Visitors are rediscovering the communities at Door County’s southern entrance. Often missed as people rush to northern villages, Southern Door is worth a stop or a visit on its own.
Southern Door County offers a feel and charm of its own. With a community steeped in history, a rural landscape perfect for outdoor fun, and friendly family eateries, you’ll feel like you stepped into the Door County of yesteryear.
The seven communities that make up Southern Door are – Nasewaupee, Maplewood, Brussels, Clay Banks, Union, the village and town of Forestville, Gardner, and the Town of Sturgeon Bay.
Defined as the rural community between the Door County line and the southern edge of the City of Sturgeon Bay, Southern Door is home to beautiful parks, the area’s largest multi-modal trail, ATV routes, and miles of shoreline.
It’s also prime territory for history buffs, starting with the story of the largest tragedy ever to befall Door County, the Peshtigo Fire. The farming community of Brussels became the nation’s largest Belgian settlement in the mid-1800s, but was destroyed by a wildfire that leapt the waters of Green Bay in a tornado of fire in 1871.
The settlers rebuilt, this time with brick and stone instead of wood, and their architecture still dots the landscape of Brussels. Learn about this hearty community at the Peninsula Belgian American Club, Tornado Park, and the Belgian Heritage Center.
Visit the tiny churches known as Belgian Roadside Chapels that dot the roadsides of Southern Door County. Or, celebrate local culture in the most delicious way possible at annual celebrations like the Belgian Kermisfestival each September with traditional Belgian food and drink.
For more historical fun, visit Claflin County Park and Claflin Rock, named after the county’s very first settler from 1835.
Land for Roaming
Take a run or bike ride down the Ahnapee State Trail, part of the Wisconsin State Parks system. The trail is converted from the old Ahnapee and Western Railroad line that was once part of the connection between Chicago and Sturgeon Bay. Now made of hard-packed gravel, this 50-mile trail is great for running, riding, skiing, or snowmobiling.
Forestville Dam Park offers a boat launch and beautiful scenery in the 13-acre Mill Pond that leads into the Ahnapee River.
Come spring, motorcyclists will love the open roads of Southern Door. If you’re a fan of ATVs, you can also roam on Door County’s only official ATV route. The 90-mile Door County ATV trail follows paved roads throughout four communities in Southern Door County – Nasewaupee, Gardner, Union, and Brussels. The trail takes users to gorgeous viewpoints along the shore of Green Bay, and connects to communities where you can stop for small-town food, drinks, and shopping.
Local Food and Drink
Speaking of eating, you’ll definitely want to make a stop at Renard’s Cheese, one of the oldest cheese producers in the area. Get fresh curds daily when they still squeak!
If you enjoy outside seating, live music, Friday fish boils, and beautiful waterfront or marina views, then you’ll find what you’re looking for here. A visit to the town of Maplewood brings you to classic small town drinking and dining.
In Forestville enjoy local taverns and restaurants and get big bang for your dining dollar. Make a stop at Cherry De-lite/ Country Ovens, where you can get dried Door County cherry products great for athletes or just for the sweet tooth!
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