The 22 islands in Lake Superior that make up the Apostle Islands are a must-visit for kayakers. All of them are part of the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore (with the exception of Madeline).
The Apostle Islands offer unique paddling trails with beautiful lighthouses, the famous sea caves, ancient shipwrecks, secluded pristine beaches, breathtaking sunsets, and more. There’s always something to see and marvel at around you.
There’s no better way to explore this fascinating archipelago than by kayak–sea kayak, to be specific. Kayaks, unlike boats, aren’t loud which means you’ll enjoy some much-anticipated peace and quiet. They are also small and you can get into tight spaces including some of the much smaller sea caves.
With so many islands to explore on one of the largest freshwater lakes in the world, you may be wondering where to start. To help you out, here is a guide to Apostle Islands kayaking, detailing the best spots and what you can expect.
The Best Places to Kayak in the Apostle Islands
Check out some of the amazing places you can explore by kayak in the Apostle Islands.
1. Meyers Beach Sea Caves
Most people go to the Apostle Islands for the sea caves, and the mainland sea caves are quite popular.
The caves are easily accessible from Meyers Beach, you simply paddle along the shore until you get to the caves and it makes for a wonderful trip for kayakers of all skill levels. You can extend the trip, paddling farther along the shore, or turn and head back to Meyers Beach.
During winter, the mainland ice caves are phenomenal. They are a unique sight and attract tourists from near and far. The fact that the ice formations are temporal makes them even more appealing.
During the summer months, visitors will also enjoy lovely views of the gorgeous blue lake and huge waves crashing loudly into the caves. Sometimes the conditions are calm and tourists can explore the caves as they enjoy the sound of water softly hitting the rock.
The mainland caves are your best option if you’re looking for a short half-day trip. Many guided mainland sea cave tours launch from Meyers Beach. As you can imagine, crowds are not uncommon here and you may have to exercise patience to see the caves.
2. Sand Island Sea Caves
What else is there to see in the Apostle Islands? More caves!
Sand Island sea caves are perfect for kayakers who want to explore away from the crowds (there aren’t many people compared to the mainland sea caves).
On this island, you’ll have fun paddling in the intricate sea caves which are all somehow interconnected. They make for a fun, unforgettable experience.
People launch from Little Sand Bay and paddle about three miles to Swallow Point where the caves are.
Every island on the Apostle Islands seems to have something that sets it apart. Sand Island is unique in that it’s diverse and you will experience a little bit of everything. It’s ideal if you’re looking for a long day trip.
You can paddle to and through the incredible sea caves, hike through the island, visit the phenomenal lighthouse, have a picnic at the beach, and maybe even camp overnight.
3. Basswood Island
Basswood is another one of the less crowded islands in the Apostles archipelago. It’s perfect if you’re looking to escape into a quiet place for a little while.
You can get to Basswood Island from Buffalo Bay Beach in Red Cliff or Madeline Island if you’re island hopping.
Once you get to the island, don’t be in a hurry. Tie up your kayak and begin your wandering adventure. If you go with a kayak tour guide they’ll show you all the cool spots. The hiking trails are amazing and the unspoiled beaches breathtaking. The island also has a rich history that, hopefully, your guide will tell you all about.
Make sure to paddle to Lone Rock for some stunning views. You can only access it by water but it’s well worth the paddle.
If you go on an overnight trip, spend your evening at the beach. The ambiance and Lake Superior views are like something out of a beautiful dream.
Basswood Island isn’t far from the coastline so it’s great for a day trip.
4. Bayfield Peninsula Shoreline
A good nature paddle doesn’t have to be hectic or just for seasoned kayak paddlers. You can still explore Bayfield and Lake Superior by going on a gentle paddling trip along the peninsula shoreline.
There are a number of guided tours that explore different locations and features along the coastline. You can choose to take a half-day trip or a full-day trip; whatever you decide, you’re guaranteed to have fun.
Some exciting things along the peninsula shoreline include the Bark Bay Slough, the sandstone cliffs, and the Finn McCool shipwreck.
The Bark Bay Slough is protected from the raging waves and winds from the big lake. It’s one of the best places to go for a paddle when the weather makes it impossible to explore the Apostle Islands.
There’s a nice sandbar where the Bark River joins the slough. You can take a break here and enjoy the view of the river as it empties into the largest freshwater lake in the world. You won’t want to leave.
The Bark Bay Slough Natural Area is a perfect spot for birdwatching and fishing too, so you’ll be in for a good time.
5. Superior Falls
This waterfall is shared by the states of Wisconsin and Michigan. The falls drop into the Montreal River, which divides the two states, close to the south shore of Lake Superior.
Kayakers can launch from Saxon Harbor and paddle to the mouth of the Montreal River, then farther up the river to the Superior Falls. The falls are magnificent with multiple drops. You can enjoy viewing the final 40-foot cascade from here.
Once you get there relax, take gorgeous photos, swim, and just let your eyes feast on the beauty of nature.
If you love waterfalls, you’re sure to enjoy this trip. There are other small waterfalls in the area. You can extend your trip to visit them and explore the place. The cliffs and falls are spectacular.
Locals recommend early spring as the best time to visit the falls.
6. Siskiwit Lake
When the water temperatures, wind, and general weather make it impossible to paddle Lake Superior, you can check out Siskiwit Lake.
The 285-acre lake is located a few miles south of Siskiwit Bay. It’s surrounded by gorgeous summer homes and a thick forest so you’ll have fantastic views the entire time.
This trip would be great for kayak anglers. There are panfish, smallmouth bass, brook trout, yellow perch, bluegill, and plenty of walleye among other species. It’s also another perfect spot for birding.
Kayak Camping and Island Hopping in the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore
Exploring this amazing archipelago isn’t something you can do in one day.
So instead of visiting only one of them, some people choose to go camping and island hopping; 18 of the 21 islands in the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore have campsites.
If you like, you can even take a one-week trip, visiting different islands. You’ll have all the time you need to swim in glassy waters, hike beautiful trails, paddle through sea caves, explore shipwrecks, see picturesque lighthouses, and enjoy magnificent views.
There’s nothing quite like camping at the beachfront, watching the sun set over the lake, and finally sleeping under the stars after an eventful day of kayaking.
These multiple-day trips allow you to visit as many caves as possible, get to the most remote islands in the archipelago, and enjoy lovely views all around the islands.
For safety purposes, it’s better to engage the services of authorized local outfitters. They will provide the necessary equipment, guided trips, and safety classes.
You will need a proper sea kayak to paddle the Apostle Islands and all the necessary safety gear, including a PFD. You should also master self-rescue techniques.
You have to make camping reservations in advance. The National Park Service offers detailed information about camping in the Apostle Islands.
If you’re into kayaking and want a new place to adventure, the Apostle Islands are definitely worth checking out. You can visit the famous sea caves, see historic lighthouses, enjoy captivating views, fish, and learn about the area’s rich history.
Go island hopping for a week and you’ll still have a lot to see and do in the Apostle Islands. And if paddling Lake Superior is impossible because of the weather, you can go out to Siskiwit Lake and the Bark Bay Slough.
As long as you have the appropriate equipment and skills, you are guaranteed the adventure of a lifetime. You can also talk to local outfitters to get the scoop on all the cool, hidden spots.