Bayfield is the gateway to the Apostle Islands. But how do you get there? We get this question time and time again from our guests staying at Seagull Bay.
I'm Mollie, I co-own Seagull Bay with my husband, Isaac. Our lakeside motel sits on the edge of Bayfield, above the Lake Superior shoreline overlooking Chequamegon Bay.
The view is breathtaking. From your room, you have the perfect place to watch the sunrise over Madeline Island. Some catch a glimpse of the Long Island Lighthouse that has guided ships to safety for generations.
The Apostle Islands are the “crown jewels of Lake Superior.” Most of the park is a designated “Wilderness Area” and is accessible only by boat. Today we’re going to unpack why you need to visit these Islands when coming to Bayfield and how to get there.
What Are the Apostle Islands?
The Apostle Islands are a group of 22 coastal Islands found just off of the Bayfield peninsula in Northern Wisconsin. They’re home to the largest concentration of coastal lighthouses in the United States.
In 1970, The Apostle Islands National Lakeshore was established by the National Park Service to protect 21 of the 22 Islands. This includes 12 miles of Lake Superior shoreline on the mainland. Before 1970, the US Coast Guard was responsible for the care and management of its lighthouses.
Isaac’s family history is rooted in these very Islands. In 1954, his grandpa Carrier was stationed as a Boatswains Mate in the Coast Guard here in Bayfield. One of his responsibilities was tending to both Long Island Light and Outer Island Light.
He shared stories of playing pool at the old lullaby logging camp with the lumberjacks on Outer Island. And one of his coast guard buddies snuck his new wife onto the island, which was forbidden.
Isaac’s grandma’s family were commercial fishermen. They occupied fish camps on Stockton Island in the late 1800s to mid-1900s.
Before this, Madeline Island and the rest of the Apostle Islands were home to the Anishinaabe people. Here the Anishinaabe settled on Madeline Island, where food and natural resources allowed them to thrive prior to the 1800s.
Madeline Island was the hub of the fur trade industry dating back to the 1600s. The town of LaPointe was a key trading post where French and English fur traders worked alongside the Anishinaabe in the dominant industry at the time. In the mid-1800s, treaties were signed, and the Anishinaabe were relocated onto the nearby reservations of today.
Madeline Island is the biggest of all the islands. The Anishinaabe call it Moningwunakauning: "Home of the yellow-breasted woodpecker." And still holds spiritual significance to them.1
Madeline Island is not part of the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore. It's home to – seasonal and year-round – residents and thousands of visitors each year.
But how do you get there?
How To Get to the Apostle Islands?
There are multiple ways to access both Madeline Island and the rest of the Apostle Islands. Let’s dive in.
The Madeline Island Ferry
Madeline Island is the easiest to get to. It’s located approximately 2 miles off of the mainland.
You have easy access to Madeline Island using the Madeline Island Ferry.
The ferry transports cars, bikers, and hikers to Madeline Island. There you can:
Visit the Madeline Island Museum
Hike at Big Bay State Park
Sunbathe on its pristine sandy beaches
Madeline Island is a great place to visit for the day when staying at Seagull Bay.
From cruises to kayaks, there are several ways to visit the other islands to experience their historic and natural wonders. But unless you’re an experienced boater, we do not recommend visiting the islands without a guide. Lake Superior is notorious for its sudden storms and cold and choppy waters. Here are some relaxing and adventurous ways to visit the islands.
Apostle Island Cruises
Apostle Islands Cruises offers non-stop cruises and shuttles to help you explore the archipelago that makes up the Apostle Islands.
The Grand Tour is the most popular way people see and grasp this glacial gem. Here you'll enjoy a 55-mile scenic tour. Bring your camera and be ready to capture:
Sea caves carved out of brownstone
Old-growth boreal forests
The Grand Tour is narrated by your captain. They share the rich history of the islands and the people who have lived and worked on them for centuries.
If you’re looking to get an up close and personal experience, then booking one of their shuttles is your ticket to visit the Raspberry Island or the Michigan Island Lighthouses. Touring these historic places is a unique experience because it takes you back in time.
Book a Sailing Charter
Learn the art of sailing on the deep blue and emerald waters of Lake Superior. Let the wind power you around the Apostle Islands.
There are charters where you can sit back, relax and enjoy the view. Or, if you want a hands-on experience, you can help raise the mass and set the sail.
Check out our blog for the best sailing charters in the Apostle Islands to help you enjoy the extraordinary natural scenery of Lake Superior.
Kayaking is perhaps one of the most popular and adventurous ways to access the islands. Taking guided kayak tours to the mainland sea caves off of Meyers Beach is our guests’ favorite way to experience the magnificence of the brownstone sea caves.
Look up at the towering cliffs and caves carved over time as you paddle along this stretch of the shoreline and glide through the emerald-clear waters of Lake Superior. Book a sunset paddle and see a sunset you’ll never forget.
There are multiple kayaking and touring companies found in Bayfield, Red Cliff, and Cornucopia. Check out the quick links below and find which kayak guide services are approved by the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore to book your adventure.
Water Taxis and Motorized Boat Tours
If you’re looking for an intimate but motorized experience, there are a variety of water taxis and motorized boat tours available. These tours are perfect when you're traveling with a small group of friends or your family and want a customized tour of the islands.
Cast your anchor out into Quarry Bay at Stockton Island and enjoy an afternoon of swimming and sunbathing.
Cruise by the Devil's Island sea caves.
Dock at Michigan Island and climb the towering 120-foot staircase to the top of the lighthouse for a panoramic view of the Apostles.
These tours are perfect for an intimate, secluded experience with the people that you love most.
Whether you're looking to:
Sit back and enjoy the view
Take a dip in the cool refreshing water
Paddle through the sea caves
Hike on the numerous trails
Embark on a piece of history
You'll find multiple ways to visit this treasure of islands in Lake Superior.
Seagull Bay Is Your Bayfield Vacation Headquarters
We're here to help you begin your day filled with sunshine, paddling, hiking, swimming, or sailing. And we’re waiting for you at the end of each day during your stay at Seagull Bay.
Drive into Seagull Bay and park your car without giving a second thought until it's time to leave. Outside your front door, you have access to the Brownstone Trail – an old railroad grade – leading you into town to catch your ride out to the islands.
BOOK NOW and start planning your Bayfield and Apostle Islands adventure.
Your memories with the view!
Mollie, Isaac, Axel, Ridge, and Banks