Unspoiled Beauty – Apostle Islands

After a very stormy night, we awoke to an eerily calm, fog-covered morning. Lake Superior’s water was as smooth as glass; a rare treat to behold. Even though the campground is located on Lake Superior’s Chequamegon Bay, creating some protection from the open waters of this Great Lake, a mere few hours earlier, she was showing her true personality with large whitecaps, waves crashing over the shoreline, and ominous clouds swirling overhead. Lake Superior is a force that demands respect.

As we sat in the comfort of the RV enjoying the view while sipping our morning coffee, Al and I discussed the plan for the day. There was still a heavy layer of cloud cover blocking any sight of the sun rising. Thus, when I suggested we take a scenic cruise of the Apostle Islands, Al thought I wasn’t thinking clearly and proceeded to fill my coffee cup in hopes more caffeine would improve my logic.

I was serious though and thought the day would be perfect for a three-hour Apostle Island cruise on Lake Superior, not that I didn’t have my doubts considering how the visibility was currently poor and the overall feel was very gloomy.

Kreher Campground
Our view of Chequamegon Bay from the RV. Lakefront site at Kreher Campground in Ashland, Wisconsin

Visiting the Apostle Islands had been on my bucket list for as long as I can remember. I’ve always loved looking at maps and am intrigued about places the more I study a map. That little passion of mine has lead us to explore some beautiful locations and this part of northern Wisconsin fits that bill.

As many times as we’ve driven along Lake Superior’s Northshore, her south shore eluded us until the summer of 2019. And believe me, she did not disappoint … Apostle Islands National Lakeshore.

Lake Superior and the Apostle Islands

Visiting the Apostle Islands

The picturesque little town of Bayfield, Wisconsin, is the gateway to this national lakeshore. The Apostle Islands consists of 22 coastal islands in Lake Superior that feature lighthouses, sea caves, hiking trails, camping, sailing, and amazing kayaking. It’s said that the area offers some of the best kayaking in the world allowing kayakers to weave in and out of dramatic archways of sea caves.

Tent camping is allowed on several of the islands, but you’ll need to hire a water taxi if you don’t have your own watercraft. There is a vehicle ferry available for visitors interested in touring or camping on Madeline Island. Voted as one of the coolest small towns in the U.S., this Apostle Island is not technically part of the national lakeshore but worthy of a mention. (Personally, I feelย the ferry is a tad pricey. Vehicle price is based on length with an additional per person charge.)

During the winter when the waters along the lakeshore freeze over, hikers are able to hike to these ice caves that are adorned with windswept icicles. Although northern Wisconsin winters are no longer something I feel a need to experience, I might change my mind in order to photograph these ice caves. It looks like a really stunning sight and adventure.

(In reality, I’ll stick to viewing pretty images of that winter wonderland from the comfort of my desert located RV. I don’t think I could handle the thirty plus below wind chill conditions anymore ๐Ÿฅถ I’m definitely out of practice.)

Our Tour boat!

Cruising the Apostle Islands

Visiting the town of Bayfield is enjoyable, but in order to really see the beauty of the National Lakeshore, you’ll need to get out on the water. Apostle Islands Cruises offers a nice variety of tours to choose from. We loved our cruise and would definitely recommend.

During our visit in the summer of 2019, we chose to take the Sea Caves and Lighthouse Tour. I was really looking forward to taking another one of their cruises this summer, specifically the Lighthouse Tour, but the cruise company ended up canceling that specific tour during the 2020 season in order to accommodate Covid-19 safety guidelines, and thus, tours and schedules were rearranged.

