The Visitor Center for Apostle Islands National Lakeshore is in Bayfield, Wisconsin, in the old county courthouse. It's still an impressive building but there was no time to explore or even see the video. We had to catch a boat because the park is on the islands, with only this building on the mainland. The park isn't just the lakeshore around the islands, although that's what most people see.
Apostle Islands Cruises is the official concessionaire for the park, and this early in the summer, the Grand Tour at 10 am is the only option. They did have two boats going out that day, and I picked the older Island Princess because I liked the cheery red trim. And of course I picked the top deck because the sun was shining. Unless you have your own boat, the only way to see the 22 islands in the Apostle Islands archipelago is on a cruise. (I thought "archipelago" meant a bunch of rocky islands, but these have trees. I'm not always right.)
Bayfield's a pretty town right on the bay, all touristy and full of pretty houses and boats.
It was an absolutely gorgeous day to be out on the lake: sunshine, smooth water, blue sky, white clouds to keep the interest up between islands. Sunshine is most important, of course, but smooth water's high up on the list too.
Madeline Island is the closest island to Bayfield and part of the archipelago, but it's not part of the park. If you want to go, there's a little ferry that crosses the channel. The closest island in the park is Basswood Island. (The cruise brochure has a little map of the route we were taking, which helped me immensely when I was labeling pictures, even though I didn't do it soon enough and some of them remain nameless. They pretty much look the same anyway, so I guess that doesn't matter.) We went out on the east side of Basswood, back on the west side. We didn't get close to each one of the islands, but the captain pointed out the ones way in the distance and told us interesting little things about them. As you can see, we did get pretty close to Basswood.
Off the northeast shore of Basswood is a standing rock called "Honeymoon Rock". Apparently the seagulls nesting on top didn't wait to start their family since they made a nest on their honeymoon.
Sometimes we didn't get very close at all. And sometimes I don't have a clue which island is which, although I'm pretty sure one of them is Michigan. Oh, well...it's still a pretty day for a boat ride.
Manitou Island has an old fish camp that started back in the early 19th century.
I think this little sand spit is on Otter Island.
My favorite island was Devil's Island, which is obvious when I started looking at the number of pictures I took of it. It has lots of sea caves and honeycombed sandstone cliffs along the northern shore, so it's a lot more interesting than the rest.
It also has a lighthouse.
The shape of Bear Island is supposed to look like a bear. If you have a really good imagination like I do, you can sort of see it, although I'd say it looks more like a skinny seal with a long tail. (Interesting fact about the Apostle Islands--because bears are good swimmers, they might be on any of the islands. Another reason we're on a cruise instead of in a tent.)
Raspberry Island has a lighthouse too. The house part is actually a duplex for the lighthouse keeper and assistant keeper and their families.
We saw fishing boats and a few sailboats, but this one cracked me up! Apparently the family is going camping and fishing and biking and boating and anything else they want.
Ater we got back to Bayfield and had lunch, we went to the Northern Great Lakes Visitor Center in Ashland. They have passport stamps there because the NPS is one of the partners of the center. They have an Exhibit Hall, a photo display and a big mural with lots of detail about life in the North Woods. The view from the top of the tower is of the marshes and farms surrounding the center..
And on the way back to the RV, we went past lots of wild lupines. Pretty, pretty, pretty.
Frankly, I think that except for lighthouses and rocky cliffs, the Apostle Islands are ordinary flat islands covered with trees in a great big lake. Pretty, but I'd rather take a ferry to the San Juan Islands in Washington State.
More Apostle Islands pictures: Apostle Islands NL