Everything You Need to Know About Ephraim

Ephraim is one of the oldest villages in Door County, relatively unchanged since its founding in 1853. What makes it one of the most popular visits in Door County? Let’s find out!

Ephraim is one of the oldest villages in Door County, and it’s possibly undergone the least amount of change since its founding in 1853. Its iconic church steeples, stunning landscape, and charming local businesses mark the staples of Ephraim, but why has it remained much the same while everything else around it seems to change? What makes Ephraim so special? As one of the most beloved small towns in Door County, let’s explore how Ephraim came to be and why so many people have fallen in love with it.

History of Ephraim

Ephraim is one of the most charming and visited villages on the Door Peninsula.

Did you know that Ephraim was first founded as a religious community? According to Side of Culture, Reverend Andreas Iverson, an immigrant Moravian evangelist from Norway and a Lutheran minister, walked across the ice from Green Bay to the land that would soon become Ephraim! With a $500 loan (equivalent to just over $20,000 today), he bought over 400 acres of land from the government. There, while the church was under construction, he taught classes and held services in his home. In 1859, the very first church in Door County was completed, built by Iverson and his followers.

In 1857, Reverend Iverson donated the land behind his home to build the region’s first public school. Another schoolhouse was built in 1880, and students were still enrolled in classes by the time of the school’s closure in 1949. Both are now preserved by the Ephraim Historical Foundation, as well as additional structures built by the original settlers. They now own and maintain Iverson’s home, the Anderson Store Museum, the Anderson Barn, and the Goodletson log cabin.

It didn’t take long for Ephraim to become a tourist hot spot. Immigrants from Norway and Sweden found the natural area to be very familiar to their homeland, with rocky shores lined by thick trees, plentiful fishing, and peaceful countryside surrounded by natural beauty. They quickly settled there, and to this day, Ephraim is very proud of its Scandinavian heritage, holding cultural events, keeping traditional customs, and even imitating the architecture found in Europe.

Ephraim is still popular with visitors to Door County today, with its strong cultural identity and excellent preservation of the natural landscape. Despite its quiet nature and small size, this village is bursting with personality and fun activities!

Attractions in Ephraim

Snap some photos and write your name on the wall of the warehouse on Anderson Dock!

Naturally, one of the best things to do in Ephraim is to learn more about its history, and you can do that with a tour provided by the Ephraim Historical Foundation! Take a tram ride through the village and visit historical sites, or have your own tour by walking through the landscape.

Besides its history, Ephraim is known for its art, home to many artists’ galleries and showcases. The most iconic gallery is the Francis Hardy Gallery, but not for the art it houses. Anderson Dock is a popular spot for visitors to make their mark in Ephraim, by painting on the warehouse’s walls! It’s not just a type of graffiti; this, too, holds historical significance. When ships docked in the 1880s, sailors would write the name of their ship and the date on the walls to mark a safe arrival. This tradition continued even after the Ephraim Historical Foundation purchased the dock and warehouse in 1949, and now it’s encouraged for tourists to write their names like the sailors before them.

On one of the most accessible shorelines in Door County, slide your kayak into Lake Michigan and paddle in the safety of Eagle Harbor.

After stopping by Anderson Dock, spend some time on the water in Door County’s most accessible shoreline. Visit the public beach, kayak through the water, take a boat tour around the limestone cliffs, or simply admire the view from a park bench. Not only is this a great swimming spot and central to the rest of the village’s restaurants and activities, it’s also one of the best locations to watch an iconic Door County sunset.

Speaking of restaurants, another popular activity in Ephraim is just that—eating all of the delicious food!

Restaurants in Ephraim

Start your morning with a delicious and hefty burrito from Good Eggs!

Some of Door County’s best restaurants can be found in this little village, and it’s not uncommon to see lines out the door, even at all three meals! Good Eggs Door County is known for its massive and delicious burritos—so much so, in fact, that it’s recommended that you order ahead on their mobile app! They serve their burritos outside of a cabana, where you can sit outside and enjoy the weather or take your meal on the go to your next destination. No matter your morning plans, it’s definitely the best way to start your day!

