the Visit Neighboring States Series
Apostle Islands National Lakeshore is an incredible national treasure!
We visited the islands as part of a family trip to Minnesota. It was about a beautiful 2 1/2 hour drive from Duluth MN to Bayfield WI along hwy 13 on the very northern edge of the state. We stayed at Winfield Inn in Bayfield for one evening. The Inn has incredible gardens. At dusk the children and I found a secret path through a grapevine arbor down to the lake. There was a small dock that we climb around on and we watched the harbor lights come on one by one. It was magical!
Bayfield WI, with population of 530 and on only 556 aces, has a charming harbor area. Several streets are straight from the movies with cute shops, yummy restaurants and a nice grocery store. We bought a pizza from Sergeant’s Pepperonie and ate it on the lawn of the old courthouse. We also had a big breakfast there!
There are many options for enjoying the Islands, all which have to be accessed by boat. We choose a tour with a private small boat so that our family had flexibility. Captain Jeff of Nourse Charters could not have been a better guide for our family. He had a smile on his face the whole day and you could tell he was enjoying boating as much as we were. Jeff was very relaxed and flexible. We planned for a 4 hour day with him but were having such a great time that we spent a total of 6 hours. Jeff grew up in the area and his grandmother owned a restaurant on one island a long time ago so he had lots of great information to share.
A few tips/hints
We went at the end of August and it was chilly. Bring extra jackets, hats, etc. I also brought changes of clothes for the kids and we just changed them on the boat. My husband held up a towel and it wasn’t hard.
It can get cold when the boat travels across open water and is going faster.
From Bayfield to Devil’s island is about a 26 miles in the boat. Jeff made lots of stops along the way.
The weather and lake have to be the right conditions for smaller boat to make it all way to Devil’s Island. There are larger tour boats with enclosed spaces that will drive out to Devil’s but they don’t come up close to the island. We saw one of them pass by off in the distance.
Jeff has a cooler on the boat and it was full of ice. We brought lunch, snacks and water with us.
Bathrooms on the islands can be scarce or very rustic.
There is SO MUCH to do and see! Either stay for a few days or be picky!
Accommodations fill up fast so book early.
Captain Jeff got a clam out of the water for the kids to hold. We kept the clam in a sand pail for a while and it rode around on the boat with us.
I could have stayed here ALL DAY! It was so peaceful and remote. – South Twin Island-
The islands offer a tremendous amount of outdoor opportunities and historic tours; lighthouses, shipwrecks and more. We toured the Raspberry Island Lighthouse (note the light is not there, it’s in a museum on Stockton Island) and Manitou Fishing Camp. The national park rangers are very knowledgeable and live on the islands for the tourist season.
But the main reason we visited the Apostle Islands is for the Devil’s Island CAVES!!!
Captain Jeff drove his smaller boat into a few caves and we just idled there listening to the echo off the walls and the dripping of water from above! If you are an experienced kayaker then you wouldn’t want to miss this! Jeff also pulled the boat up along side some rocks and we all jumped out and explored the island. There is a working lighthouse and a fulltime keeper who lives there.
We Didn’t Make it to Stockton Island to hear the singing sands of Julian Bay! I wish we could have – to see what we missed and why you wouldn’t want to miss this beach – watch this video by the national parks service.