Float Planning: A guide to the apostle islands
Rental Boundary and suggested routes:
The red line is the out of bounds line. Really I just don’t want you going out into the big Lake, stay within the Islands.
The Green Line is an easy Stockton Day, with a Michigan Island Light house option.
The Blue Line is a Raspberry Island and Sand Island day with Light Houses and Sea Caves of Sand Island.
The Orange Line is my grand tour to Devil’s Island. A solid journey through the islands on out onto the Big Lake.
Driving a straight to Stockton is around 45 minutes. Straight to Sand Island 1 hour. Straight to Devils would take 1 Hour 15 minutes. These all assume smooth conditions moving at cruising speed. If the waves start to build head back, do not continue past your comfort level. The boat can handle much bigger waves than I would imagine you would enjoy, but it is your responsibility to turn back if the condition grow above your comfort level.
The Lake is the Boss, we go over 3 forecasts and I dont let boats go out in forecasts over 15 mph winds.
Here is a link to the actual chart and then under that is a short cruising description for each island.
Madeline Island is the largest of The Apostle Islands and the only one not part of The National Lake Shore. Madeline is 14 miles long making just going around Madeline Island an adventure worthy of offshore boating. In any South Wind the south side of the Island may be some of the largest waves in the archipelago. The Madeline Island Ferry Line connects La Pointe with Bayfield. CaptainBobsMarina.Com is located at the front desk of The Inn on Madeline Island known as The Rendezvous Front Desk. To the south of Madeline Island is a sand bar called Grants Point. There is a red bell buoy a half a mile offshore to help you navigate around the sand bar. Big Bay State Park is Madeline's stretch of Sea Caves and cliffs. The Town Park is a long expansive sand beach. The North East end is a sacred fishing grounds that involves shallow water and boulders, I recommend going pretty far around the North end. Devils Cauldron is a really cool Sea Cave rock formation.
Long Island has always been a locals favorite. Being close to Madeline you can get to Long Island in just 10-15 minutes. The north side is a beach that has a false reef that runs the length of the islands. There is a dock by the Light house but the dock has separated from shore and the sand is always changing on this island. The two light houses on Long Island are not in the show quality of the other ones like Raspberry, and there is no easy access. The did clear some trees around the middle one, the one on the tip is just a utility tower. But what most people go to Long Island for is the shallow warm water on the south side. Chequamegon Bay is all under 20 feet deep but up along Long Island there is an endless expanse of 2-4 foot deep water to run and play in, and since it is so shallow it is usually the warmest water in the area. Be careful it is only 2 feet deep a quarter to a half mile offshore. No rocks but there are big dead heads, I usually start walking the boat in with the drive up once I could touch.
Basswood Island is the closest island to the North of La Pointe and Bayfield. There is a NPS Dock on the west side in the middle. There is also a submerged commercial dock crib on the south east side to be aware of. Take care not to go over the submerged crib, it has been removed a few feet below the surface but has rocks extending to shore and is considered a hazard. See Attached Picture, the yellow line is 150 feet. There is also a Shipwreck on the Mainland shore near just north of the Casino, but it is just below the surface with metal parts and great care should be taken to not go over the wreck. And perhaps the most famous part of the island is Honey Moon rock, or as islanders call it Baby Basswood on the North end.
Hermit Island has some beautiful rock formations and some sea caves. Most of the East coast of this island is rock formations and always a stop on my charters. There is no easy access to this island. Cruising the shoreline from the quarry to the north end are some of the best closest sea caves. The few beaches are pretty rocky. At the Quarry you can see quarry stones as they were cut waiting for a barge that will never come. Careful there is an old crib dock near that quarry as well.
Stockton Island is the most popular of The Apostle Islands, and rightfully so as it has lots to offer and is very large. A full day can be enjoyed exploring just this one island and it would not be enough time. As you approach I usually follow the south side of the island. Quarry Bay is a nice sand beach with a very nice dock. A great place to get ashore. Even better is the Presque Isle Harbor and National Park Service dock. This is a great harbor of refuge is you see weather coming or want to keep the boat overnight in the islands. From the Harbor you can walk across the tombolo to the Singing Sands Beach in Julian Bay. This is one of the most fantastic beaches in the world and the sand even makes a funny sound when you walk on it. You can take the boat around the corner as you get to the East North East shore you will find sea caves that go on for several miles. There is the famous Balancing Rock which you can safely navigate the boat completely around.
Michigan Island has a light house that just went through renovations and was re-opened in 2015. There are actually two light houses, the original historic lighthouse and then the modern steel tower light house that became the active light later. It is a lot of stairs from the dock up the hill to the light house and then to the top of the taller light house but it is quite a view. This island is exposed to the South and the East and even on calm days there can be a swell on the dock. Make sure the conditions are right before approaching. There is also Gull Island to the North that is a bird sanctuary and Out of Bounds. It is not legal to approach Gull Island and there is a rock reef making it a wonder why anyone would want to.
Oak Island is the tallest of The Apostle Islands. There are tons of very challenging hiking trails on this island for the brave explorer. There is a dock on the middle south west side of the island. Not far from the dock if you explore you might find the safe from the old logging company that was at this location in times long ago. There is a sand spit on the south side that is approachable in good conditions. On the North East side are some caves cliffs and a collapsed archway. Not the archway it once was it still is a beautiful crescendo to the beach between that archway and the overlook that looks very Caribbean.
Manitou island has a National Park Service dock on the South end of the island. There is a fish camps preserved there by the park and often a volunteer ranger is there for a short walking tour. Just to the west and north of the dock is a rock reef. This is perhaps the most dangerous reef in The Apostles, and care should be taken to notice Little Manitou so you can make sure not to go between these two islands. I do not allow boats to go between these two islands, going between Little Manitou and Big Manitou is considered going out of bounds. The entire East North East coast of this island is rock cliffs and caves.
