Top 6 Things to do in The Apostle Islands

June 9th, 2022  |  Apostle Islands National Lakeshore | Lake Superior Wisconsin


So, you've been contemplating a vacation to the Apostle Islands in northern Wisconsin on Lake Superior this summer? Awesome! Here's your guide to the best, can't-miss highlights of any visit to the Apostles.

sea cave porthole sunrise on stockton island, apostle islands national lakeshore, lake superior wisconsin

Sea Cave Sunrise on Stockton Island | Apostle Islands National Lakeshore | Lake Superior Wisconsin


1. Stay in Bayfield

Most visitors to the Apostles use the charming little mainland town of Bayfield as a convenient jumping off point for their adventures. With options for lodging, dining, and both kayak and boat tours available right in town, it's often referred to as the Gateway to the Apostles.

Stay in a quaint little B&B, take in a show at the Big Top Chautauqua, and visit the orchards on the "Fruit Loop". Peruse an art gallery, hike the many local trails, spend an afternoon golfing, or just enjoy the peace and quiet with your toes buried in the sand.

You can't go wrong!

summer sun and a sea stack on stockton island in the apostle islands national lakeshore on lake superior wisconsin

A breathtaking late summer afternoon spent paddling the coastline of Stockton Island


2. Visit Madeline Island

Just a short ferry ride across the channel from Bayfield lies Madeline Island, the largest of the Apostle Islands, and the only one with a permanent resident population. While not part of the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore proper, Madeline Island is home to Big Bay State Park which boasts miles of sandy beach, hiking trails, and a family campground. With several excellent choices for dining, most with amazing views of Lake Superior, and a vibrant local art scene, it's easy to make a day of it on Madeline.

And no trip to Madeline Island is truly complete without a stop a the eclectic Tom's Burned Down Café.

sunset and a tree on hermit island in the apostle islands national lakeshore on lake superior wisconsin

Summer Reflections | Hermit Island


3. Kayak the Mainland Sea Caves

Widely regarded as the Jewels of Lake Superior, the Apostle Islands are a bucket-list destination for many kayakers. Offering some of the best paddling in the entire Midwest, the Apostles are a must-see for serious paddlers. From the towering cathedrals of the mainland sea caves to the stunning sandstone arches and caves of Devil's Island, the Apostles are breathtaking. As the conditions on Lake Superior can change quickly, most paddlers will opt for a guided tour led by one of the kayaking outfitters located in and around Bayfield.

It's worth repeating: If you aren't an experienced big water paddler, please consider booking a kayak tour with a guide!

The hiking trail above the mainland sea caves is another great option for visitors that are in the area on a day when the weather doesn't cooperate for paddling or boating. The trailhead begins at the Meyers Beach parking area and extends some 6 miles through scenic hardwood forests and stands of pine. On a windy day, the booming waves crashing into the sandstone cliffs along the trail will announce the fact you've reached your destination - the Apostle Islands sea caves.

    Michigan Island lighthouse(s) with apple tree in full bloom.

    4. Tour a Historic Lighthouse

    The Apostles are home to the largest remaining collection of lighthouses in the country. For more than 100 years these beacons guided mariners safely across Lake Superior and through the Apostle Islands. Today, the lighthouse keepers are gone, replaced by solar power and automated lights. Several islands, such as Raspberry and Michigan, offer NPS guided tours of the lighthouses and grounds.

    To get there, take a water taxi or private charter to enjoy a unique and personally tailored adventure.

    Alternatively, take the tour boat out of Bayfield on the Grand Tour for views of the Raspberry and Devil's Island lighthouses.

    Brilliant Milky Way on Outer Island in the Apostle Islands

    Unbelievably dark, clear skies over the Outer Island lagoon


    5. Stargazing

    Home to some of the darkest, clearest skies in the entire Midwest, the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore at night is a stargazers paradise. On a clear summer night, the galactic core of the Milky Way glows brilliantly and is visible with the naked eye. And if The Fates smile upon you, the Northern Lights will put on a show you'll never forget. For these reasons and more, efforts are underway to secure International Dark Sky Park status for the Apostles.

    It's worth all the lost sleep, I promise!

    sunrise from a sea cave on devil's island in the apostle islands national lakeshore on lake superior wisconsin

    Two minutes of otherworldly light at sunrise on Devil's Island


    6. Tour the Devil's Island Sea Caves

    Arguably (and I may be biased) the best and most scenic sea caves to be found in the Apostles are on Devil's Island. The forces of nature and the geology of the Devil's Island Formation have combined over the millennia to sculpt a myriad of caves, arches, and sandstone formations that are nothing short of awe-inspiring.

    For the ultimate Apostle Islands experience, arrange to paddle the sea caves on Devil's Island.

    Several of the available private charters have kayaks and paddle boards they'll let you use to explore the sea caves during a tour of Devil's. If you think the caves and arches are incredible from a distance, imagine paddling through them!

    Questions about any and all things Apostle Islands? DM me on Instagram.

    Posted in How-To, Scenic, Travel.