Kayaking the Apostle Islands is a dream come true, bucket list adventure every kayaker should experience at least once. After all, the 21 islands dotting the Bayfield Peninsula in Lake Superior are well known for their breathtaking red sandstone cliffs, sea caves, age-old lighthouses and beautiful beaches. The local history is just as rich and intriguing, with tales passed down through the generations detailing brutal storms, shipwrecks, ancient cultures, and fortunes lost and found.
The Apostle Islands are a kayaker’s paradise, allowing you the freedom to explore for an entire week or take a shorter weekend cruise around the closer islands. Here are some interesting facts about kayaking the Apostle Islands that’ll help you plan the perfect adventure, all while sparking your inner wanderlust.
#1. You can kayak through sea caves
Years of wind, waves, and wild weather have carved intricate tunnels, caves and patterns into surrounding sandstone. Just about everyone comes here with some interest in kayaking through the stunning sea caves found throughout the Apostle Islands.
You can take a guided day trip out to the mainland caves, or if you prefer to travel solo there’s a great launching point at the end of Meyers Road. You can also tour sea caves on the east side of Side Island.
Devils Island offers some of the best sea caves thanks to extreme weather and waves wearing on surrounding sandstone. While it’s one of the more remote islands, it still averages around 10 visitors per day in the last 2 weeks of June.
#2. You can kayak to 6+ historic lighthouses
There are 6 lighthouses located within the national lakeshore included in the 1977 National Register of Historic Places, including:
- Michigan Island Lighthouse (there are two lighthouses at this site)
- Raspberry Island Lighthouse
- Outer Island Lighthouse
- Sand Island Light
- Devils Island Lighthouse
Other lighthouses in the national lakeshore not included on the National Register include:
- La Pointe Lighthouse and Chequamegon Point Lighthouse (known collectively as the La Pointe Light Station)
- Gull Island Light, Gull Island
According to lighthouse historian F. Ross Holland, the Apostle Islands make up “the largest and finest single collection of lighthouses in the country.” You can schedule a tour of lighthouses or visit them on your own terms via kayak.
#3. You can camp on 18 of the 21 Apostle Islands
If you have a camping permit, camping is allowed on 18 of the 21 islands found in the national lakeshore.
#4. You can eat delicious wild berries in the summer… for free!
Several islands are home to yummy wild blueberries that are free for the taking. If you’re hungry for berries, visit between late July and early August when the berries are ripe and ready for picking.
#5. Beware of bears, they love it here too
Stockton Island is home to one of the largest concentrations of black bears in all North America. Bears are commonly spotted at Sand and Oak Island as well, but can show up at just about any of the Apostle Islands after a short swim.
#6. Summer is the best time of year to kayak the Apostle Islands
The best time of year to kayak the Apostle Islands is from June to September. Temperatures begin to cool off in September and by late winter, Lake Superior is covered in around 30% to 95% ice. The lake only freezes over completely once or twice every 100 years, but large chunks of frozen ice prevent travel between early December and the end of April.
In May, average daily temperatures range between 40 to 60 degrees F, and reach up into the high 80s by summer. Things cool down by September, when average temperatures dip back down to the mid-60s. Average summer winds blow in at 5 to 20 knots with waves ranging between one and four feet. Occasionally winds can reach up to 30 to 40 knots and 12 foot waves are not unheard of.
#7. People still visit in the winter (but not to kayak)
In 2014, a record breaking number of people visited the Apostle Islands in winter, walking across frozen Lake Superior to see the sea caves covered in ice. On February 15, 2014, it is estimated that 11,000 people visited the ice caves—at the time that was the most people to visit in a single day for both summer and winter.
#8. Lake Superior is cleaner than other lower lakes
The waters of Lake Superior are cleaner than the other lower lakes. In 1972, a US-Canadian pact was instituted to prevent pollution and maintain high water quality. The land and waters here are largely protected and 80% of the lakeshore is designated as wilderness.
#9. Some islands include recreational facilities
The largest islands include Simpson, Isle Royale, Isle St. Ignace, and Michipicoten. You’ll find recreational facilities on Isle Royale, which serves as a US National Park, and Pukaskwa National Park (considered part of Ontario).
#10. You can confidently transport your kayak with Universal Locking Roof Rack Crossbars
Every outdoor adventure provides a whirlwind of unforgettable memories but first you must get there. Vault Roof Rack Crossbars help you do just that, safely and easily hauling almost any outdoor adventure gear you could think of, including your kayak, skis, or bikes. This all-purpose roof rack grants you more freedom to up and go, so what are you waiting for? Let’s explore this great big planet we are lucky to call home.