Apostle Islands: Sea Kayak, Hike, and Camp

Located on the South Shore of Lake Superior near Bayfield, Wisconsin, the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore is a sea kayaking paradise. This 22-island archipelago is known for its majestic sea caves, sandy beaches, historic lighthouses, and sunken shipwrecks. This destination is great for both new and experienced kayakers and offers opportunities to hike and explore this National Park treasure.

All trips begin at our Little Sand Bay Base Camp on the Bayfield Peninsula. The base camp features tent pads, a community kitchen and eating area, hot showers, and equipment warehouse.

We provide a variety of trips to experience the wonders of the Apostle Islands. Itineraries range from base camp based family adventure to seven-day outer island excursions. With over 40 trips running every summer, you'll find an Apostles Islands kayak 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 covered with a mixed forest of birch, pine, oak, and maple

See dates and details for our scheduled trips:

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 - Inner Islands Kayak Camping more» 6/10-6/14/15 $645
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Apostle Islands - Base Camp and Kayak Tour more» 6/11-6/14/15 $435
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Apostle Islands - Inner Islands Kayak Camping more» 6/17-6/21/15 $645
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Apostle Islands - Base Camp and Kayak Tour -- Gateway more» 6/18-6/21/15 $435
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Apostle Islands - Family Paddle and Hike more» 6/18-6/21/15 $395
($195 Youth)
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Apostle Islands - Base Camp and Kayak Tour more» 6/18-6/21/15 $435
Register Now
Apostle Islands - Inner Islands Kayak Camping more» 6/24-6/28/15 $645
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Apostle Islands - Family Paddle and Hike more» 6/25-6/28/15 $395
($195 Youth)
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Apostle Islands - Base Camp and Kayak Tour more» 6/25-6/28/15 $435
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Apostle Islands - Inner Islands Kayak Camping more» 7/1-7/5/15 $645
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Apostle Islands - Base Camp and Kayak Tour more» 7/2-7/5/15 $435
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Apostle Islands - Family Paddle and Hike more» 7/2-7/5/15 $395
($195 Youth)
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Apostle Islands - Family Island Camping more» 7/2-7/5/15 $445
($225 Youth)
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Apostle Islands - Inner Islands Kayak Camping more» 7/8-7/12/15 $645
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Apostle Islands - Base Camp and Kayak Tour more» 7/9-7/12/15 $435
Register Now
Apostle Islands - Family Paddle and Hike more» 7/9-7/12/15 $395
($195 Youth)
Register Now
Apostle Islands - Inner Islands Kayak Camping more» 7/15-7/19/15 $645
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Apostle Islands - Family Paddle and Hike more» 7/16-7/19/15 $395
($195 Youth)
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Apostle Islands - Base Camp and Kayak Tour -- Women's more» 7/16-7/19/15 $435
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Apostle Islands - Outer Islands Expedition more» 7/20-7/26/15 $795
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Apostle Islands - Inner Islands Kayak Camping more» 7/22-7/26/15 $645
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Apostle Islands - Family Paddle and Hike more» 7/23-7/26/15 $395
($195 Youth)
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Apostle Islands - Base Camp and Kayak Tour more» 7/23-7/26/15 $435
Register Now
Apostle Islands - Inner Islands Kayak Camping more» 7/29-8/2/15 $645
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A Taste of the Apostle Islands with Beth Dooley more» 7/30-8/2/15 $895
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Apostle Islands - Family Paddle and Hike more» 7/30-8/2/15 $395
($195 Youth)
Register Now
Apostle Islands - Inner Islands Kayak Camping more» 8/5-8/9/15 $645
Join Wait List
Apostle Islands - Family Paddle and Hike more» 8/6-8/9/15 $395
($195 Youth)
Register Now
Apostle Islands - Base Camp and Kayak Tour more» 8/6-8/9/15 $435
Register Now
Apostle Islands - Outer Islands Expedition more» 8/10-8/16/15 $795
Register Now
Apostle Islands - Inner Islands Kayak Camping more» 8/12-8/16/15 $645
Join Wait List
Apostle Islands - Family Paddle and Hike more» 8/13-8/16/15 $395
($195 Youth)
Join Wait List
Apostle Islands - Base Camp and Kayak Tour more» 8/13-8/16/15 $435
Register Now
Apostle Islands - Family Island Camping more» 8/13-8/16/15 $445
($225 Youth)
Register Now
A Taste of the Apostle Islands with Beth Dooley more» 8/13-8/16/15 $895
Register Now
Apostle Islands - Inner Islands Kayak Camping more» 8/19-8/23/15 $645
Join Wait List
A Taste of the Apostle Islands with Beth Dooley more» 8/20-8/23/15 $895
Register Now
Apostle Islands - Base Camp and Kayak Tour more» 8/20-8/23/15 $435
Join Wait List
Apostle Islands - Family Paddle and Hike more» 8/20-8/23/15 $395
($195 Youth)
Join Wait List
Apostle Islands - Family Paddle and Hike more» 8/20-8/23/15 $395
($195 Youth)
Register Now
Apostle Islands - Inner Islands Kayak Camping more» 8/26-8/30/15 $645
Register Now
Apostle Islands - Family Paddle and Hike more» 8/27-8/30/15 $395
($195 Youth)
Register Now
Apostle Islands - Base Camp and Kayak Tour more» 8/27-8/30/15 $435
Register Now
Apostle Islands - Family Island Camping more» 8/27-8/30/15 $445
($225 Youth)
Register Now
Apostle Islands - Base Camp and Kayak Tour more» 9/3-9/6/15 $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:

  • Our most popular trip: 4-Day Base Camp and Kayak Tour
    Sea kayaks are a great way to visit sea caves in the Apostle Island National Lakeshore. (photo: Lais, G)
  • Beth Dooley's Taste of the Apostles trip features local organic food
    Beth Dooley preparing a feast at Little Sand Bay, Apostle Islands. (photo: Neilson, M)
  • Take your family on an unforgettable Apostle Islands trip
    Paddling in the Bark Bay Slough is a great way to learn. (photo: Haugen, D)
  • Take your family further with our Family Island Camping trip
    Sea kayaking in the Apostles is a great way to get outdoors. (photo: Peterson, B)
  • Make camp on the islands on our Inner Islands trip
    Setting up camp on the sandy beach of York Island (photo: Noltner, J)
  • Really get out there: Small group trips to the Outer Islands
    Paddling into the mist on Lake Superior (photo: Peterson, B)
  • Participants learning all about a sea kayak tip test in the Apostle Islands
    Our Apostle Islands adventures are accessible to everyone. (photo: Glass, T)
  • Heidi kayaks through a sea cave at Mawikwe Bay.
    Heidi explores the Mawikwe Bay sea caves. (photo: Walz, A)
  • Participants gather at Wilderness Inquiry's Apostles Islands kayak base camp.
    Our base camp at Little Sand Bay is beautiful, comfortable, and secluded. (photo: Peterson, B)
  • Kayak, camp and explore on our Apostle Islands trips
    Cutting a wave near the Mawikwe Bay sea caves. (photo: Peterson, B)
  • Two people Kayaking past a long beautiful reddish cliff on the Apostle Island
    Mawikwe Bay sea caves are always a highlight. (photo: Peterson, B)
  • Smiling girl on the Apostle Islands vacation for families.
    Learning to sea kayak at Little Sand Bay (photo: Haugen, D)