Destination: Door County, Wisconsin; Beyond the Crowds

Door County, Wisconsin is anything but undiscovered. Yet somehow, she still has a few quiet corners: spaces where a Rollerbag Goddess can feel as if she’s the first to overturn the peninsula’s rounded stones and peer beneath. That is what I love about Door County. It isn’t the crazy-busy stretch of bric-a-brac shops. It isn’t the crowded ice cream shops and kitschy craft stores. And it isn’t the ever-present fish boils, for which the region is famous.

They have their charms, of course. 

Yet, the very fact that Door County is so loved makes it, at times, unbearable. The crowds diminish the far-away feel. The cars lining the roadways make Door County’s charming towns seem overrun. And the fish boils? Ugh. While the show is something to see, any fish so nasty you have to burn the oil off the top to make it palatable is off the menu, as far as I’m concerned. 

I have overturned a few stones on The Door’s rocky shores. And although I was not the first, and will not be the last, here are a few places where you can still get a taste of the unspoiled spirit of Door County. 

The French Country Inn
Welcome to the French Country Inn. Photo by Charish Badzinski.

Joan’s gardens at the French Country Inn are most beautiful in summer.
Photo by Charish Badzinski. 
Nestled in the most beautiful of Door County’s towns and villages, this bed and breakfast feels like a getaway within a getaway. Joan tends the lush gardens around the French Country Inn, while Walt takes care of the guests and creates wonderful, wholesome breakfasts, which are a locavore’s dream. Eggs with speckled brown and blue shells from local, happy chickens. Local cherry juice, sweetened and unsweetened. My personal favorite: whole grain pancakes (made with brown rice flour and more) topped with warm berry syrup and loads of melting butter. 

The rooms have that well-worn comfort that’s impossible to fake. Yet the French Country Inn rises above other B&Bs, which can become crowded with dusty antiques and old ghosts. 

Potted herbs at the French Country Inn.
Photo by Charish Badzinski.

Guests are welcome to take home a plant to remember their stay.
Photo by Charish Badzinski.
Walt’s pancakes on Sunday morning.
Photo by Charish Badzinski.
I always stay at the French Country Inn when I’m in Door County. And while Ephraim is a dry town, the best place to enjoy a nightcap is right outside the inn. Pick up a bottle from a local winery and sip it while sitting outside at the so-called “Flat Rock Cafe” as night falls. Beauty. 

Best place to enjoy a nightcap in Ephraim: The Flat Rock Cafe.
Photo by Charish Badzinski.
Rock Island State Park

While the trip to Rock Island State Park requires two ferries from the tip of the peninsula, the journey doesn’t deter nearly enough people for my liking. However, the steep descent which takes adventurers below the Rock Island Lighthouse does. Pack a lunch and steep yourself in nature unspoiled, as you look out over Lake Michigan from the very tip of the thumb of Wisconsin. 

How’s the serenity. 

The cliff under the Rock Island Lighthouse, overlooking Lake Michigan. 
Photo by Charish Badzinski.

Mr. Helsinki

I know there are loads of restaurants in Door County. Somehow, I always find myself back at Mr. Helsinki. 
Fresh, warm bread with Sriracha butter. 
Photo by Charish Badzinski.

Simple salad starter. Topped with seaweed. 
Photo by Charish Badzinski.

Mr. Helsinki’s signature dish: Bang Bang Chicken. 
Photo by Charish Badzinski. 

Far above the crowds of the streets below in Fish Creek, the gaggle of smokers outside the townie bar, and the fuel-oil clouded fish boils, Mr. Helsinki elevates Door County’s cuisine to a new level.

Mr. Helsinki at closing time. Photo by Charish Badzinski.

The menu dips its toes in the waters of Asia as well as France, so you’ll find everything from curries to crepes–both savory and sweet, as well as a selection of seafood. Mr. Helsinki isn’t afraid to give your food a kick, but it’s blessed pain for the midwestern foodie with a palate that aches for something more interesting than lefse. 
Mr. Helsinki in Fish Creek, Wisconsin. Photo by Charish Badzinski.

Every RBG has her own favorite, hidden gems. What are some of your favorite hideaways at popular getaways? 
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Charish Badzinski is an explorer, foodie and award-winning travel and food writer. When she isn’t working to build her blog: Rollerbag Goddess Rolls the World, she applies her worldview to her small business, providing strategic communications, media relations and writing support to individuals and organizations. 

Find Charish on Twitter: @charishb


Mr Helsinki Restaurant and Wine Bar on Urbanspoon

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