A Gem... Bayfield, WI and Apostle Islands National Lakeshore

We love to find gems. You know… spots that you just happen upon that are super special. We were in Marquette, MI, and had a couple days left to explore before heading home. We looked at all kinds of options. We didn’t have enough time to head east and cross into Canada, we’ve been all over the “mitten” of Michigan in prior trips, and we felt like it was time to move on from Marquette.

Todd remembered a comment from Instagram… that he needs to check out the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore. We looked it up. It is about 4 hours from Marquette and 13.5 hours from home! But the pictures looked so beautiful, and the town of Bayfield, WI looked so quaint, fun, and pretty. We decided that a little extra driving was worth having a great experience! We’re thrilled that we went for it… Bayfield, WI is a gem!

The welcome center for the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, 1 of 4 US National Lakeshores, is in the town of Bayfield, WI. Bayfield is on the north tip of a small peninsula on the south west shore of Lake Superior.

Our first stop in Bayfield was the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore Welcome Center. The rangers were very helpful and we left with maps of the area, the info we needed to explore, and Daniel’s Jr. Ranger packet. If you have kids, the Jr. Ranger program is great. Kids get a packet of activities that help them learn about the natural surroundings, questions to ask the rangers, and the choice of several activities to complete. Once completed the kids get a Jr. Ranger Badge. Daniel loved it and it helped him get excited about the experience.

We couldn’t check in to our place for a couple hours, so we headed to the lake to check it out. There’s a large public parking lot at the public marina on the north end of town, which is next to a beautiful park with a playground, clean public restrooms, and a small deck to enjoy the lake. We arrived just as a sailboat race was about to start, which was super cool.

What to do

Over the next day-and-a-half we explored Bayfield and the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore. The Apostle Islands National Lakeshore includes 12 miles of shore on the mainland and 21 islands just off the shore. The Apostle Islands is known for it’s amazing rock formations and cliffs, lighthouses, and outdoor adventure opportunities.

We didn’t have a ton of time, so we picked one land and one water activity. There’s a fantastic hike at Meyers Beach on the mainland. The full hike is about 4 miles one way. However, we hiked about 2.5 miles and were able to experience amazing rock formations before turning around (when we’re hiking with Daniel we like to keep our hiking distances to about 5 miles). Something that’s awesome about the Apostle Islands: you don’t have to hike forever or get off the mainland to experience the amazing formations and natural beauty! Aside from taking care by steep drops, the trail is very suitable for most hikers.

The Little Sand Bay Visitors Center is close to Meyer’s Beach. We stopped there prior to the hike to get some info, and so Daniel could complete his activity to receive his Jr. Ranger badge. Daniel selected the tour of the Hokenson Fishery tour, which was super interesting. We learned about fishing Lake Superior in the early 1900s. Whether you’re looking to get a Jr. Ranger badge or not, we highly recommend the tour!

We had to get out on the water and had the option of doing a boat tour of the Apostle Islands or taking a sailboat ride. While we would have seen more on the boat tour, we’ve been on lots of big boat tours and wanted a different experience.

We booked the 2.25 hour afternoon Dreamcatcher sail with Captain Todd. The sailboat holds 6 passengers in addition to the captain, so the experience was very personal. Daniel learned about sailing, and we were free to roam on the boat. Overall the experience was great… if only the wind would have cooperated!

There are tons of things to do in the area… boat tours, visit Madeline Island on a ferry, enjoy the town of Bayfield, WI, swim (but the water’s cold!), kayak, hike, and visit the many orchards.

Where to stay

There are lots of B & Bs and local motels. We didn’t see any chain motels on the peninsula, although there are some at the base of the peninsula. There are also lots of house and condo rentals.

We stayed in a condo at Reiten Boatyard and had a great experience. The condos at Reiten Boatyard are in a great location on the water in town. Our condo included a balcony with beautiful lake views and a little beach.

We booked the condo through the Winfield Inn, which is both a motel and owner of a number of properties it rents in the area.

Where to eat

Bayfield has lots of dining options. Many offer casual bar food and pizza selections, but there are some fine dining spots available.

We fell in love with Maggie’s… we loved it so much we visited twice! In addition to a really cool, fun, and casual vibe, the food is awesome. Our favorite items are the pizza, pork chimichanga, Bayfield smoked trout salad (I ordered it with sautéed trout instead of smoked), and the Greek salad with chicken.

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There’s a sweet shop in the middle of town that makes its own ice cream and candy. If you’re a sweet and/or ice cream lover, the sweet shop is an absolute must! We had 3 ice creams that were all awesome: Big Muddy, Elephant Tracks, and peanut butter chocolate. The sweet shop also makes its own waffle cones and puts a homemade malted milk ball in the bottom of the cone!

Wrapping it up

Our trip to Bayfield and the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore was awesome, just too short! We will be back and recommend putting it on your list of Great Lakes must-see places!

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