Wilson’s is one of the most popular lunch spots in Door County, and it’s well worth the wait!

For lunch, a stop at the traditional diner Wilson’s is a must. Since 1906, Wilson’s has been serving guests with old-fashioned burgers, hot dogs, ice cream specialties, and home-brewed root beer, all while playing the classics from a jukebox and hanging the coolest retro décor on the walls. Like Good Eggs, it’s almost always packed during the summer, but the wait is definitely worth it. Sit outside where you can enjoy a stunning view of Eagle Harbor, or you can admire the décor from a comfortable booth inside. Always order a mug of their root beer and one of their sundaes—you won’t be disappointed!

End your night with a traditional Scandinavian feast that’s now a Door County staple!

For dinner, it only makes sense to mark the end of your day in the traditional village with a Door County tradition—the fish boil. The Old Post Office in Ephraim takes pride in this Scandinavian feast, preparing the freshly caught whitefish right across from Eagle Harbor’s scenic shoreline. You won’t forget the hot burst of flames from the boiling pot that rivals the heat and majesty of the sun, and it’s a delicious tradition that you can’t miss!

Shopping in Ephraim

Stop by Island Lavender Company for fresh lavender products, ranging from beauty products to décor to snacks.

Bring a little piece of Door County home with you from one of Ephraim’s many charming local shops. From art to antiques to clothing to jewelry, there’s something for everyone!

Door County Rock & Gem is one of the most unique shops in the village, offering a variety of crystals, minerals, fossils, and jewelry. There’s always a new selection to peruse, and the store is filled with endless beauty and wonder.

Island Lavender Company is for those who want to experience Washington Island but can’t make the ferry trip. In the cherry-red 100-year-old barn, you’ll find one of the widest selections of lavender from home goods to bath and beauty products to even ice cream! It’s a perfect place to pick up a gift for a loved one (or yourself), and you can learn a little more about lavender’s prevalence on the peninsula.

For a combination of antique and vintage goods, there’s no better place than Vintique! With a constantly rotating selection of clothing, home décor, art, and gifts, you won’t leave empty-handed. Find a one-of-a-kind creation from a local Door County artisan, and make sure to come back season after season to see what’s new!

Events in Ephraim

Ephraim’s biggest event of the year is Fyr Bal, celebrating the transition from spring into summer!

Since Ephraim is a seasonal town, most events take place during the summer, when the area is most populated. The biggest event of the year is the Fyr Bal Festival (pronounced “feer” ball), and for good reason! Fyr Bal is Norwegian for “bonfire,” and Ephraim hosts perhaps the biggest bonfire in the peninsula to welcome the summer season. On Eagle Harbor’s shoreline, enjoy traditional Scandinavian music, dancing, crafts, and food, and watch a dramatic fireworks show as the bonfire is lit!

Relax by the shoreline with some great music from the Concert Series.

Later in June, check out Evenings in Ephraim, which features the Bondemarked and the Concert Series. Bondemarked is Norwegian for “farmers market,” and local Door County vendors and artisans flock the grounds with their numerous goods. Later in the evening, the Concert Series hosts local musicians, ranging from classic orchestra to jazz and blues to rock ‘n roll! Pull up a lawn chair or have a picnic as the musicians play a symphony to the colorful, breathtaking sunset on the horizon.

Come back in winter for the festive and family-friendly Christmas in the Village event!

Ephraim caps off the year with its only event outside of summer, Christmas in the Village. In early December, Santa makes a visit with his elves and reindeer outside Village Hall, and children and their families can ride in horse-drawn wagons around the village and take part in arts and crafts. At the end of the event, everyone gathers into the park to watch Santa light the Christmas tree!

Ephraim is a charming, small town filled with strong cultural heritage, delicious restaurants, and fun things to do for visitors and families of all ages. It’s been a popular tourism spot since its founding in 1853, and it’s easy to see why with its natural beauty and historical significance. Fall in love with Ephraim next time you’re in Door County!

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