Family Apostle Islands, WI Sea Kayaking & Camping

Rafting up!Sunset over Lake SuperiorGetting ready to paddle the caves!A lunch break on the pierPaddling through sea caves!The lush boreal forest of the Apostle IslandsKayaking around the geological features of the Apostle IslandsFamily fun, kayaking the Apostle Islands!

“Bonnie and Andrea were outstanding guides - experienced, wise, cheery and flexible. They handled the kids with ease and the adults with levity. They really made the trip for our group.” -Johnson Family
Book It!
From: Little Sand Bay, WI
Price:$ 685

$595 (Under 18)

Duration: 5 Days, 4 Nights
August 14 - 18, 2019

Or book a Custom Trip

5 Days, 4 Nights
Skill Rating:
Little Sand Bay, WI
$ 685

$595 (Under 18)

Minimum Age 9
Included: Guides, instruction, all meals excluding the first nights dinner, permits and all kayaking and group camping equipment.
Not Included: Dinner in Bayfield on the first night, personal clothing and accessories, wetsuit, sleeping bag and pad, and transportation.

Rich in sea caves, lighthouses and sandy shores, the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore is a sea kayaker's dream. Disappear into this pristine collection of islands and shoreline featuring a potpourri of stunning geological formations - caverns, arches and pillars - uniquely accessible to kayakers. We'll pack our gear into our kayaks and set out to explore. You'll spend four days paddling the deep blue waters of Lake Superior before bedding down under the big sky over Gitchee Goomee at night. This trip offers ideal instruction to kayak tripping for the paddler with local experience.


Day One: We will meet outside of Bayfield, WI at Little Sand Bay for an afternoon of basic paddling instruction. Dining at a local restaurant, we will get to know each other, then return to our campground for a campfire and stories of the islands!

Day Two: Today's the day we hit the water! We will pack our gear into our kayaks and head out to the islands! Paddling on the sparkling blue waters, we will camp at either Sand or Oak Islands. Upon our arrival, we'll set up camp together, learning how to set up a tent and the basics of camp safety. The rest of the afternoon can be spent hiking the lush boreal forest or getting some extra paddling in!

Day Three: We will pack up camp and head out to our next island! Today's paddle will cover York and Raspberry Island, as well, with an opporitunity to explore a lighthouse on Raspberry. After a lunch stop, we will move on to our destination for the next two nights (either Oak or Sand Islands) and set up camp! Expect a delicious dinner and a comfortable fire to end the night with.

Day Four: Today is a day of exploration!! We will have a full day to take in the sights and wildlife of the Apostles. Kayaking through sea caves by headlamp, hiking trails and looking for signs of black bear, and developing our paddling skills are all options for the day! With a hearty lunch and dinner, we will end the night with a warm campfire and delicious dessert, recounting our favorite memories from the trip.

Day Five: We will pack up camp and kayak back to the mainland, bidding farewell to the beautiful waters of Lake Superior. We will arrive at either Little Sand Bay or Red Cliff and unload our gear, where The Northwest Passage van awaits us. Shuttling back to our cars, we will say goodbye to our new friends! We aim to be back on the mainland by noon. It is important that you maintain flexibility as weather can influence our itinerary and timing.

**Itinerary subject to change depending on conditions and availability of campsites on the islands.

In order to provide the finest and most complete wilderness experience, we strongly encourage and expect participation in all camp chores, including cooking, washing dishes, setting up and breaking down camp. We will provide all meals on the trail, tents, all camping and cooking equipment, and all kayak-related equipment.

It is essential that you know how to swim to participate in this trip.
You will be sharing a tent with fellow participants each night.

Clothing & Equipment:

This is all you will need - anything else is unnecessary baggage and will only be extra weight to carry.
All items should be packed in dry bags or double garbage bags. Several smaller bags fit in the kayaks more easily than large bags.
Note that kayak hatches are rarely more than 1 ft. wide.
You may find that you can borrow some of these items if you don’t own them already

  • Wetsuit (farmer john style) (can be rented from Northwest Passage)
  • 2 t-shirts (one that’s non-cotton)
  • 1 towel (small PackTowel® work great!)
  • 1 shirt, long sleeved synthetic (non-cotton)
  • 2 pairs of shorts (at least one non-cotton)
  • Sun/rain hat
  • 1 pair fast drying synthetic long pants - no blue jeans
  • 1 light to medium fleece jacket
  • 2 pairs shoes/sandals - Tevas, booties, water shoes, light sneakers etc. all work very well - one pair to get wet.
  • 2 pair socks (non-cotton)
  • 1 pr. synthetic long underwear (medium weight)
  • Bathing suit
  • Underwear
  • Bandanas (optional) (can be used for head covering, washing up, etc)
  • Rain gear (jacket and pants) (Paddling jacket works well as top)
  • Clean change of clothing for the trip home (should be left in car)
  • Toiletry kit (toilet paper, toothbrush, biodegradable soap and shampoo, face cream, nail clippers, personal medication etc.)
  • Sunscreen and bug repellent
  • Sleeping bag (compact, 3-season) and pad
  • Small flashlight, batteries & extra bulb- headlamps are preferred
  • Water bottle
  • Sunglasses
  • Chums/Croakies to keep glasses on your head are imperative (floating ones are preferable)
  • Energy bars/snack food (limited quantities- we will feed you plenty!)
  • Pocket knife
  • Large plastic cup with handle (e.g. commuter coffee mug) or small lexan Nalgene (for hot drinks)
  • Fleece hat and gloves (depending on the weather)
  • Ziploc® storage bags (pack small items inside these; also good for packing out wet clothing)

