Glacier Carved Islands in Lake Superior
The Apostle Islands is a group of 22 islands off Bayfield Peninsula in Northern Wisconsin. Madeline Island is in the Apostle Islands but not included in the national lakeshore. Portions of Madeline Island are in Big Bay State Park.
The islands were carved out of the sandstone by the advance and retreat of the glaciers.
The Apostle Islands National Lakeshore was created by Congress in 1970. The lakeshore contains sandstone formations, historic lighthouses, virgin timber stands and serves as a breeding area for more than 150 bird species. In 1986, Long Island was added to the original twenty islands.
Trapping, fishing, logging and mining were all substantial commercial enterprises during parts of the history of this area. The wilderness and lakeshore are now protected from development by the U.S. national lakeshore designation.
Things to Do
Lake Superior is central to many recreational activities in the area. Sailing, fishing and scuba diving are all popular. There are tours of the historic Raspberry Island Lighthouse in the summer. Exploring the sea caves by kayak is also popular. Others choose to cruise around the Apostle Islands by boat. Walking the sandy beaches of the area is also an enjoyable way to spend an afternoon.
Lighthouses – There are several light towers and lighthouses in the area. These include the Sand Island Lighthouse, New Michigan Island Light Tower, Raspberry Island Lighthouse, Chequamegon Point Light Tower, Outer Island Lighthouse, Devils Island Light Tower, Old Michigan Island Lighthouse and La Point Lighthouse. Guided tours are available through Apostle Island Cruises.
Fishing – The best shore fishing happens in spring and fall as the trout and salmon move near shore to spawn. In the summer, the areas around the shore are too warm to support these species and the best fishing is in deeper water for lake trout. There are local fishing charters which you may take for a half-day or full-day if you want to target lake trout by trolling with a fishing guide.
Sea Caves – Apostle Islands has an extensive collection of sea caves that have been carved by the waves and ice of Lake Superior against the sandstone in the area. Devils Island, Swallow Point on Sand Island, and the western portion of the mainland’s shore. In the summer, the sea caves are best seen by boat or explored by kayak. Kayaks are available for rent through several vendors. However, be sure to check the weather forecast as Lake Superior is not a good place to get caught in a storm. If you are new to sea kayaking, take a guided trip.
Cruises – A glass bottom boat tour operated by a vendor of the National Park Service allows you to view the shipwrecks and underwater artifacts as well as above-the-water lighthouses. It operates in the summer/early fall and each trip lasts approximately three hours. Shuttles also take overnight campers to Stockton Island and Oak Island.
Not all activities require a love of the largest freshwater lake. Biking, hiking and golf are all available nearby. There are several wineries in the area featuring ciders, meads and country wines. You can also enjoy performing arts in Washburn at StageNorth or in the summer at Big Top Chautauqua, a 900 seat tent theater with a summer season of concerts, plays and other activities. In the fall, many travel to Bayfield to enjoy the apple festival. USA Today called the Bayfield Apple Festival one of the ten best fall festivals in the country. In the spring, admire more than 50,000 blooming daffodils and other blossoms as part of Bayfield in Bloom.
There are more than 50 miles of trails on the islands as well as plenty of sandy beaches for a summer stroll. On the mainland, the Lakeshore Trail from the Meyers Road parking lot offers sea cave overlooks past the two mile point.
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Apostle Islands Cabins
Apostle Islands Camping
The Apostle Islands National Lakeshore offers camping on 19 of the 21 islands and one campsite on the mainland. Permits are required for camping and reservations can be made in advance. Individual campsites can be reserved 30 days before the start of the trip while group campsites (8-21 campers) can be reserved starting in the second week in January. Primitive camping zones are also available on 16 islands for a remote backcountry experience.
Big Bay State Park on Madeline Island also has a campground. This island is not a part of the national lakeshore and is accessible for vehicles by ferry.
There are also options for RV and tent campers in or near Bayfield. Dalrymple has 28 sites for tents and RVs. Little Sand Bay has 32 RV sites and 13 tent only sites. Apostle Islands Area Campground has camping for both RVs and tents. Even Legendary Waters Resort & Casino has two campgrounds.
Apostle Islands Lodging
Bayfield, Wisconsin contains a number of hotels and other lodging options near Apostle Islands. These include the Bayfield Inn, Winfield Inn, Legendary Waters Resort & Casino, Harbor’s Edge Motel, and Seagull Bay Motel. Woodside Cottages also has thirteen cottages.
There are a number of lodging options on Madeline Island including The Inn on Madeline Island with 70 plus rental homes, cottages, condos, hotel suites and guest rooms. Island Inn offers 5 rooms next to Madeline Island Museum and there are another 10 or so options with 4 or less units on the island available for rent.