Seagull Bay’s 5 Favorite Things to Do in the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore
Isaac and I (Mollie) are blessed! We’re raising our 3 boys and running Seagull Bay Lakeside Motel on the shores of one of the world's most incredible freshwater lakes.
Not a day goes by where we don’t look out on the emerald waters of Lake Superior. We’re footsteps away from it because Seagull Bay Lakeside Motel sits right on its banks. Talk about an office with a view, huh?
But to tell you the truth there are many days when we’re too busy to appreciate it. Sometimes in the midst of diapers, legos, and caring for guests we take it for granted.
We need to stop, take a deep breath, and marvel at the glistening water of the lake. And when we do, we realize how truly sublime Lake Superior is.
That’s not all. Bayfield and Lake Superior are home to the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore. Yup, plural. The Apostle Islands is a cluster of 22 islands and has the greatest concentration of lighthouses in the United States.
Bayfield is the perfect launching point for those seeking an Apostle Island adventure. And we're excited to show you why visiting the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore is a MUST during your Bayfield vacation.
The History of the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore
The Apostle Islands became a National Lakeshore in the fall of 1970. This gave protection to its natural landscape, rich history, and archeological importance for the enjoyment of all.
People from all over visit the Apostle Islands to explore, learn history, hike its glorious terrain, and much more. But, for centuries, it's been home to the Indigenous Americans, including the Ojibwe people, who call Lake Superior “gitchi gami” – big sea water.
The Ojibwe people have hunted, fished, traded furs, and gathered manoomin – wild rice – on these waters.
Commercial fishermen built fish camps on the islands to rest and shelter from the Lake Superior weather. The Apostle Islands were bustling with fisherman and business trades.
To keep the fisherman and lake freighters safe, lighthouse keepers lit the lamps to guide passing ships carrying iron ore and grain out of the nearby shipping ports.
Aside from all the fishermen, the islands were home to quarrymen and lumbermen harvesting sandstone and lumber out of its forests.
The Apostle Islands were also home to farmers and their families living off the bountiful land and its surrounding waters.
Our history here goes way back. Isaac’s grandfather, Richard Carrier, served in the U.S. Coast Guard in Bayfield in the 1950s. At that time, the U.S. Coast Guard operated and maintained the lighthouses within the Apostle Islands. He spent time stationed at Long Island light and Outer Island light.
He told stories of walking down to the Lullaby Logging Camp on Outer Island where he played pool with the loggers. A favorite story he shared was when one of his coast guard buddies broke the rules and snuck his wife on Outer Island and the chief found out. But that’s a story for another time.
Today the Apostle Islands are home to boaters, sailors, kayakers, campers, and hikers.
Some of the old-growth forests still stand. Historic lighthouses guide ships to safety, and the remnants of fish camps are still here.
Sandstone cliffs rise up from the waters. There are pristine beaches, inland bogs, and quarries that are waiting to be explored.
Apostle Islands National Lakeshore Visitor Centers
Bayfield, WI. is the gateway to the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore. Here, in town, you’ll find one of three visitor centers to help you plan your trip to the Apostle Islands. Located on Washington Avenue this iconic brownstone stone building is hard to miss. It once served as the Bayfield County Courthouse.
The second visitor center is at Little Sand Bay. Here you can visit the Twilite – a fully restored fishing tug – and learn about the people who have lived and worked in this area for generations.
The last visitor center is on Stockton Island and is ready to help you as soon as you step off of the dock at Quarry Bay. Each of these centers provides valuable information to help you get the most out of your Apostle Islands vacation. Here you will find:
A park film or narrated presentations
America’s National Park’s bookstore
Plus the experienced staff at these visitor centers will answer any questions you have!
How to Get Out to the Apostle Islands
The Apostle Islands National Lakeshore is ONLY accessible by car in three areas. Meyers Beach and Little Sand Bay are on the mainland and offer access to nearby islands and the mainland sea caves.
Madeline Island is accessible by the Madeline Island Ferry. This is the ONLY island that cars can access.
