Baileys Harbor Yacht Club Resort

Baileys Harbor Yacht Club Resort     8151 Ridges Road Baileys Harbor, Door County WI    Reservations: 800-927-2492

Author: Jennifer Swager

Quiet Season in Door County

just another snowy day at work workWinter is considered the Quiet Season in Door County for good reason. While some local shops and services do close for the winter season, there are still many wonderful places to discover here. Some of our most loyal guests actually prefer to come during the Quiet Season. You are able to enjoy the relaxed, uncrowded atmosphere and see a whole new side of the Peninsula. Others come specifically for the ice fishing, cross country skiing, and other winter recreational activities. Whether you are looking for cozy or adventurous, we know you will find it here at the Baileys Harbor Yacht Club Resort.

A few of our favorite Quiet Season days:

The Door County peninsula is home to acres of state parks and nature preserves. The resort is adjacent to both Tofts Point and The Ridges Sanctuary.  Meander the wooded trails, perfect for snowshoeing or cross country skiing, take the kids (even the big ones!) sledding, or ride a snowmobile down one of the specially designated trails. The Ridges sponsor guided snowshoe walks in addition to their winter nature walks. Peninsula State Park is just one of the state parks in Door County that sponsor winter recreation. They offer separate trails for classic cross country, skate skiing, snowmobiling, and snowshoeing. Bring your camera and capture the memories. Look for special events, like the Candlelight Skis that are traditionally scheduled at the state parks during January and February. Enlist one of the local guides to take you ice fishing.

Door County Trolley is known for their wonderful tours of Door County all year round. In November, you can hop on a Premier Wine Tour for a “cellar door” tasting tour of four award-winning wineries and a gourmet lunch. That is sure to stave off the winter blahs!  From December through March, embrace the season with a Winter Wonderland Trolley Tour & Sleigh Ride, which combines the wine tasting with a sleigh ride and a fireside lunch.

If you prefer a horse to the sleigh, we still have an adventure for you. Make an appointment for a weekend ride with Kurtz Corral in Sturgeon Bay. They are open Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from November through May. See their stable here… and don’t forget a carrot!

Door County’s restaurants provide many excellent choices for a magical New Years Eve, but what about New Years Day? A local favorite is the Jacksonport Polar Bear Club. Will you brave the frozen waters of Lake Michigan or stand by with a hot drink and a smile?  New Years Day parades are another wonderful tradition and you don’t always have to be on the sidelines!

The Fish Creek Winter Games are a family-friendly festival in Clark Park.  It features food, music, raffles, and games under a large heated tent. The games are always inventive and guaranteed fun, so check out what they have planned for this year. Most of the action occurs on Saturday, but don’t miss Sunday’s Fruit Loop Fun Run!

BHYCRwinter01Prefer to stay in? Watch the snow fall from the comfort of our heated indoor pool and whirlpool. Take advantage of in-room DVD players and plenty of movies to pick from at the Front Desk. While there you can take a board game or play a friendly game of chess. Warm up with a cup of hot tea or cappuccino from our lobby and relax in front of the fireplace. We think you’ll agree that it really doesn’t get much better than this.

When you’re ready, our staff at the Front Desk would love to help you with information about dining. It’s our pleasure to help you find the perfect place for breakfast, track down a delicious lunch for your active family, or plan a romantic dinner for two.

The History of Baileys Harbor Yacht Club Resort

Submitted By: Karen Tews

Jacob G. Schmitz, and his wife Sophie (Bischoff), were the first owners of the current property in the early 1900’s. Jac was a deputy sheriff of Milwaukee County and Sophie was a nurse. Together they owned and operated Jac’s Beer Garden and Restaurant in Milwaukee, serving working local people. When Jac was advised to visit the Baileys Harbor area, they immediately fell in love with the beautiful landscape and sunsets and purchased a building near the lake to use as their summer home. There was nothing in the area, but the Underdunks home and the US Life Saving Station, and its crew who lived nearby.

Jac, Sophie and daughter Irene, felt this was truly God’s country and shared their home with many family members and friends. When Sophie died in 1925, Jac and Irene moved here permanently. Jac, with his younger brother George, purchased several homes from the Life Saving Station , and Bill Tishler Sr. was contracted to construct a main building consisting of a bar, dining room, kitchen & office. The dream of a resort became a reality when “Schmitz Gazebos” officially opened in 1935. Jac Schmitz was a kind, thoughtful person who brought the poor of the Milwaukee churches and schools here for a free vacation. Each time he drove this car up, he brought loaves of rye bread, long sticks of summer sausage and watermelon for the people he knew in Door County. His outgoing personality and keen business sense made the resort an instant success. He and Clarence Mann were also responsible for having a road cut through the woods from town, now known as Ridges Road.

