I knew I couldn’t let my favorite season pass me by without taking a fall drive somewhere extra colorful. I chose Door County in Northern Wisconsin after eyeing it for some time. The drive is only 4 hours north of Chicago! It’s a short enough drive to just do a day trip if you’re well enough rested/caffeinated.
We chose to stay overnight. With our current flexibility, we planned it for a Tuesday since most nearby hotels had the weekends booked for the season. I suggest you plan further ahead if you’re looking to visit on a weekend.
I booked the hotel room the day before driving out because I was tracking the colors via their fall report found HERE. Super handy little tracker! I recommend you start tracking the colors in late September especially if you plan to explore beyond Door County. Once the colors hit 90% peak in the area, I booked my stay, packed up Jorge, and headed north.
I booked a room at the Holiday Music Motel in Sturgeon Bay, WI. Sturgeon Bay is right at the start of Door County, so it’s a great base to start your fall drive. I don’t normally book motels, but Holiday Music was so well reviewed, seemed unique, and the price was affordable considering the season.
Once we arrived, I was more than pleased with my choice! We had free parking, our room was spotless, and you can tell that they pay attention to details. It’s a quirky place with 1950s decor in all the rooms and lobby.
The kitchen area, where they offer continental breakfast every morning looked like a 50s diner, even the dishes fit the era! The breakfast (included in price) had cereals, yogurts, fresh doughnuts and muffins, orange juice, coffee, teas, etc. Not a bad deal for $89!
The drive up Door County is simple and made up of multiple small towns. We followed Highway 42 up and Highway 57 down. Unlike the Smokies, it’s not just a straight road of nature and viewpoints, but still plenty of opportunities to stop for photos.
Sadly, we did have an ugly experience with someone during one of our stops. We saw a gorgeous area of color on a side road so we decided to pull in. The road only had room for one car so when a pickup truck pulled up behind us we quickly moved out of the way.
We went around and on our way out stopped again to try to get the photo (below). We were surprised when the pickup truck came racing up behind us and beeping like a maniac. I jumped into the car and Jorge started driving toward the main road. The driver behind us kept aggressively beeping the whole way out.
Jorge slowed down to let him go around because he obviously seemed to be in a hurry. The guy did go around, but he cut us off and put his truck sideways in front of our car! We looked at each other confused and I told Jorge to keep going. I wasn’t about to wait and see what the psycho wanted. He left us such little space that Jorge had to drive through the grass to get to the main road.
We turned onto Highway 42 and the guy jumped back into his truck and followed us! Can you believe this?! He followed us for about 10 miles before he turned elsewhere. We were both so upset and confused and couldn’t understand what he had against us. We weren’t on anyone’s private property. The road was clearly a public road. We weren’t even near anyone’s home. He had no reason to treat us that way.
We were still shaken up by it but decided to keep on exploring. We made one more stop and had dinner before heading back to the motel. Just want to note that everyone else we encountered while in Door County was friendly. Though northern Wisconsin isn’t the most diverse area, the pickup truck guy was the only one who treated us poorly. I’m not sure what was going through his mind, but he wasn’t representative of the whole area. I wouldn’t let that unfortunate incident hold any of you back from taking that fall drive.
Favorite Door County Stops
Highway 42 nearing North Port– I saw a photo of this curvy road on Instagram and I had to find it. If you keep following Highway 42 toward North Port, you’ll hit it right before you get to the ferries. It gets busy during peak hours so it can get difficult to get the shot. I went twice and couldn’t get a photo I liked, but whatever here it is:
Cave Point County Park– What I loved most about this park is that it’s free and so easy to get to the photo spot you see below. Plus, how cool is this dramatic scene?
Hardy Gallery– Loved the building, not really sure what’s inside. It was extra windy when we went to get photos and the waves were high so we were the only fools out there. This is also along Highway 42.
Bearded Heart Coffee– As far as food goes, we weren’t as impressed with Door County as we were with Traverse City. Don’t usually expect much from small towns, but one place Jorge enjoyed was Bearded Heart. I didn’t get anything (no coconut milk), but Jorge loved his cappuccino and fancy toast!
Al Johnson’s Swedish Restaurant- You can find goats grazing their sod roof!! Unfortunately, we didn’t see any goats but that was probably because of the season. I was going to try the food there anyway, but it seemed more like a tourist trap than food I’d actually enjoy. But who knows? Maybe it’s fantastic. Either way, if you’re in the area check for the goats!
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