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Filed under: Activities & Attractions, Campgrounds & RV Parks, Entertaining Kids at Camp, Family Camping, Nature & Wildlife, Outdoor Recreation & Hiking, State & National Parks, Taking Along the Family Pet

Escape to the Peninsula

February 3, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

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An annual tradition in our family is the weekend camping trip to Peninsula State Park in Door County, Wisconsin. A collection of thriving tourist communities have grown up in the County, located on Wisconsin’s “thumb.” The Park is located on the western or bay side of the peninsula, rather than along Lake Michigan, so the weather tends to be a bit milder.

As we live in a small city about half hour southeast of Green Bay, our drive to the park is only about 2.5 hours. We have made this a day trip when pressed for time, but as often as we can, we try to set aside an entire weekend to enjoy the beauty and multitude of activities available in the Park.

Set up at the campgroundThis tradition typically takes place in the fall of the year, most often the last weekend of September. It is scheduled this way for several reasons. First of all, in summer, the entire expanse of Door County is a frenzy of activity. While there is much to do there, there are many other travelers enjoying the same activities we do so it interferes with the peace and tranquility we have come to expect from our Peninsula Park experience.

Second, for the past six summers or so, since the kids have been a bit older, we have taken to exploring other parts of our country on longer trips (10-14 days) during summer months. This leaves little time or money to enjoy those closer locales during that time and it helps with both work and the budget to spread our travels out a bit.

Finally, September 30th is our wedding anniversary and we are one of those cool couples who typically spend our anniversary with at least some of our children and all of our dogs. During the 21 years of our marriage, we have probably spent more anniversaries with our children than without them. And Peninsula State Park is a wonderful place to celebrate anything!

View from Peninsula State ParkIn addition to six different camping areas, each with its own unique personality, there are a multitude of activities for couples or families to enjoy while spending time in the Park. With 22 miles of bike trails, winding through forests and along sandy beaches, it is one of the best places in the country to bike, even for the littlest riders.

Eleven hiking trails climb along rocky cliffs, through groves of trees, past meadows of wild grasses and flowers and along waterways in the Park. Whether hiking or biking, there are plenty of sites and attractions to lure you to stop and take a break to enjoy the scenery or the tranquility of the place. We discovered our favorite trail, “Trail Tramper’s Delight,” when our son was just an infant.

Ryan on Trail sign

Ryan in September 2009 on Trail Tramper's Delight sign

Easily accessed from what has become our favorite campground in the Park, I held him up during that first hike, seated on the sign and his dad took a picture. Each time we visit, we have to take Ryan’s picture on top of the sign, even though he is now 18 years old!

A large, sandy swimming beach is located in the Nicolet Bay campground. Kayaks and other items are available for rental, either by the hour or by the day. During summer months a concession stand offers a multitude of delicious treats for hungry swimmers and bikers.

A large open-air amphitheatre appears along one trail in the park and throughout the season, a series of plays are presented here for the enjoyment of campers and other visitors to the area. During the 2008 season, more than 31,399 persons attended a production at the American Folklore Theatre. When it is not in use, our children love to climb on the stage and pretend they are performing as the theater is open to all who happen by on most days of the year.

Eagle Tower

Eagle Tower at Peninsula

To get a view of the entire area, the Eagle Tower is available for visitors to climb for a panoramic view of the Bay Area. Guests may also tour the Eagle Bluff Lighthouse at specified times for a glimpse of years gone by. The Lighthouse contains antiques and memorabilia from the early 1900s and provides a taste of the lifestyle of the first Norwegian lighthouse keeper.

The best part of visiting Peninsula State Park, whether for a day, a weekend or an entire week, is the escape it provides from the frustrations of daily life. As our children get older, it gets more difficult to encourage them to accompany us on camping trips, due to the multitude of other interests and activities they enjoy. Last year I mentioned to the kids that I didn’t think we would be able to get to Door County due to a number of schedule complications. Their reaction was, “But we have to go!” We quickly rearranged a few activities, found one weekend that we all could get away and made the reservation!

On top of Eagle Tower

Terry, Meghan and Ryan on top of Eagle Tower

Whether standing on a sandy shore watching waves crash on outlying rocks, watching boats navigate the blue-green waters or seeing the trees blowing in the breeze, there is a peace that settles us, comforts us, that comes from being in a wild place. Whether spending a day or a weekend, a trip to Peninsula State Park renews our spirits and sustains us until we can return.

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