Things to be aware of when cruising on Lake Superior …

  • Temperature – don’t dress for land, dress for the ‘sea’. Temps can be as much as 20 degrees colder once your away from land and the weather can change drastically in mere minutes. Thus, bring a sweatshirt and/or raincoat regardless of what the weather is like on land.
  • Open Water – the lake can get rough. Even though this is a lake, view it as a sea.
  • Wind – we enjoyed sitting on the top deck, but it’s windy as all heck and the wind is always cold. All that wind makes for great sailing though.
  • Camera and info – it’s beautiful so plan on taking lots of photos, and the captain shares fascinating information on the islands and happenings.
Raspberry Island Lighthouse on Lake Superior, Apostle Islands National Lakeshore
Raspberry Island Lighthouse – Apostle Islands National Lakeshore

Lighthouses

The lighthouse on Raspberry Island has long been known as the Showplace of the Apostle Islands. At scheduled times, the Park Service provides a narrated historical dramatization to tourists. In addition to the lighthouse, boaters often anchor about a mile away along Raspberry Island’s shoreline at one of the more scenic sand spits in the Apostle Islands, and hikers who arrive by boat can follow the trail between the lighthouse and the sandspit to explore.

Sand Island Lighthouse
A kayaker’s delight!

Perfect Day

We couldn’t have picked a better day for our tour. Since the morning’s weather was gloomy, misty, and less than optimal for a three-hour scenic cruise, our boat was barely half full that afternoon. Glancing at the sky while boarding the boat, there visually appeared to be more weather rolling in, but according to my weather app radar, it was looking good. The captain concurred that we should have a lovely day for a boat ride.

And what a lovely August afternoon it was! Aside from Captain Mike’s informative narration, he interjected his excitement regarding the rare optimal lake conditions as well as personal lake life tales and experiences. He hails from a generational seafaring family and his passion and love for Lake Superior and the Bayfield Pennisula was obvious.

He and his crew appeared to be enjoying their time out on the lake every bit as much as the passengers considering we were all experiencing a rare treata very calm Lake Superior.

According to Captain Mike, the lake is rarely that calm … happens maybe ten or twelve times a year… a year … and we were fortunate to have experienced it. The afternoon weather was gorgeous combined with the calmness of the lake made for a magical day. I don’t think we could repeat those conditions even if we tried. Luck was definitely on our side that day. A bucket list memory for the books! โ›ต๐Ÿ˜Žโค

Where to stay!

The charming town of Bayfield, Wisconsin, offers a unique variety of accommodations; small hotels, historical Bed and Breakfasts, and vacation rentals. The nearby towns of Washburn and Ashland offer additional lodging options.

RVing – There’s a variety of places to camp throughout the Bayfield Peninsula. We stayed in Ashland at the Kreher Campground which is a first-come-first-serve campground and is big rig friendly. Our second choice would have been at the town campground in Herbster purely for the sunsets. The Herbster Campground is also a great spot to stay if your goal is kayaking the sea caves which are accessed via Meyers Beach in Cornucopia. FYI –ย kayaking tours start in Cornucopia.

We also checked out the county campground in Washburn, and although workable, we thought the sites were pretty close together and the abundance of trees with low branches could be problematic. This CG is better suited for travel trailers, Class C’s, and tents, although we did see a couple of 5th wheels.

The Legendary Waters Casino in Red Cliff is an option for larger RVs, but expect close neighbors and unlevel sites, but the beautiful views might make up for the cons. The national forest campgrounds that we drove through we’d consider best suited for tents, vans, or popup trailers.

Obviously, we weren’t able to explore all the camping facilities in the area. So, for additional RVing options and more detailed information, please check with your favorite app. Our favorite apps are Allstays and Campendium. Happy trails!

Twenty years from now, you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the tradewinds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover. — Mark Twain

Bayfield, Wisconsin

(Thank you for using my affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases and really appreciate your support โค)

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79 thoughts on “Unspoiled Beauty – Apostle Islands

  1. The Apostle Islands were one of the places we were planning to visit this summer. We had a week booked in July in an RV park in Bayfield. :-(( We’re hoping maybe next summer?? You had such a glorious day on the lake! And your photos are beautiful. Fingers crossed for 2021…

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    1. Yes, fingers crossed for 2021! I know you and Eric will enjoy your visit to this part of the country. I’m in love with the quiant tiny town of Bayfield and hope to book a weeks stay there next summer and take a Lighthouse tour cruise. ๐Ÿคž

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  2. Now I have a new place on my “want to go” list. Thanks for the post and beautiful pics!

