Many people come to the Apostle Islands seeking the adventure of exploring the area by boat. Sea kayaks are very popular for travel among the islands and to the mainland sea caves. Operating a small craft on Lake Superior is fun and exciting, but can also be extremely hazardous when weather conditions become unfavorable.

Paddlers must know their equipment, know their limits, obtain a current weather forecast, and respect the ever-changing environment of Lake Superior.

Two tandem kayaks and one single paddling on a calm lake.
A group of paddlers exploring the park on a calm day.

NPS Photo

Guided Trips

Apostle Islands National Lakeshore does not provide guided kayaking tours, however there are numerous authorized kayak outfitters in the area to book full and half day guided trips, safety classes, and equipment rentals.


Launches, Locations, & Parking

Two kayak launches are located on the mainland section of the Park.

1. Meyers Beach, off Highway 13 between Cornucopia and Red Cliff. Please be advised there is a $5 parking fee and stairs down to the beach to launch.

2. Little Sand Bay Visitor Center, west of the harbor off Old highway K and Little Sand Bay road. Free parking.

Launching areas are also available outside the park unit in Bayfield and Red Cliff. Long term parking is available at these locations, but spaces fill up quickly on busy weekends and may be subject to launch and parking fees. Large groups should plan to carpool whenever possible. Never leave valuables in your car and always lock it before leaving to explore the park.

If there is rough weather on Lake Superior you might want to choose an alternative place to paddle for the day. Inland lakes, rivers, and sloughs are the best places for canoes, paddle boards, and recreational kayaks.


Always be aware of changing weather conditions on Lake Superior before you go out kayaking. Stay up to date on current weather forecasts and current conditions on the lake with our webcam.

A sea kayak next to a sit-upon kayak that has a do not use symbol on it.
The NPS only recommends using a sea kayak while paddling in the Apostle Islands.

NPS Photo

What To Expect Before You Arrive

Apostle Islands is renowned for it's water resource including the beaches, sea caves, lighthouses, and island camping. Before you get to the park make sure you have the right equipment. Because of Lake Superior's power and unpredictability, the National Park Service does NOT recommend the use of small open boats, canoes, open cockpit or sit-upon kayaks, and paddleboards for travel between islands or to the sea caves. A sea kayak is the recommended kayak that should be used in the Apostle Islands.



Do you have the proper equipment for kayaking on Lake Superior?

  • PFD (Personal Flotation device) / Life jacket- required

  • Whistle or Air horn- required

  • Wet suit or dry suit (for paddling on Lake Superior and during cooler weather on other lakes)

  • Spray skirt (for paddling on Lake Superior)

  • Paddle Float

  • Bilge Pump

  • Marine/VHF Radio

Person re-entering a tipped kayak in lake.
Paddler performing a self rescue after capsizing in their kayak.

NPS Photo

Rescue Techniques

Can you save yourself?

Help is not a phone call away! Cell phone service is limited within the park boundaries. Even if you are able to get a 911 call out, help is still far away, 30 minutes at the least. Rescue time of 60-90 minutes or longer is more likely. If the weather is rough, no one will be able to respond until the weather calms down.

You need to be able to perform a self rescue. Read, research, and take lessons. Then practice, practice, practice!

  • Always wear your PFD (life jacket). Wear a wetsuit. Cold water kills!

  • Paddle with others.

  • Make sure they know how to perform rescues too.

  • Leave a float plan with someone who cares about you. Don't forget to tell them when you get back so they don't start a search.

Kayak paddle drips on a calm water surface.
Water ripples on the calm surface of Lake Superior.

NPS Photo

Last updated: March 7, 2022

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Mailing Address:

415 Washington Avenue
Bayfield, WI 54814


715 779-3397

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