Best Things to Do in the Apostle Islands: 12 Must-See Attractions

by Emil Backup
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Are you planning to visit the Apostle Islands soon? Here are some of the most fun and unique things to do in the Apostle Islands. These majestic sights, activities, and attractions are sure to make for an unforgettable vacation experience.

Welcome to the Apostle Islands, a hidden gem tucked away in the northernmost part of Wisconsin, along the shores of Lake Superior. This archipelago of 21 islands is a paradise for adventurers, nature lovers, and anyone looking to escape the hustle and bustle of city life. Picture this: crystal-clear waters, towering sea caves, and lush forests that seem to stretch on forever. It’s a place where you can truly connect with nature, and there are plenty of things to do in the Apostle Islands, whether you’re kayaking through serene waters, hiking scenic trails, or simply soaking up the awe-inspiring views.

But the Apostle Islands offer more than just stunning landscapes; they’re a haven for a wide range of activities that cater to all kinds of interests. From sailing and paddleboarding to exploring historical lighthouses and indulging in local festivals, there’s no shortage of things to do here. And let’s not forget the rich cultural heritage that adds an extra layer of depth to this already fascinating destination.

So, if you’re yearning for an unforgettable experience, look no further. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll delve into the best things to do in the Apostle Islands. Buckle up, because it’s going to be an exhilarating ride! Here’s everything you need to know about these fun things to do in the Apostle Islands.

The best things to do in the Apostle Islands right now.
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Best Places to Visit in the Apostle Islands

Ready to jump into all the coolest things to do in the Apostle Islands? As noted above, there’s something for everyone at this scenic vacation spot. So keep reading to discover all these unique Apostle Islands places to visit.

Are you looking to kayak through stunning sea caves and hike along picturesque trails? Or would you prefer sailing, camping, and immersing oneself in rich maritime history? Whatever you’re planning, these must-sees in the Apostle Islands can accommodate your needs. Here’s all the best attractions in the Apostle Islands that you should know about.

1. The Mainland Trails

For those who love to lace up their hiking boots and hit the trails, the mainland offers some of the best places in the Apostle Islands to do just that. From the serene Lost Creek Falls to the panoramic views at the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, the mainland trails are a hiker’s paradise.

Start your adventure at the Meyers Beach Trailhead, which leads you through a mix of forest and open meadows. As you hike, you’ll be treated to glimpses of Lake Superior, making every step worth the effort. The trails are well-maintained and offer varying levels of difficulty, catering to both novice hikers and seasoned trekkers.

For a more challenging hike, consider the Lakeshore Trail, which stretches for about 4.5 miles and offers stunning vistas of the lake and nearby islands. Don’t forget to pack a camera; you’ll want to capture the breathtaking scenery.

If you’re seeking things to do in the Apostle Islands, make sure to include exploring the mainland trails. They offer a perfect blend of natural beauty and physical challenge that any outdoor enthusiast will love.

Tranquility at Apostle Islands National Lakeshore: Where rocky shores meet Lake Superior's beauty.
Tranquility at Apostle Islands National Lakeshore: Where rocky shores meet Lake Superior’s beauty.

2. Lake Superior

When exploring Apostle Islands attractions, embarking on a sunset cruise on Lake Superior is an essential experience. Imagine gliding over the water as the sky transforms into a canvas of oranges, pinks, and purples. The experience is nothing short of poetic, and it’s a perfect way to end a day of exploration in this natural paradise.

Several local companies offer sunset cruises, each providing a unique perspective of the Apostle Islands. You’ll pass by historic lighthouses, rugged cliffs, and perhaps even catch a glimpse of local wildlife like bald eagles or deer. The captains are usually well-versed in the area’s history, adding an educational twist to your scenic journey.

For couples seeking a romantic experience, some cruises offer private charters complete with a gourmet dinner. Imagine dining on fresh-caught fish as you watch the sun dip below the horizon—talk about a date to remember!

Looking for where to visit in the Apostle Islands for a memorable experience? Make sure a sunset cruise is on your itinerary. It’s an experience that captures the essence of the islands’ serene beauty.

Captivating calm on the shores of Lake Superior.
Captivating calm on the shores of Lake Superior.

3. Shipwrecks

If you’re a fan of underwater adventures, then scuba diving to explore shipwrecks is one of the coolest things to do in the Apostle Islands. The waters surrounding these islands are a treasure trove of sunken ships, offering a unique glimpse into the maritime history of the region.

