The best things to do in Bayfield WI and the Apostle Islands
The Apostle Islands are a beautiful stretch of Northern WI, but if you want to get up close and personal, you need to stay in Bayfield. So many tours leave there, it really is a great place to explore. Here are some of the best things to do in Bayfield WI.
Bayfield in northern Wisconsin is one of the best places to escape. The National Lake Shore makes up most of the peninsula. This destination has been on my list for a while now due to its waterfront and the Apostle Islands’ scenic rock formations and caves. We just got back from a weekend trip up there and I’m sharing some of my favorite things you need to do when you visit. What I wasn’t expecting were all the fresh fruits to pick, shopping, and more. It’s the perfect place to take the family.
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The best things to do in Bayfield WI and the Apostle Islands
The Apostle Islands are an amazing place to visit. The islands are located in Lake Superior, six miles off of the North Shore of Wisconsin. It is the most extensive collection of islands on Lake Superior and the largest sandstone formation in the world. This formation has the most diverse ecosystem on the North Shore of the state. The islands are a national park and are part of the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore. The islands have both lighthouses, historical sights, and forests. One of the only ways to see them is by boat.
The number one reason people flock to the Apostle Islands is to see the breathtaking caves and Lake Superior. The best way to get up close and personal is with a Kayak tour. The tours drop you in right next to the sea caves, allowing you to safely see the formations and explore these deep formations. These tours are dependent on the weather and will only go out when conditions allow.
Due to safety reasons, almost all tours are for adults. You can bring children under 14, but they must be in the kayak with two adult paddlers. Since my youngest is under that, we were unable to get on the water this time. There are several different tour companies running, all with the same policy. If you can take advantage of this, check out Lost Creek Adventures.
Apostle Islands Cruises
If you aren’t a paddler or are just looking for a little more history about the area, I highly recommend doing an Apostle Islands Cruise. This is a great boat tour and is a great alternative for families who can’t do a Kayak tour.
The Grand Tour let you view a lot of the sea caves and last around three hours and covers 55 miles. You’ll learn the history of the islands and how the Natual Parks Services acquired the islands. You’ll pass lighthouses and bald eagles. Even at three hours, this is a family-friendly tour.
Feel free to bring snacks on board, or you can purchase some onboard. I recommend getting there 45 minutes early and sitting on the upper portion of the boat on the left side. The boat does turn at all major points of interest so everyone can see, but I felt you got to see more on the left. If you are up top, bring a sweatshirt for the kids. Even on a 90-degree day, it gets chilly when the boat is cruising.
Bring an extra layer if you want to be upstairs, or head downstairs and avoid the wind.
Buy your tickets before you leave. They will sell out.
If you are doing an evening tour, it’s right over dinner time. Bring snacks in an insulated backpack. It’s perfectly fine to bring on board and you won’t feel as awkward bringing stuff on.
Copper Crow Distillery
Copper Crow Distillery is a small, family-run operation with a single-minded focus on creating a world-class product since 1998. The distillery is located in the scenic, rolling hills of Bayfield, Wisconsin. Copper Crow’s products are proudly made in the United States, and when possible, from locally-grown ingredients.
Copper Crow has a rich history of craftsmanship and tradition that is carried on to this day. In addition to producing whisky and vodka, Copper Crow is also making gin, rum, and tequila which are distilled with locally grown grains, and honey from the business’s own bee hives.
The business creates a whole experience, allowing you to enjoy a meal while you are there. Also family-friendly with non-alcoholic offerings. They should be offering tours again soon of the facility. Keep an eye on their hours as they don’t have normal bar hours.
Rocky Acres Berry Farm
Growing fresh fruit all through the summer. Stop into their farm store to stock up and keep you fueled on your adventure. Raspberries are available July through Mid-August, Blueberries Late July through Labor Day, and Apples into the fall. They even have fresh cherries.
We stopped to get some fresh strawberries. They were absolutely amazing. There are tons of other Pick Your Own Farms and Apple Orchards on the Bayfield Peninsula to explore.
Looking for a quick hike? This is actually more of a lakefront stroll. The Brownstone Trail is a 3-mile (4.8 km) trail near Lake Superior connecting Bayfield’s historic business district. It begins at the Heart of the Town Park adjacent to Main Street, winds through residential streets, and climbs the mountain behind Bayfield’s western harbor and the docks and loading sheds of Port of Superior.
Les Voight State Fish Hatchery Visitor Center
The Fish Hatchery is inside a sandstone building at the entrance that was built in 1897. With Steelhead jumping at Red Dam on Pikes creek. Inside you’ll find an elaborate visitors center containing a 3,500-gallon aquarium. Inside you’ll see how the hatchery operates firsthand. The hatchery raises lake trout, splake, and brown trout for stocking many inland lakes as well as Lake Superior. This is a free museum, great for families.
One thing I wasn’t expecting walking in is seeing the lights off and it is so cool. They keep it that way because they are trying to mimic the conditions the fish typically grow in. Don’t worry, they still have a light section at the entrance with a tank of full-size fish.
