Apostle Islands - Base Camp and Kayak Tour

Kayak and Explore Sea Caves, Lighthouses, and Beaches

Sea kayaks are a great way to visit sea caves in the Apostle Island National Lakeshore. Join us on an Apostle Islands kayak tour on the South Shore of Lake Superior. Experience a series of sea kayaking and hiking day trips from our Little Sand Bay Base Camp, including beautiful Sand Island, the Mawikwe Sea Caves, Bark Bay Slough, or the shipwrecks of Red Cliff Bay. So many day trip options await you on this popular Apostle Islands offering just north of Bayfield, Wisconsin. Experience breathtaking sunsets over Lake Superior and listen to waves crash along the shore. Apostle Islands kayaking trips are great for beginning sea kayakers and seasoned paddlers alike.

Sample Itinerary

DAY 1: Meet at our base camp at Little Sand Bay in the afternoon. Share introductions, review personal gear, participate in a sea kayak orientation, and get to know new friends. Spend the evening at camp roasting marshmallows over the fire, and discuss the coming days' events.

DAY 2: Get up early for breakfast, review paddling skills and start sea kayaking. Depending on the direction of the wind, explore the spectacular Mawikwe Bay sea caves or drive to Red Cliff to explore Buffalo Bay and paddle among shipwrecks from long ago. Enjoy a casual paddle back to the beach and head back to base camp for dinner. Listen to stories about many of the Apostle Islands' shipwrecks around the campfire that evening.

DAY 3: After breakfast we will kayak out to Sand Island. Visit sea caves and the historic Sand Island lighthouse on the northeast shore of Sand Island. Eat lunch on a remote beach and, weather permitting, kayak in and out of the caves' sculpted rock chambers. Enjoy one last night at our Little Sand Bay base camp with hot showers, great food and good company sharing stories over a toasty fire.

DAY 4: After breakfast, get out for one last paddle or hike. Have lunch and say goodbye to new friends.

Travel, Terrain, Etc...

TERRAIN/ROUTE CHOICES: Most of your time is spent along the beaches and shorelines of the Apostle Islands, kayaking to the shipwrecks and the sea caves. The terrain and landscape of the Apostle Islands is made up of red sandstone, covered with a mixed forest of birch, pine, oak, and maple. Except for a few cliffs, the terrain is gentle and rolling. We have several routes to choose from, each revealing a different dimension of this archipelago. Wind and weather largely determine the route, and storms may delay paddling.

TYPE OF TRAVEL/DISTANCE: You will travel in 21-foot Grand San Juan sea kayaks, which hold 2 or 3 people plus all necessary gear. No previous sea kayaking experience is needed to complete this trip. An average day's travel consists of 2-6 paddling hours, depending on weather conditions. Travel distances vary from 4-6 miles each day.

WEATHER: Temperatures in the summer months range from 45 F to 85 F. Rainfall can vary. Weather in the area is strongly influenced by Lake Superior and can change suddenly.

YOUR GROUP: The group size typically ranges from 10 to 18 participants, plus 2 or more Wilderness Inquiry guides. Each group consists of people of various ages, backgrounds and abilities, including people with disabilities. Our Apostle Islands kayak trips are cooperative in nature.

ACCOMMODATIONS: You will enjoy your stay at our Little Sand Bay base camp. At night you will sleep in a comfortable platform tents. Typically, there are 2-3 people per 4-person tent (other arrangements can be made). Our Little Sand Bay base camp has very nice bathroom and shower facilities.

MEALS: We’ll enjoy preparing our meals together in our rustic base camp kitchens using fresh, healthy ingredients for bountiful dishes. Rise to the smell of freshly brewed coffee to enjoy with your breakfast of bacon, eggs, oatmeal, or granola. We’ll pack picnic lunches with hearty snacks before heading off to explore. In the evening, we’ll prepare our dinner together over stoves and campfires, and then finish with s’mores or a glass of wine. If you have special dietary restrictions, be sure to list them on your registration.

EQUIPMENT AND CLOTHING: We will provide all necessary sea kayaking and camping equipment. All you need to provide is your personal gear, such as clothing and a sleeping bag. A detailed equipment list will be sent to you upon confirmation of your participation.

A note about the itinerary: Our trips are real adventures in the outdoors. While we'll make every effort to follow the itinerary listed here, elements may change due to weather or reasons beyond our control.
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.