Local dive shops offer guided tours that take you to some of the most well-preserved shipwrecks. You’ll be amazed by the intricate details still visible on these sunken vessels, from the wooden planks to the anchors. It’s like stepping back in time, except you’re floating!

For those who are new to scuba diving, worry not. Many of the dive shops offer beginner courses, ensuring you’re well-equipped to explore the underwater world safely. Plus, the instructors are certified professionals who prioritize your safety above all else.

The experience is not just about the shipwrecks, though. The waters are teeming with aquatic life, including various species of fish and sometimes even freshwater corals. It’s a vibrant underwater ecosystem waiting to be explored.

When planning what to do in the Apostle Islands, don’t overlook the opportunity to go scuba diving. It’s an exhilarating experience that offers both adventure and education.

Adventures abound in the refreshing waters.
Adventures abound in the refreshing waters.

4. Around the Islands

Ahoy, adventure seekers! If you’re wondering where to go in the Apostle Islands, let me tell you, there’s nothing quite like a sunset sail around these stunning isles. Picture this: you’re on a classic wooden sailboat, the golden hues of the setting sun reflecting off the water, and the islands silhouetted against the sky. It’s pure magic!

Local companies offer sunset sailing tours that are perfect for couples, families, or anyone looking to experience the islands from a different perspective. You’ll get to see some of the best places in the Apostle Islands from the comfort of your boat, including hidden coves and secluded beaches that are otherwise hard to reach.

As you sail, the captain will share fascinating stories and legends about the islands, adding a layer of depth to your journey. You might even spot some local wildlife like bald eagles or seals basking on the rocks.

And let’s not forget the grand finale—the sunset itself. As the sky turns shades of orange, pink, and purple, you’ll realize this is one of those Apostle Islands attractions you’ll want to experience again and again. So grab your camera and your sense of wonder, and set sail for an evening you won’t soon forget.

Exploring the wonders around the Islands. Among the best things to do in the Apostle Islands
Exploring the wonders around the Islands. Among the best things to do in the Apostle Islands

5. Stockton Island

If you’re searching for unique things to do in the Apostle Islands, berry picking on Stockton Island is a delightful way to spend a day. The island is renowned for its lush forests and abundant berry patches, making it a paradise for foragers and nature lovers alike.

During the summer months, the island bursts into a colorful array of wild blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries. Local guides can take you on a berry-picking adventure, teaching you how to identify edible berries and sharing tips on the best picking spots. It’s a fantastic way to connect with nature and enjoy the island’s bounty.

As you fill your basket, you’ll also have the chance to spot some of the island’s diverse wildlife. From chirping birds to playful squirrels, Stockton Island is a haven for animal enthusiasts. And let’s not forget the stunning views you’ll encounter along the way—cliffside vistas overlooking the sparkling waters make for perfect photo ops.

Berry picking on Stockton Island is an experience that combines outdoor fun with a touch of gastronomic adventure. Believe me, the fruits of your labor will taste all the sweeter!

A mesmerizing view of Stockton Island creates a moment of serenity and wonder.
A mesmerizing view of Stockton Island creates a moment of serenity and wonder.

6. Raspberry Island Lighthouse

When creating a list of Apostle Islands attractions, the iconic lighthouses that dot the archipelago must not be overlooked. One of the most captivating is the Raspberry Island Lighthouse, a beacon of history and maritime heritage. This isn’t just a lighthouse; it’s a time capsule that transports you back to the early 1900s.

The tour starts with a scenic boat ride to Raspberry Island, where you’ll be greeted by the towering lighthouse, standing tall against the backdrop of Lake Superior. Once you step inside, you’ll feel like you’ve entered a different era. The rooms are furnished with period-appropriate decor, and the guides are dressed in historical attire, ready to regale you with tales of shipwrecks and storms.

Don’t forget to climb the spiral staircase to the top of the lighthouse. The panoramic views are nothing short of breathtaking. You’ll see the Apostle Islands laid out before you like a nautical tapestry, each island a unique gem in this Great Lakes jewel box.

Thus, while contemplating the best places to go in the Apostle Islands, don’t miss the opportunity to prioritize a visit to the Raspberry Island Lighthouse. Its combination of history, beauty, and breathtaking views is a memory you’ll cherish.

