Route Suggestions for Apostle Islands?


I’m a veteran of several sea kayaking trips on Lake Superior (Pictured Rocks several times, LSPP, Isle Royale circumnavigation) but have never been to the Apostle Islands.

I’ve downloaded all the available info. from the NPS website and am in the trip planning phase for an early September self-supported week-long outing.

Perhaps some of you who have already been there can suggest the attractions not to miss, some of the best campsites, best put-in, etc. Also, if there is a good guidebook on the area, please advise.

[I did a search in the Archives from the past year but it didn’t turn anything up…]

Many thanks,


Devils Island is one of the best - great lighthouse and I’d say the best sea caves in the Apostles. The campsite on that island is at the other end and a long walk up a hill, so I’d stay at the southernmost site on Rocky Island (1.5 mile crossing?). That’s one of the best campsites too…

Raspberry Island lighthouse has just been restored and opened earlier this year. Land at the sandspit and walk 0.7mi to get to it. No camping on this island, but York has excellent wilderness sites.

Really nice caves and a lighthouse at Sand Island too. All of these would be convenient from Little Sand Bay for free parking and launching. Red Cliff charges $5 per car per night and $5 to launch.

You can call exactly one month before your trip starts to get your permit. I’d recommend doing it that day, first thing in the a.m…

Thanks for the advice!
“You can call exactly one month before your trip starts to get your permit. I’d recommend doing it that day, first thing in the a.m…”

I didn’t realize this–thanks for letting me know…

4 miles
I’d say a lot of the crossings are about 4 miles, maybe a few are a little longer. However, not all areas of the islands are good or even possible landing spots.

I recently found out that the NPS office has something called a “shoreline survey” showing good possibilities of landing spots. Bear Island is a big one that doesn’t have a lot of good landing spots, for example, and there is a “no trespassing” sign at the sandspit. I’ve never heard of a problem landing there to take a break, just stay away from the cabins.

So - even though 4 miles will usually get you through a crossing, a landing spot may be a few miles beyond that.

And hit the bar on Madeline Island
I’m not sure if it’s still there, but there was a really cool bar on Madeline Island near the Ferry Landing. It had apparently burned down and the owner just put up a new bar, a tent-top and reopened.

That would be the one and only Tom’s Burned Down Cafe…

Apostle Islands
I remember seeing you guys at Isle Royale. I was looking at the Recluse the last day when you were leaving. I’m usually paddling the Apostles about 4 times a year. Sand bay is my favorite put in point. Plenty of parking and sand beach. The spit on Ironwood island and Outer Island are great.

Good memory
Redneck! I’ve since sold the Recluse and will be paddling a different boat on this trip. The Apostles expedition is scheduled for 9/10 - 9/18. Maybe we’ll see you out there!

I’m assuming (perhaps wrongly so) that conditions in the area of the Apostles should be similar to those at Isle Royale? We found that winds kicked up pretty consistently in the afternoons so we paddled early each day to avoid them.

How’s the NOAA weather report coverage up there?

Apostle Islands
Yes, the winds are generally calmer in the mornings. If you have a decent radio you should be able to get reports anywhere out there. It can get extremely rough out there with any kind of a strong northerly wind. I was going to mention that I have a book (I’ll have to look at home and see what it is) Anyway it recommends a trip call the Outer Island Loop that covers just over 100 miles. If you’re interested, let me know. What are you paddling now, I was wondering how you carried everything in the Recluse?

Switched to a VCP Avocet
Had no trouble at all packing everything into the Recluse (I’m also a backpacker and mountaineer, so kayak camping is luxury). I still would like a bit bigger boat though and am looking at an Aquanaut. Really really like the VCP boats’ quality and thoughtful design as well as their rough water abilities.

If you can provide the name of the book you referenced, I’ll look it up on Amazon or something.

Thanks again for your insight.


Book title
Hi again:

The title of the book is Guide to Sea Kayaking on Lakes Superior and Michigan.

the campsite on the north side of Oak is a great one!! nice sand, grassy tent pad, small stream, hiking trail, good view, etc…

Have to agree on Oak…
The north campsite on Oak (#6) is nice and the trail goes straight up as if you were climbing. There is a great view point up there.

Michigan Island offers two light houses which is quite unique. You have to climb a long staircase to get up there to see the smaller light house.

Sand Island has a brownstone light house. I like to depart from Little Sand Bay. It’s only a couple of miles out there. The lake is quite low this year and enhances the sea caves and how far you can paddle into them.

Otter Island has a nice camp site at the south end of the island. The north end of Otter is a bird sanctuary and you aren’t suppose to land up there. Eagle Island is the same.

Watch the waves in the Apostles. The winds tend to spin around the islands and create waves from all directions.

Purchase a large map at the Park headquarters in Bayfield when you pick up your permit. Take a couple of feet off the water depths listed on the map because the lake is low. Don’t be too surprised if your trip plans get altered by mother nature. The lake is the boss!