure. No wonder it’s on the Wisconsin Register of Historic Places.
440 million years ago, Door County was 10 degrees south of the equator, located on the edge of a huge tropical sea teaming with life. Much of the fieldstone used to accent the homes and gardens of Door County is filled with the fossilized remains from tropical seas.
Check Yourself Before You Wreck Yourself
Shipwreck diving is a thing in Door County. Today, there are around 240 known shipwrecks in the waters of Door County alone. (Bermuda Triangle, Schmeruda Triangle.) The famously choppy waters of Lake Michigan sunk many of these vessels over the years. Want to know more? Door County’s Maritime Museum features information and artifacts from several shipwrecks including the famed Edmund Fitzgerald.