Raspberry Island is in the middle of the archipelago. There is a well maintained lighthouse that is the most popular light house tour in The Apostle Islands. The big cruise ship does go to this island and reserves the outside of the dock making this island busy at times. When approaching the dock on this island it is best not to be near the south shore. There are many rocks and boulders just to the east of the dock, approach from the South or the West.
York Island was in relatively recent times two islands: York and Rock Island. They have since filled in between and the beach facing the North is very beautiful. The south side is not quite the same, just clay erosion that has led to hazards a ways offshore. There is no approach on the south side so you can only enjoy this North facing beach when the winds come out of the South.
Sand Island is very rich in History. The only other island to ever support a true year round town other than Madeline Island. The NPS docks are right along the east bay and the center of this community. There even remains some private land on the south side and the West End club is also private. The dock was redone in 2016 so new this year there is an L dock making Sand Island a little easier to get to. Approach with care as there is lots of shallow waters around sand island. Some of the best sea caves are on Swallow Point on the East side of this island. Be careful the water off these caves is not as deep as devils. On the north tip of the East side of the island is a fantastic Light house. There are cleats on rocks by the light house but they are only for steel hull park service boats, do not try to tie up to the rocks. The only way to see this light house would be to walk from the NPS docks in East Bay. Going further West from the lighthouse is out of bounds. This island is the furthest west I allow the boats. Eagle Island is further west but it is just a bird sanctuary and not legal to go within a quarter mile of. On the south side there are private docks, and a sand bar that extends all the way to shore. It is 3-8 feet deep all the way to shore you can see the ripples in the sand on google earth or in the above picture. This is the boundary as this sand bar is dangerous even with the slightest lake swell.
Otter Island was once the site of a Boy Scouts Jamboree and a Thousand Boy Scouts camped on this island for several weeks in 1961. Today all the trails and camp sites have grown over, but there remains a very good dock on the South East side. The whole North and West shore on this island is cliffs and caves. There is some shallow water extending off the North East side.
Bear Island is a large island that looks like a Bear laying down or so that is how it got its name. There is a sand spit on the south end that was private property until 2015 when the NPS took control of the property and I am not sure if they are going to make it public or when. I still would ask you respect the property and not disturb or trespass till the park service changes its status. On the North East there is a little nub peninsula and then a sandy beach that is perhaps my favorite beach in the Apostles. First do not try to beach here unless the weather allows for a lee shore and calm condition. Any Northerly winds can cause big lake swell here. The entire North East coast of this island is expansive sea caves and cliffs.
Devils Island is my favorite destination in The Islands. I like to say she is one big rock, if you were a giant you could pick this island up and throw it. The entire North part of the island is basically hollow with Sea Caves. This is the furthest North Island and she is out in the big lake. It is recommended you pay careful attention to the conditions if you go to Devils Island and use your judgement as you get out there and see how big the waves are. On the North end there is also a Light House. Some people do tie up to the rocks on the North end, I do not want you trying to attempt this, the NPS even unbolts and takes their cleats with them to prevent people from trying to tie up to the rocks. I repeat please do not attempt to land on the rocks. There is also a Harbor on the South side but this harbor can be tricky. I would not recommend this dock unless you are very confident in your skills and The Lake is very calm. Make sure on this odd shaped dock the boat cannot get under the dock or hit the rocks.
Rocky Island and South Twin Island
Rocky Island and South Twin Island form an interesting cove that has been a popular destination over the years. There were once resorts on both islands, and the Bayfield Cruise ship even stopped for lunch at South Twin at a restaurant around the middle of the last century. However most the buildings have been removed as part of the rewilding of The Apostle Islands. There are nice NPS docks on both islands as well as a community of private cabins on Rocky Island that we ask you respect the privacy of. The water between the two islands is shallow and the point on the North end of Rocky jets out into the lake quite a ways.
Ironwood Island is a round island in the middle of The archipelago. There is a sand spit on the South side that is approachable with care. Sand spits occur on most of The Apostle Islands, Ironwood, Cat Island, and Outer Island have sand spits that just get bigger as you head out. The North East coast is very rocky and filled with Sea Caves and rock formations.
I don’t get out to Cat Island enough. I end up cruising Devils Island so often that I often miss islands like Cat. I did however in 2015 make an effort to explore this island more. There are nice Sea Caves on the North end and all along the bottom part of the East shore. There is a Beach on the North East between these areas but I have not ever approached it. The place I have been the most on this island is the Sand Spit on the South end is a really cool sandy beach
North Twin Island
I always like to joke about how South Twin and North Twin have nothing in common. North Twin is more like Devils Island but with out the Sea Caves. North twin is rocky but just a pile of rocks sliding into the Lake. There are no approaches to North Twin and I recommend not getting too close to this island. Honestly I have only gone around it maybe five or six times in my lifetime here.
Outer Island is huge and it would be hard to cover everything on this island in a day. I know most every time I have gone to Outer I have come back later than planned. There is a Sand Spit on the South side that goes on almost a mile. The sand spit is a living thing that changes shape after every storm or change in wind direction. Inside this island there was lots of industrial activity with logging and even a furniture factory. The Lullaby Logging Camp was located on the North East side. There is a Light House on the North End and a Dock. However this dock is very risky as there are boulders everywhere. Even if the water is deep enough this dock is so exposed to The Big Lake that swells could lower the boat and cause a prop to be chipped very easily. I would not recommend docking here with out discussing it with Captain Bob