Discovering the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore is an opportunity to immerse oneself in 720 square miles of natural beauty across 21 islands that feature sea caves, historical lighthouses, and some of the greatest hiking trails.
The sea caves of Devils Island.
Offering visitors the chance to indulge in solitude, reflection, and recreation, island activities include hiking, sailing, camping, fishing, kayaking, and much more!
Getting Around: Apostle Islands Cruises
Apostle Islands Cruises provides the opportunity to explore the breathtaking archipelago by water. Operating out of Bayfield, Wisconsin, Apostle Islands Cruises’ 2 ½ to 3 ¼ -hour scenic Grand Tour shows passengers the best parts of the park while the cool, grandeur of Lake Superior envelops the islands on the narrated boat tour. The company also offers shuttles to certain islands for day hikers and camping excursions.
Apostle Islands Cruises gives passengers the best views of the national lakeshore.
However, due to the vastness of the park, it may not be possible to see everything in one visit, but there are specific locations that are well worth exploring.
Map of the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore. PC: National Park Service.
Here are the 10 islands of the gorgeous archipelago we recommend checking out:
The Excelsior Quarry on Hermit Island many years ago. PC: National Park Service.
Dubbed “Hermit” for a reason, the island’s name finds its roots in alleged fight between “King” John Bell and William Wilson, an American Fur Company employee in the 1850s. Wilson was exiled to the island, where he died under mysterious circumstances.
Despite its eerie past, Hermit Island is best known for its brownstone quarries. The Excelsior Quarry, established by Frederick Prentice in the 1890s, yielded several stone blocks that still line the island’s shore today. Prentice even built a three-story Cedar Bark Cottage, which no longer stands.
Raspberry Island Lighthouse.
Positioned 14 miles from Bayfield and 6 miles from Little Sand Bay, Raspberry Island can be found on the inner island ring. This small island boasts a 19th-century lighthouse, labeled the “Showplace of the Apostle Islands,” which was constructed to guide ships navigating the west channel around the Bayfield Peninsula. During summer, visitors can tour the light station and grounds with a ranger, gaining insight into the life of a lighthouse keeper in the 1900s.
At an elevation of 1,081 feet above sea level, Oak Island stands as the tallest peak in the Apostle Islands, boasting awe-inspiring formations shaped by wind, waves, and ice, including the most elevated cliffs along Wisconsin’s Lake Superior coast.
Situated on the eastern end of the Apostles, two lighthouses, constructed in 1857 and 1929, await visitors on Michigan Island, which offers the opportunity to delve into its history of lighthouse keepers, their families, and their exploits guiding ships through the archipelago.
Outer Island Lighthouse. PC: National Park Service.
Outer Island boasts a historic lighthouse erected in 1874 near the island’s northern edge. The island’s southern end is home to a rare sand spit and the remnants of old buildings and railroads. Though not for the faint-hearted, visitors can explore the Lullaby Logging Camp and Outer Island Lighthouse by hiking the breathtaking trails. Outer Island is renowned for its challenging accessibility.
Apostle Islands Cruises seen passing the sea caves of Devils Island.
Devil Island is the northernmost of the 22 islands in the archipelago and is renowned for its stunning sandstone sea caves, a one-mile hiking trail that runs from the north to south, and a lighthouse. The cliffs and sea caves beneath the lighthouse are among the most captivating in the national lakeshore.
The unique shape of Long Island. PC: National Park Service.
Currently, Long Island is not an island, but a peninsula. Over the years, it has oscillated between being an island and part of a peninsula, with each phase lasting a few decades. Since the mid-1970s, it has been part of a peninsula.
Honeymoon Rock near Basswood Island. PC: National Park Service.
Basswood Island is a nearby yet elusive destination. Along the brown sandstone cliffs and red clay banks bordering Lake Superior, the only interruption is “Lone Rock” or “Honeymoon Rock” – an isolated sandstone block at the island’s northern tip.
Sand Island Lighthouse.
Sand Island is an all-encompassing destination with numerous activities to indulge in. From hiking and camping to exploring sea caves and a lighthouse, the island boasts a rich history and an endless supply of discoveries to keep you occupied all day long.
Approximately 14 miles of picturesque trails await hikers at Stockton Island, which features a lagoon, beach, dogs, dunes, deep forest, and brownstone quarry site. Julian Bay Beach’s “singing sands” is a must-see attraction.