Twenty-one islands with breathtaking beaches along Lake Superior, stunning historical lighthouses, sandstone formations and sea caves – the natural wonders of the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore continue to draw visitors from all over the world.
Serving the public within the national lakeshore as an authorized park concessioner, Apostle Islands Cruises operates out of Bayfield, Wisconsin, and provides narrated sightseeing cruises, hiking and camping shuttles, and guided lighthouse tours.
The most popular is the Grand Tour which takes passengers on a narrated, informative 2 ½ to 3-hour scenic excursion to see the Raspberry Island and Devils Island lighthouses, gorgeous sea caves, marine wildlife, and much more.
These top 7 highlights are what make the Apostle Islands Cruises tour so “Grand”:
1. Up-close Views of the Beautiful Islands
The national lakeshore encompasses a 12-mile stretch of mainland and 21 of the archipelago’s gorgeous 22 islands. On a Grand Tour, you’ll get up-close and personal with several of the islands. You’ll coast next to the islands’ dramatic sea caves and colorfully stratified cliffs.
2. Raspberry Lighthouse
Considered the “showplace of the Apostle Islands,” the Raspberry Island Lighthouse was first built in 1862 and was rebuilt in the early 1900s to make room for the lightkeepers and their families. It is the most readily accessible of the Apostle Island stations. During the summer season, rangers conduct tours of the historic tower. Close to the mainland, the island is a popular destination for skilled sea kayakers and private boaters.
3. Devils Island Lighthouse
First lit in 1891, the Devils Island Lighthouse eventually became the last manned station in the Apostle Islands. The lighthouse was automated in 1978, marking the end of over a century of lightkeepers tending lights in the Apostle Islands. You’ll want to make sure you brought your camera for this one.
4. Spectacular Sea Caves
While the “Apostles” have countless lighthouses scattered along the lakeshore, people most commonly visit the area to explore the famous sea caves. For billions of years, lake waves and erosion have carved out fascinating arches, caves, and caverns into the reddish-brown sandstone in the cliffs on the north shore of Devils Island and along the mainland near the lakeshore’s western boundary.
5. The Wildlife that Inhabits the Apostles
Island environments provide a safe environment for numerous bird species, mammals, plants, amphibians, and aquatic species. While whitetail deer have been known to swim between the mainland and the Apostles, bald eagles are also commonly seen aboard a Grand Tour.
6. Discover the History
The Apostles hold countless tales of those who’ve called it home and were shaped by living in the rural archipelago over the years. Your captain on a Grand Tour will share stories that have been passed down for generations.
7. Scarlet & Sapphire Cliffs
The national lakeshore is shaped from a porous red sandstone rock. Its scarlet hue from iron, the most prominent mineral. However, there are also swaths of blue due to the presence of iron. Especially while wet, these colors are incredible and vibrant, combining for a spectacular sight.
Bonus: Awe-Inspiring Lake Superior
Of course, it goes without saying that Lake Superior is breathtakingly magnificent. It never ceases to amaze, from the turquoise tranquility of a serene summer day to the churning dark blues of fall. Enjoying a leisurely boat ride on the majestic lake is a must for your bucket list.