If your trip to the Bayfield Peninsula and Chequamegon Bay is planned for June – October, you’ll want to be sure to venture to beautiful Madeline Island. One of the 22 Apostle Islands, Madeline is the largest (about the same size as the island of Manhattan) and the only one not part of the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore. Transportation to and from the island is via the Madeline Island Ferry Line in the spring, summer, and fall and by ice road in the winter – on the years when the temperatures freeze at least the water in the bay.
A few of our favorite things to do and see on Madeline Island are outlined below. As it’s nearly impossible to cover all the options, we highly recommend you augment this information with other resources, such as the Madeline Island Chamber of Commerce.
Whether you choose to bring your car over on the ferry or walk on, you’re sure to find plenty to keep you occupied for a full day, or just a morning or afternoon. For the history buffs, those with curious kids, or if there’s a need for an indoor activity on a rainy day, check out the Madeline Island Museum. Full of rich history and informative exhibits and activities, the museum provides fun for all ages. Another historical site on the island is the St. Joseph Mission Cemetery (also known as the Old Indian Cemetery), dating back to the mid-1800s.
For the outdoor activity enthusiast, Madeline Island offers several hiking trails and the option of a flat place to bike (a favorite for mainlanders since Bayfield is built on a hill). You can rent or bring your own bikes, or opt to whiz around the island on a moped. Kayaking or canoeing at Big Bay Town Park can provide a new experience or just a new view for the seasoned paddler.
Big Bay Town Park and Big Bay State Park are on the opposite side of the island from the ferry landing. Biking or driving to the parks provides a great view of the interior of the island as well as the opportunity to hike between the parks on hiking trails or relaxing on one of the several beaches associated with the parks. Take in the view, enjoy the sometimes-singing sand, cliff jump (if you know the right spots and exercise caution of course), or dip your toe in Lake Superior.
Things run on “island time” on Madeline Island and in the opinion of some, there’s no better way to spend the afternoon than by watching the world go by from the deck of Tom’s Burned Down Café. With its plethora of signage, great people watching, live music, and eclectic ambiance, it’s an island spot not to be missed. The Island Eats Food Truck is most often parked right outside Tom’s, providing yummy food using local ingredients.
In the summertime, food spots include the long-standing spots of the Beach Club, the Pub at the Inn on Madeline Island, Grandpa Tony’s, and the Mission Hill Coffee House. Along with the Island Eats Food Truck previously mentioned, Old Rittenhouse Inn staff favorites include Café Seiche, the Farmhouse Restaurant, and the Madeline Island Bakery.
For the artist among your group, check out Woods Hall Craft Shop (featuring handmade woven rugs and other arts) and the Bell Street Gallery featuring a wine bar, a variety of art from local and national artists and often, live music. You might even consider staying on “The Rock” (as locals call Madeline Island) for one of the many classes offered by the Madeline Island School of the Arts.
Unique gifts, a spirited environment, good food, unparalleled people-watching, beautiful scenery, outdoor activities, and lots of fresh air await you on Madeline Island. Of course, once you’re done with your afternoon or full day on the island, we certainly hope you will consider making your way back to Bayfield for an evening meal at the Old Rittenhouse Inn’s Landmark Restaurant and/or booking a stay in one of our fine guest rooms. We look forward to your visit!