Exploring the best things to do in the Apostle Islands: From gazing at the Raspberry Island Lighthouse's timeless beauty to embarking on kayaking adventures.
Exploring the best things to do in the Apostle Islands: From gazing at the Raspberry Island Lighthouse’s timeless beauty to embarking on kayaking adventures.

7. Sand Island

When it comes to unique things to do in the Apostle Islands, camping at Sand Island is a standout experience. Picture this: you’re surrounded by the tranquil sounds of nature, the sky is a canvas of stars, and the gentle waves of Lake Superior are your lullaby. It’s an outdoor enthusiast’s dream come true!

Sand Island offers a variety of campsites, from secluded spots in the woods to sites with a lake view. Each campsite comes with a fire ring and picnic table, so you can enjoy a cozy campfire dinner as the sun sets over the lake. And speaking of sunsets, they’re absolutely magical here. The sky turns into a kaleidoscope of colors, reflecting off the water in a mesmerizing dance.

During the day, you can explore the island’s hiking trails, which take you through lush forests and along rugged cliffs. Keep an eye out for local wildlife like white-tailed deer and bald eagles. And if you’re into photography, the scenic vistas provide endless opportunities for that perfect shot.

In your compilation of Apostle Islands places to visit, be certain to include Sand Island. This isn’t merely a camping trip; it’s an adventure that you will be grateful for forever.

Sand Island: Natural Wonders Await in the Apostle Islands. Pristine beaches, ancient caves, and stunning vistas make it a must-visit destination.
Sand Island: Natural Wonders Await in the Apostle Islands. Pristine beaches, ancient caves, and stunning vistas make it a must-visit destination.

8. Meyers Beach Sea Caves

For thrill-seekers looking for coolest activities in the Apostle Islands, ice climbing at Meyers Beach Sea Caves is a winter wonder you won’t want to miss. Imagine scaling frozen waterfalls and ice formations that look like something out of a fantasy novel. It’s an adrenaline-pumping experience that’s both challenging and rewarding.

Meyers Beach Sea Caves are a spectacle in their own right, but when winter comes, they transform into an icy playground perfect for climbing. The caves are adorned with icicles that dangle like chandeliers, creating a surreal atmosphere that’s nothing short of magical. And don’t worry if you’re new to ice climbing; local guides offer beginner courses to help you get started.

The climb itself is exhilarating. With each step, you’ll feel more connected to the natural world around you, and reaching the top gives you a sense of accomplishment that’s hard to beat. Plus, the view from up high is absolutely breathtaking; you’ll see the Apostle Islands like never before.

Curious about where to visit in the Apostle Islands for an unforgettable adventure? Meyers Beach Sea Caves should be on your list. It’s a winter escapade that will leave you awe-struck and yearning for more.

Meyers Beach Sea Caves: Apostle Islands' Coastal Marvels. Discover nature's artistry in these stunning caves carved by waves.
Meyers Beach Sea Caves: Apostle Islands’ Coastal Marvels. Discover nature’s artistry in these stunning caves carved by waves.

9. Apostle Islands National Lakeshore

For those who find solace in the company of our feathered friends, Apostle Islands National Lakeshore is a birdwatcher’s paradise. This is one of those unique places in the Apostle Islands where you can spot a variety of bird species, from the majestic bald eagle to the elusive pileated woodpecker.

The Lakeshore offers a serene backdrop for this peaceful activity. With the sound of Lake Superior’s waves gently lapping against the shore and the rustle of leaves in the wind, it’s easy to lose yourself in the moment. Bring your binoculars and a field guide, and you’re set for a day of avian exploration.

Local birding groups often host guided tours, providing expert insights into the habits and habitats of the area’s bird population. These tours are educational and also a fantastic way to meet like-minded individuals who share your passion for birdwatching.

What are the best things to do in the Apostle Islands that’s both relaxing and engaging? Birdwatching at Apostle Islands National Lakeshore is a must. It’s a tranquil experience that offers a unique perspective on the natural beauty of the islands.

Pristine Beauty on Lake Superior. Explore a captivating blend of islands, cliffs, and clear waters, one of the best things to do in the Apostle Islands.
Pristine Beauty on Lake Superior. Explore a captivating blend of islands, cliffs, and clear waters, one of the best things to do in the Apostle Islands.

