Visiting Apostle Islands by kayak

May 5, 2004
Outside Magazine
Week of July 25-August 1, 1996
Non-leisurely Virgin Islands cruises
Resorts that 'have it all'
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Northwestern Ontario sights and sounds
Visiting Apostle Islands by kayak

Visiting Apostle Islands by kayak
Question: I've got three days of vacation in two weeks. My friend and I were looking to do some Apostle Island sea kayaking. We're both experienced canoeists but novice kayakers. Would you recommend such an excursion for novices like us or are we better off sticking to the terra?

James Hagengruber
Madison, WI
[email protected]

The Apostle Islands' limestone inlets
Adventure Adviser: No, I'd skip the terra this time around and go for it. Here's why: This section of northern Wisconsin's Lake Superior is dotted with 22 Apostles, which means there are plenty of short crossings, sheltered coves, and protected inlets to putter around in, without ever having to make prolonged open-water hauls. Trek & Trail outfitters in Bayfield is so confident that novice kayakers can hold their own here that they're willing to rent out boats to beginners, something's that's become increasingly rare in this era of sky-high insurance premiums. Of course, you have to take a three-hour basic safety course in navigation, rescue, and paddle techniques.

Once you've completed the workshop, plan on heading out from the dock in Bayfield's Little Sand Bay, following one of the many routes the folks at Trek & Trail can recommend. If you're still wary of your kayak-handling skills, consider using islands like Basswood or Sand--both only a mile and a half offshore--as base camps and taking short day trips from there.

From Basswood, populated Madeline, Hermit, and Manitou islands are all short hops away. You'll find the remains of an old fishing camp on Manitou. If you make Sand Island your paddling headquarters, plan on exploring nearby Raspberry and York islands, as well as the labyrinth of sea caves on Sand. Camping on the islands is plentiful and, better still, free.

Before you go, you'll need to pick up a permit at the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore headquarters in Bayfield (715-779-3397), which will grant you access to primitive tent sites on all islands except Raspberry and along 12 miles of mainland coast. As for rentals at Trek & Trail, fiberglass single kayaks go for $120 per day, including spray skirt, paddle, and PFD. If you'd rather put your money into a guided trip, sign onto their three-day group paddle that makes stopovers on five islands and covers a total of about 40 miles; the $309-per-person price includes equipment rental and all meals. For more details, call Trek & Trail at 800-354-8735 and check out our Apostle Islands write-up in "The Flatland's Private Big Blue" in the Destinations section of our September 1995 issue.

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