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    1. I think you’d really enjoy visiting and with a van there’s no shortage of places to stay. Our size limits us. Do note – June can be brutal for mosquitoes.

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    1. Yeah, you definitely wouldn’t want to kayak Lake Superior on a windy day. We were hoping to spend a few nights in the area again this year so we could get in some hiking and more explorations, but finding an open campsite this summer is challenging. So we’ll stay put on private property and kayak this much smaller (and calmer) lake.

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  3. Ingrid – lovely photos as always. I’ve only seen Lake Superior where it meets St. Mary’s River in Sioux St. Marie and it’s been a long time since then. My son did a week kayaking the Apostle Islands in with his Boy Scout troop and the other scouts (and adults) had a blast. there is so much to see in this amazing country of ours – I am glad I can follow your adventures. Take care, stay safe and well, and keep on chronicling your adventures. Peace

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    1. The shores around Lake Superior are quite beautiful plus the water is crisp and clear. I’ve developed a love for this area and would highly recommend a visit one day. Thanks for stopping by.๐Ÿ˜Š

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  4. Had some time in between craziness to read your post and enjoy your gorgeous pics, Ingrid. A kayaker’s delight indeed with those caves. Glad you are enjoying cooler temps as the west continues to boil away!

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    1. We’ve had an above-normal temp summer, but still very workable especially when compared to other parts of the country. Thus, no complaints from me. You and Hans would love kayaking the sea caves. I’d love to get in shape to do a lengthy paddle. Hmm, a goal? Perhaps! Enjoy that SUP of yours … fun!

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  5. What a gorgeous area to explore & to do so in such perfect conditions I am certain only added to the experience! I love having the opportunity to see a place from the water, a totally different perspective. Good to hear you having a wonderful summer๐Ÿค—

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    1. It is beautiful around here with plenty of solitude perfect for social distancing. Seeing the shoreline from the water is definitely a must … like you said, a totally different perspective. Since our plan is to return to northern Wisconsin again next summer, I’m hoping to take in another tour on the lake without concerns about a virus. Can’t believe summer is quickly coming to an end. ๐Ÿ˜

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  6. Although we lived in Wisconsin for almost 30 years that is one place that we never visited. We love the north shore both on the Wisconsin and Minnesota side and travel it frequently on our way to Ontario,

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    1. When we lived in IL, summer vacations usually included a trip to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area north of Grand Marais. We always enjoyed the drive along Hwy 61 and feel it’s every bit as picturesque as places found in the west. There’s a special beauty around here that I find comforting. I guess that means we’ll be returning again next summer ๐Ÿ˜Š

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    1. It is such a pretty area. I’ll need to check your blog for your post on the Apostle Islands. I think we’ll return again next summer.

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  7. What a beautiful area, Ingrid. Thanks for sharing as I donโ€™t know anything about Wisconsin. Looks and sounds like a wonderful region to explore one (late) summer. And you sure lucked out with the weather on your cruise. Fantastic instinct you have. ๐Ÿ™‚ Enjoy the rest of your summer!

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    1. After having camped several times along the shores of Lake Superior, I was kind of getting a feel for her. Although luck did come into play for our cruise. The lake is known for being volatile as any experienced Lake Superior sailor/boater will confirm. The shores of Lake Superior are stunning and at one time, we even talked about doing a Lake Superior loop. Many years ago, we had driven a Lake Michigan loop. Even though I’d highly recommend it, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the abundance of mosquitos in June and the overall summer cool temps. Rarely does it get into the 80’s. Always great sleeping weather though ๐Ÿ™‚

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    1. Thank you! The shores of Lake Superior is such a beautiful place to visit. This summer we opted not to take a boat tour for a couple of different reasons – one being the virus. This summer we’re doing things that keep us social distanced yet still having fun.

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  8. A rare treat indeed for the calm, clear Lake Superior lake. The land features/cave entrance seen from the boat is spectacular. Do you plan of kayaking there one day?
    Apostle Island NS will remain our un-visited National Lakeshore, so your great captures will make do.