10. Outer Island

If you’re a fan of celestial wonders, then Outer Island is your go-to spot. This is one of those Apostle Islands attractions that you simply can’t miss. Far from the light pollution of big cities, the night sky here is a tapestry of twinkling stars, planets, and even the occasional meteor shower.

The island offers several secluded spots perfect for laying down a blanket and gazing upwards. The experience is surreal; you’ll feel like you’ve stepped into a planetarium, except it’s all real and right above you. Don’t forget to bring a telescope if you have one; the clarity of the sky makes it ideal for amateur astronomers to spot constellations and planets.

Local guides offer night sky tours, complete with telescopes and expert commentary. These tours are not only educational but also incredibly romantic. Imagine sharing a moment under the stars with your loved one, away from the hustle and bustle of daily life.

For an experience that’s both magical and enlightening, stargazing at Outer Island is an essential place to go. It’s a mesmerizing activity that will leave you in awe of the universe’s grandeur.

Embark on a journey to the secluded shores and untouched landscapes of Outer Island
Embark on a journey to the secluded shores and untouched landscapes of Outer Island.

11. Chequamegon Bay

If you’re an angler at heart, then Chequamegon Bay is your paradise. This is one of those cool destinations in the Apostle Islands where you can cast your line and reel in a variety of freshwater fish. From walleye to smallmouth bass, the bay is teeming with aquatic life, making it a fisherman’s dream come true.

The bay offers both shallow and deep waters, providing a diverse fishing experience. Local fishing charters are available to guide you to the best spots, complete with all the gear you’ll need. They’ll even help you with techniques if you’re new to the sport.

For those who prefer a more solitary experience, there are plenty of quiet corners around the bay where you can fish in peace. Just you, the gentle lapping of the water, and the thrill of the catch. It’s something that will connect you with nature in a profound way.

Fishing at Chequamegon Bay is one of the unique Apostle Islands things to do. It’s an activity that combines relaxation and excitement, offering a fulfilling day out in the Apostle Islands.

12. Madeline Island

If you’re visiting in the winter months, one of the coolest activities in the Apostle Islands has to be snowshoeing on Madeline Island. The island transforms into a winter wonderland, offering miles of snow-covered trails that are perfect for this age-old activity.

You can rent snowshoes locally, so no need to bring your own. Once you’re geared up, head out to the Big Bay State Park, where you’ll find well-marked trails that take you through dense forests and along the frozen shoreline. The crisp air, the crunch of snow underfoot, and the serenity of the winter landscape make this an unforgettable experience.

For the more adventurous, there are also backcountry trails that offer more challenging terrain. You’ll need a good sense of direction and some basic survival skills, but the reward is a truly unique winter adventure.

When the temperature drops, snowshoeing on Madeline Island should be high on your list of what to do in the Apostle Islands. More than just a way to explore the island, it’s a way to embrace the beauty of winter in a setting that’s nothing short of magical.

Nestled amidst Lake Superior's embrace, Madeline Island offers a tranquil escape into nature's serenity.
Nestled amidst Lake Superior, Madeline Island is one of the best things to do in the Apostle Islands.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about the Best Things to Do in the Apostle Islands

Looking for more content on the top things to do in the Apostle Islands? Here are some popular questions (and answers) I get that will help you plan your trip to the Apostle Islands:

What’s the best time to visit the Apostle Islands?

The ideal time to explore the Apostle Islands is between June and August. Summer offers pleasant weather for activities such as kayaking, hiking, and camping, while winter offers unique experiences like ice caves and snowshoeing. Keep in mind that weather can vary, so it’s wise to check forecasts beforehand.

How many days do you need at Apostle Islands?

The number of days you’ll need to fully experience the Apostle Islands in Wisconsin depends on your interests and the activities you wish to pursue. Here’s a general guideline for a well-rounded trip:

3 to 5 Days in Apostle Islands:

Day 1: Arrival and Bayfield

  • Arrive in Bayfield, the gateway to the Apostle Islands.
  • Explore the town, visit local shops, and get oriented.
  • Take a short boat tour or kayak trip if time allows.

Day 2: Boat Tour and Mainland Sea Caves

  • Take a boat tour to explore some of the islands and their sea caves.
  • Alternatively, you can kayak to the mainland sea caves if you’re experienced and the weather conditions are favorable.

Hiking and Beaches (Day 3)

  • Spend a day on one of the islands like Madeline Island, where you can hike, swim, and relax on the beach.
  • Visit the Madeline Island Museum to learn about the history and culture of the area.

