Door County, Wisconsin. A beloved vacation destination for Mid-westerners, this pinkie-shaped peninsula jutting out into the pristine waters of Lake Michigan lives up to the nickname “Cape Cod of the Midwest.” Whether you ride a Harley, sail a yacht, camp, antique, scuba dive, kayak, or simply appreciate award-winning regional food and wine, Door Country truly has something for everyone all year round.
On a budget and in the area for a short weekend, our family came to Door County with one main theme on our vacation itinerary—stones. Skipping stones, that is. A family tradition spanning decades of lighthouse keepers and island dwellers, skipping stones is a rite-of-passage for anyone living in a Great Lake state. Because a certain type of stone is best for skipping—palm size, flat and round—we consulted with the Door County Visitor Bureau for the best places to skip stones in Door County, Wisconsin.
Located at the northernmost tip of Door County, Washington Island is only accessible by ferry (passenger or car). While a trip to Schoolhouse Beach didn’t fit our schedule this time, Jon Jarosh, Director of Communications and Public Relations with the Door County Visitor Bureau holds this beach in the highest stone-skipping regard. Jarosh goes on the record to say, “Schoolhouse Beach on Washington Island is probably the quintessential stone skipping beach in Door County. It’s like the stone-skipping gods fired up the old rock tumbler in the sky for half an eternity and deposited a kajillion of the most perfect skipping stones in each of those places and wanted to see if we’d figure it out.”
At the end of Pebble Beach Road just south of Little Sister Bay and the town of Sister Bay is Pebble Beach. Bordered by private property on either side, you’ll find a skipping stones surplus in this secluded beach/kayak and canoe launch. Open to wind and the wake of passing motor craft, what you lack in calm water you make up in rock demand. A person could easily throw their arm out at Pebble Beach. Consult a map before venturing down the back roads (pass a rural cemetery and you’re on your way). Consider packing a picnic lunch or making the short jaunt to nearby Fred and Fuzzy’s Waterfront Bar and Grill.
On Shore Road along the western shore of Peninsula State Park is Tennison Bay. Protected from rougher water in an inlet, the rocky beach reveals a sandy bottom in the crystal clear (but brisk) water. While collecting a pile of perfect skipping stones took a few extra minutes at this location, we amused ourselves by simply tossing large rocks out to the mermaids. Because the this beach is within a Wisconsin State Park, you can use your annual parks pass or purchase a day admission sticker for $7 (WI plates).
If the name of this island/state park doesn’t tip you off, Rock Island (north of Washington Island) is a stone skipping haven. Selected as number four because of it’s distance from the overall Door County experience, Jon Jarosh explains, “Pretty much everywhere along the shore is good for skipping stones except for the sand beach on the south side of the island.” Key to skipping stones on Rock Island is picking your favorite spot.
A tie for the number five spot goes to Sunset Park in the town of Fish Creek (drive to the end of Main Street past the White Gull Inn) and the end of Juddville Road in the unincorporated town of Juddville (between the towns of Fish Creek and Egg Harbor). While these two locations aren’t exactly ideal for skipping stones, they are perfect for scrambling around on the larger rocks. One of the few places to watch the sun set over Lake Michigan in the state of Wisconsin, both locations are romantic enough to gross out your kids. Note: picnicking is not allowed on the Juddville beach.
Other stone-skipping locations in Door County are at the end of Porcupine Bay Road near Ellison Bluff County Park and near the Northport ferry dock at the very end of Highway 42 (hitting the ferries with stones is probably not a good idea, though). And, if you get sick of throwing stones or want to spread out your towel on a more comfortable spot, dunes and sandy beaches are plentiful up and both sides of the peninsula (we like Whitefish Dunes State Park south of Jacksonport on Whitefish Bay).
In my experience, camping and skipping stones go hand-in-hand. That said, if you’re on a tight schedule and want the next best thing (read: a decent mattress and warm cup of coffee not brewed on an open flame), consider making a reservation at Parkwood Lodge at 3775 State Hwy 42, in Fish Creek (Phone: 800-433-7592).
Located within a few minute’s drive from both Fish Creek and Ephriam, Parkwood Lodge is tucked away from the road in a quiet forest (the sound of pine cones hitting the ground was the loudest noise coming through our open window at night). Guests can enjoy a picnic lunch on the tables outside each building, make a fire at the complimentary camp ring, play pool and games in the arcade, borrow a book or board game from the lobby, or swim in the indoor pool (we “tested” the pool three times, relaxing our tired arms in the hot tub). To be re-surfaced and converted into a tennis court, basket ball court, and activity area (hop scotch, four square) is the existing tennis area. Balls and rackets are available in the game room.
Greg and Denise Stillman, twenty-year Door County residents and three year owners/operators of Parkwood Lodge are happy to share their suggestions for Door County memory making. Down-to-earth and living up to Wisconsin-friendly standards, the Stillmans offer a unique and affordable lodging space parents and kids will love.