Explore the Apostle Islands by Land, Boat or on Foot
Just off the Bayfield peninsula, where Wisconsin’s deep northwestern forests give way to the icy blue stretches of Lake Superior, an archipelago of 22 islands lies scattered across roughly 720 square miles of the world’s largest freshwater lake. This archipelago comprises Madeline Island, the largest and only inhabited island in the group; and the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore’s pristine 21 islands and 12-mile stretch of mainland coast.
The Anishinaabe, also known as the Ojibwe or Chippewa, say that Gitche Manitou led their community to 12-mile-long Madeline Island and to Chequamegon Bay’s wild rice beds. The island remains a sacred place, and despite the fact that this is a seasonal hotspot for tourists, 200 acres on the island’s eastern end still belongs to the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa.
The Bad River Band has a 125,000-acre reservation on Lake Superior’s south shore, in Ashland and Iron counties; roughly 1,500 tribal members make their homes here. The 200-acre “exclave” on Madeline Island was set aside for what was once known as the Lapointe Band in 1854.
Madeline Island lies just a short ferry ride from Bayfield, and accommodations include local inns, rental cottages and camping in Big Bay State Park or Big Bay Town Park.
Once you’re settled, rent bikes or mopeds in La Pointe to explore the island’s quiet lanes, rent a canoe or kayak to paddle alongside its cliffs and caves, or simply hike through the countryside.
While you’re on the island, make sure to visit the Madeline Island Museum, take a stroll through time at the Madeline Island Heritage Center, learn to weave at Woods Hall, and maybe even sign up for a class at the Madeline Island School of the Arts. You can even play a round of golf on the Robert Trent Jones-designed course at the Madeline Island Golf Club.
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