Go Fish Creeking
By Donna Marie Pocius
Special to DoorCountyNavigator.com
While Fish Creek, in many ways, seems like a place where time has stood still, most visitors are not able to stop moving.
After all, this popular Door Peninsula waterfront destination offers historical sites, unique shopping, proximity to some of the Peninsula's most popular arts venues as well as a location convenient to natural Peninsula attractions.
"It's a unique place, a place where time has stood still. There are no shopping malls, not even a Starbucks. That is a big draw for people-that this is the way a village used to look without all the brands we see every day," says Christine Falck-Pedersen, innkeeper, Beach House (vacation apartments) in downtown Fish Creek, and member of the Gibraltar Historical Association.
The charm commences with the drive into Fish Creek, part of Gibraltar township. From Sturgeon Bay, take Hwy. 42 north about 20 miles. As you drive down a bluff and enter Fish Creek, enjoy the view of three vintage buildings that were converted into shops called Fish Creek General Store (since 1896) and On Deck Clothing Co., formerly the Lundberg store (circa 1881).
The building that today houses Hide Side Corner Store was also a general store, built by the LePere family.
"Fish Creek was a big shipping port, and everything was clustered around the dock area. We had just three to four different stores in those days," explains Falck-Pedersen. Lumbering and farming were the occupations of most early settlers.
Across the street from these buildings--on the corner of Main St. and Hwy. 42 is the historic Noble House, built in 1875 by Alexander Noble, former town chair, postmaster and blacksmith. The two-story white frame house with black shutters was purchased and refurbished with more than $300,000 of funds raised by the Gibraltar Historical Association. The house joined the National Register of Historic Places in 1996.
"It is completely furnished in the Victorian tradition-1875 to 1900 is the period we restored the house to. A lot of furniture was there. And we purchased everything appropriate and right for the house," explains Eunice Rutherford, president Gibraltar Historical Association.
The Noble House is open for tours on Fridays through Sundays mid-May until first week of June; beginning the second week of June, hours are Tuesday through Sunday 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., when the last tour departs. Cost is $3 per adult, and $1 for children age 10 and under.
On your tour, don't miss the post office boxes. Since Noble was the postmaster, he conveniently kept the boxes in his private home.
"That was very common then, and you probably only got mail once a week," Rutherford says.
On the lower level are a parlor, guest bedroom (actually now a rest room for tourists) and kitchen. Look closely at the unique construction of the kitchen's maple floor, Rutherford advises.
"The kitchen is interesting. It is very small. And the kitchen flooring is interesting--not like any other flooring. It started in the center and worked its way out."
Fish Creek also is home to the main entrance to Peninsula State Park. Here, another historic site, the Eagle Bluff Lighthouse, hosts tours during summer and fall. The lighthouse was built in 1858 and is on the National Register of Historic Places.
Learn about other historical buildings during walking tours on 2 p.m. Tuesdays and 10 a.m. Fridays, beginning the last Tuesday of June and running through September (Tuesdays only beginning the day after Labor Day). There is no charge although donations to the Gibraltar Historical Association are accepted for the more than one hour tours that leave from the Old Gibraltar Town Hall (since 1880), 4176 Maple St. at Spruce.
See the homes of Fish Creek settlers as well as historic inns like the White Gull Inn and Thorp House Inn. Also, walk by the site of an old casino, the historic Church of the Atonement, Fish Creek's first general stores, Noble House, Clark Park and more vintage buildings.
Walk and shop
In addition to being a feast for history buffs, Fish Creek is a shopper's dream. That's because unique galleries, boutiques, home furnishings stores and more are housed in charming vintage buildings within walking distance to each other.
Many shops line Main Street, side streets and are located in an area called Founder's Square. Still other boutiques are conveniently clustered at Top of the Hill Shops, about half a mile north of the Fish Creek Information Center--also a good stop for visitors at 4097 Hwy. 42--and the Settlement Shops, about two miles south of Main Street, on the east side of Hwy. 42.
"We have an eclectic mix of shops and restaurants," said Karl Stubenvoll, president, Fish Creek Civic Association, and owner, Gallery of Gold. "They are easy to walk. You can walk from one end to another with only one re-parking (at Top of the Hill Shops or Settlement Shops)," he says.
"What is cute about Fish Creek is that it is like a little village where you can walk up and down and all about. There are areas and pockets that you can walk into. It is laid out more like a village," adds Falck-Pedersen.
The natural way
And visitors can also walk more than 20 miles of trails with varying degrees of difficulty in Peninsula State Park, actually the second oldest state park in Wisconsin and the largest on the Peninsula with 3,776 acres. The park features an 18-hole championship golf course, bicycle trails, ski and snowmobile trails, beaches and campsites.
For a brief respite closer to town, stop by Fish Creek Park, located just north of the Fish Creek Information Center. This new park provides benches for enjoying views of meadows and woods and a mile of trails.
"Not too many people realize that there are trails there. It is worthwhile to see everything this park offers," says Stubenvoll.
But many do know about Fish Creek Beach, located just south of the Information Center on the bay side, of course.
Always a party
And when the water freezes over, Fish Creek serves up zany cold weather activities at its annual Fish Creek Winter Games, held the first weekend in February on the ice.
Visitors and locals compete in weird games like the bicycle toss event, cherry pit spit contest and bed races on ice. How do they get ideas for these wild events?
"We hear about things from other areas. I suggested the bed race game from my college days. We take bed frames, make ski bases. A couple people pull one person in the bed. You go a certain distance on the ice and come back," says Stubenvoll. "There are an awful lot of locals and tourists who sign up to do these events."
Look on the ice for the Winter Games big heated tent--the place to buy something to eat or drink and play carnival-style games, benefiting Peninsula nonprofit organizations.
Fish Creek also annually hosts Old Peninsula Days in mid-July and the In-Out Sale on the first Saturday in October.
And hear free concerts Tuesday afternoons mid-June through mid mid-August at Clark Park.
If you only have a day
But if you only have a day to spend in Fish Creek, try this diverse sampling.
Be ready to browse boutiques at Founder's Square, on Main Street, in the Top of the Hill Shops and Settlement Shops when they open at 10 a.m.
Have lunch at a Main Street restaurant.
Then walk off your meal on a trail like Eagle Trail at Peninsula State Park.
While at the park, include a stop at the historic Eagle Bluff Lighthouse.
Return to town for a tour of the historic Noble House or a historic walking tour.
Enjoy a fish boil or dinner by candlelight.
See a star perform at the Door Community Auditorium or take in a performance at Peninsula Players or American Folklore Theater-all are conveniently located in Fish Creek.
To learn more
For more information, call the Fish Creek Civic Association, 920/868-2316, or visit www.fishcreek.info!
Donna Marie Pocius is a freelance writer, based in Egg Harbor, Wisc., and a frequent contributor to DoorCountyNavigator.com
Editor's Note: While in Fish Creek, try one of these wonderful places to stay and dine! Shop and have fun! We have reviewed them all - so Read our Reviews, and enjoy the uniqueness of Fish Creek! Also see our Calendar of Events!
Great Places to Stay
The White Gull Inn (Inn and Restaurant)
Thorp House Inn (B&B) Video too!
Beach House Vacation Apartments
The Cookery Lodging
A Peninsula Park View
Main Street Motel
By The Bay Motel
The Hilltop Inn
Settlement Courtyard Inn