My wife, Melanie, planned (…well, semi-planned) an amazing trip to Bayfield, WI, the main port to the famous Apostle Islands National Lake Shore. She planned this trip for her birthday, and yes, she planned her own birthday. The weekend had a lot of ups and downs, and to a certain degree I ruined certain parts of the trip, and I want to share with you how to enjoy Bayfield & Madeline Island. I also want to share with you tips to avoid ruining your trip, and things to do while you’re near the Apostle Islands.
The Structure of Our Trip
Thursday: Stay the night at Copper Falls State Park at a remote site on the way up to Bayfield.
Friday-Sunday: “We have a place to stay in Bayfield, let’s see what happens.”
How to Best Prepare.
My wife is a planner, and I am a ‘wing it’ kind of person. This normally serves me well and creates amazing adventures, but this trip it didn’t pan out. My wife had one plan, let’s get a nice dinner at some point, and let’s take the ferry at some point. Now granted, COVID was an issue with getting into a restaurant in a timely manner at the time, but here’s some tips for preparedness:
1) Bring a Bike(s)
If you can, bringing a bike will open up way more options for you, and as I’ll discuss in the next section, will also save you money.
2) Be Ready to Spend Money
The Apostle Islands isn’t exactly roughing it. It’s a beautiful area that attracts people with disposable income. Shopping, tours, guided outdoor experiences, good food, and of course ice cream are abundant and really constitute most of your entertainment options.
3) Plan Your Day Around Meals
If you plan on eating at restaurants, call ahead and see what the regular wait time is. Especially during the COVID pandemic. As for outings like kayaking, boar tours, or hiking, BRING SNACKS. We rushed to get to the ferry our first full day, and we…. well I’ll explain in the next section.
How I ruined Madeline Island – How to prepare.
There’s four key things to bring with you on Madeline Island: Snacks, swimming gear, comfortable shoes, and a bike. By not bringing or planning for the following four things, I produced a hungry, tired, and costly trip to Madeline Island for my wife and I.
There is food on Madeline Island, but the options are limited and are a few miles away from the best sight-seeing areas of the island, so bringing snacks and eating before will extend the amount of time you can spend in the state park exploring.
You’re going to want a swimsuit if you visit Madelyn Island, they have clean beaches and cliff jumping… You’re going to want swimming gear. Comfortable shoes are a must because even if you don’t want to hike, you have to walk to the beach and the cliff jumping.
Personally, I thought renting a tandem bike with my wife was the best part of the day. Her not talking to me because of how hungry and frustrated she was was surprisingly peaceful. For real though, I think biking from the ferry to the park is worth your time, here’s the key: We spent more money renting a bike for two hours than we would have paying to ferry our car to the island….
If you love convenience, you can just pay to bring your car over, because trust me, the state park is the best part of the island. If you want the full experience, bring your own bike on the ferry.
The highlight of our half day on Madeline Island, for me, was the bike ride and you didn’t hear it from me, but… also the wild blue berries near the beach. Note: We visited end of July 2020.
Things To Do In Bayfield
We enjoyed patio drinks at The Bayfield Inn, we slowly worked our way up to the front as people left their tables. Pro Tip: The Bayfield Memorial Park, which Bayfield Inn overlooks, is a great place to sit on a blanket and watch the sunset. That was my overall highlight of the trip.
The Brownstone Trail runs right through Bayfield, Ironbridge trail is a short, fun hike about 1 mile. As mentioned earlier, there’s some easy hiking on Madeline Island. If you’re willing to travel 15 minutes West, you’ll find the awesome 10 mile Lakeshore Trail. You can search for Meyer’s Beach Trail to find it. The two trails share the same trailhead, and Meyer’s Beach is pretty much the halfway point. More trails here.
This is one of the biggest things that Bayfield is known for that we weren’t able to do while we were in town. I can’t speak much about it, but the area is know for it’s orchards.
You can also golf or check out the maritime museum. Things we also didn’t do, but are worth mentioning.
Tours are pricey, but for sure the best way to make a memory in Bayfield. There’s boat tours, bike tours, and kayak tours. We were fortunate enough to hop on a kayak tour, which I’ll explain in the next section.
Dinner & Food
We made our own food for most of the trip to save money, but we made two food stops worth discussing. One was Gourmet Garage, a bakery. The other was The Copper Trout for my wife’s birthday dinner.
We stopped in for a quick Maple Apple Fritter. Very good!
The Copper Trout
The dinner was pretty good. The steaks were excellent, as far as I recall, the side was average and we were hoping for a larger drink selection. The service was great, and overall it was a great time.
When you think about the Apostle Islands, you’d be among good company if you said the first thing you think of is water. There is so much beauty in the area and it’s all centered around Lake Superior. There are plenty of kayak tour companies, but we decided to go with a small local feel. Mukwa Den Kayak Tours showed us an amazing time. We did their tour along the Red Cliff shoreline, known as the “Red Cliff Caves Tour“. The tour took us in undercuts in the red stone, and even see a natural arch carved out by Lake Superior.
My wife and I did a morning tour and there was a really cool fog on the water at times. It didn’t impede the view too much, but gave a really surreal atmosphere. We were able to see a shipwreck despite the overcast environment!
Kayaking is the last thing we did before leaving for the Fox Valley, and Jon, our tour guide, was very knowledgeable and safety oriented. I would recommend Mukwa Den any time. Mukwa I learned is a Native word meaning bear. The kayak tours leave from the Casino about 5 minutes North of downtown Bayfield.
How Not to Ruin the Trip
Bay Field and the Apostle Islands are a must see if you’re a Wisconsinite. Just have a rough framework of what you want to accomplish. Don’t plan to build your trip around hiking (which is what I wrongly assumed we’d be able to do) and plan to spend a little bit of money. A minimum $125 a day for two can get you a solid day, any less and you’re going to have to be choosy, and more is helpful. As I said before, bring a bike if possible, bring snacks, and bring a swim suit! If you do this, you will have an unforgettable time.
What am I missing? What’s your favorite activities in Bayfield?