Apostle Islands, Wisconsin: Sea Kayaking on Lake Superior

The alluring Apostle Islands will leave you wondering, 'where am I?'

Lake Superior's island archipelago looks like it was pulled from Southeast Asia, but maintains a midwestern charm in northern Wisconsin.

In summer the Apostles are ideal for outdoor lovers with something for everyone.

It's not only island-hopping and hiking that visitors flock here. The Lake's clear waters and unique natural cave formations make the Apostle Islands one of the best places for sea kayaking in the United States.

So, on our visit to the Apostles, we gave an organized sea kayaking tour a try.

apostle islands kayaking tour

Sea Kayaking Tour

Sea kayaking tours can fill up, especially during summer. However, with no real plan, we turned up on the day and tried our luck - and there was plenty of room.

We embarked from Redcliff, approximately four miles north of Bayfield, and directly opposite Basswood island.

Our group had two tour guides and six couples setting out on tandem kayaks.

sea kayaking ther apostle islands review

We generally don't like organized tours, but we found the guides allowed us to wander a little and explore some of the caves ourselves, which was appreciated.

The main sights included a shallow shipwreck, red rock formations and small caves which kayaks were able to paddle through.


Costs of sea kayaking

We opted for the lite three-hour sea kayaking tour with Apostle Island Kayaking. They also offer cruise-kayak tours, which are longer and a bit pricier.

We paid $60 per person for a three-hour sea kayaking tour. For the cruise tour, it costs $149 per person.


Was sea kayaking worth it?

Overall, we really enjoyed our sea kayaking experience.

The Apostle Islands can be an expensive place to visit and sea kayaking was a good balance between budget and activity for us.

The sights along the way were nice, but not breathtaking. However, being out on Lake Superior's blue waters was a great experience.

Getting to the Apostle Islands

la pointe ferry bayfield wisconsin


The Apostles are located in northern Wisconsin close to the town of Bayfield, which acts as the gateway to the islands.

The La Pointe ferry leaves Bayfield for Madeline Island every 30 minutes. However, if you're looking to explore beyond Madeline Island you'll need to arrange either:

  • Your own boat
  • An organized cruise
  • A taxi boat

If you're visiting from interstate, Google Maps or Rome2Rio should work well enough.

Where to stay?

Staying at the Apostle Islands can get booked out quickly in summer - especially on Madeline Island and Bayfield.

We'd been lucky enough to stay at a friend's quaint lakeside cabin an hour south of the Apostle Islands, which suited us perfectly.

lake beaugarde in northern wisconsin

If it's within budget, I highly recommend staying at a nearby lake cabin and experiencing some quiet, Wisconsin seclusion.

Madeline Island

We also headed over to Madeline Island while in the Apostle Islands.

Madeline is the largest and most developed of the Apostle Islands. The quirky island attracts a lot of families and visitors in the summer months.

There's plenty of hiking trails, cliff jumping, and bizarre restaurants to keep you busy.


Getting to Madeline Island

Getting to Madeline Island is simple. Ferries leave every 30 minutes from Bayfield pier. You can pay for a vehicle to be transported to the island too, which is recommended as a lot of things to do are a reasonable distance from the pier.


Cliff jumping on Madeline Island

Madeline Island has a bunch of things to keep you busy. Our favorite thing to do was 'cliff' jumping in Big Bay State Park.

If you're expecting cliffs, you might be disappointed as they are more so large rocks. However, we enjoyed jumping from them into the cold Lake Superior - and it's definitely a budget-friendly activity on a relatively expensive island.

You will need a State Park pass to enter Big Bay where the cliffs are located.

Get a Wisconsin State Park pass here.

Get a National Park pass here.


Drinking at a burned down bar

burned down cafe in the Apostle Islands

Probably Madeline Island's most iconic attraction is Tom's Burned Down Cafe.

This is hands down one of the coolest places to visit while on the island. The original cafe burned down in the 1990s, and instead of rebuilding, the owners embraced the firey charm left behind.

Now, you'll find an eccentric and in-your-face cafe/bar with enough eye-catching objects and hilarious signs to keep you occupied for hours.

This cafe doesn't serve food, but the staff is happy for you to bring your own inside.

Note, it's a cash-only cafe.

On our next visit

We really enjoyed our time at the Apostle Islands, however, we felt a little limited without our own boat.

We've agreed on our next visit we're come a little more prepared (and with a little more cash) to rent a boat to explore the beautiful Apostle Islands archipelago.

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