A guide to the Apostle Islands by kayak (with visit and without)

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While the state of Wisconsin is particularly known for its dairy products and beer, this upper Midwestern state is also renowned for its many amazing attractions such as Big Manitou Falls, the Cranberry Trail and the National Science Preserve of Wisconsin. ‘ice Age. But in the northern part of the state, one cannot ignore the Apostle Islands, a hotspot for adventurous kayakers.

The Apostle Islands, part of Wisconsin’s national park system, are located on Lake Superior off the Bayfield Peninsula. The attraction covers approximately 21 miles of shoreline and is made up of 21 islands, which are dubbed the “Crown Jewels of Lake Superior.”

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Lake Superior is part of the series of large interconnected freshwater lakes of the Great Lakes of North America. With plenty of fun activities to do like scuba diving, sailing, and kayaking, the Apostle Islands are Lake Superior’s most visited attraction. From its red sandstone sea caves to its rustic and wild camping areas, the Apostle Islands are a true paradise for nature lovers.

Apostle Islands Self-Guided Kayak Tour

The most popular way to explore the beauty of the 22 islands is of course to take a kayak ride to see rugged cliffs, beautiful caves and coves.

Spectacular sea caves with their unusual arches and enigmatic sea chambers can be found while kayaking around Devils Island, Sand Island and Squaw Bay.

The remote islands offer plenty of opportunities to encounter a variety of wildlife such as black bears and the magnificent seagulls that abound in the Apostle Islands.

Although the Apostle Islands can be very tempting to explore on their own, kayakers should be aware of the possible dangers, especially when the waters are rough.

You’ll need strong kayaking skills and the right gear to venture around these islands. Experts suggest that a sea kayak is the only type of kayak that can work on Lake Superior.

Additionally, adventurous kayakers must be fit and able to swim to kayak without a guide.

Of course, the Apostle Islands are for experienced paddlers to take self-guided tours.

Due to the changing nature of the weather and the long distances between the islands, the Apostle Islands are definitely for experienced kayakers only.

It is also important to note that any kayaker is required to comply with National Park Service requirements before kayaking around the Apostle Islands.

Related: Kayaking Wekiva: Everything you need to know about this unique waterway

As recommended by the National Park Servicepaddlers should use watercraft at least 16 feet long and do not advocate open cockpit boats, kayaks or canoes.

It is also important to note that due to low water temperatures which can range between 30 and 50 degrees Fahrenheit, all paddlers are advised to wear wet suits or dry suits and a personal flotation device in all the time.

It is also crucial to note that there are larger boats that may have difficulty identifying sea kayaks in windy weather or on the high seas, in which case paddlers are required to carry a flag or paddle with light marks.

Those planning to go on a long exploration tour should pack provisions for at least a day. Some recommended items to pack are:

  • First aid kit
  • A second paddle
  • Stove for hiking
  • Radio for sailors
  • Mobile phone
  • Compass
  • Waterproof containers or dry bags
  • Boats and brightly colored clothing are recommended
  • Maps
  • 50 feet of safety cord (or rope)
  • Wet Weather Gear
  • Waterproof fire starter

One of the most popular kayaking adventures is the Outer Island Loop, which is a 75-mile kayak tour that includes 11 of the Apostle Islands and can be done in a week.

Kayak trips on the Apostle Islands

While those who do not have very advanced kayaking experience can consider many professionally offered tours.

These guided kayak tours are ideal for beginners or inexperienced paddlers, who typically embark on a safe paddling environment with the assistance of expert kayakers and are sometimes equipped to tow if necessary.

There are many tours to choose from, depending on the level of comfort. For example, the half-day trip usually includes an exploration of one to two Apostle Islands.

For young kayakers, tandem kayaks are perfect. For a more adventurous experience, try the multi-day kayak tours, which include camping on the island while paddling from coast to coast.

Adventurous spirits can also consider overnight excursions tailored for an immersive experience in the Apostle Islands.

Related: Kayak Tours: Get up close to the Channel Islands sea caves

Day and night kayaking adventures

Kayak Cap Blanc is a leading adventure company that offers day and overnight kayaking adventures. Their package normally includes a visit to the sea caves at Meyers Beach or a visit to some scenic lighthouses.


There are also tours that include canyon, cliff and waterfall trips.

Tandem sea kayak

Those looking for a tandem sea kayaking tour can check out the Rustic Makwa Denwhich offers sit-on-top and sit-inside sea kayaks.

  • Cost of the single seated kayak: $45 per day
  • Cost of the Sit-On-Top Tandem Kayak: $55 per day

Camping in the Apostle Islands

If one is planning to camp on the Apostle Islands, there are 19 islands to choose from. There is also a campground located on the mainland property of the National Lakeshore.

The area has individual, primitive and group campsites.

  • A few campsites to consider: Sand Island, Devil’s Island, Rocky Islands, York Island, Ironwood Island, Outer Island, Stockton Island and Oak Islands.
  • Individual camping pitches: Facilities include stump toilets, fire rings, and bear-resistant food storage.

Please note that a permit is required to camp in any of the designated areas of the Apostle Islands. Campers should practice Leave no trace ethics on primitive sites.

Safety Information

It is always wise to prepare properly before embarking on a challenging kayaking trip.

The National Park Service advises kayakers to check the weather forecast before heading out on the waters.

If the weather does not allow it, there are always plenty of beaches and coastal sites.

It is not recommended to use small open boats or open cockpits to travel between islands or venture into sea caves.

A sea kayak is a highly recommended type of kayak to use when exploring the Apostle Islands.

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