4 Locals Dish on Life in Door County

Plus, they share their favorite spots in the area.


A Special Place for All

Myles Dannhausen 

Co-owner and content editor of the Peninsula Pulse, Myles Dannhausen is an almost lifelong Door County resident. The Pulse publishes a mix of Door County news, feature stories and a comprehensive events calendar in more than 20,000 copies each week, distributed from Kewaunee to Washington Island.

Myles Dannhausen; Photo courtesy of Myles Dannhausen

I grew up in Egg Harbor when it was mostly open fields. I remember riding my bike down to the beaches. When I was a kid, these beaches were postage stamps, but Door County has done a good job giving back to the people. There’s far more public waterfront in places like Baileys Harbor, Liberty Grove and Sister Bay. How many other small towns in America did what Sister Bay did, spending $1 million to keep Pebble Beach open to the public? 

This is a place where you can matter. When you step up and be part of the community, you see the impact. When I write, I have to answer to the people I see when I go to the grocery store or the high school basketball game. You think more about the words you are saying.  It’s pretty cool doing it in a place as beautiful as Door County. Growing up, I didn’t realize it. We are the place people are yearning to go on their summer vacation. 

Favorite spot: Europe Bay Beach in Newport State Park: “Even on the busiest of days, you can go up there and feel like you are in another world.”

Exploring the Natural World

Charlotte Lukes

Door County naturalist Charlotte Lukes was inducted into the Wisconsin Conservation Hall of Fame along with her late husband, Roy, in 2018 after decades of advocacy, writing and scientific work. Having identified over 600 species of mushrooms in Door County, Charlotte teaches classes and leads nature hikes.

Charlotte Lukes; Photo courtesy of Charlotte Lukes

I’m so thrilled about the many natural areas and preserves we have up here, and there are wonderful organizations for adult learning like Björklunden and The Clearing Folk School. There are nature centers and learning centers for all ages, like the Crossroads at Big Creek in Sturgeon Bay and The Ridges Sanctuary in Baileys Harbor.  

The Door County Land Trust has areas with trails open to the public, but many areas put into trust are not open to the public other than by guided hikes. I’m leading 13 mushroom hikes this year, so I’m praying for a lot of rain. Most of the good mushrooms can be found from July to frost. A friend found one last year that weighed 11 pounds. They cut it in half and used it as a pizza crust.   Some mushrooms are deadly poisonous – that’s why I teach people how to examine them and what to look for. 

Favorite spot: Whitefish Dunes State Park, where she has been leading mushroom hikes since 1990. She’s identified over 250 mushroom species there.

Drawn to the Drama

Amy Ensign 

Amy Ensign is the producing artistic director for Door Shakespeare. Residing in Sturgeon Bay, she’s been part of Door County’s theater scene in multiple roles, from acting to management.

Amy Ensign; Photo courtesy of Amy Ensign

Door County is a small peninsula without a large population of residents, but because of summer visitors it can support the theaters. That made me interested in living here. My husband and I moved here from San Francisco to raise our son because we liked that it was a smaller community where we could get to know people. 

I’ve been fortunate to work for all four theaters in Door County. Each offers a different experience: original musicals at Northern Sky Theater, modern plays at Peninsula Players and a more intimate setting at Third Avenue PlayWorks

Here at Door Shakespeare, there’s the more classical theater experience. We are at a clearing in the woods where you experience the sunset while watching the show that ends under the stars. The lighting change creates a magical experience. It intensifies the shared experience. 

Favorite spot: 5&J Coffee House, Sturgeon Bay: The converted, whimsically decorated two-story house feels like stopping by a pal’s place. “A fun place to meet a friend for a cuppa.” 232 N. Fifth Ave.

Beer in a Special Place

Matt Sampson 

Matt Sampson started Sway Brewing + Blending (2434 County Road F, Baileys Harbor) last summer. This year he’s adding a taproom to the café above the brewing operation.

Matt Sampson; Photo courtesy of Matt Sampson

My wife and I came to Door County about seven years ago. We were living in Chicago at the time, and she started a small business in Fish Creek. I just wanted a change of pace. A year after that, the Hacienda Beer owners reached out to me to source some of my aerial photographs of Door County for their beer labels. I was a homebrewer and casually thinking about starting a brewery, and I eventually started working there. 

With Sway, I’m focusing on local and regional ingredients. We partner with farms for ingredients and forage for plants to use in the beer. My palate over time has shifted. I’ve gravitated to more subtle beer flavors and lagers – Old World-style beers. Those fit in with Door County. You can enjoy food after a beer because it hasn’t wrecked your palate, and they pair with outdoor activities. 

Favorite spot: Sampson is into Door County’s local food movement, epitomized by restaurants like Trixie’s in Ephraim and Wickman House in Ellison Bay. “Lost Tuk Tuk [in Ephraim] is doing authentic Asian food. That’s the place I probably frequent the most.”



This story is part of Milwaukee Magazine’s May issue.

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