Visiting Madeline Island in Apostle Islands National Lakeshore

As you are looking for your next family vacation, you may want to consider a part of the US that is a little less known – Madeline island. There are so many golden nuggets in this country, and you can have as good of a time at them as you would at a popular theme park. One of the best areas we’ve recently discovered is the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, as well as Madeline Island.

What is the Apostle Islands?

Apostle Islands Wisconsin is a group of twenty-two islands within the water of Lake Superior. Almost all those islands are considered part of the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore. The only one that isn’t is Madeline Island.

Apostle Islands

Where are the Apostle Islands Located?

Apostle Islands Wisconsin can be found within Lake Superior. Most of the islands are considered part of Ashland County, but a few are part of Bayfield County.

How to Get to Apostle Islands

It is easier than you think to get to the Apostle Islands in Wisconsin. If you happen to own your own personal boat, you can simply put it into Lake Superior and drive out to the islands on your own. You can also kayak over to the island of your choice.

However, if you do not own a boat and kayaking seems a little extreme, you can always take the excursion boat to the Apostle Islands. Many of these boats are considered island shuttles and they stop at many of the islands throughout the day. These boats also offer sightseeing tours, where you may not stop at the islands, but you will see them all before returning to shore.

What is Madeline Island?

Madeline Island Wisconsin is one of the Apostle Islands in Lake Superior. This island is the largest of all the islands and it was once the spiritual center of Lake Superior Chippewa. This is the one island out of all the Apostle Islands where tourism is prominent. There are so many things to do on this island and that is why the Madeline Island ferry was started to get people to the island and back without the need to stop at the other islands along the way.

How to Get to Madeline Island?

You can easily reach Madeline Island via your own personal boat, but most people take the Madeline Island ferry over to the island. The Madeline Island ferry only takes about twenty to twenty-five minutes to reach the island from the mainland, so your journey will be rather short. You will want to check out the Madeline Island ferry schedule before planning your time on this island or you may find yourself stuck on one side or the other and then have no way to get to where you want to go until the following day.

Madeline Island Ferry
Credits: Michael Hicks, Flickr CC BY 2.0

You can also take an airplane over to Madeline Island, Wisconsin but that might take longer than the Madeline Island ferry.

What is the Best Time to Visit Madeline and the Apostle Islands?

The best time to visit Madeline and the Apostle Islands is the months of July and August, because the weather is beautiful, warm, and sunny at that time of the year. You should be prepared for extreme weather during those months though, because it is common for summer thunderstorms to roll in to cool things off and get you wet.

You can also enjoy visits during the months of June and September, but the weather can be unpredictable at those times when it comes to rain and wind. You should avoid the months of October through May, because the harsh winters can extend through all these months and you won’t want to get caught up in the freezing cold and snow.

Madeline Apostle Islands Lodging

When it comes to lodging on both Madeline Island and the rest of the Apostle Islands, you don’t always have too many options. However, there are more options than you think, especially when it comes to Apostle Island and

Madeline Island camping

The two best places to set up camp on the Apostle Islands is over in Big Bay State Park and Big Bay Town Park. However, there are many Apostle Island lodging cabins and cottages to choose from to make your stay even better than you could imagine. Add in the few Apostle Island National Lakeshore hotels, as well as the rental homes, and you can have the accommodations you prefer for the vacation of your dreams.

Apostle Islands Lodging Cabins and Cottages

  • Bog Lake Outfitters
  • Madeline Cabins
  • Craigs Place
  • Weisel House
  • Cozy Cabin on Madeline Island

Apostle Islands Inns

  • The Inn on Madeline Island
  • Ferry Landing Suites
  • Island Inn

What are the Apostle Islands Sea Caves?

The sea caves within the Apostle Islands were created after thousands of years of waves crashing into the area. Of course, the freezing and thawing of those waves played a part in the creation of the sea caves too.

You can easily explore these Apostle Island sea caves when the water is tranquil, and the waves are not continuously crashing into them. It is best to enter them on a kayak but be prepared to leave quickly if the weather begins to change.