Optional Equipment

  • Paddling gloves (can be any type of open fingered glove e.g. biking gloves, sailing gloves etc.)
  • Camera, film, waterproof container Reading matter and maps (waterproof case)
  • Paddling jacket
  • Sewing kit
  • Compass Crazy Creek® or similar generic chair (highly recommended for camp use, gives great back support)
  • Entertainment (harmonica, cards, games)

Recommended Reading:
  • A Visitors Guide to the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore by Dave Strzok
    (Superior Printing and Specialties; Wisconsin, 1981)
  • Sea Kayaking (4th Ed.) by Derek C. Hutchinson
    (Globe Pequot Press; Old Saybrook, Connecticut, 1995)
  • Shipwrecks on the Great Lakes by William Ratigan
    (Eardmans Publishing; Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1977
  • The Coastal Kayaker's Manual by Randel Washborne
    (Globe Pequot Press; Chester, Connecticut, 1989)
  • The Basic Essentials of Sea Kayaking by Mike Wyatt
    (ICS Books, Merrillville, Indiana 1990)

What is special about this trip?
The Apostles are the classic sea kayaking destination in the Great Lakes – the variety of the islands, the red sandstone cliffs and sea caves, and the historic lighthouses add up to a trip full of photographic moments and memories! Our groups are always a lot of fun, and our guides are always experienced and enthusiastic.

How do I get there?
Most people drive themselves – we provide a map and directions. You can do it in one day from the Chicago area, but many people prefer to arrive the night before the trip or stop on the way up; it’s generally easy to find a comfortable motel or B&B.

What papers do I need for travel?
None unless you are visiting the USA please check with your travel agent or call our office.

How and where will you meet me?
We’ll meet at the camp site in Little Sand Bay a 20 minute drive North of Bayfield you’ll recognize us by our van and boats!

How long will it take me to get there?
To drive from the Chicago area takes about 8 hours, from the Twin Cities about 4.

Where should I stay overnight around there?
If you plan to arrive early, there are many charming hotels, motels and B and B’s in Washburn and Bayfield. You can also make arrangements to camp at Little Sand Bay, where our adventure begins.

What money should I take?
You won’t need money while we’re on the water, but you should expect to spend some in Bayfield: dinner the first evening will run about $10-15, plus drinks, and you may wish to buy souvenirs, film, batteries, etc.

Do they take plastic there? Are there cash stations?"
There are ATM’s in every town and at most gas stations outside of towns. There will be no (and no need for) ATM’s out in the islands. Just about everyplace accepts major credit cards.

What's the weather like?
You need to pay attention to two kinds of weather in the Apostle Islands: While on land we’ll experience the summer common to the upper Midwest, with daytime highs in the mid 80’s and lows in the upper 50’s. Pack a few light layers and some rain gear. The water in Lake Superior is around 50°F in mid-summer, and the waters can range from calm to challenging.

What are the accommodations like?
Our first night is spent at a mainland campground with showers and running water. The islands themselves offer some beautiful camping sites, generally with outhouses and water taps. We use lightweight two-person tents, and we’ll provide all the group camping and cooking gear (you provide your sleeping bag and pad).

What do I need to bring?

Upon your registration our office will send a full confirmation packet including a detailed equipment list with our recommend items. Once you receive that and please read through and contact the office with any questions.

Can I drink the water?
Your guides will have several water purification means including pumps and tablets. Bring a water bottle that you can refill at our stops. You won’t be able to drink directly from Lake Superior once treated the water is amazingly refreshing.

What's the food like?
We plan for hearty meals! Recent menus have included fettuccine and asparagus, fajitas, spaghetti and garlic bread for dinner, pancakes and potatoes for breakfast, and sandwiches and tuna salad for lunch; we also pack plenty of snacks! Please let us know about any special dietary needs and we’ll plan to accommodate you.

What time zone will I be in?
Bayfield, Wisconsin and the Apostle Islands are in the US Central Time Zone.

