Known as the “crown jewels of Lake Superior,” the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore is a pristine attraction. Located near Bayfield, Wisconsin, the shoreline attracts visitors from all over the globe. And it’s easy to see why, with its fascinating sea caves, lighthouses, and more!

Arch in Apostle Islands

The national lakeshore encompasses a 12-mile stretch of mainland and 21 of the archipelago’s gorgeous 22 islands (Madeline Island, the largest and only permanently inhabited island, is not part of the national lakeshore). While the “Apostles” have countless lighthouses scattered along the lakeshore, people most commonly visit the area to explore the famous sea caves. 

Can a Lake Really Have “Sea Caves”?

A Devils Island arch as seen from the water, with its many layers of sandstone.

As the largest freshwater lake by surface area in the world, the only thing that makes Lake Superior a lake instead of a sea is the freshwater.

For billions of years, lake waves and erosion have carved out fascinating arches, caves, and caverns. They transformed the reddish-brown sandstone into the cliffs on the north shore of Devils Island, Swallow Point on Sand Island, and along the mainland near the lakeshore’s western boundary.

What makes Apostle Islands sea caves so special?

Blue and red colored Sea Caves as seen from an Apostle Islands Cruises tour

The waves of the powerful lake have burrowed deep into layers of sandstone, etching intricate patterns and sweeping arches into sides of islands. Of course, the red sandstone set against the blue water of Lake Superior is particularly striking. The sea caves themselves often are multicolored, with green moss and blue minerals blending together. Nature has created a masterpiece that’s awe-inspiring when seen up close.

Which Apostle Island has the Best Sea Caves?

Intricate sea caves in Devils Island that seem to crisscross the farther you look.

Inside look at the sea caves on Devils Island.

Devils Island, by far, has the best sea caves in the Apostle Islands, with magnificent rock formations and intricate sea caves that snake around its northern shore.

Best Way to See the Sea Caves? On the Water.

Cruise Along the Shoreline

Offering several narrated sightseeing cruises and shuttles to islands and offshore locations throughout the national lakeshore, Apostle Islands Cruises is an authorized concessioner of the National Park Service and U.S. Department of the Interior serving the public within the Apostles. 

Apostle Islands Cruises passes a lighthouse

The 55-mile narrated “Grand Tour“, which travels through the heart of the Apostle Islands archipelago, is by far the most popular excursion. Throughout this memorable 2.5 to 3-hour cruise, you’ll pass extraordinary natural scenery, beautiful historic Raspberry and Devils Island Lighthouses, standing rocks, extensive sea caves, and marine wildlife. Trips leave from Bayfield daily from late May to mid-October.

Magnificent sandstone cliffs of Apostle Islands National Lakeshore

Paddling Through Sea Caves and Crevices 

A wonderful addition to the Bayfield area is Apostle Islands Kayaking – the only boat-assisted paddling adventure in the national lakeshore.

Kayak through sea caves in Apostle Islands

With the popular outfitter, kayakers begin their adventure by taking a leisurely boat ride and are then launched into the beautiful waters of Lake Superior, where they’ll explore miles of sea caves, cliffs, rock formations, and hidden beaches of the Apostle Islands. After the paddling portion of the trip is over, which lasts about two hours, kayakers board the boat and head back to the mainland. Tours operate from mid-June to early October. 

Kayaking Apostle Islands Sea Caves

Ice Caves Galore: Year-Round Destination

The sea caves are also a popular destination in the wintertime. While frozen lake water coats the base of the cliffs, massive pillars of ice hang from the cliff tops where waterfalls have hardened.

Ice Caves of Apostle Islands

It’s always recommended to check with the NPS regarding the ice conditions before walking over the frozen lake. 

Planning Your Trip to Bayfield

Whether you’re planning an afternoon, weekend, or an extended stay, the Bayfield area has endless opportunities for those seeking an adventure of a lifetime. Come check out the clear waters of Superior, the area’s fine dining and lodging options, and experience the endless sea caves firsthand by boat or kayak. 

Book Your Trip to the Apostle Islands Today 

The Apostle Islands is a must-stop for anyone looking for adventure and beautiful sights. Plus, Bayfield, the nearby town, has plenty of restaurants, hotels, campgrounds, events, and shopping options. Book your trip to the Apostle Islands today and see these sea caves up close and personal!