Food and Lodging on Washington and Rock Islands
Some places urge you to just kick back and relax, then parade a host of activities and events to compete with that same inactivity. But Door County in upper Wisconsin offers visitors both -- a true kickback opportunity, separate from the charming towns filled with restaurants, galleries, and shopping on the Door County peninsula.
Start the do-nothing part of your vacation on Washington Island. It's not easy to get to Washington Island, and even more difficult to make the trek to Rock Island, but both of these destinations offer lots of nothing scheduled to do.
Food and Lodging on Washington Island WisconsinFood
For an island that features nothing to do, there is plenty of places to eat. In addition to the Washington Hotel, we enjoyed KK Fiske (Norwegian for Fish), a friendly neighborhood restaurant owned by Ken Koyen and his brother. Our interest was piqued by the sign on the window -- Fresh Lawyers. In this case the lawyer is a freshwater fish, also known as Burbot, related to cod. With a firm texture and light sweet flavor, it's also delicious Owner Ken Koyen likes to say that he's been eating lawyers for over 30 years. Lots of people didn't realize it is edible, he notes. Apparently no one is worried about overfishing. Lawyer fish are plentiful. Even today there is no limit to how many lawyer fish you can catch, says Ken. While you're there, go over to The Granary bar, shoot a game of pool and hang out like the locals.
Karly's Bar and Cellar Restaurant is another excellent choice. If you're a home cookin' fan, enjoy their Fried Chicken special -- truly down-home delicious. But all the food in the Cellar Restaurant is excellent, and you can also catch a lawyer fish dinner there as well.
If co-owner Tim is at the bar, and he isn't busy ask him to set a drink on fire. We did and Tim obliged with his version of a Flaming Lemon Drop. This is citron vodka topped with a slice of lemon, a bit of sugar, and then flamed with 151 rum. Yes, I tried it, and so can personally recommend it. When the flames went out, and I drank the shot followed by sucking on the slightly sugary lemon. Perfect. And a good reason to make sure your lodging is nearby.
For breakfast and lunch it's the Bread and Water Cafe. Warm friendly bakery cafe, and all purpose kind of place. You can rent one of their comfortable rooms or rent a kayak, or both. Need to check your email? One of the few places on the island with Wi-Fi.
Red Cup Coffee House another good choice for breakfast, featuring organic coffee and teas.
Washington Island Hotel also has rooms with well-appointed baths down the hall. There's plenty of lodging choices -- all family owned and run -- since this is a popular summer destination.
Ask the locals and they say that the best is that there's nothing to do on the island. Find a nice place to eat, then relax, look at the stars. "We don't have street lights," says Tim so there's little to interfere with the light show of the sky.If Washington Island is the perfect place to do nothing, there's even more nothing on Rock Island.
Food and Lodging on Rock IslandRock Island can only be reached by ferry from Washington Island, which itself can only be reached by a totally different ferry on the other side of the island, making this a two ferry trip.
Although even more remote than Washington Island, Rock Island was actually settled first. Seamen and ships desperately needed the light house ( now restored and open to the public) to transport goods and people around the lake.
This state park, open Memorial Day to Columbus Day, is 900 acres of bare-bones camping pleasure and day trip exploration. There is no electricity, no stores, no plumbing (pit toilets are available). The island provides a true bring-your-own-everything camping experience.
Once you're here explore the over 10 miles of trails through virgin forest, and the 1836 lighthouse. Families sign up to be the lighthouse docent a week at a time and there's a waiting list. It's an excellent tour of not only the lighthouse, but how lighthouse keepers lived then, and now. The first lighthouse keeper is buried in the tiny plot of land near the lighthouse. Tables are available and it is a lovely place for a picnic.
Visitors can also see the remains of the summer estate of Chester Thordarson. Built of dolomite cobble in the 1920, they are today listed on State and National Registers of Historic Places. The great Viking Hall Boat House is particularly worth a look.
Want a vacation with nothing to do? Both islands offer lots of it.
You might also enjoy these other Door County Wisconsin Features: