Madeline Island in Wisconsin offers one of the most scenic places in Wisconsin. It is the largest of the Apostle Islands but is not part of the Apostle Islands National Seashore. When you visit Madeline Island during the spring, summer, or fall, you will board a ferry with your RV in Bayfield, Wisconsin. We camped on this island several times when our boys were growing up, and I look forward to a return camping trip with our RV. Spring and fall are our favorite times of the year to visit. It’s not overwhelmed with visitors this time of year, and the foliage is bursting with color. Your RV offers affordable lodging and an opportunity to connect with nature on one of the few islands of the Midwest.
Ride The Ferry
The majority of visitors arrive on the ferry when visiting Madeline Island. You can drive your RV on the ferry as you get ready to connect with nature on the island. The ferry ride takes approximately 25 minutes to make the 2.5-mile trip. You do not have to sit in your car as you cross the lake, as there is outdoor seating for passengers on the ferry. Have your camera ready, as the views from island to island are beautiful. I always make sure to let the ferry terminal employees know that I want to get out of my vehicle, and they always make sure that I can. If you have never been on a ferry that transports all types of vehicles, you will see that you are parked in tight quarters while on board.
Madeline Island is home to several nature trails that offer miles of hiking adventures. Lace up your hiking shoes and pack your backpack for an epic day of hiking right outside your front door. The Burroughs Memorial Trail is an easy out-and-back trail for hikers of all levels. This dog-friendly trail is a little more than one mile long with an elevation gain of 78 feet. The trail stops in a grove on a bluff overlooking Lake Superior. Follow the trail markers as you meander through the woodlands. The Capser Trail is another easy trail, and a little more than a mile. It does connect with the Nucy Meech Trail, which is narrower and more overgrown.
There are benches along this trail and signage to guide you through the wetlands meadow area. Go out on the observation deck at the wetlands meadow area and observe. Your binoculars will come in handy as you look for birds. Both of these trails make for the perfect hike for the novice hiker. Once you have hiked these two trails, unwind back at your RV. Start a campfire and enjoy your Apostle Islands surroundings.
Ride A Bicycle
Riding a bicycle around the island is an easy way to get around. We had our bikes along each time we visited, and it was convenient. There are bike lanes for cyclists, and you must follow the rules of the road while riding your bike. Bicycles are also available for rent if you choose not to bring your own. The island is 14 miles long and 3 miles wide, with 45 miles of roads on the island. Paved and unpaved roads make up these bicycle routes. Your RV makes for the perfect place for a little relaxation after a day of cycling and exploring.
Are you getting the feeling that Madeline Island is an outdoorsman’s paradise? With hiking, biking, and now kayaking, there is an adventure around every corner. There are several kayaking experiences available. Half- and full-day kayaking trips will take you to the Apostle Islands mainland sea caves and the historic lighthouse. Kayak tours also offer overnight stays on the Apostle Islands. When is the last time you camped near a sea cave? Overnight in the wilderness once, then reunite with the tranquility and creature comforts of your RV and campsite the next day.
The picturesque shoreline, cliffs, and caves in the Apostle Islands National Seashore offer a home to many wildlife, including birds. Make sure you have your binoculars with you at all times while on the island. Sandhill cranes and great blue heron return in the spring. Summer brings out the piping plover and common terns. One of the only two nesting colonies in the Lake Superior basin is home to the island’s common terns. Bald eagles are a common sighting and offer incredible views as they fly over. When you are sitting at your campsite, look upward, as you never know what bird species you may see flying overhead.
Make memories fishing on Madeline Island. Know the fishing regulations and obtain a fishing license before you toss a line. You can catch northern pike in the park’s lagoon, and you can hook several trout species in Lake Superior. For an epic fishing experience, book a fishing charter with Captain Josh. No trip to Madeline Island would be complete without a day of fishing with a professional fisherman. If you don’t want to book a guided fishing tour, toss in a line from the shoreline in the state park near your RV campsite. I don’t know about you, but I love the idea of carrying my fishing pole from my RV to the shoreline. It’s convenient, easy, and fun.
Big Bay State Park
Big Bay State Park is on the eastern side of Madeline Island. It is on the opposite side of the ferry landing and includes four miles of Lake Superior Shoreline. Reserve your campsite ahead of time, so you will know that you have a place to park your RV after pulling off the ferry.
Swimming, hiking, fishing, picnicking, and camping are popular in Big Bay State Park. Pack your bug spray, as the mosquitoes can be thick in the warmer months of the year. After a fun day on the beach, you can wander back to your RV for a hot, over-the-fire evening meal.
There is a fee to visit Wisconsin state parks, and it’s charged in addition to your campsite fees. A tip that I would give you is to pack up your groceries before you leave the mainland. Camping supplies and groceries are in limited supply on the island. Are you traveling with a pet? They are allowed and must always be on a leash.
Big Bay Town Park
Big Bay Town Park is near Big Bay State Park, on the eastern side of Madeline Island. It is home to what visitors call “the best beach in northern Wisconsin.” Campsites offer a natural setting for you to set up your RV. Walking trails and a new 900-foot beach boardwalk are nearby. Your site is an ideal place to begin a bike ride on the island. Start from your campsite and explore for a few hours by bicycle. You will not have to worry about where to park to unload your bikes. All you have to do is hop on and ride.
Madeline Island is one of those places that many people have not heard about. When I mention that we have spent a few camping trips here throughout the years, many people want to know more. The roads that lead to Bayfield and the surrounding area where you board the ferry, are not on a major Interstate Highway. They are on two-lane roads, which I like to refer to as two-lane gems. When you hop off of the beaten path, that’s where magical experiences occur.
Once you hop on the ferry to cross the water, you will find yourself on a charming island that you will want to call home for a few days. During the winter, there are less than 300 people on the island. When summer rolls around, there are easily 2,500 people or more residing on Madeline Island. Once your RV is parked, you are set to experience nature in a new light. Lake Superior is surrounded by a beautiful backdrop that is all a short walk from your RV. The best part about staying in an RV on Madeline Island is that you have a place to rest at the end of the day. You can step outside of your RV and experience all that nature has to offer. Listen to the birds and see if you can identify them by their sounds. Embrace Madeline Island and all it has to offer. You won’t regret it. I know that I cannot wait to return, as it’s been 15 years since I have camped on the island. For more Wisconsin-inspired goodness, consider:
- 8 Reasons To Visit The Apostle Islands In The Winter
- Wisconsin’s Hidden Beauty: 6 Stunning Places To Visit
- How We’ve Learned To Enjoy The Great Outdoors Wherever We May Be
- Wisconsin Road Trip: Kenosha To Sister Bay
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