For more information, visit these links:

Forget the Hot Dogs and Beans! Great article on Taste of the Apostles

National Park Service - Official Apostle Islands National Lakeshore Website

"The Riddle of the Apostle Islands: How do you manage a wilderness full of human stories?" by William Cronon

Support the Apostle Islands, join the Friends!

Bayfield Chamber of Commerce

Apostle Islands Nature and Science

2015 Dates Fee Registration
5/22-5/25/15  $435 Join Wait List
6/11-6/14/15  $435 Register Now
6/18-6/21/15  Gateway Trip $435 Join Wait List
6/18-6/21/15  $435 Register Now
6/25-6/28/15  $435 Register Now
7/2-7/5/15  $435 Register Now
7/9-7/12/15  $435 Register Now
7/16-7/19/15  Women's Trip $435 Register Now
7/23-7/26/15  $435 Register Now
8/6-8/9/15  $435 Register Now
8/13-8/16/15  $435 Register Now
8/20-8/23/15  $435 Register Now
8/27-8/30/15  $435 Register Now
9/3-9/6/15  $435 Register Now


Most people meet us at our Little Sand Bay Base Camp near Bayfield, WI, where parking is available. Van transportation between Minneapolis and Little Sand Bay is available for most trips. Detailed meeting place directions will be sent to you when you are confirmed for the trip.

We also offer transportation between Duluth and our Little Sand Bay Base Camp. The Skyline Shuttle runs several times daily between the Twin Cities and Duluth. Pick up options in St. Paul/Minneapolis include both airport terminals, the Mall of America, and the State Capitol. Please do not book your shuttle until you are confirmed for your trip. For more information visit: http://www.skylineshuttle.com.

Call us at 612-676-9400 if you have questions.

Want to Ride With Us?
We typically provide transportation for this trip from the following places (make your selection when you register):

Click any thumbnail to expand and begin slideshow:

  • Three yellow sea kayaks on Lake Superior for an Apostle Islands kayaking trip.
    Sea kayaking in the Apostles is a great way to get outdoors. photo by: Peterson, B
  • A tandem sea kayak makes its way towards Hole-in-the-Wall rock formation.
    Hole-in-the-Wall is one of the most recognized rock formations in the Apostle Islands. It was formed by years of Lake Superior waves wearing down the rock. photo by: Walz, A
  • 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 by: Peterson, B
  • Participants gather at Wilderness Inquiry's Apostles Islands kayak base camp.
    Our base camp at Little Sand Bay is beautiful, comfortable, and secluded. photo by: Peterson, B
  • Three sea kayakers near the Mawikwe Bay sea caves on Lake Superior.
    Cutting a wave near the Mawikwe Bay sea caves. photo by: Peterson, B
  • Participants gather around a campfire at Wilderness Inquiry's Apostle Islands kayak base camp.
    Enjoying an evening fire at Little Sand Bay. photo by: Peterson, B
  • Apostle Islands kayak tour participants emerge from the red-tinted sea caves.
    Red sandstone cliffs were carved by centuries of wind and water to make the sea caves of the Apostle Islands. photo by: Lais, G
  • A sea kayaker paddles towards Mawikwe Bay on a clear day in the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore.
    Sea kayaking to the Mawikwe Bay sea caves on a beautiful August day. photo by: Lais, G
  • Kate paddles through the darkness of the Sand Island sea caves.
    Kate explores the Sand Island sea caves. photo by: Derwin, R
  • Lighthouse on Sand Island in the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore. Great views on Apostle Islands kayak trips.
    Lighthouse on Sand Island in the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore. photo by: Peterson, B
  • Tandem kayaks are safe way to visit the sea caves in the Apostle Island National Lakeshore.
    Sea kayaks are a great way to visit sea caves in the Apostle Island National Lakeshore. photo by: Lais, G
  • Visit the amazing sea caves on our Apostle Islands kayaking tours.
    The sea caves in the Apostle Islands are a unique treasure on Lake Superior's south shore. photo by: Lais, G

Quick Trip Facts:

  • 4 days, 3 nights
  • 2 WI staff
  • All trail meals & snacks
  • Platform Tents
  • All group camping gear
  • Wetsuits
  • Life jacket
  • Eddyline Sea Kayaks
  • Lightweight Paddles
  • Stay at WI's Base Camp with showers
  • Adaptive gear as needed
Register Now!