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 are also plenty of opportunities to hike, play on the beach, sight-see, and enjoy downtime.

The Apostle Islands is one of America’s most accessible outdoor venues, offering many vacation options—so many that we established our Apostle Island 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.
  • 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:

  • 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
  • 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
  • Kayak the magnificent Apostle Islands by day, then enjoy the comfortable amenities of a cottage in Bayfield by night. The trip also includes a sunset cruise around the islands one night, and a dinner in one of Bayfield's fine restaurants another night. During this five-day itinerary, you will experience all the Bayfield Peninsula has to offer. 5 Days: Trip Fee $995
  • After a day of orientation at base camp, your next four days will be spent kayaking and camping on the 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

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 2016 Dates Fee Registration
Apostle Islands Base Camp and Kayak Tour -- Women's more» 5/26-5/29/16 $435
Register Now
Apostle Islands Family Paddle and Hike more» 5/26-5/29/16 $395
($195 Youth)
Join Wait List
Apostle Islands Base Camp and Kayak Tour more» 6/9-6/12/16 $435
Join Wait List
Apostle Islands Base Camp and Kayak Tour -- Gateway more» 6/16-6/19/16 $435
Register Now
Apostle Islands Family Paddle and Hike more» 6/16-6/19/16 $395
($195 Youth)
Register Now
Apostle Islands Base Camp and Kayak Tour more» 6/16-6/19/16 $435
Register Now
Apostle Islands Lodge-Based Kayak and Hike more» 6/22-6/26/16 $995
Join Wait List
Apostle Islands Family Paddle and Hike more» 6/23-6/26/16 $395
($195 Youth)
Register Now
Apostle Islands Base Camp and Kayak Tour more» 6/23-6/26/16 $435
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Apostle Islands Kayak Island 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
Register Now
Apostle Islands Family Paddle and Hike more» 6/30-7/3/16 $395
($195 Youth)
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 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
Join Wait List
Apostle Islands Lodge-Based Kayak and Hike more» 7/20-7/24/16 $995
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
A Taste of the Apostle Islands with Beth Dooley more» 7/21-7/24/16 $895
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Apostle Islands Kayak Island Camping more» 7/27-7/31/16 $645
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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 Kayak Island 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 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 Lodge-Based Kayak and Hike more» 8/17-8/21/16 $995
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 Paddle and Hike more» 8/18-8/21/16 $395
($195 Youth)
Register Now
Apostle Islands Lodge-Based Kayak and Hike more» 8/24-8/28/16 $995
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 Kayak Island Camping more» 8/31-9/4/16 $645
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:

  • Three kayakers in a yellow kayak paddle on the lake with red sandstone cliffs in the background.
    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)
  • Adults paddling three yellow kayaks on Lake Superior.
    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)
  • Two yellow kayaks paddle across the glassy surface of Lake Superior on a sunny day.
    Paddling on a glassy Lake Superior. (photo: Wagner, A)
  • Three people in a yellow kayak paddling through a sea cave.
    The sea caves of the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore are something to behold. (photo: Burke, B)
  • Red sandstone cliffs jutting out over the lake are lit up by the sunset as kayakers paddle away in the distance.
    Mawikwe Bay sea caves are always a highlight. (photo: Peterson, B)
  • Parents and daughter explore the Mawikwe Bay sea caves in a yellow kayak.
    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)
  • 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)
  • Looking through a large arch of a sea cave.
    The sea caves form a magical arch framing the endless sky over Lake Superior. (photo: Wilhelm, J)
  • Two men paddle a sea kayak on calm water.
    Mark and Josh smile as they paddle in to Justice Bay on Sand Island. (photo: Lais, G)
  • Two kids in a kayak on a glassy body of water.
    Paddling in the Bark Bay Slough is a great way to learn. (photo: Haugen, D)
  • Two kayakers look back at the camera as they paddle a tandem kayak with sandstone cliffs in the background.
    Sea kayaks are a great way to visit sea caves in the Apostle Island National Lakeshore. (photo: Lais, G)
  • Participants gather at a picnic table at Wilderness Inquiry's Apostles Islands kayaking base camp.
    Our base camp at Little Sand Bay is beautiful, comfortable, and secluded. (photo: Peterson, B)