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Family Hot Spot: Whitefish Dunes State Park
To our amazement, we really didn’t discover the “quiet side” of Door County until we purchased our condo five years ago. Up to that point our annual camping vacation was limited to our kid’s favorite activities near Peninsula State Park.
Now, with all of the found time of empty nesters, we continue to explore and discover the beautiful sites on this side of the Door. The list of our favorite hangouts on this special side – whether they are restaurants or entertainment sites, stretches as long as our old Route 42 stops on the “other” side.
Mike and I had spent most of one May weekend preparing the condo for our Summer visitors; setting up the grill, taking out the outdoor dining set, and planting some flowers. Part of the summer planning process is finding new places to take our granddaughters when they come to visit. Feeling that we needed a break from the condo preparation, we decided to check out the Whitefish Dunes State Park to determine if it would be a good fit for the girls, ages 2 – 7.
Right from the start, the park did not disappoint. At the entrance of the park, we found the Nature Center a perfect place to start our adventure. The friendly guide did a great job introducing the amenities in the park and center. I loved the “What did you discover?” chalkboard in the building that allows visitors to share their park adventures. It provides a great, ever-changing introduction to what you might find at the Park, listing, among other things, different types of birds, animals and flowers. Thinking of our girls, I knew that each one of them would go out of their way to find something unique and different to post on that board.
The beach is a short walk from the center. There, as happens every summer on Door County beaches, families were enjoying all types of water adventures. An eager boy was calling to his family on the sand, “Grandma, Grandpa, watch this,” as he performed multiple water tricks. Various groups of children were deeply intent on creating elaborate sand sculptures. A young couple strolled along the beach with their toddler, occasionally stopping to capture a photo of their youngster discovering the joys of sand and water. Giggling young girls walked the high trail along the beach, looking for an appropriate place to spread their blankets. Although our granddaughters traditionally prefer to swim in pools, I felt that this spot might entice them to experience some old-fashioned beach fun.
Continuing down the waterside trail, we passed a pretty big picnic area, which featured a wonderful view of the water. I was amazed to find the water featuring the same hues as you might find on a tropical island. The beautiful blues and greens sparkled in the bright sunlight, and I felt that I was in Hawaii again!
Strolling past the families enjoying their lunch break, we noticed the beginning of the Brachiopod Trail. This interpretive trail features 15 well-marked stations that introduce the guests to the various plants and animals in the park. I found the initial marked “rock” very interesting, so we decided to follow a family of four ahead of us on the trail. The two teenage boys appeared to be as caught up in the experience as their parents, reading each station and discussing the landscape. I mentally added this interesting hike to the list of things we would do with the girls.
The rest of the day was wonderful. We continued to explore the other areas of the Park, “Old Baldy” – the tallest sand dune, the reconstructed villages that date from 100 B.C. and beyond, and the hands on exhibits in the Nature Center. Leaving the Park late that afternoon, we agreed that this was a special place and we immediately added it to our “must do” list. Of course, we also agreed that we couldn’t wait to share its many wonders with our granddaughters!
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