Unbeknownst to us at the time, we discovered three “bucket list” destinations in Wisconsin—Door County, Pilot Island, and Lambeau Field.

As we made our way east from North Dakota and Minnesota, we were being confronted with bugs and humidity, the likes of which we hadn’t experienced for many months. We were hoping our experience in Sturgeon Bay would balance out the annoyance and discomfort we were experiencing (first world problems, I know!), and we were far from disappointed and more than pleasantly surprised with our trip.

Sturgeon Bay is located in Door County, the little finger of Wisconsin between Green Bay and Lake Michigan. On our first exploratory outing, we met a couple from Michigan who were spending their summer going around the perimeter of Lake Michigan, and Door County was on their “bucket list.” We thought it unusual that a county would be on someone’s bucket list, and we soon learned that it is definitely a destination location. Small lakeside/bayside towns perfect for summer water fun—swimming, sunning, boating, skiing—farmland, golf, shipbuilding, 11 lighthouses, goats on rooftops, and more.

Even though we were there for only a week and a half, we had a phenomenal time. While we were exploring the town and checking out a couple of the lighthouses around Sturgeon Bay, we discovered Door County’s annual fair. Other than North Carolina’s state fair, we haven’t been to a county fair since we were kids. We had so much fun! We saw duck/pig/goat races, BMX demonstrations, Dockdogs jumping, wrestling, jugglers, and RichRath Project 3:13, an REO Speedwagon cover band (Yes! A bunch of old people jamming out to this cover band … so much FUN!). We rode two “tame” rides—the swing ride and the Ferris wheel—and determined that maybe riding rides was no longer a thing to do. We shopped among the vendors, and we had some fair food and beer. We saw a very unhappy pig get a bath (see the video for the squealing pig). And our evening ended with a fantastic fireworks display.

Since we were there around our birthdays, our daughters gifted us a Death’s Door Boat Tour with Door County Adventure Rafting. We both like boat tours, and this was, by far, our most favorite—or, at least it was MY most favorite! Our tour left from Ellison Bay at 3:00pm, so we took the day to explore more of Door County and find a couple of other lighthouses as we made our way up there. Unfortunately, two of the lighthouses we were seeking are privately owned on little islands and are not viewable from shore. They are best seen by boat or kayak. Another lighthouse, Cana Island Lighthouse, is also on an island and requires a trip on a tractor-pulled trailer across the water in order to see it. Since our time was getting closer to our tour, we decided to do that the next time we are in Door County. We drove through Sister Bay, a definite tourist area, with a huge Swedish restaurant and store. All of their buildings have grass roofs, and we actually saw LIVE goats laying on top of one of the buildings.

When we arrived at the marina in Ellison Bay, we were looking for the quintessential tour boat. You know, the double-level boat that can easily seat 50+ people, either with benches or with tables and chairs. We did not see anything remotely resembling that. While looking around, I saw a young man putting a raft in the water, and the wording on the side of it caught my attention—adventure rafting. I looked at the receipt for our tour and realized this raft might be our boat! Matt, the “captain,” said it was our boat for the tour and would be carrying us and another group of 10.

We had an amazing experience! Our tour included riding out to Death’s Door—an area in Lake Michigan that is especially dangerous for ships and boats—Pilot Island, Plum Island, and past a couple of shallow shipwrecks. The highlight for me was Pilot Island. It is home to one of the most remote lighthouses in the United States. First lit in 1858, the lighthouse was automated a little over one hundred years later. Because of its remoteness, lighthouse keepers didn’t stay long—maybe a year or two—before moving on. One lighthouse keeper committed suicide because it was so lonely. Matt, our captain, said that many of the people who grow up in Door County have not even seen this lighthouse because it is not easy to get to. The water in Lake Michigan, especially in the area of Death’s Door, was getting rough while we were out there, and it was a beautiful day.

Pilot Island is now a bird sanctuary, and humans are not permitted to dock at and walk on this island. Honestly, you really wouldn’t want to. The stench was evident 100 yards out in the water. Birds are everywhere, and the amount of excrement has been toxic to the trees and grass. With hundreds of birds flying around, the barrenness of the landscape, the caved-in roof on the fog horn building, and the choppy water, there is a haunting look and feel to this isolated place.

Visiting Door County and Pilot Island is definitely on our bucket list to do again.

I’m guessing Lambeau Field might also be on Carl’s “to do again” list. Lambeau Field is home to the Green Bay Packers in Green Bay, Wisconsin. We visited the museum and walked around the outside perimeter, but we did not tour the field or the locker rooms. The museum was well done, explaining the history of how the team was started and how the local community and Packers fans are involved, showing the evolution of the uniforms and helmets, and highlighting the Hall of Fame players. Outside and across the street, we saw several houses decked out for game day tailgating. Apparently, these houses are available for rent on game day weekends, probably costing a few thousand dollars for the privilege. Carl also saw one of the players, Eric Stokes, signing autographs for fans waiting patiently in the parking lot for any sign of one of the Green Bay Packers. It is evident around the stadium and town that fans are with the Packers through the good, the bad, and the ugly (that can be the weather at times…).

We hope you enjoy our video which highlights photos and videos of our time in Sturgeon Bay and Green Bay. We love realizing someplace new is worth subsequent visits, and this part of Wisconsin definitely is!  (All hail the mighty Cheese Head Aaron Rodgers!)

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