STORY AND PHOTOS BY SARAH C. LANGE
For an active summer escape that doesn’t require a plane ride and isn’t overrun with tourists, look no further than the spellbinding Apostle Islands National Lakeshore. You can swim, hike, bike and kayak all day and catch a breathtaking sunset over Lake Superior every night. You’ll likely spend most of your time in Bayfield, “the gateway to the Apostle Islands” on the mainland, and/or on Madeline Island — that is, unless you choose to camp on one of the smaller islands.
WHERE TO STAY
At Old Rittenhouse Inn, a Victorian bed-and-breakfast in Bayfield, you can treat yourself to a comfortable room with a fireplace, whirlpool tub and gorgeous view of the lake. The B&B’s onsite restaurant also serves dinner. The Inn on Madeline Island offers a variety of rentals, including rooms in the family-friendly Lightkeeper’s Lodge on the water. Don’t miss the lodge’s poolside yoga classes with instructors from Yoga on the Rock. You’ll experience savasana on a pier and feel the warmth of the sun as you listen to the waves lapping at the wood beneath you. If you prefer to sleep outdoors, reserve a campsite at Madeline Island’s Big Bay State Park (wisconsinstateparks.reserveamerica.com) or Big Bay Town Park (www.bigbaytownpark.com). For all other campgrounds, go to recreation.gov.
WHAT TO DO
Stop at Bayfield Headquarters, where park employees can guide you to exploring the area in the ways that suit you. For example, you can take a boat tour of the islands, a lighthouse tour, or a shuttle to hike for the day on Stockton Island. Living Adventure leads kayaking trips through the stunning sea caves, natural passageways through area cliffs. Note that if wind and other conditions make that journey unsafe, you’ll take another, more peaceful excursion. Big Bay State Park is a must for leisurely bike rides and a variety of hikes, including an easy boardwalk stroll just off the beach as well as trails with spectacular views of the water, cliffs and rock formations. Be sure to visit Bayfield’s orchards to pick fresh cherries and berries and shop for homemade jam, apple cider doughnuts and other gifts. A number of artists call Bayfield home, and their work is on display in several downtown galleries. Visiting artists join them July 15 and 16 for the Festival of Arts & Gallery Tour in Memorial Park, overlooking the lake.
WHERE TO DINE
Expect an enchanted evening at Bayfield’s Wild Rice Restaurant, a modern structure surrounded by woods that is also a destination for foodies. Whether you opt for steak or one of the seafood entrees, save room for dessert. Or, for something sweet earlier in the day, you can’t go wrong at The Candy Shoppe, which serves cinnamon rolls, scones, chocolates and 30-plus flavors of ice cream. On Madeline Island, Café Seiche offers an ever-changing menu of tasty dishes, such as grilled beef tenderloin with caramelized shallots and mashed Yukon potatoes as well as Pepito-crusted whitefish with roasted sweet potatoes and grilled pineapple. To feel transported to another world, sip a drink with coconut rum while soaking in the sunshine on The Beach Club’s patio.
Some locals say their favorite time of year is autumn. In addition to the season’s bold colors, the area beckons travelers Oct. 6 to 8 for the Bayfield Apple Festival, featuring fine art, music, family activities and caramel apples, apple pies, apple cider, etc. While Ziggy Marley, The Beach Boys and Mary Chapin Carpenter will play at Big Top Chautauqua in July, the performance venue 3 miles south of Bayfield will co-host Big TAP ChautauquaFest Sept. 16. The fundraiser includes live music, gourmet food along a “fatty 5k” route, and samples from more than 30 breweries, wineries and distilleries. Come winter the sea caves transform into ice caves, and you can hike inside them to experience their ethereal beauty up close.