10Best Explores Bayfield, Wisconsin, and the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore

  • Picture-Perfect Scenery

    Beautifully-crafted from nature, the 22 islands that comprise Lake Superior's Apostle Islands are positioned off the coast of the Bayfield Peninsula in northern Wisconsin. Hop onto a 55-mile scenic cruise and float by extensive sea caves, historic lighthouses and marine and coastal wildlife, while learning about the rich history of human interaction on this ancient lake, the largest of North America's Great Lakes.

    Photo courtesy of Joanne DiBona

  • Bayfield: Charming Gateway to the Islands

    The historic and charming town of Bayfield, Wis., gateway to the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, is a visitor destination in itself. The town boasts a variety of accommodations, an active arts and crafts community, a wide range of dining options, eclectic shopping opportunities, museums and a palette of year-round visitor recreational activities.

    Photo courtesy of Tony DiBona

  • Frozen Wonderland

    It doesn't happen every year, but when it does, the eyes of the world are on Bayfield. The 2014 freeze brought hundreds of thousands of visitors from around the world to the Apostle Islands, lured by the opportunity to hike out onto the frozen lake to enjoy the magical, sparkling cathedrals of ice framing the rocky caves. Another favorite winter activity is the popular  "Ice Road" experience, when winter visitors are invited to drive, hike or ski back and forth to Madeline Island, two and a half miles off the shore from Bayfield.

    Photo courtesy of Bayfield Chamber of Commerce & Visitor Bureau

  • View America's Symbol in the Wild

    There are few greater thrills than seeing a bald eagle – which has served as the U.S. National Emblem since 1782 – in the wild, and you can do just that from the deck of a cruise boat as it glides past the various islands in the park. Bald eagle populations, which reached critically low levels in the 1950s and 1960s due to the use of toxic chemicals such as DDT, began to recover on the Apostle Islands in the 1980s. Today, while still on the federally endangered list, the bald eagles are building nests and producing young in the park's pristine environment.

    Photo courtesy of Joanne DiBona/Apostle Island Cruises

  • "Berry" Well Known

    Bayfield proudly holds the title of "Berry Capital of Wisconsin," which is evident in the succulent pies and other dishes served up by local restaurants during the season. In summer and fall, visitors are invited to head out to an apple orchard, berry or cherry farm for the unique experience of picking their own fruit. Roadside stands also offer an impressive variety of jams, jellies and fresh preserves that are ready to take home.

    Photo courtesy of Joanne DiBona

  • Murals Reveal a Town's History

    Located a few miles from Bayfield on the shores of Lake Superior, the historic town of Ashland features brownstone buildings and an eight-block section of town (listed on the National Register of Historic Places) featuring 13 dramatic murals. Each mural depicts a particular aspect of the town's history. A year-round public art destination, Ashland is also home to the Northern Great Lakes Visitor Center, which gives visitors a fascinating look at the heritage and history of the Lake Superior region.

    Photo courtesy of Joanne DiBona/Ashland Area Chamber of Commerce

  • Kayak Through Nature's Sandstone Sculptures

    Kayaking tours offer visitors a unique opportunity to paddle under arches, vaulted chambers and into deep recesses of the spectacular sandstone sea caves of Apostle Islands, considered to be the most spectacular in the Great Lakes.

    Photo courtesy of Bayfield Chamber of Commerce & Visitor Bureau

  • Playing in a Winter Wonderland

    There's no question that Bayfield and the Apostle Islands have fun winter activities down cold. Cross-country skiing, snowmobiling, snowshoeing and ice fishing await the winter visitor to the islands. The frozen bay also provides the perfect platform for an invigorating and unique ice-skating experience. For the height in winter adventure travel, dog sledding over the hills surrounding Bayfield is a must.  Or if you would rather experience dog sledding as a spectator, Bayfield hosts the annual Apostle Islands Sled Dog Race in early February, where you can watch more than 60 sled dog teams dash through the area's winter wonderland.   

    Photo courtesy of Bayfield Chamber of Commerce & Visitor Bureau

  • Let There Be Light

    The Raspberry Island Lighthouse is one of eight 19th century lighthouses on the Apostle Islands, all of which are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. According to the National Park Service, the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore has more lighthouses than any other National Park service area (nine historic towers on six islands) and is often touted as the finest single collection of lighthouses in the nation. 

