A Few Days in Bayfield
Updated: Aug 22, 2021
The Apostle Islands have been on my travel list for ages. Since we aren't taking trips out of the state right now, and we were in desperate need of a getaway, we decided to push the boundaries and drive as far north as possible. Our family land in Monico happened to be the perfect half way point, and we were able to break the 12 hour round trip into 4 parts and sandwich our trip with some camping on Neptune Lake. This was looking like the perfect Labor Day weekend getaway!
We quickly fell in love with Lake Superior. The second we saw her, we knew we were hooked! The views are spectacular and Bayfield is oozing coastal charm. I went on this trip with the "end of Summer" mindset, dreaming of beaches and sunshine, but they aren't kidding when they say the lake is the boss. We definitely got an early dose of Autumn, and I was tickled to hear not one, but TWO locals say "the gales of November came early" - I've heard the Edmund Fitzgerald a hundred times and had to appreciate the nod. Though it was chillier than we had hoped, the days were beautiful, and enough to leave us wanting more.
Wanting more is an understatement...I mean it in a few ways. I pride myself on my planning abilities, but Lady Superior had other plans for us. Our first stop was cancelled due to the winds and waves. We had plans to take a kayak tour to see the famous sea caves - they were the real reason I drove 6 hours! I was so bummed that we weren't able to head out, but also a little relieved because I'm pretty certain I would've Edmund Fitzgerald-ed my kayak for sure in waves with those conditions.
Without our tour, we drove around to scope out the area and decided to head to our next stop early. I had a reservation for the Seven Ponds Winery, which didn't quite end up meeting my expectations. I didn't keep in mind the strange world we're now living in, and didn't consider that the experience would look different than your typical glass of wine on a patio. Instead, we found ourselves on a small farm-side vineyard with a handful of patio tables, a little live music, and the gales of November. Also, I don't think Bayfield sees outfits like these very often - there was a considerable amount of gawking, but this look is asking for it... After a half hour, we were served our tasting. It was on a paper plate (with a metal washer on it so the wind wouldn't carry it away) in plastic thimble cups, and it's just not the winery experience that I'm used to and have been craving.
At this point, I'm feeling pretty defeated and all I want to do is order some takeout and get to our motel room. I had researched restaurants in the area and based on the reviews, we tried calling the Copper Trout to get take out. No answer, so we headed to check in, hoping they were busy and they'd calm down later. We had a reservation at the Seagull Bay Motel, and this is where ya girl learned the difference between lakeVIEW and lakeSIDE. The pictures below are the view I was expecting - you know I went over there to get the shot I thought I had paid for, haha!
I knew going into planning this trip that I was a little short notice for a holiday weekend, so initially I was so excited that there was a lakeside unit in their Bay West building available. We could see a tiny sliver of the lake, but it was nothing compared to their other units and another part of this trip wasn't quite what I had hoped. I needed food. Stat. After several more calls that went to voicemail, we decided to head over to the restaurant and order our takeout in person.
This is where we learned they 'no longer do takeout, and the wait was at least an hour' - she let me know this pretty tersely, and without a mask...so take that as you will. Man, Bayfield was lucky it was pretty because day one really took a dump on my plans and gave me a run for my money! We tucked in hoping day two would have some good things in store for us.
We woke up to a chilly morning and headed straight to breakfast at the Bayfield Inn. We had a gorgeous lakeview with our breakfast (which included duck bacon, hello) and it was just what we needed to gear up for the day's adventures. Our next stop was Meyers Beach, which we had scoped out while driving around the day before. Since the high was only 59 that day, we headed to Galeforce Coffee to get a hot drink to stay cozy at the beach.
We were met with two pleasant surprises - the beach to ourselves, and high tide washing gorgeous coral colored waves ashore! It was unlike anything I had every seen, and when the sun hit it, the waves looked like they were glowing. I could've stayed in that moment forever! The water is so clear, that it turns this beautiful color when it washes up the brownstone sand that the Apostle Islands are known for.
From here you could see the mainland sea caves in the distance, and I was excited to get the chance to see them close up. I found a tour that afternoon that took you out around the islands on a catamaran and included some cave views so I signed us right up for that. To kill time, we explored more areas like Little Sand Beach. The drive in that area is so picturesque! We even had some trees starting to turn.
When it was finally time to board, we made sure we bundled up - it's abot 10-15 degrees cooler when you're on the water, and that is wayyyy too close to freezing for my liking. But I was dedicated to seeing these damn sea caves, so we took a spot up front on the upper deck. The majority of the 3 hour trip was comfortable, but there were parts where we were on more open water and caught the brunt of the wind and man alive - did we feel it in our bones. At one point, a crew member checked on us because she said we looked so cold! I'll tell ya, after that - everything felt balmy and beautiful. It's all about perspective.
We saw a ton of gorgeous sights on our tour. It was so cool to see the islands from that perspective and hear the back stories behind them. I love a good history lesson, and this area is loaded with it. The rock formations were stunning, and home to quite a few bald eagles that we saw circling overhead. If you look closely at the lighthouse photos above, you can see one making an appearance! I couldn't imagine manning these lighthouses - it would be so isolating to be on an island by yourself in the conditions that this lake serves up! At some points, the water was as deep as 350ft, but that's nothing compared to the 1300+ft depths that the lake can reach! One of the mind blowing facts that I learned was if we took all of the water in Lake Superior and spread it out evenly, it would cover all of North AND South America and be a foot deep! What?!
And then, I saw them - the sea caves on Devil's Island were approaching. They were positioned so they were perfectly protected from the winds and we were able to ride up right alongside and get a good view. They were just as spectacular as I had hoped, and I look forward to the day I'm finally able to kayak through them! We weren't able to see the mainland caves because of the direction and strength of the winds, but I got a taste of them and I'll be back for more! It's astonishing what a little wind and water can do to form land!
That tour was the perfect way to wrap up our stay, and we were ready to turn on our seat warmers for the 3 hour trip back to Neptune Lake for the night. Since LDW was over, the animals were out and reclaiming their territories after all the tourists left and we must've seen 20 turkeys, 10 deer, and 2 bald eagles on the side of the road. Things may not have gone according to plan - like, at all... - but we are still totally smitten with this part of the state. From the (relatively) mountainous terrain, to the expansive lake views, to the abundance of wildlife and whispers of fall - Bayfield really had it all!