If checking out miles and miles of cool, fresh water and heavenly island scenery really floats your boat, you’re gonna love this place! Come on aboard and see if you can figure out where Parker parked himself this time …
The gateway to this Nationally recognized area is a quaint little town near the Northwest corner of the badger state. This state is also known for its dairy production, although I didn’t see any locals wearing cheeseheads while I was here.
According to the latest census, this beautiful and fun city has a population of less than 500 people. Most of these fine folks spend their days catering to the tourist community. You’ll find a great variety of restaurants, gift shops, hotels and marinas that are more than happy to treat you right. There’s even a beautiful winery up the hill to savor along with your favorite cheese!
The waterfront is where it all really begins, with a variety of ways to explore the area. From kayaks, to fishing boats, to sailboats, to cruisers, to ferries, and more, you’ll find a diverse group of classic, as well as state-of-the-art, watercraft to get you out where the action is.
After sizing up to a bigger boat, we headed out onto the largest freshwater lake in the U.S. We boarded a 3-hour cruise run by an Authorized Concessioner of the National Parks Service. The “Grand Tour” aboard the Archipelago would float us around 19 of the 21 islands designated in this National Lakeshore.
The Manitou Island Fish Camp is quite the historical site to behold. Motoring by this 1890’s fisherman’s retreat allowed us to take in the cabin, outbuildings, dock, and even the outhouse of this cool camp located right on the shores of this tranquil bay. The tour guide told us a story about a National Park employee who recently was trapped inside that same outhouse as a black bear took over the camp for almost an entire day. Unfortunately, that Park Ranger didn’t last long on Manitou Island, deciding to opt out of duty the next morning!
After cruising by many of the 21 designated islands, we finally reached this classic beauty on Raspberry Island. Just one of the 8 lighthouse towers found within the islands, this Raspberry Island lighthouse was built in 1862 and put into service a year later. Add it all up and this lighthouse has been warning away ships for over 150 years! In 1947 the light was automated, then in 1957 it was moved inside the building. But no matter where the light is located, this beacon on the rocks shines loud and proud!
The shoreline of Devils Island is almost unbelievable. The crazy sea caves and rock formations are reminiscent of moon craters, only surrounded by water and lush trees instead of space dust. Some of these caves are pretty deep from front to back and have been created solely by the waves. Red sandstone is a very erosive rock, and centuries of constant lapping from the powerful water combined with seasonal freezing and thawing have done their handiwork on this northern edge of the island.
Honeycomb-like passageways extend 50 feet or more into some areas of the rock. These spots are best explored via kayaks, as paddling in and out of the caves (guided tours are highly recommended) reveal some intricate secrets that have been swallowed up by the rough outside walls.
While circling the northern edge of this spectacular cave-pocked island a complete sense of peace set in. The sun was busy blazing a bright orange path straight into the seemingly endless Lake Superior waters off to the west.
For the moment, waves were almost non-existent near the mouths of the caves. Like a hibernating bear, there was currently nothing to worry about. But when angered, Gitche Gumee is one to be feared. Wild and ferocious. About a dozen Lake Superior shipwrecks now call this island paradise their watery grave. No wonder those cave walls have succumbed to the beating in so many places.
The one island that is a part of this 22 island group, but is NOT recognized as part of the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore is Madeline Island. As the largest of the islands it is also the most inhabited. Accessibility abounds. Just hop on a Madeline Island Ferry and travel to and from the island on a regular schedule.
Although Madeline Island isn’t officially recognized as part of the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, it is still a very special gem in the big lake. From a variety of small shops, restaurants, and art galleries, to beautiful Big Bay State Park, it’s definitely worth the trip.
In case you missed EXACTLY where the heck Parker Flatly parked himself this time, we’ll spill the beans again. Mathew, Mark, Luke and John (along with Parker) may never have inhabited any of the floating rocks in this place, but nevertheless, the entire group of 22 is called the Apostle Islands. Some theories claim that the original discoverers incorrectly counted 12 islands instead of the 22 that are actually present (thus the 12 Apostles.) Others believe the Jesuits named these islands in their time-honored tradition of giving holy names to new places. No matter how this group got its name, holy moly are you in for some Heavenly views if you decide to visit!