Wisconsin Highway 42's smorgasbord includes vineyards, quaint harbor villages, park retreats and stunning bayside sunsets.
Story and Photos by Darryl R. Beers
Over the course of several decades spent exploring scenic country roads, I find that none is more enjoyable than the 40-mile stretch of Wisconsin State Highway 42 that meanders through northern Door County.
The adventure begins at Bayview Bridge, rising to a height of more than 50 feet above the Sturgeon Bay Ship Canal. The view on a sunny day is stunning—and endless—as the clear blue water stretches toward the waters of Green Bay to the west and Lake Michigan to the east. In any season you may see a massive 1,000-foot Great Lakes freighter sailing into Sturgeon Bay for repairs.
The next 15 miles north is mostly rural, with a sprinkling of markets, vineyards and specialty shops. Take time to stop and search for antiques or to enjoy a cup of gourmet coffee and culinary delights, many of which are unique to Door County.
Countryside suddenly gives way to bayside as Highway 42 veers into quaint Egg Harbor. This is the first of a handful of small, distinctive villages dotting the scenic roads along the shoreline of Green Bay. When these lands were first settled, mostly in the mid-1800s, a safe harbor was necessary for survival. Today these harbors serve as a picturesque backdrop for boating, fishing, swimming and sightseeing. Each locale offers stunning sunsets that color the bay’s long horizon. Village streets are lined with unique shops, art galleries, fine eateries, confectioneries and more.
Cherry and apple orchards border many of the roadways between villages, serving up a visual feast of blossoms in the spring. At both Fish Creek and Ephraim, the highway affords direct access to Peninsula State Park, the crown jewel of Wisconsin’s park system. Peninsula encompasses 3,776 acres of forests, meadows, wetlands and towering cliffs, as well as 8 miles of shoreline.
Highway 42’s final 1.5 miles zig and zag through a beautiful maple and beech forest, ending at the Northport Ferry dock. Take the half-hour ferry ride to Washington Island or turn around and head back. Either way, I guarantee you’ll enjoy the trip.
Door County Coastal Byway is one of Country’s 2013 Best Scenic Roads. Click here for the full list.