Double meaning- there’s tons of rocks and it’s gorgeous and cool. Did it again. It looks cool and the water is cold. I will stop now!
Why does it take a pandemic or disaster to realize the beauty around you? Do you think it’s common to need to travel far away to escape or that it’s so easy to get caught up in the hustle that you miss the local landscape and exploring opportunities around you? It has taken me decades to consider Door County, Wisconsin as a travel destination. I was deterred by my love for being up north, which I classify as the northern-most area of Wisconsin that is filled with small inland lakes perfect for paddling and swimming. Our restriction to trips within drivable distances over the last 18 months has forced us to stay local and consider places that I never embraced before.
I can now happily say that I’ve explored a significant amount of Lake Michigan shoreline. Loved every minute! My earliest memories of Chicago are filled with sailboats on Lake Michigan, stumbling along the museum campus, or running around Buckingham Fountain while staring out at the turquoise blue, ocean sized lake. This often isn’t the best place to swim, so I previously only considered the Chicago end of Lake Michigan as a spot where you look at the water or sit on top of it in a boat.
But, we finally made it north to the Door County peninsula. You could equate it to Cape Cod or the barrier islands along the Atlantic with its comparable tiny strips of land and ability to easily bounce around from beach to beach. But honestly, if you’re looking for a plethora of shoreline diversity, this lake is it! Finely ground, nearly white sand, immense sand dunes where you might think you’re in an actual desert, but there’s a bit too much vegetation and humidity, large pebbles, medium rocks, smooth flat rocks, large boulders, tree roots woven within the rocks right along the shoreline and often in the water, and rocky cliffs. Imagine a volcanic island with cliffs to jump off of into the water. Yep, this is here too! There are shallow, gently sloped, shorelines and steep rugged ones with dangerous rip currents. It’s a geologic and shade loving, beach goers dream. And if you wait for a storm, you’ll get some significant waves to surf or boogie board. Again, mind the rip currents. They are legit, but the trade off is that there isn’t a shark lurking beneath you.
The most unique beach we found is on an island accessible via ferry or private boat through Death’s Door or Porte des Mortes. I think you can imagine where this is going, as the name reflects the frequent wooden shipwrecks in this strait. While we crossed, it got a little eerie if you thought about it too much, but we safely made it across and back in our steel ship.
Now, picture driving into a grove of cedar trees and making up a parking spot between some. Will you get stuck? You’ll soon find out when you leave! It felt like an extremely remote hideaway or secret island beach that only a few people had explored. Reality check- lots of people have been here. Walking through the dense canopy of trees made it hard to see the shoreline, and I waited in anticipation as it got closer. Crystal clear water appeared with the signature Lake Michigan turquoise blue, gently rising and falling over perfectly smooth, flat rocks that fit inside your hand. Sunglasses came down to block the reflecting light off these limestone rocks that were filled with small, shell fossils. I’ve only ever been to one other beach like this in Nice, France. The smooth small, gallet rocks are a sand hater’s dream. There’s actually only a few other shores like this in the world- Philippines, Maine, England, Oregon, New Zealand, and…Wisconsin! The only beach not surrounded by an ocean.
If you’re in the mood for a geological marvel, go explore all the different Lake Michigan rocks!