The other 21 Apostle Islands and their lighthouses can be accessed by:
Privately owned kayaks or boats
Apostle Islands Cruises
Commercial services such as water taxis, shuttles, kayaking outfitters, sailing, or fishing charters
Once you decide how to get to the islands, you’ll enjoy the many treasures waiting for you to explore.
5 Things to Do Within the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore
There are countless activities waiting for you in the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore. Here are 5 of our favorites.
1. Apostle Islands Cruises
Apostle Islands Cruises offer both non-stop and shuttle services to the Apostle Islands.
The Grand Tour, a crowd favorite, is a 3-hour 55-mile narrated tour of the Apostle Islands. This cruise leaves three times a day from the Bayfield City Dock.
On this cruise, you'll:
See the historic Raspberry and Devil Island's lighthouses
Coast past majestic sea caves
View old-growth boreal forests
Hear tall tales of shipwrecks and pirates
Pass by commercial fishermen lifting nets full of whitefish and trout
Maybe catch a glimpse of a bear walking on a long sandy beach
You’ll see this and more within the 21-island archipelago.
Apostle Islands Cruises also offer shuttles allowing you to set foot and tour:
Raspberry and Michigan Island lighthouses
Hike Stockton Island
Or you can enjoy overnight camping on Stockton and Oak Island.
Kayaking is a popular activity within the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore.
Imagine paddling through emerald waters and alongside towering sea caves in Lake Superior.
Try island hopping and paddle from one island to the next. Or beach your kayak on a secluded shoreline, lie back, and let the sun kiss you with its golden rays.
There are many kayaking outfitters that offer guided tours including day trips and overnight camping. Click here for kayaking outfitters and other business partners of the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, including sailing and fishing charters.
Go back to a time when wind power was the only horsepower found on Lake Superior. And the only sound you heard was the hull of your sailboat splashing against the water.
Sailing is an exciting way to see and experience Lake Superior and the Apostle Islands. Check out our recent blog to read about the many sailing charters available.
The best way to experience the Apostle Islands and all it has to offer is on foot.
The Apostle Islands National Lakeshore is home to over 50 miles of hiking trails found on the mainland and on the islands.
By foot, you can:
Tour the Apostle Islands' historic lighthouses
Walk on its expansive beaches
Access abandoned quarries
Visit old farms
Hike through old logging camps from long ago
And rest on top of scenic overlooks
The Meyers Beach hiking trail is a popular mainland hiking trail that winds its way along the Lake Superior shoreline and above the famous mainland sea caves. You can read about it here and other mainland hiking trails outside of the park.
5. Scuba Diving
Explore the depths of Lake Superior, famous shipwrecks, and underwater sandstone cliffs by scuba diving. The clean clear waters of Lake Superior have hidden gems waiting to be found. But remember, you’re required to have permits before going scuba diving. We also recommend taking extra measures when diving in the cold waters of Lake Superior.
No matter how you decide to explore Lake Superior we want to remind you that Lake Superior is BOSS. FYI, it’s famous for unpredictable weather patterns, pop-up storms, cold water, and rough seas. So please do your research and take the necessary precautions before heading out.
We’ll be right here waiting to hear all about your great adventures.
Seagull Bay Lakeside Motel Is Your Apostle Islands Base Camp
At Seagull Bay, you can watch the sunrise over Madeline Island and look across the bay to Long Island each morning.
From your doorstep, you can watch the ferry scoot across the water and the moonlight dance over the waves.
Here you’ll find comfortable and family-friendly lodging arrangements after a day of exploring The Apostle Islands National Lakeshore.
Come and rest your legs in our 1940s lakeside motel where our old-school charm and modern touches are waiting to greet you.
BOOK NOW and start planning your Apostle Islands trip today.
Can’t wait to see you!
Mollie, Isaac, Axel, Ridge, and Banks
Apostle Islands National Lakeshore (US National Park Service)
The 7 Best Sailing Charters in the Apostle Islands
The 6 Best Summer Hiking Trails in Bayfield, WI.