On the shore of the largest of America’s Great Lakes, Lake Superior, at the northern tip of Wisconsin, you can visit the amazing Apostle Islands National Lakeshore. It consists of 21 islands and is known for its numerous lighthouses, sandstone sea caves, forests and animal habitats. The Lakeshore includes beaches, cliffs, the lakeside, and the islands.
Many of the islands are perfect camping locations during the warm months, while others are good for a day tour and for lighthouse visiting. Two-thirds of the islands have docks and ranger stations, so they are easily accessible by boat, and in case of an accident you can ask for help at the ranger’s station.
The Apostle Islands owe their formation to the glaciers that once covered the territory of North America. As the glaciers melted, waves from Lake Superior caused erosion of the land which after many years formed the islands. The islands are composed of mostly red sandstone.
The first inhabitants of the islands were Native American tribes who came looking for copper in the 14th century. Soon after that, the French explorer Etienne Brule came across the Apostle Islands, who, like many French Canadians of the time, was trying to find a way to the West Indies.
Camping in the Apostles
Camping is very popular on the Apostles. It’s available on 19 of the 21 National Lakeshore Islands, and there is one campsite on the mainland. You need to arrange your camping permits prior to your departure to the islands. Once you have a permit, it’s good for 14 days. Campsites, which accommodate from 1 to 7 people, charge $15 per night. A $10 reservation fee is obligatory at the time of reservation. The best thing is to make a reservation a month before the trip. Once you make a reservation, you can’t change the dates.
Apostle Islands National Lakeshore has more lighthouses than any other National Park area in the United States. The tallest of all is the Sand Lighthouse and is 44 feet in height. Boat trips provided by the national park service can take you on a guided tour to see this lighthouse and ask questions of the volunteer tour guides. Another lighthouse worth seeing is the one on Raspberry Island. It has been entirely renovated, and it’s the most beautiful. Other lighthouses you can visit are Old and New Michigan island lights, La Pointe Light, Devils Island Light, Chequamegon Point Light, and Outer Island Light.
Getting to the Islands
Sailing your own boat upon Lake Superior is a unique experience. Public docks are found on 12 of the islands. The overnight docking fee for boats smaller than 40 feet is $15 and $30 for boats larger than 40 feet. If you’re not a boat owner, don’t despair. There are boating tours that organize excursions on Lake Superior with stops on various islands. The shuttles can fit up to 140 people and will make your sightseeing journey more exciting than you think. The Apostle Islands Cruises’ office is located in the Bayfield Pavilion near the city dock at the bottom of Rittenhouse Avenue in Bayfield, Wisconsin.
Kayaking between the islands is very popular among tourists. Navigating a kayak on Lake Superior and visiting the islands is fun and exciting, but it can be dangerous too. So, before jumping into a kayaking or boating adventure, check the weather forecast and make sure there’s no fog or rain. Meyers Beach is the most popular spot to begin a kayak tour to the mainland sea caves. A kayak launch is located to the west of the National Park Service dock at Little Sand Bay. Good luck and enjoy your visit to the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore!
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