Door County Mega-Adventure 2023

A May getaway took my partner and me to the vacation paradise of Door County, Wisconsin, to celebrate her recent retirement. We made Baileys Harbor, on the eastern “Quiet Side” of Door County, our base for exploration of various attractions.

Baileys Harbor


Our first stop on the way up was Björklunden, just south of the small town of Baileys Harbor. Wikipedia provides background on Björklunden:

Björklunden, Swedish; (in full: Björklunden Vid Sjön, Swedish for ‘the birch grove by the lake’) is the northern campus of Lawrence University. The 425-acre estate is on Lake Michigan in Door County, Wisconsin, just south of Baileys Harbor. The landscape covers meadows, woods, and over a mile of Lake Michigan shoreline.

Lawrence faculty and students attend seminars and retreats during the academic term. During the summer, Lawrence holds week-long adult continuing education courses. Recitals and concerts also occur and are free and open to the public. 

Donald and Winifred Boynton of Highland Park, Illinois, bequeathed the estate to Lawrence University in 1963. At the time, the buildings on the estate included a main lodge and a stave church the Boyntons handcrafted from 1939 to 1947, including 41 frescoes and carved-wood furnishings. The rustic wooden chapel is a popular site for weddings during the summer.

Baileys Harbor Range Lights

As a longstanding Great Lakes lighthouse photographer, visiting a few of the lighthouses in Door County was a priority for me on this trip. We started with  the fully-restored Baileys Harbor Range Lights.

Birds Park

Birds Park is an interesting historic relic just north of Baileys Harbor. It is the former home of Albert Zahn, who built a concrete house and decorated it with dozens of carvings of people, animals, and birds—lots of birds! An online source provides historical background:

Albert Zahn lived in Door County, Wisconsin, where he was known as the “birdman.” He transformed his home in Baileys Harbor into an art environment covered with his carved and painted bird forms. He also created angels, family trees of birds, ships, and whirligigs, along with a few pieces of furniture. Although the art environment is now disassembled, the house that Zahn called Birds Park still stands at the north end of Baileys Harbor.

Birds Park still stands in Baileys Harbor, Wisconsin; however, all of Zahn’s artwork has been purchased by private collectors, acquired by institutions like the John Michael Kohler Arts Center, the Smithsonian American Art Museum, and the Milwaukee Art Museum, or lost. The John Michael Kohler Arts Center’s Zahn collection will go on permanent display at their new facility, the John Michael Kohler Art Preserve.

Blacksmith Inn on the Shore

During this trip we stayed at the Blacksmith Inn on the Shore, a Select Registry bed and breakfast inn. This exquisite inn is situated in the former residence of August Zahn in the heart of Bailey’s Harbor. Both the August Zahn residence (1912) and the August Zahn Blacksmith Shop (1905) are on the National Register of Historic Places.

The Blacksmith Inn on the Shore website entices its guests by stating,

Nestled on the shore of Lake Michigan in the tranquil village of Baileys Harbor, Wisconsin; the Blacksmith Inn On the Shore graciously melds contemporary amenities with bed and breakfast charm. Relax and unwind in a delectably private guest room at our Door County B&B. Each of our fifteen guest rooms offers a fireplace, in-room whirlpool, private balcony and a captivating harbor view.

Embrace the serenity of Door County by hiking, biking and strolling from our Door County inn. Or immerse yourself in the abundance of the Door Peninsula with lighthouses, theater venues, music festivals, unique gift shops, art galleries, a wealth of dining experiences, wineries and miles and miles of shoreline. 

Fish Creek

Edgewood Orchard Galleries

My partner and I are into art, and often visit art museums, galleries, and sculpture gardens in our travels. Door County abounds with art galleries and exhibits all over the Peninsula. On this trip, we visited Edgewood Orchard Galleries in Fish Creek. Their website explains:

We are located on a beautiful peninsula of land in NE Wisconsin along the shores of Lake Michigan known as Door County. Our gallery was opened in 1969 in a beautiful barn on Peninsula Players Road near Fish Creek, Wisconsin by Anne Haberland and her mother Irene. Still in the same beautiful barn over 50 years later, Edgewood Orchard Galleries is now a third-generation family owned and operated business, now run by Anne’s daughter, Nell and Nell’s husband J.R.

Sculpture gardens provide outstanding photo opportunities. Below are the images I captured at Edgewood.

