Sea Caves in Wisconsin: Sailing the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore
Sea caves in Wisconsin? It sounds a little strange, especially since I've kayaked caves in the middle of the ocean in California's Channel Islands National Park. But the caves in the middle of Lake Superior, lovingly referred to as "sea caves", definitely rival the ones in the Pacific Ocean. Traveling to the north end of Wisconsin will take you through lush green national forests and lead you to Bayfield, a small port town with cute restaurants and a launching pad for your day of exploring the Apostle Islands and their famous sea caves. While in Bayfield, make sure you pick up lunch at Maggie's, the most off-the-wall restaurant I've ever seen which is FLAMINGO-THEMED and grab a sweet treat from The Candy Shoppe afterwards to tie you over for your journey.
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The Apostle Islands are made up of 22 pristine islands scattered across Lake Superior. Chartering a boat gives you the ultimate island-hopping experience with stops at remote beaches, hiking trails and kayaking locations only accessible by water. Who doesn't love telling people you're going on an island-hopping vacation (even if it's only in a lake in the Midwest)? The Islands all make up a stretch of National Lakeshore with Madeline Island being the largest and the only really populated one of the group. Each of the islands have their own unique ecosystems and offer differing levels of seclusion for visitors.
Charter a Boat
While in Wisconsin for a farm-inspired wedding, a group of 8 of us decided to travel a couple hours north to experience a day on the water. We booked two boats for a half day charter across the islands, with our trip ending at sunset. Even on a calm day the waters of Lake Superior are pretty choppy, making our excursion in our tiny 6-person vessel a bit of a thrill ride. As we made our way across the lake, our Captain took us to different shipwrecks, most of which were completely visible at the bottom of the Lake just by looking over the side of the boat. Lake Superior has been a heavily used body of water for shipping and barges for hundreds of years and the often unpredictable weather over the Lake has led to over 100 shipwrecks in the area! One of the shipwrecks we saw was from the 1880's! Even growing up in Chicago you don't realize how treacherous lake travel can be. Many of these boats perished due to fire or icy waters and the stories behind each are endless. Watch out for ghosts!
Stop at a Scenic Lighthouse (or Two)
The lighthouse on Raspberry Island is one of the many famous lighthouses you can see around the island archipelago. Built as the "showplace of the Apostle Islands" in 1862, you can still tour it today now that it has been restored. An innkeeper as well as his daughter and wife used to man the lighthouse in the olden days so there's still a swing and additional buildings from where they lived.Raspberry Island is a cute little stop on your boating tour providing a relaxing view of the Lake.
Check out the Lake (oops) Sea Caves
The coolest part of any Apostle Islands charter is checking out the sea caves of Devil's Island. Devil's Island is the northern-most island of the Apostle's, almost at the border of Canada. It's also the furthest island from the shore making it extremely remote. We pressed our captain for any possible stories of murderers hiding out on the island or crazy stories of its possible inhabitants but apparently there was nothing scandalous to share. However, seeing the sea caves up close more than makes up for the lack of crazy stories. The sandstone of the Devil's Island Formation has been hit with strong waves and freezing and thawing for centuries causing deep caverns and pillars to form in the rock. Our captain was a total pro and drove our little boat into some of the larger caves, giving us an up close look at the sandstone striations on the walls.
The Apostle Islands is an amazing scenic adventure while you're in the Midwest of the United States. A quick boat ride from the shore will take you a world away to a quiet lake escape that really will feel like you're in the middle of the ocean.
*I was not financially compensated for this post. I received a sample for review purposes. The opinions are completely my own based on my experience.