How can people reach me in an emergency? Can I call home?
You’ll be able to phone home from Bayfield on the first night, but once we head out to the islands you won’t see any more phones. Give friends and family The Northwest Passage office number, as our office will be able to get in touch with the group in an emergency.

How much time do we spend traveling each day? How many miles? Do I have free time?
The amount of kayaking varies from day to day. We’ll generally paddle for an hour and a half to two hours to get to our first night’s camp, set up camp and have lunch, then head out for a recreational paddle to check out some of the spectacular sea caves or wooded shores of the island. Each morning we’ll break camp, pack the boats, and head to the next night’s camp. Our paddling will be broken into one-to-two hour stretches, with breaks to explore some of the other islands, visit historic lighthouses, and have lunch or snacks. We plan to be off the water by late afternoon, set up camp, and then enjoy hiking around the island, some short paddles in unloaded boats, or relaxing in camp!

What kind of equipment do you use?
We use rotomolded plastic kayaks, expedition equipped with bow and stern hatches and rudders. We’ll bring mostly single kayaks on this trip, though we often bring our double kayak along so people can switch around and try different paddling options. Our camping equipment includes Kelty and Eureka two-person tents.

How many people are on this trip? How many guides? Who are the guides / what are their qualifications?
Our group size for this trip ranges from 5-12. The Northwest Passage sends one guide for every five participants. Our guides are drawn from our staff of kayaking instructors, all hold certifications from the ACA or BCU (the governing bodies of sea kayaking in North America), and in Wilderness First Aid.

How can I prepare physically for the trip? How much prior experience is needed?
Prior experience in sea kayaking is encouraged including basic paddling strokes, the wet exit and basic rescues. We can help provide instruction prior to your outing or direct you to the skill and techniques that will make this a trip of a lifetime.

“I enjoyed the variety - from changing weather (several times a day) to mixing hiking with kayaking.”
-Tim K.

“The food was the best I’ve ever had in the wilderness and I traveled with Outward Bound and Wilderness Ventures. I especially appreciated the vegetarian options! Great!” -Claire Dobbs

“Wonderful outfitter! I hope to travel with you again and tell others about you.” -Claire Dobbs

“We really liked circumnavigating Sand Island and exploring the sea caves. Susan and I greatly enjoyed the trip. Next year!?” -John and Susan Trammell

“I just can’t say enough about our guides Chris and Ryan. They were kind, gracious, ortganized, confident. I was nervous about the trip, but they were so confidence-inspiring that my fears were soon relieved. They were great!” -Rebecca Johnston

“I would not have made this trip with anyone but the NWP due to the rough water possibility and my respect for the training and safety concern of your instructors.” -Jim McGehee

“Excellent on all phases: instruction, safety, briefings.” -Phil Danley

“The guides were excellent leaders and did a great job managing the campsite and were very motivating, which really helped me to want to improve my kayaking.” -Colin Danley

“I enjoyed improving my skills and confidence in the kayak.” -Patrick Sajbel

“Rob and John were so great! They were so fun to be with and they were more than willing to teach us paddling skills and they both stood in the cold water a very long time teaching us how to roll. A++++! Thanks guys!” -Brad and Tracey Wierman

“Bonnie and Andrea were outstanding guides - experienced, wise, cheery and flexible. They handled the kids with ease and the adults with levity. They really made the trip for our group.” -Johnson Family


The Apostles Islands are a archipelago of 22 islands extending into Lake Superior from Northernmost Wisconsin. The islands first became managed by the National Park Service in 1970. Prior to that the area had been used for its wealth of natural resources, including fur trading, logging, quarrying and fishing.


The Sandstone formations seen throughout the islands were deposited about 600 million years ago during the late Precambrian Era. The area was glaciated repeatedly, including the most recent Glaciation 12,000 years ago, which rapidly receeded and the changing lake levels of Glacial Lake Duluth eventually seperated the islands from Bayfield Peninsula to form the Archipelago.

Early History

The area was a major fur trading center from 1660 to 1840, mainly of beaver pelts. Shipping of furs was bound for Europe via Montreal, and later down the Mississippi River. This industry opened up the area to further economic development, including fishing, mining, logging and tourism.

The Chippewa (Ojibway) Indians settled here in the late 17th century after accompanying fur traders here in 1659. Today they live in two nearby Indian reservations.

As fur trading declined, there were attempts to develop fishing markets inland, however these efforts failed in 1837 during the Depression. Quarrying begain in 1869 of high grade brownstone for use in Urban Midwest buildings. This declined as extraction became more expensive and architechtural styles changed. Logging was also a major industry in the 19th century, taking pine from the islands to be rafted on the lake to Sawmills or shipping points.

The land has been left to regrow since the 1930s depression, and today is home to abundant wildlife and varied ecosytems, from old growth forests to lagoonal communities. Tourism began in the mid 1850s, and faltered between 1930 and 1950 Depression and World War II Era, and continues today.