Wisconsin’s northernmost point, comprised of the magnificent sea caves at the tip of the Bayfield Peninsula and the archipelago of stunning islands stretching 25 miles into Lake Superior, was forever protected when Congress established the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore in 1970.
The Apostle Islands, named by the French, who counted 12 islands, are a kayaking mecca of 22 islands spread across 400 square miles that make up the northernmost fragments of Wisconsin. Forged by waves of glacial lakes after the Ice Age, the Apostle Islands are among the last truly remote places in the Midwest.
There are many ways to get to know the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore – cruise boats, sailing, kayaking, camping – and they are all worth it.
apostle islands sea caves
Half the sea caves exist inside the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore (i.e. Devil’s Islands, Sand Island, Meyers Beach, Stockton Island) the rest of the sea caves are found outside (AINL) in the area’s that are not a part of the National Park (i.e. Madeline Island, Roman’s Point, Red Cliff, Houghton Point, Chequamegon Bay). The (AINL) staff don’t really mention the caves outside the park because it’s only their job to know about the caves inside the park. However, when you understand that you are literally surrounded by sea caves on both sides of the peninsula you can make much better paddling decisions. There is no need to risk going to sea caves when there are waves, and as an outfitter we do not. Instead, we travel to caves that are in the lee of the wind, so we are always launching in waves that are 1ft or less. Conditions can change while you are out there which is why it is why our guides have multiple forms of communication and if we see white caps we are turn around. Your safety is much more important to us than getting you into a sea cave.
In the Apostle Islands kayaking has become the most popular way to explore, and the sea caves have become the most popular attraction. The sea caves are the intricate sandstone formations that can be found in many different places in the Apostle Islands but are always found in on of the three sandstone layers left behind by glacial progressions. The mighty lake carved these delicate red sandstone cliffs into arches, sea stacks, caves and occasionally a “secret” tunnel cave. It is important to understand that the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore and the Apostle Islands are not the exact same thing. The Apostle Islands National Lakeshore (AINL) refers to the federally protected park which has 21 Islands and a 12 mile stretch of mainland. The Apostle Islands island chain is larger than (AINL) and refers to the entire 22 island archipelago and a much larger section of the mainland that is not a federally protected National Park.
An Apostle Islands adventure can be much more than kayaking sea caves. On windy days, where we can’t find a calm location to kayak, we are happy to help you find fun things to do that can take place on land, even right at your campground. The Bayfield peninsula is full of old orchards full of wild edibles and a day spent picking thimbleberries, blueberries and juneberries can be just as much fun as kayaking the sea caves. Wild and edible mushrooms start to show up en mass in July and August and are an excellent way to entertain yourself while exploring some of our beautiful boreal forests.
We know that you want to go to the sea caves when you book with us and rest assured we provide many options to do so. However, the Lake is the boss and this lake can throw a lot of weather patterns at you. The water is cold and so is the wind any time it comes from a Northerly direction. You have about a 20% chance of cancellation due to weather on tours in the Apostle Islands. So, when you are making plans to do some Apostle Islands kayaking just remember that even if we can’t get you on the water we will do our best to help facilitate a fun and exciting vacation. If we cancel your tour due to weather you will be issued a full refund and our we try to get you on another tour if you can make it.