CRUISING THE GREAT LAKES #9: SUPER STURGEON BAY, WISCONSIN

Sturgeon Bay wasn’t on Ocean Navigator’s itinerary, but we happily ended up there anyway.  Following our stop in Green Bay, we were supposed to have a full day cruising on the Great Lakes.  The captain had passed through Sturgeon Bay during the previous cruise, though, and he was intrigued.  A cruise ship had never stopped in this Door County, Wisconsin town, and the captain thought it would be an appealing place to spend a day.

In very short order, the captain notified the company we would be stopping in Sturgeon Bay, the authorities were notified; and, Diane, the shore excursion manager, put together an included hop-on-hop-off tour for the passengers. 

Bruce and I were excited to return to Sturgeon Bay, because we had enjoyed our visit there during our 2017 Wisconsin road trip.  We had stayed at the very memorable Holiday Music Motel, and the entire Door County experience was fantastic!

Arriving in Sturgeon Bay

As the ship arrived, Bruce and I watched from the deck.  Boaters honked their horns, and people watched from the just-completed park where we docked.  We were anxious to get an early start on our day, so we were the first ones off the ship as soon as we were cleared to disembark.  Wow, what a fun experience!  Locals came up and welcomed us; and, we were asked all about where we had been, where the ship was going next, and what it was like to cruise aboard the Ocean Navigator.  What a blast! 

This park was just completed.

In addition to being a friendly little city of less than 10,000, Sturgeon Bay, Door County, is a world-renowned shipbuilding hub where thousand-foot lakers (lake cargo ships) and small bass-fishing boats are built.  It also has a vibrant music and arts scene, nice shops, and a variety of good restaurants. 

We began our day by hopping on the bus for a ride out to Door Peninsula Winery.  Neither of us were interested in getting off at the winery; we just wanted to enjoy seeing Door County again.  It brought back great memories!

Door County Maritime Museum was where we hopped off—mainly so we could enjoy the views from the top deck.  Located in the Jim Kress Maritime Lighthouse Tower, we had seen several people at the top watching Ocean Navigator’s arrival, and I wanted to see our ship from that vantage point as well.  What an awesome view!  We even spotted the Holiday Music Motel. 

Door County Maritime Museum
Sturgeon Bay Bridge (Michigan Street Bridge) is on the left, and the new bridge is on the right.
Ocean Navigator is docked behind the new Oregon Street Bridge

On the way down from the viewing deck, we took the stairs rather than the elevator, so we could see the excellent exhibits located on several of the floors.  It’s a work in progress, but they are doing a fantastic job repurposing the lighthouse tower.

Rather than ride the bus back to the ship, we opted to walk over the Michigan Street Bridge, aka Sturgeon Bay Bridge that dates back to 1931 and was dedicated as a Door County Veterans Memorial.

Thanks to musician Pat MacDonald, owner of the Holiday Music Motel, and other locals passionate about the iconic steel bridge, they formed the Citizens for Our Bridge preservation group to save the old bridge.  (It was slated for demolition when it no longer met safety standards.)  MacDonald created and hosted the Steel Bridge Songfest, which took place—and continues annually— at the hotel, to raise money for the bridge’s restoration.  They were also able to get the bridge listed on the National Register of Historic Places as well as the Wisconsin Trust for Historic Preservation, to save it from demolition.

The Holiday Music Motel is over the bridge and on the left with the red tiled roof and red awnings.

Meanwhile a larger four-lane sister bridge was built one block away, on Oregon Street, to meet federal safety standards and accommodate the heavy traffic loads caused by the bridge’s 3,000 openings annually.  In 2011, the newly restored Michigan Street Bridge reopened, and the two bridges operate as one system to relieve traffic congestion.

During our walk across the bridge, we were stopped so the bridge could open and allow boat traffic through.  It was a cool experience crossing that bridge and knowing that when a group of passionate people want something bad enough, they can make it happen.  And, it was fun remembering back to our stay at the Holiday Music Motel, that it was the hotel owners that were most instrumental in saving their iconic bridge.

