Wisconsin is home to the hidden treasure of Ellison Bay, which sits on the edge of Lake Michigan and has a pretty happening tourist season between May and October. The incredible landscape of Ellison Bay offers hiking, fishing, sight-seeing and more, and when those activities make visitors hungry, local restaurants more than meet the demand. Somewhat surprisingly, history and tradition also run deep in Ellison Bay, adding airs of mystery and excitement to the city, which sits on the Door Peninsula, named after the waterway nearby, Death’s Door. Whether it is serenity or intrigue you’re seeking, Ellison Bay will not disappoint.
1. Ellison Bluff State Natural Area
© Hank Erdmann/stock.adobe.com
For those adventure seekers who are more at home outside than inside, Ellison Bluff State Park is the place to go in Ellison Bay. Featuring free-face and sheer cliffs that tower more than 200 feet above the bay shore, at least two species of rare plants, 26 species of snails, 12 different kinds of beautiful and majestic trees, fossils of all kinds, and at least five species of bird, the Natural State Area can be viewed from an easily-accessible observation deck near the parking lot or from hiking trails not made for the faint of foot. The Bluff and NSA are part of the Niagara Escarpment, which began forming more than 425 million years ago.
Ellison Bluff Rd, Ellison Bay, WI 54210, Phone: 608-266-2621
2. Newport State Park
© Hank Erdmann/stock.adobe.com
Another must-experience destination in Ellison Bay is Newport State Park. Part of the Door Peninsula, Newport State Park offers hiking, backpack camping, cycling, cross-country skiing in winter, and much more for both the outdoor enthusiast and the weekend warrior. In 2017, the International Dark-Sky Association named Newport State Park a Dark-Sky Preserve to ward off light pollution in the area, so the nights at the park are just as breath-taking as the days. The park is open year-round, and camping reservations, which are highly encouraged, can be made up to 11 months in advance.
475 County Rd NP, Ellison Bay, Wi 54210, Phone: 920-854-2500
3. Island Orchard Cider
The Tasting Room + Cider Pub at Island Orchard Cider on Washington Island are open daily for guests and tourists. Owners Bob and Yannique Purman proudly hand craft their Normany-style ciders in house and explain that the dry, crisp taste separates their ciders from those crafted in European style or commercially produced in America. Island Orchard Cider offers tours of the entire facility and a wealth of information about the history of ciders in America, which is much longer than most people realize, as well as the creation process. The Purmans use all locally-grown, organic ingredients to produce their gluten-free ciders, which they offer by the bottle or in larger quantities for catered events and celebrations.
12040 Garrett Bay Rd, Ellison Bay, WI 54210, Phone: 920-854-3344
4. The Clearing
© The Clearing
Jens Jensen, a Danish immigrant and renowned landscape architect, founded The Clearing Folk School in 1935 at the ripe old age of 75. Jensen’s strong belief in the importance of connecting with nature, expressing one’s creativity, and thoughtful reflection contributed to his development of the school in the beginning and continue to influence the programming today. The school offers classes of varying lengths, from one day to one week, in a large variety of topics and in the traditional folk style with a “unique combination of learning, history, tradition, social interaction and quiet reflection.” The Clearing also offers guided tours and hiking for those who want to commune without creating.
12171 Garrett Bay Road, Ellison Bay, WI 54210 Phone: 920-854-4088
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5. Death’s Door Maritime Museum
© Death’s Door Maritime Museum
History buffs and fisher folk alike will be enthralled with Death’s Door Maritime Museum, which displays remnants from Door County’s long and rich fishing industry. More than just exhibits of boats and reels, this museum offers technology-enhanced and reality-augmented experiences to allow visitors to become fully immersed in the lore, the legend, and the past. Death’s Door is the English translation of Porte des Mortes, the name French explorers gave the stretch of water between Washington Island and the tip of the land now called Door Peninsula, after many ships were claimed by the tumultuous straight. The museum is open for visitors from May to October.
12724 W Wisconsin Bay Rd., Ellison Bay, WI 54210, Phone: 920-743-5958
6. Gills Rock Pottery
© Gills Rock Pottery
Gills Rock Pottery opened in Ellison Bay in 1979 and has become a local and tourist favorite. Thor and Judy, the owners, along with the staff create stunningly detailed pieces suitable for everyday use or decoration, both inside and outside the home. From bowls and vases to working fountains and working lighthouse lanterns, Gills Rock Pottery has something to suit every taste. They are open 10 am to 5 pm daily, May through October, and have call ahead hours the rest of the year.
12020 Lakeview Road, Ellison Bay, WI 54210, Phone: 920-854-2774
7. Wickman House
© Wickman House
Steeped in just as much history and tradition as the attractions surrounding it, the Wickman House is a fine dining experience that mere words cannot describe—but we’re going to try. Appetizers range from hand-battered cheese curds to house-made kimchi-stuffed dim sum, and an array of salads and sandwiches offer variety for diners. However, mouth-watering scallops, salmon, shrimp, and trout are among the surf options on the entrée menu, while organic local chicken and grass-fed beef lead the turf pack. The EXTENSIVE cocktail list and nightly dessert specials round out the evening well and go far to satisfy every taste. Wickman House recommends reservations, which can be made three months in advance, but does offer some walk-in bar seating.
11976 Mink River Road, Ellison Bay, WI, Phone: 920-854-3305
8. Rowleys Bay Restaurant and Fish Boil
© Rowleys Bay Restaurant and Fish Boil
No trip to Ellison Bay is complete without trying the famous fish boil at Rowleys Bay Restaurant and Fish Boil, proudly part of Rowleys Bay Resort. Door County’s longest buffet is open daily for breakfast and dinner from May to October, with fish boils on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays. Complete with photo opportunities and a storyteller regaling guests with the history of Rowleys Bay, the fish boil is a unique experience. It was even praised on the Real Food Traveler website for its taste, atmosphere, and fresh fish caught right there in Lake Michigan.
1041 County Road ZZ, Ellison Bay, WI 54210, Phone: 800-999-2466