Wisconsin's Madeline Island, the most southern island of the Apostle Islands, may have been visited as early as 1618 by Etienne Brule - preceeding the Pilgrams landing at Plymouth Rock by 2 years. By 1660 active trading by Radisson & Groseilliers is a matter of record. During the 1660s Jesuit priests Menard, Allouez, and Marquette visited the area in their attempt to bring Christianity to natives. In 1693 Pierre Le Sueur founded a trading post on the south end of the island.
Things to do and see on the island include a walking tour of the historical structures in LaPointe, visiting the history museum, sampling the restaurants and pubs, taking a bike, bus or car tour of the island, beach combing, golfing, hiking, swimming or camping at Big Bay State park, and just "hanging out" enjoying the easy ambience of the island. And the ferry ride itself is a worthwhile attraction - you get a view of the Apostle Islands and Bayfield from the water that you can't get from land.
In mid-May, we took the Madeline Island Ferry to the village of LaPointe, WI on Madeline Island. For early season and a forecast for a cool, rainy weekend, we surprised to see the number of people and cars headed for the Island on a Friday afternoon. The Ferry had to run an extra trip to meet the demand. Another year we arrived Memorial Day weekend and have also visited the Island in mid-summer to spend some time at Big Bay State Park. We've also been there in the winter crossing over from Bayfield on the madeline island ice road. Before the ice is thick enough to run the ice road, people can visit Madeline Island in the winter by using the Madeline Windsled Taxi, which runs on top of the ice but is also a boat which will float should the ice not be thick enough. One of these days it would be fun to take it.
< < < While it was a gray, overcast day, these flowers in front of this downtown house brightened up our arrival.
The Old LaPointe Inn dates back to 1870 > > >
< < < The Library, originally Bay View School, dates back to 1872.
The Post Office began life in 1900 as the dining room addition to the original Old Mission Inn (1832) > > >
Info on the Madeline Island Historical Museum
The SUV left of center is first in line for the next Madeline Island Ferry trip. The parked cars are those of people who are riding the ferry over without their vehicles. > > >
While taking your car or RV to the island is a neat experience, you can see quite a lot by walking around town. If you want to go further around the island, you can rent a bike.
"ARVY" - our Winnebago Rialta - enjoyed a smooth ride across the 2.6 mile stretch of Lake Superior from Bayfield to LaPointe. We were half-way across before I realized we had left the dock!
As soon as the ice is out, the Madeline Island Ferry begins running 4 times a day from Bayfield to the village of La Pointe. After May 7th, its schedule increases to 11 daily trips, in June and July even more frequent.
Madeline Island Dining and Lodging
For the Traveler who requires a terrific deal on food and beverages, but are not too picky on ambience, their urges can be satisfied at Tom's Burned Down Cafe!
More photos and info about Tom's Burned Down Cafe and the Bell Street Tavern.
In 2009 we visited the campground in August mid-week. With no advance reservation we were out of luck for staying overnight but we were able to enjoy the park for a few hours. (See our profile on Madline Island's Big Bay State Park). We checked the nearby Big Bay township campground for openings but it was a little rough for our tastes. If you have an RV or are a tent camper who wants clean, well-maintained showers make sure to get a reservation at the State Park. However, if you don't mind roughing it a bit, the township park gets you a spot on the Island.
If you plan to camp on the mainland, check out our recommendations on Bayfield Area Camping.