Adventure for the unadventurous.
By Sherri Telenko
There are few activities more decadent than decompressing in a hot tub after a day of outdoor activity. I’m not really an outdoorsy person—unless my dog is with me, but he’s not here this trip. Yet somehow I ended up at the Landmark Resort in Door County, Wisconsin, the heartland of all things wooded, watered or wild.
I’m glad I did.
I’m here to hike, zip-line, trail ride (read about my ride here) and maybe kayak and paddleboard. Before I can do that, I have to get into a state of mind only pressurized water jets can induce.
The Landmark Resort, a series of condo buildings surrounded by tall trees, pools and tennis courts, seems like a place that would be teaming with kids and families. Yet today, in the middle of the summer, it’s not. Mostly retirees, or those soon-to-be, sporadically roam the hallways or gather in common areas to play euchre. In fact I’ve got the clover-leaf hot tub to myself this evening, musing about the decadence of running this vat for only one person.
Landmark Resort is a condo-rental company and each unit has a living room, kitchen and bedroom or two. This one is located in Egg Harbor not far from Sturgeon Bay, Wis., the largest town on the Door County Peninsula. North of Sturgeon Bay, there are no chain stores, malls or franchises, making this area a foodie, boutique-lover, rustic-seekers’ dream.
Tourism and agriculture are the two primary industries here (custom yacht building is also on the list), so independently-owned restaurants are stocked with creative chefs using locally-sourced raw materials such as the region’s prized whitefish, cherries and the state’s cheeses. That means you’ll have to try the mac & cheese at Grasse’s Grill in Sister Bay; Cherry Pie at Scaturo’s Baking Co. and Café in Sturgeon Bay; awesome pizza combinations at Wild Tomato Wood-fired Pizza and Grille in Fish Creek; and harbor whitefish chowder at the Harbor Fish Market & Grille in Bailey’s Harbor. The latter restaurant’s additional claim-to-fame is a Fido-friendly patio and dog menu that includes steak (read more about it here).
Door County is about outdoor activities, and there are many outfitters that’ll set you up with bikes, kayaks, canoes, or paddle boards. First on my list, because it’s about a 15-minute drive from Landmark Resorts, is horseback riding at Kurtz Corral. Trail rides go out throughout the day in the summer, no reservations required. In fact, no reservations are taken for the one-, two- or more-hour rides across the family-owned 140 acres of grassland and sparse forest. Kids as young as six can ride here, but if you want to avoid youngsters and are an advanced rider, select the evening wine ride that circles to and from Simon Creek Winery (the county’s only one).
Or take a nature walk through The Ridges Sanctuary in Bailey’s Harbor. Wooden boardwalks and trails lead past dragonfly habitats, contemporary harbor lights and a newly-built nature interpretive center. If you’re closer to Sturgeon Bay, follow the 2.8-mile Red Trail through Whitefish Dunes State Park (one of the busiest day parks in the region) and climb to Old Baldy, the tallest vegetation-covered Sand Dune in the park, then back down to the beach. Depending the day of the week and weather, it could be crowded with families, or not.
Speaking of whitefish, you can’t come to Door County without attending a traditional fish boil and one of the most popular is in Rowley’s Bay Resort, about 30 minutes north of Sturgeon Bay but worth the drive because this is the boil people talk about. You can work up an appetite for the all-you-can-eat buffet by renting kayaks or paddle boats from DC Adventure Center located in the marina across the resort. It’s also here where you get geared up for the short but enthusiastic zip-line course among the trees behind the decades-old resort that’s home to a bakery, pub and restaurant.
So what’s a fish boil? Well, a century ago, it was an economical way for Scandinavian settlers to feed large numbers of lumberjacks and fisherman. Today, it’s an event for tourist and a style of cooking freshly-caught Michigan Lake whitefish that has become to Door County what luaus are to Hawaii.
Each place does it a bit differently, and here at Rowley’s Bay Resort it’s a theatrical weekend event—@21plusTravel Tip: the late sitting is a bit less child saturated. Outside, beside a blazing fire and large iron pot, an elderly actor dressed in 19th Century attire raises his cane and captivates the audience with a detailed story about the bay’s history, original settlers and the influence of Jesuit priests on the native population.
His tale is interrupted three times by the chef and assistant carrying potatoes, vegetables and fish in buckets like offerings to a bonfire god and dumping the ingredients into the boiling pot. The event climaxes with dramatic propane-induced fire encasing the pot like evening news drama, supposedly to burn off fat, but likely for camera-friendly effect. Then everyone herds into the dining room and bellies up to the buffet of fish boil results, plus salads, meats and homemade pies.
It’s a hardy feed of kid-inviting comfort food, but Door County is otherwise all about grown-up outdoor adventure, plus you’ve always got wine and a whirlpool waiting for you back at the lodge.
- Odds of Encountering Children: Likely, if you go to the outdoor pool or activities at Landmark Resort. But it is mostly couples travelling through Door County, Wis.
- Landmark Resort sits on 40 acres in Egg Harbour, Wis., and types of rooms range from one- to two-bedroom condo suites either with a water view or woodlot view and most with balconies
- Prices range from $165 to $400 per night during June to August; there’s a 10% discount for 7-day stays
- 42-inch flat screen television in every suite and usually in the bedroom also
- Free WiFi access throughout the resort
- Outdoor adventure in Door County includes horseback riding, kayaking, canoeing, paddleboarding, zip line, cycling and hiking
- Many outfitters in the area can hook you up with gear and equipment (and even guides): Door County Adventure Center, Door County Adventure Rafting, Door County Kayak Tours, Lakeshore Adventures, and Nor Door Sport & Cyclery
- Cherry pie and other baked goods are a must from Scaturo’s Baking Company; Café in Sturgeon Bay as is a stop at Wilson’s Restaurant and Ice Cream Parlour in Ephraim that’s classic and iconic
– Photos by Sherri Telenko
Featured products, services and/or travel arrangements may have been complimentary in part or in full; this affords the research opportunity but does not sway opinion.