    Photo courtesy of Tony DiBona

  • Lake Superior's Ubiquitous – and Delicious – White Fish

    Visitors to Bayfield will be surprised at how often the succulent white fish appears on breakfast, lunch and dinner menus. Smoked, grilled, fried or wrapped in a taco, no matter how it's served, white fish is a surf-to-turf culinary experience to be enjoyed while visiting the shores of Lake Superior.

    Photo courtesy of Joanne DiBona/Ethel's at 250

  • Pedal Your Way Through Spectacular Scenery

    Bayfield is a bicyclist's heaven, and a perfect way to savor the splendor of the region's breathtaking scenery. Rentals are available at several bike shops in town. Of course, you can always discover Bayfield in a way the first settlers would have experienced it: by going on a simple hike. There are several well-marked scenic trails right near town, or get off the beaten path and discover some of the region's most breathtaking views from the Apostle Islands National Lakefront park.

    Photo courtesy of Wisconsin Bike Federation

  • Cheers to Craft Beer

    With its Northern European roots, it's no wonder that this area of Wisconsin produces exceptional craft beers. Visitors to the picturesque and historic town of Ashland, located a few miles from Bayfield on the shores of Lake Superior, can taste several varieties of craft brew specialties at the South Shore Brewery.

    Photo courtesy of Joanne DiBona/South Shore Brewery

  • Explore the Art of Bayfield's Unique Galleries

    Despite its small town feel, Bayfield offers a surprisingly sophisticated array of fine art galleries and working studios offering impressive collections of paintings, artwork and hand-crafted jewelry.

    Photo courtesy of Joanne DiBona

  • Star-Struck in Bayfield

    Gazing into the sky to see the Northern Lights – the Aurora Borealis – might be on your bucket list of adventures, and one you might be able to check off during a winter visit to Bayfield. During the summer months, the Lake Superior Big Top Chautauqua 900-seat theater presents exceptional stars of another variety: an eclectic mix of local and national musical talents.

    Photo courtesy of George Eggers, Bayfield Chamber of Commerce & Visitor Bureau

  • Toast to Wisconsin Wine

    Wine in Wisconsin? Mais oui! Bayfield itself boasts several local vineyards and wineries. One of of the trendiest is the All Sisters' Winery nestled in the rolling hills above the town, where you can taste vintages produced from locally grown grapes and enjoy shopping for wine-themed souvenirs in the gift shop.

    Photo courtesy of Joanne DiBona/All Sisters' Winery

  • Lakeshore Dining with a Superior View

    Enjoy Bayfield's culinary offerings at many of its restaurants that offer a panoramic view of Lake Superior and the Apostle Islands

    Photo courtesy of Joanne DiBona/Bayfield Inn

  • The Old Rittenhouse Inn, a Bayfield Architectural Icon

    Grandiose mansions and homes of yesteryear line the streets of historic Bayfield. The Old Rittenhouse Inn, Bayfield's first bed and breakfast establishment, offers 12 guest rooms, many of which feature fireplaces, whirlpool tubs and spectacular views on Lake Superior. 

    Photo courtesy of Joanne DiBona/Old Rittenhouse Inn

  • A Shopper's Delight

    Despite its small town feel, Bayfield offers big city shopping opportunities. Eclectic shops feature unusual gifts, jewelry and clothing items. Designer boutiques are filled with one-of-a-kind gift options, and the people who own and work in these stores are every bit as unique and interesting as the items they sell.

    Photo courtesy of Joanne DiBona

  • Explore Bayfield's Maritime History

    For an intimate look at the maritime history of Bayfield and the Apostle Islands, pay a visit to the Bayfield Maritime Museum. There you can explore the history surrounding Lake Superior's commercial fishing industry and the role it played in the development of Bayfield's economy. Don't miss the vintage Lake Superior fishing vessel displayed outside the museum.

    Photo courtesy of Tony DiBona

  • Shine On Harvest Moon

    An autumn visit to Bayfield and the Apostle Islands may reward you with a sunset view featuring an exquisite harvest moon, seen here in its glory over the Port Superior and Pike's Bay marinas. 

    Photo courtesy of Joanne DiBona