Located on the northern tip of Lake Superior and consisting of 21 unique islands, Apostle Islands National Lakeshore offers untouched beauty and fantastic recreational activities. Apostle Islands National Lakeshore is a very diverse area that is comprised of beaches, cliffs, water, and the 21 islands. In total the Lakeshore encompasses a gigantic 69,372 acres and is well known for its historic lighthouses, sandstone sea caves, old-growth remnant forests and natural animal habitats.
The history of the park dates back to when the Apostle Islands were part of the glaciers that once covered North America. Although the exact history of human inhabitants on the islands isn't known, it is widely believed that Indians were the first to inhabit the island during the 14th century. The lakeshore was officially protected in 1970 and in 1986 all ownership of the lighthouses were transferred to the National Parks Service.
Since there are so many different islands within the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore the options for recreational activities are abundant. Lake Superior is known for being an incredible fishing and boating destination but the waters are also great for scuba diving and kayaking. If you want to learn more about the history of the islands you can go on ranger led tours of the lighthouses at Devils, Michigan, Raspberry and Sand islands or participate in campfire programs at the Presque Isle on Stockton Island.
Due to the islands only being accessible via boat, no RVs are allowed to camp throughout the lakeshore. Despite this, you do have the option to stay the night at one of the 60 campsites located in nearby Big Bay State Park. Sites can be reserved or claimed on a first come, first served basis. Peak season at Apostle Islands National Lakeshore runs from May until mid-October.
Driving to Apostle Islands National Lakeshore is a little different than most parks since there are so many different islands that are not accessible via vehicles. The Apostle Islands National Lakeshore Headquarters are actually located on the mainland in the town of Bayfield and it is a great spot to visit before trekking over to the islands. In Bayfield you will also need to pick up any supplies that you may need to enjoy your day trip over to the islands as there are no major stores once you are off the mainland. The closest city to the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore is Duluth, which around 85 miles to the west.
The most common ways to reach the Apostle Islands are via the National Park Service excursion boat, kayaking, private boat operators and other commercial services such as water taxis. Most of the boats that will take you to the islands will depart from Bayfield and their frequency depend on what time of the year it is. For more information on specific schedules we recommend that you call the park office.
There is plenty of parking available in Bayfield for you to leave your RV at. If you are planning on camping in the area you will need to catch a boat with your RV to Big Bay State Park and then leave it there and continue your journey to the park.
There are no public transportation options to get you to the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore.
Although there are no RV camping facilities available within Apostle Islands National Lakeshore you can stay the night at the nearby Big Bay State Park. Getting to Big Bay State Park is a little difficult as you will need to catch a boat there but it will be worth thanks to the great camping amenities that are on offer.
In total the campground at Big Bay State Park has 62 campsites (51 are reservable) and 15 of the sites are also feature electrical hookups. The campground has modern toilet and shower facilities and the sites are located in a lovely forested setting. They are large enough to cater for rigs on the bigger end of the spectrum and the surrounding trees will give you great privacy from your neighboring campers. Before you begin your journey to the park we recommend that you stock up on food when you are on the mainland as there are no major shops at the park.
Since Big Bay State Park is a little difficult to reach we recommend that you book your site in advance so you guarantee that you will have a site waiting for you once you arrive.
Apostle Islands National Lakeshore is a popular hunting area that features different hunting terrain depending on where you are within the lakeshore. Hunting on the mainland unit of the lakeshore will be similar to that found on other federal lands in mainland Wisconsin. If you are hunting on the islands this will be a very primitive experience and will take more planning and boat transportation. Anyone who is hunting must have a valid Wisconsin license/permit and a free access permit is also required to hunt deer, bear and turkey.
If you love to fish you will be very happy to visit the Apostle Islands as there are some great opportunities for anglers. The lake is a magnet for trout with lake, brook and rainbow varieties all being common catches. During the spring is one of the best times to try catch a big one as the water temperatures near the shore are great for attracting trout and salmon. If you want to fish you must have a Wisconsin fishing license and Great Lakes trout/salmon stamp.
Apostle Islands National Lakeshore is a great hiking destination thanks to more than 50 miles of maintained trails that are scattered throughout the islands. The trails on the islands are the best way to explore and will give you the chance to see abandoned quarries, old farm sites, historic logging camps and beautiful scenic views. If you don't want to go on the trails, you can also go walking along the numerous sandy beaches that are in abundance within the lakeshore. Experienced hikers can also venture out on the Lakeshore trail if you want to hike on the mainland. This is a a rugged path that features stream crossings, steep slopes and is accessible in winter.
If you are a regular diver, you will be happy to know that scuba diving within Lake Superior offers you the chance for some great underwater exploration. The lake features clean and clear water, interesting underwater rock formations, sea cliffs, historic docks and old shipwrecks. If you do plan on going diving during your visit you must bring all of your own scuba gear or go on a private diving trip. Also note that a National Park Service Diving Permit is required for diving within park boundaries.
Sea kayaking is a great way to explore the area in and around Apostle Islands National Lakeshore for those who are up for adventuring. You are able to kayak the waters of Lake Superior individually or as part of private guided tours and two launches are located on the mainland section of the park. The waters of Lake Superior can become hazardous when the weather turns so you must be prepared and carry the relevant equipment and also wear wet or dry suits. Please note that you must use your own kayak if you plan on going paddling or hire one from a private company.
One of the most popular activities for visitors to Apostle Islands National Lakeshore is enjoy some of the guided tours that are offered during the summer months. You are able to tour the historical lighthouses that are located on Devils, Michigan, Raspberry and Sand islands depending on availably of park staff and they will provide you with historical background of the gorgeous buildings. You can also listen to the free talks held by park staff in the afternoon or early evenings at the Presque Isle on Stockton Island. The talks usually last around 45 minutes and cover such topics as bears, wilderness and shipwrecks.