Apostle Islands Sea Caves
Credits: Wikipedia

It is also a good idea to understand the weather conditions for the day and not even attempt to venture into the sea caves if you know a storm is brewing or the winds will be picking up. The winter months bring ice to these sea caves and it turns them into an even more spectacular sight.

You can access the Apostle Island ice caves by walking over the ice-covered lake at the end of Meyers Road. The best months for this adventure are the end of January until the middle of March, because that is when the weather is the coldest. You must pay close attention to your surroundings at all times during your visit though, because you never know when large chunks of ice can break off.

15 Best Things to Do in Madeline Island WI

1. Attend the 4th of July Celebration

July is one of the best times to visit Madeline Island Wisconsin. This is especially true on the 4th of July, because the entire island celebrates a 1950s event that shares the pioneering from the 1850s, as well as the fur trading from the 1750s. The parade goes around the island and every landmark and attraction seems to portray a different meaning.

2. Relax in Madeline Town Park

There are a couple gorgeous beaches at this park, so you can relax on the sand or sit on a bench in the green grassy area. Canoeing and kayaking can be done out in the lagoon if you simply must do something during your visit.

3. Attend the Madeline Island Fall Festival

While the month of October is not really the best for visiting this island, you may decide to go anyway when you learn more about the island’s Fall Festival. There is face painting, pumpkin decorating, costume contests, and so much more during this festival. You may even forget that the weather is not that great when you are there!

4. Visit the St. Joseph Mission Cemetery

This cemetery is also known as the Old Indian Cemetery and it dates back to the middle of the 1800s. This is a historic site where you can learn about the locals on the island and pay your respects to those who are no longer living there.

5. Wander through the Madeline Island Museum

This museum may be small, but it holds a lot of history on the inside. The best exhibits are Ojibwe and of the fur trade.

Madeline Island Museum
Credits: Wikimedia Commons

6. Go Hiking

Madeline Island is fairly flat, but that doesn’t mean you won’t have fun hiking some of the nature trails. The best trails can be found over at Big Bay State Park, Big Bay Town Park, and the Wilderness Preserve.

7. Go Golfing

There is actually a golf course over on Madeline Island, so make sure you take your clubs with you for a round of golf during your stay. The course on the island was designed by Robert Trent Jones Sr. and you will love your chances with getting par at least once.

8. Go Swimming

You can always go swimming in Lake Superior, but honestly, you may want to hold off on this until you are there in the month of August. The water is extremely cold in this lake and it is usually the middle of August before it warms up enough for more than a quick dip.

9. Sit for a Spell at Tom’s Burned Down Café

This café has been around for a long time and it keeps hanging on for everyone’s enjoyment. I recommend going up to the deck and sitting down to watch the people passing by. There is usually live music at this café too, so you can always forget about the people and simply get lost in the music of the day.

10. Visit Big Bay State Park

This park is on the opposite side of the island from Big Bay Town Park and the best way to get there is to ride your bike. You can even hike the trails that lead to each park.

Big Bay State Park
Credits: Wikimedia Commons

11. Grab a Bite to Eat at a Local Hot Spot

There are so many places to grab a bite to eat on Madeline Island. The Island Eats Food Truck is usually parked at the café mentioned above. However, you can also get some delectable food over at the Beach Club, Grandpa Tony’s, the Farmhouse Restaurant, Madeline Island Bakery, and Mission Hill Coffee House.

12. Visit the Woods Hall Craft Shop

If you love picking up unique souvenirs, then you don’t need to look any further than the Woods Hall Craft Shop. Their most popular item is the handmade woven rug, but you will find so many other things that will intrigue you.

13. Take a Historical Walking Tour

If you are interested in seeing all the historical structures within LaPointe WI, you must take a walking tour when you are visiting Madeline Island. This is where you will see the Old LaPointe Inn, the town gazebo, and Ojibway Memorial Cemetery. The library used to be the Bay View School, which dates back to 1872. And the post office began in what was the dining room of the Old Mission Inn.

14. Go Horseback Riding

You can easily go horseback riding on Madeline Island, as long as you plan in advance to reserve horses from Hippophile Farm. You can go almost anywhere on the island, but make sure you take care not to get the horses spooked during your journey.

15. Grab a Glass of Wine at the Bell Street Gallery

This gallery is the perfect place to grab a glass of wine before perusing the local art. If you are lucky, you will see a few pieces from national artists as well.

