Great Lakes Direct

Bayfield, Wisconsin

Bayfield is a small city on the Wisconsin shore of Lake Superior known as the "Gateway to the Apostle Islands", a group of 21 islands featuring pristine beaches, lighthouses, and sea caves.

The ferry to Madeline Island, the largest of the Apostle Islands, departs from Bayfield.

View of Bayfield WI
View of Bayfield

Bayfield is also famous for its annual Apple Festival, which features live music, arts and crafts as well as apple-themed treats.

The downtown area, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, features well-preserved Victorian-era architecture dating back to the 1870s-1880s when Bayfield was a busy shipping port.

Where is Bayfield?

Bayfield is a small town on the Bayfield peninsula of Northern Wisconsin.

It is located in Bayfield County (the county seat is at Washburn) and has a population of just under 600 inhabitants.

It is the main access point for visitors to the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore and to the town of La Pointe on Madeline Island.

How to get to Bayfield

Nearest airport to Bayfield

The closest airport to Bayfield is Duluth International Airport, around 90 miles to the west.

Duluth offers regular daily connections to the larger international airports at Minneapolis-St Paul and Chicago O'Hare.

Driving to Bayfield

State highway 13 runs through Bayfield on its way around the Bayfield peninsula from the junction with US-2 near Ashland through to the city of Superior.

Where to stay in Bayfield

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Check accommodation availability in Bayfield

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History of Bayfield

Bayfield is named after the British Admiral Henry Bayfield, who surveyed Lake Superior in the early 1800s.

The settlement was officially laid out in 1856 by Henry Rice. Bayfield was the county seat from 1866 to 1892, when the seat was moved to Washburn.

Aerial view of Bayfield
Aerial view of Bayfield

Settlers moved to the area drawn both by the rich fishing in Chequamegon Bay and the forests on the mainland. The port was also often a protected stopover for ships transporting their goods to the major cities on the other Great Lakes through the locks at Sault St. Marie.

The Chicago, St. Paul, Minneapolis, and Omaha Railroad opened a route to the town in 1883, which led to both a commercial and a tourist boom for the Bayfield area.

Many of the older buildings which still survive in the town date from this era.

Things to see and do in Bayfield

Bayfield Chamber & Visitor Bureau is located at 42 S Broad St just a few blocks back from the harbor.

Bayfield Maritime Museum

The Bayfield Maritime Museum showcases the maritime history of the area, particularly that of Lake Superior and the Apostle Islands.

The museum features exhibits on shipwrecks, commercial fishing, boat building, and the history of the U.S. Coast Guard and Life-Saving Service in the region.

The museum building is across the road from the marina and is open June to mid-September.

Bayfield Heritage Museum

The Bayfield Heritage Association runs a museum located opposite the Bayfield Carnegie Library.

Exhibits explore how Bayfield's geography and natural resources have shaped its way of life and its economy, including farming, logging, stone quarries, commercial fishing, and tourism.

Madeline Island

Madeline Island is the largest of the Apostle Islands, although it is not part of the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore.

It can be reached by a regular ferry from Bayfield (and occasionally across the ice in the winter months).

One of the ferries which serve Madeline Island
One of the ferries which serve Madeline Island

The island is the only one of the group where commercial development is permitted. La Pointe is the only settlement on the island and is where the ferries from Bayfield dock after the 2.5 mile crossing.

Accommodation is available here or on campsites in Big Bay State Park further around the island.

Madeline Island is named after Madeleine Cadotte, the daughter of an Ojibwe chief. She was married to Michael Cadotte, a fur trader and head of the trading post on the island.

Apostle Islands National Lakeshore

The National Lakeshore is made up of the remaining 21 islands of the Apostle Islands. All of them are uninhabited and there are no roads.

Access is only by private boat, kayak or on a cruise.

Sand Island Lighthouse in the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore
Sand Island Lighthouse in the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore

Various type of Apostle Islands cruises are available from the National Park concession holder, from general sightseeing cruises to the sea caves and other points of interest, to lighthouse tours and overnight camping trips to authorised campsites.

Other Lake Superior Towns

Marquette, MI


Marquette is the largest city in Michigan's Upper Peninsula and is known for its stunning natural beauty and outdoor recreational opportunities. The city is home to Northern Michigan University and boasts a lively downtown area. Marquette's Presque Isle Park offers breathtaking views of Lake Superior and features hiking trails, beaches, and a historic lighthouse.

Munising, MI


Munising is a small city located on the southern shore of Lake Superior, known as the gateway to the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. This unique geological formation features colorful cliffs, waterfalls, and pristine beaches that attract visitors from around the world. Munising is also close to Grand Island, a historic island offering hiking trails, beaches, and remnants of an old fishing village.

Copper Harbor, MI

Copper Harbor

Copper Harbor is a small, picturesque town located at the northern tip of Michigan's Keweenaw Peninsula, known for its stunning natural beauty and rich mining history. Today, Copper Harbor is a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts, offering world-class mountain biking trails, hiking, and scenic drives along the Brockway Mountain Drive.

Two Harbor, MN

Two Harbors

Two Harbors is a port town located on Minnesota's North Shore of Lake Superior. The town is not far from the historic Split Rock Lighthouse, built in 1910 and offering stunning views of the lake. The Two Harbors area is also known for its unique geologic features, including the Gooseberry Falls State Park and the ancient lava flows at Palisade Head.

Bayfield Links

Bayfield Chamber & Visitor Bureau :
National Park Service - Apostle Islands :
Bayfield Maritime Museum :
Bayfield Heritage Association :
Apostle Islands Cruise Service :