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    1. I would love to kayak the caves but don’t think an old injury will give me the stamina needed. Maybe if I practice I can build up to it for next summer. Yep, we’ll probably return in 2021 to escape the summer heat in Phx … as long as the family still wants us to visit. The four of us are basically quarantined in the north woods with maybe a once a week visit to the grocery store with masks. Safe place for us to spend our summer. ๐Ÿ˜Ž

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  9. Had we seen this post while we were in Wisconsin, we would have somehow found the time to visit here! We literally ran out of time the summer we spent in Wisconsin. What a lovely state. Maybe one day we will visit – but I will be prayed up to go on one of the 10 days Lake Superior is like glass!!!

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    1. We sure did get lucky with the calm day. I’m not sure how much I would’ve enjoyed the cruise if the waters hadn’t cooperated … motion sickness ๐Ÿ˜ It’s a beautiful area that I’d recommend keeping on your bucket list for a someday visit!

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  10. Thanks so much for this tour, Ingrid. I love small islands and lighthouses. Hiking the trail between the lighthouse and the sandspit definitely appeals to me. Another dream adventure for my bucket list!

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    1. This area in northern Wisconsin has been such a wonderful discovery and I’d love to keep exploring it since we’ve barely touched the surface. If I had some sort of watercraft, I’d make it my mission to photograph all the lighthouses around the Apostle Islands. Love’em! So many places, so little time!

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  11. We were just discussing this week the possibility of heading up that way next summer – perhaps spending as much time in Wisconsin and Minnesota as we did last year in Michigan. Youโ€™re definitely giving me some great ideas for places to focus on. Thanks also for the info on campgrounds. Should save me some research!

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    1. It’s a beautiful area with an abundance of hiking trails. Just note, June is the worst for mosquitos. Mid-July to the end of September is our favorite time in the northland. There’s one more RV park near Bayfield that I plan on driving through (soon, I hope). When you start your planning, be sure and email me. I have some recommendations for the Northshore on places to stay and hike as well as a brewery or two ๐Ÿ˜ƒ

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  12. Hi Ingrid. Great post. My memories in Ashland are my first attempt at backing up into a campsite myself. Every old geezer in the small campground (the one near the marina) was watching. One strolled up to me later and told me that he thought I would “catch on”. Gee thanks.

    The other memory is that Ashland has the dubious honor of being the worst laundromat I’ve ever been in. With 8 years of rolling around in our T@DA, nothing else even comes close.

    Nice murals, tho…

    Have. Great summer.

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    1. We’ve fallen in love with northern Wisconsin. Fortunately, I didn’t need a laundromat during our stay, and we did enjoy a hiking tour of the Ashland murals. Yeah, don’t-cha love the RV help from onlookers? Not! I think we all have plenty of those stories. Hope you’re enjoying your summer. I miss your posts!

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    1. Lake Superiors’ shores are stunning. I tried convincing Al to do a Lake Superior loop one summer. He’s not on board … yet ๐Ÿ˜ There’s more shoreline in Canada than the U.S.

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    1. Ingrid,
      You really scored a big win with the weather. Our tour, though fun, took place on choppy water under an overcast sky. Nevertheless, the Apostle Islands are a real gem anytime. Your pictures are awesome and brought back some great memories. All you need now is an ice cold Leinenkugel Original to cap off a great day. Enjoy! Joe

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      1. Yes, Joe we really scored with that weather. I’m not sure how much I would’ve enjoyed the cruise had it been choppy and overcast. We’re really enjoying another summer up here in northern Wisconsin. At this rate, we plan on returning again next summer. And Al is enjoying a cold Leinenkugel whenever the opportunity strikes. ๐Ÿบ Me? I’ll stick with Margarita’s ๐Ÿน

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  13. Wow, you certainly did pick a perfect day to visit and your beautiful photos prove it. I know all too well about when the weather can change drastically in mere minutes. We were off shore of Nantucket when fog rolled in that you literally couldn’t see beyond the front of the boat and the temperature dropped about 20 degrees. When we had guests coming to visit us in New England in August, they thought we were crazy when we told them to pack a sweatshirt.

