• Activities:

    Camping, Photography, Kayaking

  • Skill Level:

    Intermediate

  • Season:

    Summer

Beach
Easy Parking
Forest
Groups
Lake
Picnic Area
Scenic

Explore beautiful sandstone sea caves near Bayfield, WI. This campground is part of the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore.

Sand Island is a part of the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore near Bayfield, Wisconsin. You can (and will want to) explore the sea caves of Sand Island for hours, and this adventure will leave you wanting to explore more of the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore.

GETTING THERE

You will start your paddle from Little Sand Bay which is about 13 miles north of Bayfield.

To get to Little Sand Bay from Bayfield take Highway 13 north for about 5 miles, then take a right on Old County Hwy K Road. Follow Old County Hwy K Road for another 5 miles. Finally take a right on Little Sand Bay Road and take it for 2.5 miles until you reach Little Sand Bay.

From Cornucopia, take Highway 13 east for about 11 miles, then take a left on Old County Hwy K Road. Follow Old County Hwy K Road for about 3 miles. Finally take a left on Little Sand Bay Road and take it for 2.5 miles to Little Sand Bay.

THE PADDLE

The sea caves require about a three and a quarter mile paddle from Little Sand Bay if you paddle directly to Swallow Point. If you take a slightly less direct route, you can paddle to the southeast portion of Sand Island where can explore a small area of sea caves. This is just a small sampling of the wonders to come. After this you will pass two docks and a few of the campsites. From the docks to the start of the Swallow Point sea caves is about a half mile.

Once at the sea caves, watch out for rebounding waves which can make handling your kayak difficult if not impossible if you are inside the caves. Pay attention to the weather forecast (wind speed & direction, wave height) before heading out. The National Park Service will be able to let you know if conditions are safe enough to paddle. Fortunately, these sea caves are on the east side of Sand Island so they are protected for from winds out of the west.

For a break to stretch your legs and have some lunch, pull up to the beach at Justice Bay that follows the end of the Swallow Point caves. From here you can also follow a path for a mile that leads to the Sand Island Lighthouse or you can continue to paddle north and view the lighthouse from the lake.

CAMPING ON THE ISLAND

To camp on Sand Island (highly recommended) you need to make reservations with the National Park Service beforehand. It is only $10/night and there are a few options to choose from. This allows for further exploration of the island and two days of exploring the caves!

If you do not have your own kayaking gear or would prefer a guided trip, there are several kayak outfitters in the Bayfield area that do day and overnight trips to the Sand Island sea caves.

REMINDER: CHECK THE FORECAST

Lake Superior waters are cold and weather conditions can change very rapidly. Always be alert for changing weather conditions. You may need to change your plans if conditions make it too risky to be on the lake. Make sure to wear a wetsuit or drysuit while kayaking.

Pack List

  • Kayak + Paddle
  • Wetsuit + safety gear
  • Water
  • Snacks
  • Camera/GoPro (if you trust yourself!)
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Please respect the places you find on The Outbound.

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph. Learn More

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Just do it.

over 1 year ago
over 1 year ago

Great little article with the information needed to start planning a trip there. Photos are stunning. Thanks.

over 1 year ago
over 1 year ago

Allison Herreid Explorer

Minnesotan in New Hampshire | Grad student at UNH | Instagram: @allisonherreid

Are we missing something? Suggest an edit

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