If you are a fan of Door County and want to experience it as few summer vacationers do, the winter season is the perfect time for you to visit. For those that love to shop, most of the retailers are open through the Holidays with some pretty good deals. After the first of the year however, many close their doors until May. For those that love the outdoors, it often seems like you have the county all to yourself! So grab your warm clothes and outdoor gear and plan an excursion!
One of my favorite things to do during the winter season is visit the shorelines of the county. With air temperatures below freezing but the lake still open, the shoreline becomes encased in ice, especially after windy days. Some of my favorite places to visit are Ellison Bay, Gills Rock, Cave Point County Park and Isle View Town Park. When you visit these spots be sure to bring your camera. Nature is one of the best ice sculptors and some of the formations created by the crashing waves are beautiful. For a real treat, try to time your visit with the sunrise at Cave Point and Isle View and sunset in Gills Rock and Ellison Bay.
Sunset in Ellison Bay
If the winter is a snowy one, cross country skiing often becomes part of my day. One of my favorite places to ski is Newport State Park. Newport, a wilderness park in Northern Door County, has miles of skiing and snowshoeing trails. There are a many miles of classic groomed trails and depending on snow depth, a couple miles of skate groomed trail. My wife and I stick to the classic trails and enjoy the Newport Trail loop that leads to Varney Point, the farthest tip of the park. It follows the Lake Michigan shoreline much of the way. Take a break every mile or so and follow one of the trails down to the shore for some great photographic opportunities. Peninsula, Whitefish Dunes, and Potawatomi State Parks also have miles of ski trails. Just click this link, State Park Ski Conditions
, for more information on the current conditions in Door County’s State parks.
Newport State Park - Newport Trail Loop
One of my other favorite winter activities is ice fishing. Being surrounded by water and having a few inland lakes as well, Door County offers endless possibilities for catching fish through the ice. Once the ice is safe, I enjoy targeting brown trout in the harbors on the Green Bay side of the Peninsula. Brown trout cruise the shallows under the ice and can be caught using shiners on tip-ups. Once the ice gets thick enough to get out deeper, whitefish can be caught too. Larson’s Reef, just to the west of Sturgeon Bay, is one of my favorite spots. Small spinning rods rigged with gold Swedish Pimples and wax worms seem to work the best on most days. Kangaroo Lake, one of Door County’s biggest inland lakes, is a great spot to catch panfish and northern pike. Just be careful near the County Road E causeway on the north end of the lake. Thin ice and open water are common here due to the currents running under the road. Before your trip be sure to call the local bait shops to see what is biting and to check ice conditions on area waters.
For those of you that enjoy ice skating, hockey and broom ball, Sister Bay has a great ice rink right in town. Broom ball league play is Wednesday evenings. Watching the players try to negotiate the slick ice with just boots is always entertaining. Bring your stick and skates and join a pickup hockey game on Friday evenings or just come and skate any day of the week. The rink is open until 9pm Monday – Saturday and until 7pm on Sunday. Click here, Sister Bay Skating Rink
, for more information.
Winter is often called the “off-season” in Door County. For me it is anything but. It is the time of year that I get to spend exploring this place I call home without the responsibilities of running the campground. The county slows down and possesses a quietness not found during the summer months. If you get a chance for a winter getaway think about visiting. Maybe I’ll see you on the ice!