The Apostle Islands National Lakeshore is one of the many reasons why people love living in Bayfield. Located just off the coast of the Bayfield Peninsula on the southern shore of Lake Superior, this gorgeous chain of islands is one of only four national lakeshores in the country.
The lakeshore is composed of 21 of the 22 Apostle Islands (Madeline Island, the largest of the Apostle Islands, is not part of the preserve). The Apostle Islands offer countless adventures to discover considering the lakeshore boasts over 69,000 acres of some of the most pristine beaches, dramatic cliffs, and clearest water in the Great Lakes.
Just minutes away from downtown Bayfield, you can enjoy miles of hiking trails and a wealth of water-based activities such as swimming, fishing, boating, and kayaking. The lakeshore is famous for its wonderful collection of historic lighthouses, incredible sea caves, breathtaking sandstone rock formations, old-growth forests, shipwrecks, wilderness areas, and more.
Getting Around the Islands
- By boat and kayak
There’s no better way to explore the Apostle Islands’ beautiful protected bays and scenic beaches. Small crafts and kayaks will give you improved maneuverability.There are several public boat launches and marinas located in Bayfield, Ashland, Little Sand Bay, Washburn, Red Cliff, Herbster, Port Wing, and Cornucopia. Public docks can be accessed on 12 of the islands.Kayakers can cross the lake into the islands from a launch point west of the National Park Service dock at Little Sand Bay or other public beaches. Additionally, you can transport your canoe or kayak directly to the islands using the Apostle Islands Cruise Service for a fee.
- Apostle Islands Cruises’ tours and shuttles
Apostle Islands Cruises, which operates from Bayfield’s downtown harbor, offers a variety of boat cruises and tours.Enjoy a variety of narrated sightseeing tours, charter boat trips, and island shuttle services. Apostle Islands Cruises’ office is located at 2 Front St. next to the Bayfield Pavilion. Reservations are recommended.Popular cruises include:
- The Grand Tour A scenic, nonstop 55-mile narrated tour exploring the spectacular sights and history of the islands.
- The Shipwrecks, Sea Caves, & Lighthouses Tour A 3-hour tour that lets you check out the Sand Island and Raspberry Island lighthouses and explore sunken ships and other underwater historic artifacts through glass-bottom viewing wells on the ships.
What You’ll Find
- Historic lighthouses The Apostle Islands are home to more lighthouses than any other area managed by the National Park Service. These iconic structures have been helping large ships and boats navigate the islands and Lake Superior’s notoriously rough waters since the late 18th century.The lighthouses on Devil’s Island, Michigan Island, Outer Island, Raspberry Island, and Sand Island have all been listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
- Sea caves
Mostly located along Swallow Point on Sand Island as well as the cliffs on the north shore of Devil’s Island, the stunning sea caves of the Apostle Islands are an unforgettable sight.These natural formations feature spectacular vaulted chambers, colorful walls, and honey-combed passageways formed by centuries of wave movements and the freezing and thawing cycles of the lake.
- The singing sands of Stockton Island Stockton Island’s Julian Bay is famously known for its “singing sands,” which create distinctive sounds with each step you take on the pristine beach.
Camping on the lakeshore is the perfect way to enjoy nature and discover the region.
Campgrounds are open to the public on 19 out of the 21 islands in the Apostles. Fees and camping permits are required. 16 of the islands feature backcountry camping options.