Apostle Islands: Kayaking, Hiking, and Camping
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
- All kayaks 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
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:
- There are many day trip options. Paddle to the sea caves, hike through hemlock forests, spend afternoons on the beach and evenings around the campfire. Overnights are at our accommodating base camp where there are modern shower and bathroom facilities. 4 Days: Trip Fee $465
- 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 $435 Youth Fee $215
- 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 $595
- 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 $595
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.
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.