The Holiday Music Motel sponsored this sculpture of a Sturgeon Bay tart cherry. It is one of several cherry sculptures up for auction in the Cherries Jubilee.
This was the most interesting “cherry” of them all!
What a great way to spruce up a gas station!
We watched a glass blowing demonstration at Popelka Trenchard Glass
This sign was in front of a home across the street from the glass studio. WELL SAID.
After heading back to the ship, Bruce enjoyed the sculpture fountain as I walked back up the Michigan Street Bridge to take more pictures.
Laura, this is for you!
Our cruise out of Sturgeon Bay was through a narrow canal. This is the Sturgeon Bay Ship Canal Light, built in 1899.
The Sturgeon Bay Ship Canal North Pierhead Light was built in 1882 and is located at the U.S. Coast Guard Station on Lake Michigan. Goodbye, Sturgeon Bay!

Next up: Memorable Muskegon, Michigan

EGG HARBOR, PENINSULA STATE PARK, AND SISTER BAY (“BRING IN DA GOATS!”)

When Bruce and I take a road trip, we typically have a plan for each day; however, we like to keep it loose.  I’m usually armed with the names and addresses of a couple of different restaurants I’ve researched on Trip Advisor, as well as a list of top-rated things to see and do in each place we plan to visit.  As the day unfolds, we see how the mood strikes.  Typically, Bruce and I are interested in the same things, so we rarely need to compromise.  We almost always agree!

We decided to spend our day exploring the towns we hadn’t yet visited on the west coast of the Door County Peninsula.  Our first stop was Egg Harbor, and I was curious how the heck it got its name.  A sign posted at the town park explained it like this: “According to legend, a fleet of boats departed Green Bay in 1825 to deliver furs to the Mackinac Island trading post.  The men stopped at this unnamed harbor for the night.  While landing, the boat crews raced each other to reach the shore first.  Eggs were thrown at the leading boat and quickly returned.  When the boats reached the shore, the battle continued until the eggs were gone.  In honor of the battle, the men named this bay “Egg Harbor.”

What a charming town with a funny name!  The park was landscaped beautifully, and interesting sculptures adorned the path through the terraced park, and down to the beautiful harbor.

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Egg Harbor had some nice shops, galleries, and gardens we enjoyed poking around before continuing on to Peninsula State Park.

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Other than the light house, I didn’t do much photography; however, it was a wonderful park for picnicking, riding on the bike trails, camping, enjoying the beach, or just wandering through like we did.

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Bruce and I were working up an appetite, so we continued on to Sister Bay with my list of a few restaurants to check out for lunch.  I had read in National Geographic Traveler Magazine that Al Johnson’s Swedish Restaurant had great lingonberry shakes, so we already knew where we were going to splurge on dessert.  (After all, we hadn’t a clue what a lingonberry was, so our curiosity had us sold!  It’s turns out to be a cross between a cranberry and a currant.)

Although Al Johnson’s is quite touristy (and we usually prefer local hangouts), we couldn’t ignore the fact that more than 1,500 reviewers had given the restaurant an average 4-1/2 out of 5 rating.  Besides, Swedish restaurants always serve herring, and we both had a hankering for herring!

What I wish I hadn’t done was actually read the reviews, because it (almost) spoiled the fun.  Imagine driving down the street and casually looking left and right as you look for a parking place, and then spot goats out of the corner of your eye!  Oh, and did I mention those goats were on the grassy ROOFTOP of the restaurant??  Yeah, I knew that from the reviews, but can you just imagine how shocked we would have been if I hadn’t read those reviews???  It makes me wonder if the sight of those goats had ever caused any car crashes!

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I just had to know the story of the goats.  Curious?  Read about it here.

All I knew is that I had to have my picture taken with those goats, so I could send it to my best friend, Laura.  “Bring in da goats!” has been a running joke of ours since she visited us in Georgia.  As what typically happens when the three of us get together, we drink a little too much wine, the jokes start flying (mostly started by Bruce), and we can’t stop laughing.  Darn if I can remember what the joke was, or how the whole goat thing got started; but, whenever we see a goat, it inevitably leads to an exclamation of, “Bring in da goats!” delivered with an Indian accent.  Then, if I am so inclined, I snap a picture, and send it off to Laura with the same caption.  So, dear Laura, this photo (and blog post) is dedicated to you!

