Apostle Islands: Kayaking, Hiking, and Camping

The Apostle Islands National Lakeshore is a sea kayaking paradise. This 22-island archipelago on the South Shore of Lake Superior is known for its otherworldly sea caves, sandy beaches, picturesque lighthouses, and historic shipwrecks. Apostle Islands kayaking is great for both novice and experienced paddlers. Although kayaking is the primary activity on our Apostles trips, there's also plenty of opportunity to hike, play on the beach, sightsee, and enjoy downtime at the base camp.

We provide a variety of trip options to experience the wonders of Apostle Islands kayaking. Itineraries range from our base camp family adventure to seven-day outer island excursions. With trips running all summer long, you'll find an Apostle Islands kayaking adventure that works for you.
  • Over 40 trips per year in the Apostle Islands
  • Base Camp features tent pads, hot showers, bathrooms, and a community kitchen
  • Trips are designed for beginner and experienced kayakers alike
  • 21-foot Grand San Juan sea kayaks, which hold 2 or 3 people
  • Terrain of red sandstone cliffs covered with a mixed forest of pine, oak, birch, and maple
  • Within driving distance from Minneapolis-St Paul, Madison, Milwaukee, and Chicago
All trips begin at our camp near Little Sand Bay:
33095 Little Sand Bay Rd
Bayfield, WI 54814
(715) 779-3328

The Apostle Islands is one of America’s most accessible outdoor venues, offering many vacation options – so many that we established our Apostle Islands Kayak Base Camp there as a jumping off place to explore the south shore of Lake Superior. Several of our itineraries spend each night at the base camp with day paddles and hikes, while others head out after the first day to camp on the islands. Our base camp has showers, indoor bathrooms, and many amenities – you will love it! Regardless of which itinerary you choose you will enjoy this very special place.

See dates and details for our scheduled Apostle Islands trips:

  • Cookbook author Beth Dooley takes you on a taste tour of local foods. Meals have won rave reviews in Heavy Table and the Star Tribune food section. Spend nights at our comfortable base camp and days paddling to sea caves, hiking to waterfalls, visiting local food producers, and relaxing on sandy beaches. 4 Days: Trip Fee $895
  • So many day trip options await you on this popular Apostle Islands offering: sea kayaking to sea caves and inner islands, hiking to cliffs and waterfalls, and spending afternoons at the beach. Spend nights at our comfortable base camp complete with hot showers, indoor bathrooms, and off-ground tent platforms. 4 Days: Trip Fee $435
  • The family version of our popular base camp trip. Take your kids for a paddle to the sea caves, hike through hemlock forests, spend afternoons on the beach and evenings roasting s'mores. Overnights are at our accommodating base camp where kids can get used to camping while having modern shower and bathroom facilities. 4 Days: Trip Fee $395 Youth Fee $195
  • A great first foray into wilderness camping for the whole family. Spend the first night at our base camp, then head out in kayaks for two nights of camping on the islands. Our 21-foot Grand San Juan kayaks make for easy paddling for the whole family, with a third bay in the middle for more beginner paddlers. 4 Days: Trip Fee $445 Youth Fee $225
  • After a day of orientation at base camp, your next four days will be spent kayaking and camping among the inner islands. Your route will take you to many breathtaking islands that most visitors never see. At night, you'll experience breathtaking sunsets over Superior and listen to waves crash along the shore. 5 Days: Trip Fee $645
  • Kayak to the outer islands of the National Lakeshore and experience the wildness of the most remote shores of the archipelago. This trip option is for smaller groups of more seasoned sea kayakers who wish to really get out there. Experience the wonders of Apostle Islands kayaking without the crowds. 7 Days: Trip Fee $795

Here are all current Apostle Islands trip offerings sorted by date. You can register for them right from this page or click on the trip name to see a detailed itinerary, photo gallery, and more.

