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Door County: Spend a day on Washington Island

Courtesy Door Co. Visitors Bureau

A few miles off the tip of the Door County peninsula, Washington Island is a world unto itself. The island is home to the oldest and largest Icelandic community in the United States, and many of its families have occupied the small mass of land for generations.

About 700 people live year-round on the 34-square-mile island, which is accessible by passenger and vehicle ferries that make the round trip several times a day during tourism season. Everything necessary for daily life on the island comes in by ship.

For groups visiting Door County, Washington Island makes a great day trip. After arriving on the ferry, start with an orientation tour aboard the Cherry Train, a narrated tram tour pulled along by a heavy-duty truck. The tour includes stops at an ostrich farm, scenic Schoolhouse Beach and the beautiful Stavkirke, a small wooden church built in centuries-old Norse tradition.

During an afternoon on the island, your travelers can take cooking classes at the Washington Hotel, enjoy a workshop in weaving at the Sievers School of Fiber Arts, rent bicycles to explore the island or take a hike on a trail through the woods and along the lakefront.

If your itinerary affords a lunch or dinner at a restaurant on the island, be sure to order a plate of fried lawyers. Also known as burbot, these mild white fish are a Washington Island specialty, caught in the lake daily and served golden brown and delicious.

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Brian Jewell

Brian Jewell is the executive editor of The Group Travel Leader. In more than a decade of travel journalism he has visited 48 states and 25 foreign countries.