Stockton Island , The Apostle Islands

A Weekend Sailing in the Apostle Islands

I have always dreamed of exploring the Apostle Islands. Located off the shore of the Bayfield Peninsula in Northern Wisconsin, the Apostle Islands are an archipelago of 22 islands each unique and varied formed by ice, wind and waves over millions of years in the heart of Lake Superior. Known for their wild beauty, historic lighthouses, diverse wildlife, boreal forests, wind-blown beaches and stunning sea caves, the Apostle Islands offer endless choices for exploration either by boat, ferry, kayak and once ashore, on foot.

My first visit to the Apostle Islands was 2 years ago with my husband on a weekend trip to Bayfield, Wisconsin. During our visit, we only caught a tiny glimpse of the mysterious Apostle Islands while we took the ferry to Madeline Island, the largest and only inhabited island of the group and not an official part of the 69,372 acre Apostle Islands National Lakeshore. It was that visit that sparked my fascination with the Apostle Islands and my longing to see them by sailboat.

Last year, our neighbors bought a 42-foot sailboat that they keep in Bayfield and they make the trip to the Apostle Islands every weekend in the summer and early fall. We had been invited a few times before but the timing never seemed to work out for us until last weekend. On a whim, my daughter Sophia and I accepted their generous invitation to spend the weekend sailing with them and their two children. I was overjoyed.

Apostle Islands WI

The shore of Madeline Island. Photo taken during August 2016 trip.

Arrival at the Port Superior Marina

We left on Friday afternoon and arrived at the Port Superior Marina just before the sun began to set. Since it was too late to set sail, we spent the first night at the marina and set off for our first island early the next morning. For all my years growing up in Minnesota and near water, I had never slept on a sailboat before nor truly sailed. Ironically, I even spent two summers working at a yacht club on a large Minnesota lake yet never learned to sail. I honestly wasn’t sure what to expect and whether my fast-paced type A personality would be able to handle slowing down and just being still. Would I get restless being on a boat? Would I enjoy it? Would I get motion sickness?  These were the questions that circled my head as we loaded our duffel bags and groceries into the sailboat cabin.  Surprisingly, I was in for an entirely new experience which wound up being much different from what I had imagined and I absolutely loved my time at sail.

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Sea Kayaking in Lake Superior

Sea Kayaking on the edge of Lake Superior to Houghton Point

A few weeks ago, my husband and I had a rare weekend away in Bayfield, Wisconsin , a beautiful little town located in northeastern Wisconsin along the shores of Lake Superior and home to the pristine Apostle Islands. We chose Bayfield because we wanted to explore the Apostle Islands National Park, a collection of 21 islands and 12 miles of windswept beaches, cliffs and sea caves offering visitors the opportunity to hike, paddle, sail or cruise this stunning area. I had always heard about this amazing place but had never been there despite the fact it is only a four hour drive away from Minneapolis.

One of the main things we wanted to do was go sea kayaking and explore the sandstone sea caves along the shores of Lake Superior. We had seen them from above while hiking at Meyer’s Beach and knew that it would be something that cannot be missed. We were able to reserve an 8 am paddle on Sunday morning with Lost Creek Adventures launching out of Cornucopia near Meyer’s Beach.

Photo credit: National Parks Services

Photo credit: National Parks Services

It had rained and stormed the entire day on Saturday so we were concerned that our kayak adventure on Sunday morning would be canceled. However, when we rose at 6 am the sky was clear, the birds were singing and the sun was glorious. It was going to be a spectacular day!

We ate a quick breakfast and drove about twenty minutes to the other side of the Peninsula where we would be launching off that morning. As soon as we turned the corner  around the tip of the Peninsula, we realized that the weather on this side was completely different. I was stunned to see that only twenty minutes away from Bayfield, the weather in Cornucopia was cloudy, exceptionally windy and cool. It was the unprotected edge of the shoreline and the winds were fierce. To our dismay, there was no way we would be able to safely go sea kayaking there because the waves were over four feet high making the situation extremely dangerous. We would have to go to Plan B.

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Mayfield WI

A Weekend Getaway to Bayfield and the Apostle Islands

“Bayfield and the Apostle Islands – Where the Water Meets the Soul”

Growing up in Minnesota, I have spent many years enjoying the rugged North Shore of Lake Superior which is filled with excellent hikes along the Superior National Hiking Trail, gorgeous views, and tons of nature for the outdoor enthusiast. This summer we even took a family trip to the North Shore and headed further to explore Ely, Minnesota the heart of the Boundary Waters Wilderness Canoe Area. As much as I love this part of Lake Superior, after all these years I wanted to try someplace new. I had always heard about the incredible beauty of the Apostle Islands outside of Bayfield, Wisconsin on the other side of Lake Superior yet had never visited there. With my parents in town for the week and free babysitting for the kids, this was my chance for an adventurous, romantic weekend away with my husband on Lake Superior’s South Shore.

Bayfield, Wisconsin is about a four hours drive northeast of Minneapolis at the end of the Bayfield Peninsula. It is the launching off point to the stunning, pristine Apostle Islands – an archipelago of 22 islands and a National Park – and is known for its sailing, sea kayaking, hiking, biking and pristine beauty. It is also home to the incredible sea caves that line the mainland as well as Devil and Sand Islands that can be reached only by sea kayak, boat or foot when the lake freezes over.  Madeline Island – the most well-known of the Apostle Islands and also the only inhabited island – is a short 20 minute ferry ride from Bayfield and is a popular destination in its own right.

 Apostle Islands WI

A view of Lake Superior from Cornucopia on a cloudy day.

We set off Thursday morning after saying goodbye to the kids, our puppy and my parents, and enjoyed the beautiful drive through Wisconsin dairy land and verdant forests to Bayfield. Since it was a big tourist weekend in Duluth, we decided to take the more scenic back roads to Bayfield passing through the cabin and lake country of Hayward, Spooner and Cable, Wisconsin. After we hit Ashland and left the small farm towns along the way, the scenery became even more stunning that I imagined. Unlike the rocky rugged look of the North Shore of Lake Superior, the South Shore of Lake Superior and the Bayfield Peninsula is dramatically different. It is equally as lush and green yet softer and gentler. Instead of lupines lining the highway, sprays of yellow and pink wildflowers fill the landscape alongside Deciduous trees and the famous Bayfield blueberries.

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A Rare Weekend Away

This past weekend my husband Paul and I had a rare weekend away without the kids. We have been married for 16 years and together for 22 years (where did the time go?) and have only been away together as a couple without the kids a few times since we had our first child 11 years ago. After such a crazy summer, filled with a ton of travel for me, a new puppy, and a chaotic schedule of camps, soccer games and playdates for the kids, we needed this time alone together as a couple more than ever before.

A weekend away along the South Shore of Lake Superior, home to the stunning Apostle Islands and quaint Bayfield, Wisconsin was the perfect antidote to a stressful, busy life. I realized how tense I have become and how incredibly important it is in life to take a step back and relax. I also realized how important it is for a marriage to have time alone together away from the kids. As much as we love our children, we rarely spend time alone together except for a nice dinner out or a walk around the lake with our dog. Getting away from it all together was the best thing we could have done!


Sailboat Ride in the Apostle Islands

Sailboat Ride in the Apostle Islands


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