Trip Name 2015 Dates Fee Registration
Apostle Islands - Base Camp and Kayak Tour more» 9/3-9/6/15 $435
Join Wait List
Apostle Islands - Family Paddle and Hike more» 9/3-9/6/15 $395
($195 Youth)
Join Wait List
Trip Name 2016 Dates Fee Registration
Apostle Islands - Base Camp and Kayak Tour -- Women's more» 5/20-5/23/16 $435
Register Now
Apostle Islands - Family Paddle and Hike more» 5/20-5/23/16 $395
($195 Youth)
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Apostle Islands - Inner Islands Kayak Camping more» 6/8-6/12/16 $645
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Apostle Islands - Base Camp and Kayak Tour more» 6/9-6/12/16 $435
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Apostle Islands - Inner Islands Kayak Camping more» 6/15-6/19/16 $645
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Apostle Islands - Base Camp and Kayak Tour -- Gateway more» 6/16-6/19/16 $435
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Apostle Islands - Family Paddle and Hike more» 6/16-6/19/16 $395
($195 Youth)
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Apostle Islands - Inner Islands Kayak Camping more» 6/22-6/26/16 $645
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Apostle Islands - Family Paddle and Hike more» 6/23-6/26/16 $395
($195 Youth)
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Apostle Islands - Base Camp and Kayak Tour more» 6/23-6/26/16 $435
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Apostle Islands - Inner Islands Kayak Camping more» 6/29-7/3/16 $645
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Apostle Islands - Base Camp and Kayak Tour more» 6/30-7/3/16 $435
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Apostle Islands - Family Paddle and Hike more» 6/30-7/3/16 $395
($195 Youth)
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Apostle Islands - Family Island Camping more» 6/30-7/3/16 $445
($225 Youth)
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Apostle Islands - Inner Islands Kayak Camping more» 7/6-7/10/16 $645
Register Now
Apostle Islands - Base Camp and Kayak Tour more» 7/7-7/10/16 $435
Register Now
Apostle Islands - Family Paddle and Hike more» 7/7-7/10/16 $395
($195 Youth)
Register Now
Apostle Islands - Inner Islands Kayak Camping more» 7/13-7/17/16 $645
Register Now
Apostle Islands - Family Paddle and Hike more» 7/14-7/17/16 $395
($195 Youth)
Register Now
Apostle Islands - Base Camp and Kayak Tour -- Women's more» 7/14-7/17/16 $435
Register Now
Apostle Islands - Outer Islands Expedition more» 7/18-7/24/16 $795
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Apostle Islands - Inner Islands Kayak Camping more» 7/20-7/24/16 $645
Register Now
Apostle Islands - Family Paddle and Hike more» 7/21-7/24/16 $395
($195 Youth)
Register Now
Apostle Islands - Base Camp and Kayak Tour more» 7/21-7/24/16 $435
Register Now
Apostle Islands - Family Island Camping more» 7/21-7/24/16 $445
($225 Youth)
Register Now
Apostle Islands - Inner Islands Kayak Camping more» 7/27-7/31/16 $645
Register Now
A Taste of the Apostle Islands with Beth Dooley more» 7/28-7/31/16 $895
Register Now
Apostle Islands - Family Paddle and Hike more» 7/28-7/31/16 $395
($195 Youth)
Register Now
Apostle Islands - Inner Islands Kayak Camping more» 8/3-8/7/16 $645
Register Now
A Taste of the Apostle Islands with Beth Dooley more» 8/4-8/7/16 $895
Register Now
Apostle Islands - Family Paddle and Hike more» 8/4-8/7/16 $395
($195 Youth)
Register Now
Apostle Islands - Base Camp and Kayak Tour more» 8/4-8/7/16 $435
Register Now
Apostle Islands - Outer Islands Expedition more» 8/8-8/14/16 $795
Register Now
Apostle Islands - Inner Islands Kayak Camping more» 8/10-8/14/16 $645
Register Now
Apostle Islands - Family Paddle and Hike more» 8/11-8/14/16 $395
($195 Youth)
Register Now
Apostle Islands - Base Camp and Kayak Tour more» 8/11-8/14/16 $435
Register Now
Apostle Islands - Family Island Camping more» 8/11-8/14/16 $445
($225 Youth)
Register Now
Apostle Islands - Inner Islands Kayak Camping more» 8/17-8/21/16 $645
Register Now
Apostle Islands - Base Camp and Kayak Tour more» 8/18-8/21/16 $435
Register Now
Apostle Islands - Family Paddle and Hike more» 8/18-8/21/16 $395
($195 Youth)
Register Now
Apostle Islands - Family Island Camping more» 8/18-8/21/16 $445
($225 Youth)
Register Now
Apostle Islands - Inner Islands Kayak Camping more» 8/24-8/28/16 $645
Register Now
Apostle Islands - Family Paddle and Hike more» 8/25-8/28/16 $395
($195 Youth)
Register Now
Apostle Islands - Base Camp and Kayak Tour more» 8/25-8/28/16 $435
Register Now
Apostle Islands - Base Camp and Kayak Tour more» 9/1-9/4/16 $435
Register Now
The Apostle Islands on the South Shore of Lake Superior and the Bayfield Peninsula are an enticing mix of rolling hills, sandstone cliffs, sand beaches and a 22 island archipelago covered with a beautiful mix of northern hardwood and boreal forest plants and trees and laced with streams, waterfalls, and wetlands.