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    1. Yes, we did get lucky with a beautiful day. We learned many years ago that anytime you head off on a boating excursion one should bring a daypack prepared for a variety of weather conditions. I was very glad to have brought my sweatshirt that day even though it was 80 degrees onshore. It was so much cooler once we were out on the open water. Fun day!

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    1. I agree that the summer is flying by. Before long, we’ll be loading up the RV and heading back to Phoenix for the winter. We seem to be establishing a pattern ๐Ÿ™‚

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    1. Yeah, the kayaking in those waters looks intimidating and we know all too well how the Great Lakes can change their personalities quickly. I would not want to be out there kayaking in white caps. I’ll stick to calm small lakes where I can see the bottom ๐Ÿ˜

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  14. I’ve just skimmed your post right now, will relax and read it more thoroughly a little later today. Thanks so much for posting this, we are hoping to volunteer at Apostle Islands within the next year or so. We are both from Michigan (originally but now full time RV’ers/Workampers) and have spent many weeks in northern Michigan (including the U.P.) over the years but never gone over to WI and the Apostle Islands. So looking forward to going and spending a few months in the area.

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    1. It’s beautiful country! Be sure and check out some of my posts from the 2019 summer for additional info on northern WI and Duluth, MN. Feel free to email me if you have any questions or looking for additional information. I think you’d enjoy the area. We love it!

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  15. Beautiful. Really great land features along the waters’ edges. That’s a wonderful stone lighthouse.

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    1. It really is beautiful along the shore and I really wanted to do a kayak tour but know my limitations. Since kayaking was out, my second choice was taking a lighthouse tour, but thanks to Covid that was out. Oh well, maybe next summer!

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  16. I’m afraid I had to ask which one of you was charged by length and which one was charged as additional.

    Vehicle price is based on length with an additional per person charge.

    Sorry. I had to ask.

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    1. We personally didn’t take the ferry. We thought about walking on to hike around town on Madeline Island and were reading the fee sign and watched a Class C being measured. If you click on the “ferry link” in this post, the vehicle fee schedule clearly states Driver and Passenger not included. We’re used to taking the ferry’s in Texas where they’re free. ๐Ÿ˜Š

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  17. Glad to here I’m not strange in that I also like map viewing. We are looking at a Spring trip next year that would take us up Michigan and around the upper peninsula and over to the Wisconsin side. Then maybe on to Montana or west from there. Just what if planning for now. I’ve bookmarked your post for future reference – thank you.

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    1. Be sure and check out some of my 2019 summer posts for more info on the area. May is still cold in the UP and northern WI and June is the worst for mosquitos. My favorite time of year in this part of the country starts the second week in July to the end of September. I would recommend New Mexico, northern AZ, and Utah for spring then go north from there, then east. My two cents ๐Ÿ˜ Feel free to email me anytime for ideas. We may take your Kansas route when we head back to Phoenix.

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        1. I kind of figured you’d be starting near KC which is why I thought heading west via I-40 then north might make for a fun loop. Yeah, there’s always something that we need to plan around, but that’s the beauty of the home on wheels … flexibility ๐Ÿ˜Š

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    1. I think so! You can always call one of the farms ahead of time or usually their website will update. Actually, I was thinking of heading back there this week myself. Last year, the season seemed to last until the 3rd or 4th week in August.

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  18. What a spectacular place to be! Almost hate for folks to find out about Lake Superior as at least the North Shore is becoming so crowded. Truly Godโ€™s country.

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  19. I’ve never been there before, and I’m a Michigan native! beautiful photography, Ingrid! โค๏ธ๐Ÿ˜Ž

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    1. Lake Superior’s south shore is every bit as beautiful as the Northshore and we loved our cruise. Having grown up in northern IL and vacationing all over Wisconsin and Minnesota’s arrowhead, last summer was our first time visiting this part of WI. I so wish I’d visited when I was younger and able to handle an afternoon of kayak paddling.

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