Bell Street Gallery
Credits: Bell Street Gallery

10 Best Things to in Apostle Islands

1. Explore the Caves

As you stumble upon the caves throughout the Apostle Islands, you are going to want to explore them. The Apostle Island sea caves, or depending on the time of year you visit, the Apostle Island ice caves, are amazing and you won’t be able to get enough of them. There are so many caves waiting for you to discover them, so you may want to add a few extra days to your visit.

2. Take an Apostle Island Cruise

One of the best Apostle Island things to do is taking one of the fabulous Apostle Island cruises. These cruises last approximately two and a half hours and they will take you past many of the islands, popular attractions, and the Apostle Island lighthouses.

3. Go Kayaking

One of the best ways to see as much of the Apostle Islands as possible is to kayak from one to the next. This may seem like a lot of work, but once you start to discover all those tucked away hidden locations as you are Apostle Island kayaking, you will quickly change your mind! There are plenty of caves and shipwrecks out on the lake and you can see a few of them as you are doing a little island hopping.


4. Go Sailing

If you want to experience these Lake Superior Islands in a new way, you can always rent a sailboat to explore the Apostle Island National Lakeshore. You can rent these sailboats over in Bayfield, which is the mainland area closest to the Apostle Islands.

5. Explore the Devils Island Lighthouse

The best time to visit this lighthouse is during the months of June, July, August, and the beginning of September, because staff regularly provide tours during those times. During your tour, you will have the opportunity to see the eighty-two-foot tower, as well as the two keeper dwellings that have a Queen Anne style. You may also want to take one of the Apostle Island tours to see all the Apostle Island lighthouses during your visit.

6. Go Hiking

The Apostle Islands are the perfect place for hiking, and you can easily stay in an Apostle Island lodging cabin or do a little Apostle Island camping to extend your hiking days a little. Stockton is the best place to hike, because there are six different trails to wander along. However, you can basically choose any of the Apostle Islands for your hiking adventures.


7. Go Beachcombing

Looking for shells is a favorite pastime of many when they are on an island or simply walking along a beach. Thankfully, there are plenty of beach areas on the Apostle Islands, so you can do a lot of beachcombing during your visit.

8. Go Fishing

Fishing Apostle Island is one of the best things to do, especially if you love spending time by the water catching salmon and trout. You can fish at any time of the year, but the best time is during April, May, and June when the fish are plentiful. You must make sure you have the appropriate paperwork for fishing in the Apostle Islands in advance. Those items are a Wisconsin fishing license, as well as a salmon or trout stamp for the Great Lakes.

9. Do a Little Scuba Diving

This national park site has plenty of shipwrecks and one of the best ways to see them up close is to do a little scuba diving. There are dozens of sites to choose from and you can find them all on the national park website. You will need a permit to dive a few of the sites, but you can easily obtain that for free from the Bayfield park headquarters.

Scuba Diving

10. Watch the Apostle Islands Sled Dog Race

While you can’t watch the Apostle Island sled dog race on the actual islands, you can watch it over in Bayfield. This race normally occurs in the beginning of February each year, but you will want to check to make sure of the dates before booking your Apostle Islands WI vacation.

Expert Tips on Visiting Madeline and the Rest of the Apostle Islands

It is best to plan your entire visit to Madeline and the rest of the Apostle Islands in advance. This will ensure you know exactly where you must be when, so you do not miss out on something on your list. This happens more often than you think, especially if you are unsure of the Madeline Island ferry schedule. The place to begin your planning, after reading this post, is the Madeline Island Chamber of Commerce. You can easily download an island map from that website, which will be helpful during your visit.

You should also plan your visit according to the many different events and festivals that take place on these islands. The months of June, July, and August are quite busy with events, but so are months like October, December, and January.

Now that you know everything you must be aware of for the Apostle Islands and Madeline Island, you can easily take a vacation there and have a blast! Since it is so easy to find Apostle Islands accommodations and reach the islands via ferry, once you are aware of the schedule, you can easily plan your trip there in no time at all. That’s good news if you are the type of person who wants to spend more time enjoying your vacations than planning them!

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