The Great Lakes’ Best-Kept Secret
Misnamed by French missionaries who thought these islands numbered twelve instead of twenty-two, the heavily forested Apostles begin just a mile off the Lake Superior coastline and spread out for 600 square miles, with the outermost lying some 20 miles offshore. Of their number, only one is residential, with the other twenty-one (plus a slice of the Bayfield Peninsula) comprising the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, an area of unspoiled wilderness amid the world’s largest spring-fed body of water – so huge (363 by 160 miles) that you can see its outline from the moon.
Nature is central here, with opportunities for barefoot beachcombing, bird watching (the islands become a refuge for some 100 migratory bird species in fall), nostalgic exploration of the six lighthouses, and kayaking in and around numerous coves and caves, from duck-your-head grottoes to cathedral-sized caverns.
All kinds of inter-island excursions can be arranged in the gateway village of Bayfield (pop. 686), including fishing and boating trips and drop-offs for hikers and campers (there are more than 50 miles of trails, as well as official campsites on Stockton and seventeen of the other islands). Back on terra firma, the best place to recuperate from your camping holiday is the Old Rittenhouse Inn, a lovingly renovated, antiques-filled Victorian home that offers first-rate lake views and excellent dinners starring the lake’s daily catch.