Apostle Islands Lodge-Based Kayak Adventure
Paddle to sea caves and cliffs by day and stay in a comfy cottage by night
Join us as we explore the sea kayaker’s paradise of the Apostle Islands on the South Shore of Lake Superior from the cozy comfort of a lodge near the charming town of Bayfield, WI. During this 5-day adventure you will truly see all that the Bayfield Peninsula has to offer. You’ll have opportunities to sea kayak through sea caves and past ship wrecks, tour historic light houses, and hike along Lake Superior sandstone cliffs. You’ll take a sunset cruise around the islands one night, and enjoy a dinner in one of Bayfield’s fine restaurants another night.
For standard meeting places and times, see Dates & Fees tab.
DAY 1: Your trip begins at our Little Sand Bay Base Camp, just outside of the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore. Get to know Lake Superior up close with a sea kayak safety orientation before heading to the quaint lodge in charming Bayfield, WI. Spend the evening enjoying dinner at the lodge with the company of your trip mates, and discuss your coming days' adventures.
DAY 2: Spend the morning paddling at the Buffalo Bay shipwrecks and have your first glimpse into the true might of Lake Superior as you see wrecks of big ships from the seat of your kayak. Enjoy a picnic lunch at one of the many beaches in the area. Head out to explore the picturesque Blue Vista farm, and choose some fresh produce, cheeses or fruits to accompany dinner. Return to the lodge for a fresh dinner and relax in comfort. In the event of heavy winds on the lake, a backup plan for today might include paddling in Bark Bay Slough & hiking Lost Creek.
DAY 3: Drive to the west side of the Bayfield Peninsula to paddle the stunning Mawikwe Bay Sea Caves, a wonderful opportunity to traverse some of the most beautiful sea caves along the National Lakeshore. In the afternoon take a hike along the Brownstone Trail or spend some time in charming Bayfield. Before dusk you will board a tour boat for an Apostle Islands Grand Evening Tour. Use the power of a motor to get further out in the islands for views of historic lighthouses, standing rocks, and marine wildlife.
DAY 4: After a nice breakfast, head to Little Sand Bay where we'll head out to the islands via kayak. Depending on the weather and group interests, you may explore the caves and lighthouse of Sand Island, the beautiful Caribbean-like beaches of York Island, or the lighthouse of Raspberry Island. After a full day of paddling, enjoy a farewell dinner at a local restaurant.
DAY 5: Catch the sunrise (optional) and enjoy a final hearty breakfast with your new friends before heading out on one last adventure. Head for home by noon.
Note On Weather: Sea kayaking is incredibly weather dependent. In the chance of high winds or heavy rains you may enjoy various mainland hikes or other local activities in replace of kayaking.
Travel, Terrain, Etc...
TERRAIN/ROUTE: 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. Most of your time is spent along the beaches and shorelines of the Apostle Islands National Lake Shore, kayaking to the shipwrecks and the sea caves. 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: No previous sea kayaking experience is needed to complete this trip. You will travel in sea kayaks which hold 2 or 3 people plus all necessary gear. An average day's travel consists of 2-6 paddling and/or hiking 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 6-9 participants, plus 2 or more Wilderness Inquiry guides. Each group consists of people of various ages, backgrounds and abilities, including people with disabilities. Our trips are cooperative in nature.
ACCOMMODATIONS: You will enjoy your stay at one of several wonderful cottages near Bayfield, WI. There are showers, kitchens/dining areas, and comfortable beds.
SINGLE TRAVELERS: If you are traveling alone you will feel at home with a welcoming group. If you would like to have your own room throughout the trip you may purchase a single supplement for an additional fee. Please email or call us if you would like this option.
MEALS: The food we bring is plentiful and nutritious. Rise to the smell of freshly brewed coffee to enjoy with your breakfast of 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 at the lodge. If you have special dietary restrictions, be sure to list them on your registration.
EQUIPMENT AND CLOTHING: Wilderness Inquiry will provide all group equipment. You will need to provide your personal gear as outlined in the packing list. If you are new to outdoor activities, you do not need to spend a lot of money. Wilderness Inquiry can usually arrange for you to borrow most items.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.
Frequently Asked Questions:
What is the base camp like on the Apostle Islands trips?
We refer to our property as the Little Sand Bay Base Camp. The camp is approximately a half mile from the Lake Superior lake shore near Little Sand Bay in Northern Wisconsin. Our base camp offers camping at its most comfortable and accessible. All tents are large enough to stand upright, and are set up on comfortable wooden platforms. Hot showers, private bathrooms, a roofed pavilion space, and an indoor seating area for leisure time are other key features. The camp consists of 40 acres of woods with wood chip trails, 5 campsites, and a gear warehouse.
What are our transportation options for the Apostle Islands trip?
One option is to take your own vehicle and meet your group at Wilderness Inquiry's Little Sand Bay Base Camp. You can park your vehicle here for the duration of the trip. Another option is to use WI's van transportation, which typically leaves from WI headquarters in Minneapolis early in the morning on the first day of the trip and returns to Minneapolis the evening of the last trip day. There is an additional fee of $75 to use WI's roundtrip van transportation.
On which Apostle Islands trips do we camp on the islands?
The Apostle Islands Kayak Island Camping trip is the only trip where you actually set up camp and sleep on the islands. If you have a private group that would like to customize an island camping experience, we can likely accommodate. During all other Apostle Islands trips, participants stay at our Little Sand Bay Base Camp, located on the main land approximately 0.5 miles from the Lake Superior Shoreline. Kayak trips on Lake Superior are organized on most days, in which you will explore the sea caves and other highlights of the Apostle Islands area. All activities depend upon safe weather conditions.
Will I get to see the sea caves on my Apostle Islands trip?
The sea caves are the most popular feature of the Apostle Islands area - and with good reason! It is our intention to explore the caves by kayak at least once during every trip. This is dependent upon safe paddling conditions on Lake Superior, as safety is always our top priority. On a clear day, we should be able to paddle to the sea caves and even travel through the insides of the caves by kayak.
Can I pay more to have my own room on a lodge-based trip?
Yes, most times a single supplement is available on a lodge-based trip. Exact cost and availability depends on the trip.
Do I need previous kayak experience to join a trip in the Apostle Islands?
Paddling trips with WI are appropriate for beginners and seasoned paddlers alike. On the first day of all trips, basic paddling strokes will be taught by the trip leader. Each trip gives participants multiple opportunities to practice their skills. Participants with more experience will have plenty of opportunity to paddle during the trip, and even to help teach less experienced paddlers!
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Standard Meetings Places and Times
Start: Little Sand Bay Base Camp at 1:30 PM (local time)
End: Little Sand Bay Base Camp at 11:00 AM (local time)
This trip begins at 1:30 PM at our Little Sand Bay Base Camp near Bayfield, WI, where parking is available. The trip ends at 11:00 AM at the same location, or you can leave directly from the lodge in Bayfield. Van transportation between Minneapolis or Duluth and Little Sand Bay is typically not available. Detailed meeting place directions will be sent to you when you are confirmed for the trip. Booking a flight? We recommend flying in the night before your trip to Duluth or Minneapolis St. Paul airports, and flying out from Duluth after 3:00 PM and from Minneapolis St. Paul after 6:30 PM. Call us at 612-676-9400 if you have questions.