Each year, after we attend the Bloomington Gold show in Illinois (see related story), we visit with our Corvette friends Pat and Bill Palicka, who live just a few hours away in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. Knowing that we're always on the lookout for scenic-drive opportunities, the Palickas recently encouraged us to visit Door County, located on a peninsula in the northeast corner of the Badger State. The county, which is surrounded by Green Bay on the west and Lake Michigan to the east, is filled with small communities, farms, and quaint harbors.
It sounded great, but there was a problem: C6 production had just ended, and no C7 production cars were available for our drive. Fortunately Chevy's press fleet was good enough to lend us a 2014 Impala to use as a mobile command center. Bill and Pat, meanwhile, offered to accompany us in their Dark Red Metallic manual Grand Sport Coupe, to provide the requisite Corvette photo opps and driving comparisons. All we had to do was fill up our tanks, dial in the GPS, and head out on the highway.
Door County is a five-hour drive north of Chicago and one hour west of the city of Green Bay. Our trip started in Lake Geneva in the morning, and four hours later we arrived in Sturgeon Bay. We checked into our hotel and then enjoyed an excellent lunch at Kimz Galley Café (www.kimzgalleycafe.com).
Our next stop was the Sturgeon Bay Coast Guard station, which provided the opportunity to photograph the Corvette and Impala next to a lighthouse on Lake Michigan. Afterwards, we meandered north up Highway 57 on the east side of the peninsula, stopping at the small harbor villages of Jacksonport and Baileys Harbor to take in the local sights. We then connected with Highway 42 at Sister Bay and headed north to Gills Rock, launch site of the Washington Island Ferry.
As we neared our destination, we came across a winding road that was perfect for exercising the Palickas' Grand Sport. While the Impala also handled the tight left and rights with ease, the Vette was clearly in its element here. After resuming a more measured pace, we found each of the small communities we passed on our way to the ferry dock to be well worth exploring.
The Washington Island Ferry (www.wisferry.com/washington-island-ferry) runs on a limited schedule that changes based on the time of year. Sadly, we were too late to get a return ferry on this day, and since we had no place to stay on the Island, we passed on the outbound trip.
Heading down the west side of the Door County Peninsula, we spotted the Skyway Drive-In. A long line of cars was waiting for the gates to open at this rare, functioning outdoor theater. We wanted to stay and watch a movie, but with dinner long overdue, we settled for snapping a photo of our two rides in front of the marquee.
Our next stop was the highly recommended Log Den (www.thelogden.com), located between Egg Harbor and Sturgeon Bay on Highway 42. Built entirely from large timbers and specializing in local cuisine, this 10,000-square-foot restaurant is a truly exceptional dining spot.
The next day we took County Roads B and G on the west side of the Peninsula to Egg Harbor. This is a perfect driving road—curvy and tree lined, with many lakeside pull-offs that make it possible to take in the scenic waterfront views. The area also has many small wineries that offer wines made from local grapes.
Murphy County and Egg Harbor Beach Parks are great places to stop and stretch your legs. Both offer ample parking with excellent views of the Green Bay waterfront. We arrived in Egg Harbor late morning, which enabled us to visit many of the local points of interest, including the Cupola House (www.cupolahouse.com).
A splendid lunch at the Bistro Bar and Grille kick-started our afternoon exploration of this small waterfront community. Door County has an ordinance that bars fast-food and chain restaurants from operating within the county limits. The local communities pride themselves on featuring restaurants that offer organically grown food from the local farming community. Healthy menus include many vegetarian and gluten-free choices.
We had a wonderful dinner at the Parador tapas restaurant (www.paradorwisconsin.com), located in a historic home that was built in 1877. After dinner we walked to Egg Harbor Park to watch a dazzling lake-view sunset. With the drive back to Sturgeon Bay still ahead of us, it was finally time to head out.
The next morning we said good-bye to Bill and Pat and headed to the airport in Chicago. The smoothly competent Impala had proved to be the perfect companion to the overtly athletic Grand Sport, providing comfortable, fuel-efficient transportation with plenty of room to stow all of our luggage and camera gear. But regardless of what you've driving, Door County, Wisconsin, is a special place to visit, full of the quaint shops, photo-worthy sights, and other pleasant surprises that make up every great out-of-the-way trip.