Sculpture Garden

Artwork and Paintings

Eagle Bluff

Eagle Bluff Lighthouse

As a longtime Great Lakes lighthouse photographer, I’m drawn to picturesque lighthouses wherever I can find them. Often, a repeat stop at a previously-visited lighthouse affords new opportunities. That’s what happened at the Eagle Bluff Lighthouse, one of Door County’s eleven lighthouses.

Eagle Panorama

Premier views abound in Peninsula State Park.

Sister Bay

Al Johnson’s Swedish Restaurant

You can’t call yourself an experienced Door County tourist unless you’ve eaten at the legendary Al Johnson’s Swedish Restaurant. You know, the famous place with grass growing on the roof and goats grazing on the grass. I’d never had the opportunity to dine at Al Johnson’s until now, My partner’s of Swedish descent, so stopping there for lunch was an important priority on this trip. Mission accomplished — Eating Swedish Pancakes with Lingonberry Jam and Swedish Meatballs got me certified as a Door County tourist! (I think—they should have some kind of official recognition for that!)

A big part of the Al Johnson’s experience is shopping in the Butik (boutique) aka the gift shop. It’s just full of interesting, tempting goodies to abuse your plastic. Some of the things that caught my eye are shown below.

The second part of the photo gallery visits Skål, another gift shop. According to an online source,

Skål means two different things in Swedish, and they’re both quite common words. Firstly, en skål is ‘a bowl’. More excitingly, skål is how you say ‘cheers!’ – the exclamation when you clink glasses with friends and drink, often in celebration of something. Except in Sweden, you shouldn’t actually let your glasses touch. 

Ellison Bay

The Clearing Folk School

We made our way to The Clearing Folk School, an expansive nature preserve and folk school in the Danish tradition. Because retreats and classes were underway in The Clearing’s main buildings, we were able to go only to the Jens Jensen Visitor Center. The Clearing’s website provides historical background.

The Clearing was founded in 1935 by Jens Jensen, a Danish-born landscape architect. Many consider him to be the most important American landscape architect and The Clearing his “great work.”

Before founding The Clearing, Jensen achieved international recognition for designing many of Chicago’s parks, along with the private estates of Armour, Florsheim, Henry and Edsel Ford and many other important Midwestern industrialists. He was a driving force in establishing the Illinois State Parks system and the system of Cook County Forest Preserves. He founded the Friends of Our Native Landscape, an organization that raised awareness about land conservation and advocated for the preservation of many important natural areas in the Midwest.

Jensen began acquiring the property that would become The Clearing in 1919 for use as a summer vacation home. Then, in 1935, at age 75, after retiring from his Chicago business, he achieved his longtime dream of establishing The Clearing. Jensen founded The Clearing as a place where city people could renew their contact with the “soil” as a basis for life values. Today, many people come to The Clearing for this same sense of renewal and to be able to better manage the stresses and strains of everyday life in a complex and fast-paced world.

Today, The Clearing offers classes in natural sciences, fine arts, skilled crafts and humanities. These programs fulfill Jens Jensen’s dream of a year-round folk school in a natural setting.

Liberty Grove Cherry Blossoms

A fulfilled wish brought us to Door County in time to see the cherry orchards in bloom, a longed-for first for me. Door County is famous for cherries, and here’s one of the orchards where they’re grown.

Gills Rock

Gills Rock is one of the northernmost villages in Door County.

Commercial Fishing

Door County has traditionally been a good place to establish commercial fishing operations. Gills Rock is still home to active commercial fishing operations. Somebody’s got to go out and get all the Lake Michigan whitefish the restaurants need for all those Door County fish boils!

Bea’s Ho-Made Products

Pre-trip research identified Bea’s Ho-Made Products Ltd. in Gills Rock to be a good potential source for chopped cherry jam, a popular Door County staple. That research turned out to be accurate. We scored exactly what we were looking for in this modest store. I also find the whimsical decor in these stores amusing.

Door County Potpourri

Just odds and ends that found their way into my camera’s viewfinder.



  • Howard Vrankin

    Thanks for the interesting and entertaining tour!

  • Holly Eisberner

    Looks like a wonderful trip, Phil! I especially love the sculpture garden. Good idea to go before the tourist season commences!

    Have you taken any continuing ed classes at the Clearing? It’s been on my bucket list for years.

  • Cletus Hasslinger

    Excellent photos of an inspired selection of venues explained so well with your text and your excerpts from the venues.

    I forwarded this to Ann who is going to to Door County on Sunday for several days with her cousins.

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