Day 4: Water Activities (Optional)

  • If you’re into water sports, this would be a good day for sailing, fishing, or more extensive kayaking.
  • You could also take a scuba diving trip to explore some of the underwater shipwrecks.

Day 5: Wildlife and Relaxation (Optional)

  • Spend your last day bird-watching or looking for other wildlife like white-tailed deer and black bears.
  • Alternatively, you can use this day to revisit your favorite spots or simply relax and take in the natural beauty.

How do I get to the Apostle Islands?

The nearest airport is in Duluth, Minnesota, about 90 minutes away. To reach the Apostle Islands, start by heading to the gateway town of Bayfield, Wisconsin. From there, various options include taking a ferry, cruise, or kayak tour to the islands. The Madeline Island Ferry is a popular choice for accessing Madeline Island, while guided tours provide a unique perspective on these scenic Lake Superior gems.

Are the Apostle Islands family-friendly?

Absolutely, the Apostle Islands are family-friendly. With their stunning natural beauty and a range of activities, they offer something for all ages. Families can enjoy kayaking, hiking, picnicking, and exploring historic sites. The calm beaches of Madeline Island and the adventure-rich environment make it an excellent destination for creating lasting memories with your loved ones.

A journey through rugged landscapes, pristine waters, and the allure of untouched wilderness.
A journey through rugged landscapes, pristine waters, and the allure of untouched wilderness.

What is the best Apostle Island?

Determining the best Apostle Island depends on what you’re looking to experience, as each island has its own unique attractions. However, one island that stands out for its accessibility and variety of activities is Madeline Island.

Why Madeline Island is the Best:

  1. Accessibility: Madeline Island is the only Apostle Island accessible by ferry, making it the easiest to reach and explore.
  2. Amenities: Unlike the other, more remote islands, Madeline has amenities like restaurants, shops, and lodging options.
  3. Cultural Attractions: The Madeline Island Museum offers insights into the history and culture of the Apostle Islands and the Lake Superior region.
  4. Outdoor Activities: Madeline Island offers a range of activities including hiking, biking, and kayaking. Big Bay State Park and Big Bay Town Park provide excellent opportunities for these activities.
  5. Beaches: The island has some of the best beaches in the Apostle Islands, including those at Big Bay State Park.
  6. Variety: From wooded areas and wetlands to cliffs and sandy beaches, Madeline Island offers a diverse range of landscapes to explore.
  7. Events: Madeline Island hosts various events throughout the year, including music festivals and art fairs, providing a cultural dimension that most of the other islands lack.
  8. Community: The island has a small but vibrant community, giving visitors a chance to experience local life in a way that’s not possible on the other, uninhabited islands.

Do I need a permit for camping at the Apostle Islands?

Yes, a camping permit is required for overnight stays at the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore. You can obtain permits through the National Park Service’s reservation system. Different islands have varying regulations, so it’s essential to check the specific guidelines for the island you plan to camp on. This helps ensure an organized and enjoyable camping experience.

What is special about the Apostle Islands?

The Apostle Islands are renowned for their breathtaking natural beauty, featuring a stunning array of sea caves, pristine beaches, and old-growth forests. Additionally, the islands offer a rich cultural history, including historic lighthouses and Native American heritage, making them a diverse and captivating destination for all kinds of travelers.

Are the Apostle Islands worth visiting?

Absolutely, the Apostle Islands are a must-visit for anyone who loves outdoor adventures, scenic beauty, and a touch of history. From kayaking through intricate sea caves to hiking in lush forests and exploring historic lighthouses, the islands offer a diverse range of activities that promise an unforgettable experience.

Final Thoughts on Exploring the Apostle Islands

So there you have it, a comprehensive guide to the Apostle Islands places to visit and the myriad activities that await you. From the adrenaline-pumping adventures to the serene moments of natural beauty, the Apostle Islands offer something for every type of traveler. Whether you’re a history buff, an outdoor enthusiast, or someone who just wants to take in the stunning landscapes, this destination has got you covered.

Don’t just take my word for it—experience the unique things to do in the Apostle Islands for yourself. Pack your bags, set your out-of-office email, and get ready for an unforgettable journey to one of the most awe-inspiring places in the United States. Trust me, you won’t regret it.

Best Things to Do in the Apostle Islands for all types of travelers.
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