This is a great way to learn more about the species that make up lake superior. You can also walk around the outside of the hatchery and see ponds with fish too. The hatchery also has a hiking trail too. Follow the yellow footsteps on the ground to find it.
Rittenhouse Ave Shopping
For great shopping, check out Rittenhouse Avenue. They offer one-of-a-kind boutiques, outdoor gift shops, and upscale eateries. The town tends to wake up around 9 am, but coffee shops open earlier. I recommend keeping an eye on the operating hours. On the weekends in summer, the cross street is blocked off for a farmer’s market.
The only thing the town is missing is a candy shop!
Looking for a good breakfast? You need to check out Manypenny Bistro. They serve up great classic favorites like bacon and eggs, french toast, specialty coffee, and more. Get a table at their outdoor dining that overlooks the marina. We absolutely loved everything about it!
Bayfield Maritime Museum
The Bayfield Maritime Museum is a great free museum to check out. Preserving artifacts that portray the dynamic nautical history of Bayfield and the Apostle Islands and Lake Superior. The place is run completely by volunteers but you’d never know. They have such a passion for what they do. Inside you’ll find ships, salvaged weeks, and even a few live lampreys that will make your insides shiver. I highly recommend checking it out.
Marina Park and Play Area
Looking to let the kids burn energy. You need to check out Marina Park. This unique experience is a perfect place for the kids’ imaginations to run wild. It’s right next to the Bayfield Maritime Museum, so it’s easy to find.
What I loved was the parent seating. There are multiple places lakeside to take in the shores of lake superior. From the fishing pier, you can watch the boats come into the marina!
Take the Madeline Island ferry to enjoy a whole new area. Madeline Island Wisconsin is a cute town to explore, with a lot of history and the perfect view of Lake Michigan. The island is a community that you can walk around and explore, with lots of shops, restaurants, and beaches to enjoy.
One of the most popular activities on the island is renting a bike and riding around the island. There are also many beaches for swimming, kayaking, and paddle boarding. People in the area are friendly, and you can explore the island on foot or by boat.
The only way to get to Madeline Island is by boat. There is a $45 fee to bring your car over and a $17 per person rate. If you have a full day to spend, I recommend checking it out!
Big Bay State Park on Madeline Island
Big Bay State Park is beautiful with its sandstone bluffs along 4 miles of lake superior. The park has a 1-mile boardwalk, swimming beach, hiking trail, and campground. The park is also home to the Madeline Island Lighthouse. The park is a popular destination for visitors in the summer and winter months, who can enjoy fishing, visiting the visitor center, and ice skating.
Madeline Island Museum
One of the best ways to learn about the history of Lake Superior is at the Madeline Island Museum. You’ll learn about the diverse cultures that lived on the island. The island was the earliest area explored by the Europeans and served a big part in the fur trade and commercial fishing. On the grounds of the museums, you’ll see things like the Pioneer Barn and the Old Sailor’s home, both built around 1900. There is a small fee for admission.
Big Top Chautauqua
The Big Top Chautauqua is a 900-seat music venue and performing arts center, located near Bayfield, Wisconsin. They hold over 60 events each summer. This is a popular place to see musicians, bringing in people from all over the surrounding states.
They have a shuttle service that runs every concert picking up guests at different points of interest throughout the area. The campground we were staying at emptied out when the shuttle arrived!
Where to stay in Bayfield?
Apostle Islands Area Campground
The Apostille Islands Area Campground is a great place to camp. They have both RV and Tent sites. The lots have tree cover from the sun, all while being spacious enough to handle your larger RVs too! You can even glamp in one of their covered wagons.
I highly recommend staying here if you are in the area. They recently added a sand bottom swimming pond, and cabins and will have the mini golf course complete too. The only thing it was missing was a view of Lake Superior, but with how close it was, it didn’t matter. It’s a great place to stay.
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The Waters Resort & Casino
For hotels, I recommend staying about a few miles north of Bayfield at the Waters Resort & Casino. They have a fabulous location with a waterfront view. In a protected bay with its own marina. You’ll have the tranquility and luxury you are looking for.
Old Rittenhouse Inn
In downtown Bayfield, it’s hard to miss the Old Rittenhouse Inn. This stunning bed and breakfast with over 20 rooms in two properties, overlooking Lake Superior. For those not staying onsite, they also open their restaurant up for breakfast and lunch by appointment. this is a great opportunity to check the place out for yourself. It’s also a popular wedding destination!
Make your trip memorable and reserve a room at the Rittenhouse Inn. During the weekends this place will sell out. Click here for more information
How much money you should budget for in Bayfield?
That all depends on how long you stay. Plan for at least $100 a night on the low end, $200 for hotel stays. I recommend getting on the water at least once, planning about $50-100 per person.
Would I go back to the Apostle Islands and Bayfield WI?
The Apostle Islands are an amazing place to visit. The sight of the rocky shore, the deep blue water, and the sharp craggy cliffs are breathtaking. The islands also provide one with a variety of experiences with fun things to do at every turn. There are places to see, wild animals to encounter, and secluded beaches to enjoy. I hope you have a great time exploring the Apostle Islands and all the best things to do in Bayfield WI as I did.