The Apostle Islands National Lakeshore lies in the northwestern Wisconsin waters of Lake Superior, the largest freshwater lake in the world. The town of Bayfield, Wisconsin, is the jumping off point for your adventure in the Apostles.

The unique geological features, rich cultural heritage, and diverse ecological system of the Apostle Islands have attracted visitors for centuries. One story says that early Jesuit missionaries, believing that there were only 12 islands in this 22-island archipelago, named the region after the twelve apostles in the Bible.

The history of Apostle Islands National Lakeshore predates these missionaries by eons, however, as the region’s bedrock can be traced to Precambrian times. Nearly a billion years ago, sand and silt were deposited in this region via northwesterly flowing streams and rivers. Under the weight of additional layers, the sediment slowly compacted and began to bond together.

These layers eventually experienced tremendous pressure as the ice age began and glaciers thousands of feet thick covered the forming sedimentary rock. The cycle of advancing and receding glaciers continued to shape the Apostles landscape until 10,000 years ago when the last of the glaciers finally receded. Although the glacial activity formed much of what we see today, other dynamic processes continue as differential erosion alters the islands’ beautiful sandstone arches, pillars, and caves.

These geologic wonders are partly responsible for attracting the native inhabitants and present day visitors. The Anishinabe (also called Ojibwe, or Chippewa) were the most recent native people to inhabit the islands. Hunting, fishing, and maple sugaring provided food and supplies, and were eventually traded with the Europeans. During the mid-1800s the islands’ resources attracted European settlers and for 80 years these resources were seriously exploited. Brownstone was quarried and used to construct buildings and lighthouses, some of the forests were cleared and turned into farmlands, commercial fishing increased, and mills and mines were established.

By the time of the Great Depression in the 1930s, the islands’ natural resources were scarce. While unfortunate for the people of the United States, the Depression saved the archipelago as it all but stopped development of the islands.

Congress designated the Apostles as a National Lakeshore in 1970; in 2004, Congress further designated 80% of the Apostles as the Gaylord Nelson Wilderness, named after Wisconsin’s great conservationist and former Governor and U.S. Senator. The Apostle Islands National Lakeshore encompasses 69,372 acres, of which 27,323 acres are submerged lands in Lake Superior. The National Lakeshore includes 21 of the 22 islands in the archipelago, plus a 12-mile-long narrow strip of mainland shoreline. The islands range in size from Stockton Island at 10, 054 acres to the tiny 3-acre Gull Island.

