By Shelby Deering

STURGEON BAY IS OFTEN THOUGHT OF AS THE GATEWAY to the rest of the Door County peninsula, a stopover on the way to popular destinations like Egg Harbor or Ephraim. But visitors take note: Sturgeon Bay is simply brimming with undiscovered corners full of art, culture, delicious food and winter activities.

For example, many tourists may be unaware that some of the best coffee in the state can be found in Sturgeon Bay. Door County Coffee & Tea Company, which lies just outside of the downtown area and houses a café, roasting facility and store, serves up anything from iced espresso to warm tea to Italian sodas. The bakery case is especially tempting, with its scones, cheese crowns, morning muffins and scotch-a-roos. You can even see the coffee beans being roasted through a window that overlooks the roasting and packing facility. Settle in with a cup of joe or dig into a cherry bread pudding next to the stone fireplace.

Downtown Sturgeon Bay is home to many adorable shops, such as Sourced, a vintage-lover’s dream. Filled with reclaimed treasures and locally made goods, you’ll find beautiful old books, reworked jewelry and chippy furniture. Be sure to take a stroll down Third Avenue and also visit Door County Traders, a fabulous two-story antique store, and Cornucopia Kitchen Shop, a gadget and bakeware haven filled with brands like Le Creuset and All-Clad.

You’ll also want to walk over to the Popelka Trenchard Glass studio and store, located on nearby Second Avenue. Soak in the vibrantly colored wares ranging from bowls to platters to art installations, or take a class and learn how to make your own glasswork.

Sturgeon Bay also has several sought-after dining spots that are local favorites. For a casual meal, go to Sonny’s Italian Kitchen & Pizzeria, where you can enjoy Chicago-style pizza or cheesy, spicy Diablo sticks while you take in sweeping views of the ice-covered bay.

All that time spent by fireplaces and eating comfort food might prompt you to venture out into Sturgeon Bay’s wintry landscape to move your body. Visit Whitefish Dunes State Park for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing, and then go to Cave Point County Park, just north of Whitefish Dunes, where you’ll view the waves of Lake Michigan frozen mid-crash against the limestone cliffs and caves. If you don’t have the proper equipment on hand, make a stop at Bay Shore Outfitters for ski and snowshoe rentals.

Sturgeon Bay features several excellent places to stay. There’s not room for an exhaustive list but a couple of the lodgings stand out. For a retro, feels-like-you-time-traveled getaway, head to the Holiday Music Motel, a place that’s hardly changed at all since its opening in 1952. The only difference nowadays is that the place is owned by a group of musicians who revamped the rooms and host retreats for songwriters three times a year. Quaint and cool, you just might feel as if you stepped into a B-52’s video.

For a classic and cozy getaway, book a stay at Stone Harbor Resort & Conference Center, where many of the shabby-chic rooms overlook the water. Or book a stay at one of the many cozy inns and B&Bs in the area.

Sturgeon Bay is a wonderland, winter or not, for those looking for some relaxation mixed with get-moving activities. You might find yourself sticking to the southern end of the Door County peninsula from here on out.

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