The beauty of the southern Door peninsula


Red and I watched two dozen pelicans testing the wind currents the other day. As we watched from our lawn chairs in front of the garage, they rose higher and higher and farther and farther away, until they were white glints of sunlight that blinked as they flew in and out of our field of vision.

On a windy day like today, the crashing waves of Green Bay can be heard just beyond the trees. Of course, this is autumn, and so it won’t be very long until our water view returns. We can’t see the bay through the leaves from April to October.

Most people think of Green Bay as the smallest city in the National Football League and have no clue about the grand body of water that gives the community its name. In the 1991 movie Bingo, the story of a dog and a Green Bay Packers football player, the filmmakers used the massive metropolis of Pittsburgh with its mighty Pennsylvania mountains to stand in for Green Bay, the city. Not. Even. Close.

Green Bay, the city, grew at its southern shores. The bay extends 120 miles north, bounded on the west by Northeast Wisconsin and Upper Michigan and on the east by the Door Peninsula, a string of small islands known collectively as the Grand Traverse, and Michigan’s Garden Peninsula. Lake Michigan lies beyond.

So the land where we chose to settle is a narrow peninsula with Green Bay on the west and Lake Michigan on the east, and people come by the hundreds of thousands to see its remarkable vistas – especially from April to October. The quiet time approaches.

Most of those visitors rush past the “Welcome to Door County” sign and don’t believe they are really in Door County until they cross the Sturgeon Bay bridges into Northern Door. They don’t know what they are missing.

The wide open farm country and big skies of Southern Door and northern Kewaunee County are not unique to Wisconsin except in their context. Most of the big spaces in Wisconsin are not that close to big waters. The majesty of Lake Michigan and Green Bay makes the Door Peninsula a travel destination but also a magnificent place to live.

When I first started working here, I told people it never felt like I was commuting to work as much as going on vacation like so many other drivers around me. When we built our house here four years ago, moving in was moving home. The entire peninsula is a place to rest, recreate and recharge, and a home here is a personal rest station inside a comfort zone.

People come here to fly and test the wind currents, filling their souls with light so they can face what waits for them back in the real world. I haven’t seen most of this planet so I can’t personally vouch that it’s the most magical place on the planet, but it sure has enough magic to share.