Visitors can find a variety of scenic features on the islands. These include pristine stretches of sand beaches and coves; spectacular sea caves; some of the largest stands of remnant old-growth forests in the upper Midwest; a diverse population of birds, mammals, amphibians, and fish; and the largest collection of national register lighthouses and lighthouse complexes in the entire national park system.

Today, the National Park Service manages the Apostles Islands. The rare combination of remote but accessible scenery, geography, and both open and protected waters affords unparalleled freshwater sailing, boating, sea kayaking, and fishing opportunities. Ecological succession has returned this system to a natural balance and visitors enjoy abundant wildlife, heavily forested islands, beaches, and geologic wonders worthy of the Park Service’s protection.

Click any thumbnail to expand and begin slideshow:

  • (photo: Wagner, A)
  • Kayak, camp and explore on our Apostle Islands kayaking trips
    Cutting a wave near the Mawikwe Bay sea caves. (photo: Peterson, B)
  • Smiling girl on the Apostle Islands vacation for families
    Learning to sea kayak at Little Sand Bay (photo: Haugen, D)
  • Sky and sea meet on Lake Superior. (photo: Wilhelm, J)
  • Take your family further with our family Apostle Islands kayaking trip
    Cutting through the water on beautiful Lake Superior. (photo: Peterson, B)
  • Woman turns around in yellow sea kayak, smiles for camera; sun setting in background.
    Smiling for the camera while watching a beautiful sunset. (photo: Peterson, B)
  • The sea caves of the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore are something to behold. (photo: Burke, B)
  • Two people kayaking past a long beautiful reddish cliff on the Apostle Islands
    Mawikwe Bay sea caves are always a highlight. (photo: Peterson, B)
  • Parents and daughter explore the Mawikwe Bay sea caves on an Apostle Islands vacation.
    Our Grand San Juan sea kayaks are perfect for the whole family. (photo: Unknown)
  • Sea kayakers on the beach of Lake Superior at dusk.
    Coming in at dusk at the Town of Russell beach. Next stop, dinner by the fire! (photo: Peterson, B)
  • Excited to be on the Taste trip! (photo: Schweitzer, J)
  • Two kayak paddlers at dusk with setting sun on Lake Superior.
    Sea Kayaking at dusk gives great light for photos in the Apostle Islands. (photo: Peterson, B)
  • The sea caves form a magical arch framing the endless sky over Lake Superior. (photo: Wilhelm, J)
  • Justice Bay on Sand Island, Staff training 2012
    Mark and Josh smile as they paddle in to Justice Bay on Sand Island. (photo: Lais, G)
  • Take your family on an unforgettable Apostle Islands kayaking trip
    Paddling in the Bark Bay Slough is a great way to learn. (photo: Haugen, D)
  • Overlooking kayaks as they enter the sea caves. (photo: Garlie, G)
  • Sea kayaks are a great way to visit sea caves in the Apostle Island National Lakeshore. (photo: Lais, G)
  • Wilderness Inquiry's first women's only Apostle Islands trip, the participants proudly wield their paddles before taking off for the day.
    We offers several women-only trips in the Apostle Islands each year. (photo: Storck, P)
  • A group of participants poses in front of the welcome sign at Wilderness Inquiry's Apostle Islands base camp.
    Join us at our base camp in the Apostle Islands near Little Sand Bay. (photo: Mayo, M)
  • Participants gather at Wilderness Inquiry's Apostles Islands kayaking base camp
    Our base camp at Little Sand Bay is beautiful, comfortable, and secluded. (photo: Peterson, B)
  • A group poses for the camera while holding many boxes of blueberries.
    Taste of the Apostles group visits Blue Hill Community Farm near Bayfield. (photo: Lais, G)
  • Two women at table on Lake Superior.
    Nancy and Stephanie enjoy a picnic feast by Lake Superior. (photo: Neilson, M)
  • Exploring the sea caves on Devil's Island in the Outer Apostles. (photo: Hickman, A)
  • Hike to breathtaking waterfalls during breaks from paddling. (photo: Schweitzer, J)