Jac died in 1940 at the age of 60. George and Irene kept Schmitz Gazebos running smoothly. The area operating as the Life Saving Station merged with the US Coast Guard…a few sailors even trained at this site prior to being assigned to ships in the Atlantic Ocean during WWII. When the Coast Guard Station closed in 1950, George and Irene purchased the remaining houses and built 12 more cottages so the resort could provide lodging for 45 people. There was a putting green, shuffleboard court, and areas to play badminton, croquet and horseshoes. Schmitz Gazebos was an official AAA resort with George as the genial host who made sure their “Recommended by Duncan Hines” title was maintained! Irene made sure each room was immaculate, and helped pack boxed lunches for those making excursions around the peninsula. Baldy Bridenhagen, former sheriff for Door County, was one of the bartenders along with other locals who helped make Schmitz Gazebos such a success for 37 years.

Old Yacht Club

George Schmitz died in 1965 and Irene sold the property. Albert Wild, an international attorney from Chicago and Baileys Harbor, purchased the 60-acre tract of land and began construction of 14,500 sq. foot main building in 1969. Wild was an ardent Door County enthusiast and it was his intent to keep the project as natural as possible. Whenever feasible, stone and building materials indigenous to Door County were used. Most of the craftsman working on the project were local. Wild also obtained DNR permission to construct piers for yachts wishing to dock at the new Baileys Harbor Yacht Club, and dock they did. “The African Queen”, McDonalds founder Ray Kroc’s “Big Burger” – 65 and 85 footers who would come to the Yacht Club because it was the most beautiful harbor and the finest facility on the Michigan side.


Guests entering the foyer of the Club were drawn to the slate fireplace in the lobby. The cocktail lounge with its sunken bar adjoined a glass-walled patio area overlooking the waters of Baileys Harbor. Formal dinner attire was required.

 One of the most distinctive features of the facility was the wrought-iron circular staircase modeled after the one in the old lifesaving station that stood on the original site. The staircase was 65 feet high with an observation area at the top offering spectacular view of the bay and nearby Ridges Sanctuary. When the facility opened in 1970, it was recognized as one of Lake Michigan’s most elegant resorts and through the years had earned a reputation for its fine dining, docks and lavish lodging. It was the site of numerous county benefit events including the popular Pirate’s Cove fundraisers for United Way of Door County.


BHYC Marina

In the late 70’s, amenities and new housekeeping cottages were added when the new owners, Joe Smolenski, and his brothers, took over the Club’s operation and created better docking facilities for charter and sports fisherman, complete with dock master. New advertising added hustle and bustle, and condos were built, including Ray Kroc’s helicopter pad. They changed the configuration and use of the dining rooms as well, and a Sunday Brunch was added which was so successful that the wait to enter was sometimes as much as an hour and a half.

The torch was soon passed to a new owner, Maureen Kelly in 1982. She infused new life into the Club with her personality and made each person feel they were her special friend. There was dancing and the greatest entertainment parties on the peninsula. She sought to make county residents feel welcome at the resort and opened the facility for benefits such as the auction for the Wisconsin Children’s Program of Northern Ireland, and hosted the popular “Irish Fest” weekend over Labor Day each year. The music group Blarney wrote a song “Sailing into Bailey’s Harbor” especially for their appearances at the event. Maureen remodeled the bar, and the best free entertainment – the “locals”, would get together and try to out sing each other to everyone’s delight. She also significantly expanded the marina with construction of new 24 to 40 foot floating piers, and new lodging was built (named Christina after Maureen’s daughter). Maureen’s dream was shattered however when sewer construction on Ridges Road and the inaccessibility of the Club, along with other problems, moved the ownership into the hands of the Bank.

In 1989, Blue Sky Harbor, Ltd., a Wisconsin partnership, became the new owner. They added The Admiralty Room for formal dining fare and service while the Bosun’s Mate dining room was designed for light dinners and casual dining.

On February 16, 1993, two devastating fires destroyed the Yacht Club – a total loss. Plans to rebuild were never approved.

Yacht Club Fire










The Baileys Harbor Yacht Club Resort, as we know it today, was built in several phases after the main building, lobby, swimming pool and first 22 units were completed.

My great uncle, Jac Schmitz, would be pleased that so many people are still enjoying the beauty and magic of his vision from over a century ago.

Door County Performing Arts

Door County plays host to a healthy number of theaters, companies, troupes, and live performance venues.  Here are a few county mainstays:

The Peninsula Players are “America’s oldest resident summer theater” and they offer a truly unique experience. The professional production and talented cast are showcased in a beautiful setting. Open from June through October, check ahead to reserve tickets for a show during your vacation. The theater is situated on 16 acres of woods and gardens.  Before the curtain call, enjoy the Beer Garden picnic area and get a beer or a glass of wine from Luna Bar. Didn’t bring your own picnic?  The Canteen is serving up artisanal cheese, hot coffee, cold sodas, and snacks alongside the souvenirs. The fun doesn’t end at Intermission; head back out to the Beer Garden for their famous nightly bonfire!

The Door County Auditorium in Fish Creek is open year-round, and hosts both national and local entertainment. The Main Stage series features concerts and theatrical productions. Don’t miss the 62nd Symphony Season of the Peninsula Music Festival throughout August. In September and October, come back for the American Folklore Theatre’s Fall Season. The Fireside Coffeehouse Series offers an intimate, unique concert experience. Door County Auditorium has a lot more to offer, including a free lecture series, The Link Gallery exhibit space, and more recently, free movies. Be sure to find out what is waiting for you at the DCA!