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Now, about that herring.  Check out this $15.00 plate of pickled herring, assorted cheeses, and pickled beets.  What you don’t see is the beautiful accompanying basket of fresh breads and assorted crackers that came with it.  Thankfully, we split this beast, because we barely had room for the huge shake ($5.50) we split afterwards.  (Not only did our waiter give us the entire metal shake cannister full of delicious shake, we were each provided a pewter mug to enjoy it in.  It sure kept that shake cold!)

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That lunch rocked.  We’re still talking about how delicious it all tasted!

A stroll along the harbor and beach after lunch was delightful—that is, until we saw the oncoming storm.  Lightning appeared to be headed our way, so we decided to continue our exploration within the (hopefully!) safe confines of our rental car.  After exploring the northern tip of the peninsula, we headed back south and outran the storm.

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The following day, we wandered around the eastern side of Door County Peninsula before returning to enjoy the town of Sturgeon Bay.

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Seen on a car in Holiday Music Motel’s parking lot.

Next up:  OH DEER!  THOSE “TOWNIES” DO OWN THE WHOLE DAMN ROAD!

 

 

DOOR COUNTY: HOLIDAY MUSIC MOTEL, CAVE POINT, AND A TASTY FISH BOIL

My go-to source for researching travel accommodations is always Trip Advisor, and I have never been disappointed.  The key to success is choosing the accommodation in your price range and desired location with the highest ratings and the most positive reviews written by REAL people.  Has the reviewer written only one review EVER (or very few reviews that are all glowing and gushing with raves)?  Chances are they were offered some sort of incentive—or, they are friends or relatives of the owner of the establishment.  That’s a Trip Advisor no-no.  I look to see how many reviews a Trip Advisor member has written and how many helpful votes those reviews have received, and then concentrate on what the most experienced reviewers have to say.  (For comparison, I’ve written 102 reviews and have received 100 helpful votes; however, there are many reviewers who have written a lot more.)

Once again, my research paid off when I booked a room at the Holiday Music Motel in Sturgeon Bay for our three-night stay.  As soon as we entered the parking lot, we knew it was going to be a cool place—at least if their garden was any indication.

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Entering the lobby, it felt like a blast from the past.  I’ll let the pictures tell the story, but if you want to get the full details, check out my Trip Advisor review.

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The tree was loaded with music-themed ornaments, and there were a bunch of instruments in the corner.

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Cool postcard!

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Continental breakfast was included, so we went behind the counter to grab some cereal and juice to enjoy at the cute little dinette table.

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Love the phone booth!

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Our very comfortable upstairs room was much larger than what appears in the photo.

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Note the drawer contents containing a “bible” (see below) and complete lyrics to “99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall.”

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This is my kind of bible!

After checking in, we drove up the east coast of Door County’s peninsula to Cave Point County Park on Lake Michigan.  What a gorgeous place!  The hiking trails through the woods along the lime-stone cliffs were stunning.  Although it started to rain, we kept on hiking, because we wanted to see more and more.

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A nice surprise was this rocky beach and seeing the creations made by industrious (and patient!) visitors who passed through.  It reminded us of the beach in Stanley Park, Vancouver, where we had first seen rock sculptures of this kind.

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Our next stop was at Baileys Harbor for a walk around the marina before heading across the peninsula to Fish Creek where I had made dinner reservations for a Traditional Door County Fish Boil at the White Gull Inn.

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Baileys Harbor

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By now, we had really worked up an appetite after our very full day.  Between our tour of Lambeau Field in Green Bay, the drive to Sturgeon Bay to check into our motel, our hike around Cave Point, and walks around Baileys Harbor and Fish Creek; the all-you-can-eat fish boil (not fried!) sounded GREAT!

We were NOT disappointed.

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Fish oils rise to the surface of the boiling cauldron, and when the fish is perfectly done, the Master Boiler tosses a small amount of kerosene on the flames under the pot.

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The great burst of flames causes the boilover, spilling the fish oils over the side of the pot and leaving the fish perfectly done, steaming hot and ready to serve.

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Count me in as one of the 758 Trip Advisor reviewers who gave the White Gull Inn the top rating.

Just when I thought the day and evening couldn’t get any better, we were greeted by this gorgeous sunset as we left the White Gull Inn and took a stroll to nearby Sunset Beach Park:

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Coming up next:  EGG HARBOR, PENINSULA STATE PARK, AND SISTER BAY (“BRING IN DA GOATS!”)