Wisconsins Crown Jewel
THE APOSTLE ISLANDS
The Apostle Islands are a jewel in the crown of northern Wisconsin, a group of islands situated in the vast expanse of Lake Superior, the largest of the Great Lakes. These islands are a treasure trove of natural beauty, with their sandstone cliffs rising up like sentinels, their lighthouses standing watch over the water, and their historic sites offering a window into the past. The Apostle Islands are also home to a diverse array of flora and fauna, making them a haven for nature lovers. Whether you're seeking adventure or relaxation, the Apostle Islands offer something for everyone.
There are a total of 22 islands in the Apostle Islands archipelago, including Madeline Island, which is the largest and the only one that is inhabited year-round. The 21 islands that make up the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore are mainly used for recreational activities, such as camping and hiking. The national lakeshore is home to more lighthouses than any other site in the National Park System, with 9 historic towers on 6 of the islands. Over 240 species of birds breed or migrate through the archipelago.
The Apostle Islands have been home to various indigenous tribes for centuries, with the Ojibwe tribe being the only one that still holds claim to the area. When Europeans arrived in the 17th century, the islands became a hub for the fur trade in Lake Superior, which continued for nearly 200 years.
HOW TO GET THERE
To get to the Apostle Islands, the easiest way is to fly into Duluth, Minnesota or Minneapolis, Minnesota and then drive to Bayfield, Wisconsin, which is the gateway to the islands. Bayfield is a small town located on the western shore of Lake Superior in northern Wisconsin. It is known for its picturesque setting and its proximity to the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore. Bayfield is home to a variety of local shops, restaurants, and art galleries, which make it a great place to start your Apostle Islands adventure. From Bayfield, you can take a ferry to Madeline Island, or you can book a tour or charter a boat to visit the other islands.
WHERE TO STAY
There are a range of accommodation options available near the Apostle Islands to suit all preferences and budgets. If you are planning to visit with an RV, there are a few options for places to stay. One option is the Apostle Islands Area Campground, which is located just outside of town and offers full hook-up sites, as well as a dump station, showers, and laundry facilities. In Bayfield you can find motels like the Seagull Bay Motel, bed and breakfasts like the Old Rittenhouse Inn, and resorts like Wild Rice Retreat. Vacation home rentals are also available through Windseeker Rentals. If you prefer a more unique and natural experience, you might consider glamping options like Twisting Twig Farms or Turtle Yurts. For a rustic adventure, you can also stay at one of the campgrounds on the islands, where you can pitch a tent and sleep under the stars.
WHAT TO DO
There are many things to do in the Apostle Islands, whether you are interested in history, nature, or outdoor recreation. Some popular activities include hiking the island trails, visiting the lighthouses and historic sites, kayaking or boating around the islands, and exploring the sea caves. You can also enjoy swimming, fishing, and birdwatching, or visit the local shops like Penny Print Studio and restaurants such as The Copper Trout in Bayfield.
OUR FAVORITE TOURS
There are several tours available for exploring the Apostle Islands, which offer a convenient and enjoyable way to see the islands and learn about their history and culture. One of the best ways to see the Apostle Islands is under sail with True North Sailing Charters. Help hoist the sails or sit back and relax as you navigate the gorgeous waterways of Lake Superior and the Apostle Islands under sail. Create magical moments as you sail into the sunset!
For an even more immersive experience, you can book a kayak tour. Whitecap Kayak is a local company that offers guided kayak tours in the Apostle Islands. They offer a variety of tours that cater to different interests and abilities, including:
Sea cave tours: These tours take you to the sea caves of the Apostle Islands, where you can explore the dramatic coastline and see the caves up close. The tours are suitable for paddlers of all skill levels and include a safety briefing and instruction on kayaking techniques.
Camping trips: If you want to experience the islands in a more immersive way, Whitecap Kayak offers overnight camping trips. You can pitch your tent on one of the islands and spend the night under the stars, while exploring the islands by kayak during the day.
Custom trips: If you have a specific destination or activity in mind, Whitecap Kayak can also customize a tour to meet your needs.
All of Whitecap Kayak's tours are led by experienced and knowledgeable guides who are certified by the American Canoe Association. They will provide you with everything you need for a safe and enjoyable kayaking experience, including a kayak, paddle, life jacket, and other equipment.
BEST KEPT SECRET
One of the locals' best-kept secrets of the Apostle Islands is the Singing Sand Beach at Julian Bay on Stockton Island; it is a unique and beautiful destination. The beach is known for its singing sand, which makes a sound when walked on with bare feet. Only 10-20% of the world's beaches have this characteristic. The clear waters of Lake Superior also offer the opportunity to view a shipwreck under 25 feet of water at the north end of Julian Bay.
Stockton Island is one of the more visited of the 22 Apostle Islands and offers 10,054 acres of wilderness, including miles of hiking trails, a small National Park visitor center, and a park service-maintained harbor with dockage. The Julian Bay beach is popular for hiking, climbing the smooth granite rocks on the southwest end, and wildlife viewing. The beach is surrounded by dunes, savannahs, and pine forests and is a must-see destination.
TIPS FROM LOCALS
If you're planning a visit to the Apostle Islands, here are some tips from locals to help make your trip a success:
Pack warm clothes. The weather in the Great Lakes region can be unpredictable, especially in the spring and fall. Make sure to bring layers and a rain jacket, as it can go from sunny to rainy in a matter of minutes.
Respect the environment and wildlife. The Apostle Islands are home to a variety of flora and fauna, including the highest concentration of black bears in North America on Oak Island. Be sure to stay on designated trails and clean up after yourself to help preserve the natural beauty of the islands.
Check ferry schedules in advance. The Madeline Island ferry is the main way to access Madeline Island, and it can get busy during peak season. Make sure to check the schedule in advance to ensure you can get to the islands when you want.
Don't forget your camera. The Apostle Islands are a photographer's paradise, with stunning landscapes and wildlife to capture. Be sure to bring your camera along to document your trip and capture all the beauty of the islands.
Overall, the Apostle Islands are a true oasis in the Great Lakes region, a paradise of rugged beauty and rich history. These islands are a hidden gem, waiting to be discovered by those seeking an unforgettable experience. From the golden sands of their beaches to the soaring cliffs that rise up like a fortress, the Apostle Islands are a place of breathtaking beauty. Whether you're seeking adventure or relaxation, these islands offer something for everyone. So why wait? Pack your bags and set sail for the Apostle Islands, where the beauty of nature and the majesty of the past await you.