If you missed  the American Folklore Theatre shows at the DCA and Ephraim’s Village Hall, catch their Summer Season in Peninsula State Park amphitheater. This open-air amphitheater is an incredible backdrop for these hilarious shows. AFT is a professional troupe that puts on original, musical comedies. All Summer shows are appropriate for all ages and they run about 90 minutes long.  It’s okay if you didn’t plan ahead; half of the tickets to any summer show are on sale at the box office, one hour before the show. You may bring snacks in with you, or you can purchase them at the Concession Booth. Alcoholic beverages are not allowed in or around the amphitheater. Seats are wooden benches, so you may want to bring a comfy pillow.  Either way, the show will have you laughing in no time!

If hilarious isn’t what you are looking for tonight, consider something from the concert series at the Birch Creek Music Performance Center.  Birch Creek is a summer music school by day and home to a wonderful concert series at night, where gifted students and their performer/educators play together.  The season spans four separate sessions that focus on symphony, percussion and steelpan, and big band jazz. Catch a concert in the 100-year-old, renovated Dutton Concert Barn at the school, or at one of their engagements throughout Door County. Talented musicians and a beautiful setting ensure a wonderful evening.

Beaches and Picnics

Beach Picnic

The Door County peninsula is carpeted with state parks, nature preserves, and over 300 miles of coastline that create unlimited opportunities for beach picnics. There are public beaches along both the lake side and bay side. After a day of sightseeing, my family needs a relaxing break at the beach!  We pack a cooler of sodas and make some sandwiches in our suite.  Add some delicious goodies from Koepsel’s Farm Market, and we are off to explore the nearby parks.

Toft Point Nature Preserve is an easy walk or bike ride from our room, as it shares the peninsula with Baileys Harbor Yacht Club Resort. This is also an incredible place to watch the sunrise. Flat, rocky coast line with lush woods on one side and stunning water views on the other. Really nice and secluded place for a picnic, picture taking, bird watching, and just enjoying nature.  The view of Cana Island from here is not to be missed! Become a Friend of Toft Point!

Whitefish Dunes

Whitefish Dunes State Park is home to “the largest and most significant Great Lakes dunescape in Wiscosin.” Come enjoy the vast white sand beach, tall native grasses, and blue water with crashing waves. Check trail conditions, events, learn more about the park and how you can volunteer by visiting the Friends of Whitefish Dunes.

From Hwy 57, follow County WD (Clarks Lake Road) east to the Greeting Center at the entrance of the Park. Whitefish Dunes is open year-round, generally from 6 AM to 8 PM. Changing stalls and bathrooms are family friendly. You will need a Wisconsin State Vehicle Admission sticker to park.

Nicolet Bay Beach in Peninsula State Park is another favorite of ours. We really like to mountain bike the trails here. The beach has volleyball nets (bring a ball!), picnic areas, a playground and a convenient camp store. The park is open year-round, and in the Summer there is also a snack bar and recreational rental concession.  Plenty of tables to have picnic and enjoy some people watching. On the way by, stop at the park’s White Cedar Nature Center for fun, free activities and events. Help support this wonderful park.

Nicolet BeachPeninsula State Park’s main entrance is off of Hwy 42 in Fish Creek. The park is open year-round, generally from 6 AM to 11 PM. The bathrooms and available services are particularly family friendly here. You will need a Wisconsin State Vehicle Admission sticker to park.

Visit our front desk and let us help you to plan your ideal beach picnic!





Fishing in Door County

fishing01Fishing season in Lake Michigan is year-round, as long as you don’t mind a little ice!  From January through March, try your hand at ice fishing. Rent your own ice house or book a guide from Lakeshore Adventures in Baileys Harbor.  Hurry back to our lobby and tell your fish tales with a warm drink by the fire.

After the ice melts, the fishing in Door County moves onto boats. If you bring your own boat, check into the floating boat docks available at Baileys Harbor Yacht Club Marina, right next to the Resort. For more information about the Marina’s boat slip rentals, please contact the Front Desk at (920) 839-2336 or submit your questions on our Reservations page. If you don’t bring your own boat, you can charter one by the hour or by the day. Local guides are a great way to learn fishing techniques and seasonal patterns on the lake. If you like your boat captain to come with a PhD in Zoology, give Lynn’s Charter Fishing a call!

No matter the season, don’t forget to check the Wisconsin DNR weekly fishing report before you head out.  Learn the fishing regulations and buy licenses.

Grab a guide and some tackle:

JJ’s Guide Service
Shack Rentals and Guides

Hooked Up Sport Fishing Charters

Wacky Walleye Guide Service

Nan & Jerry’s Bait & Tackle
4084 Main St. (Hwy 42), Fish Creek

Howie’s Tackle
1309 Green Bay Road, Sturgeon Bay