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Bayfield, Wisconsin: Family Travel Guide

Sea caves, rock formations and cultural history make Bayfield more than a beach destination
by / / Source: TODAY
Layered sandstone cliffs and sea caves at sunrise on Devils Island in Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, Wisconsin, USA
Lake Superior is the largest of the five Great Lakes of North America. It is bounded to the north by Canada and to the south by the USA. It is considered the largest freshwater lake in the world by surface area. The Apostle Islands National Lakeshore is a U.S. national lakeshore consisting of 21 islands (Apostle Islands) and shoreline encompassing 69,372 acres (28,074 ha) on the northern tip of Wisconsin on the shore of Lake Superior. It is known for its collection of historic lighthouses, sandstone sea caves, a few old growth remnant forests, and natural animal habitats.Getty Images stock

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What to do in Bayfield

Quiet and pristine, this beachy haven in the Badger State is a base for exploring the fascinating Apostle Islands National Lakeshore. Kayakers from all over the world come to paddle through its fascinating sea caves, but others can see them on a sightseeing cruise. The island chain is also home to the country's largest collection of lighthouses—nine of them on six islands. Bayfield itself has a charming downtown area with shops and cafes, busy pier and, further afield, orchards and farms that will delight visitors of all ages.

Sea Cave at Sand Island, Bayfield, Wisconsin
The Apostle Islands are known for their unique sea caves, which you can't see anywhere else.Getty Images stock

Where to go in Bayfield

Depending on the season, Blue Vista Farm in Bayfield lets visitors pick raspberries, blueberries or apples. An easy way to see the Apostle Islands, as well as wildlife like eagles and bears, is on a trip with Apostle Islands Cruises. The hour-long Grand Tour passes two of the area's famous lighthouses, as well as vertical rock formations (called sea stacks), the sculpted sea caves at Devil's Island and a restored 1930s fish camp. Kids ages 10 and up can participate in a kayaking trip with Living Adventure. Anyone older than 12 is expected to paddle, but younger ones can sit in the middle of a three-person kayak (request one ahead of time, as availability is limited). A day trip to Madeline Island, the largest of the Apostles, is a must: There's kayaking, hiking and swimming at Big Bay State Park and La Pointe, where the ferry stops, is a fun and funky small town. You will likely spot signs in both English and Anishinaabe, which is the language of Madeline Island's indigenous Ojibwe Tribes. To learn more about them, stop at the Madeline Island Museum.

Kayaking in Apostle Islands: Bayfield, Wisconsin
Families can explore the Apostle Islands and sea caves by kayak with Living Adventure.Living Adventure Inc.

Where to stay in Bayfield

Brickyard Cottages is a quiet, 70-acre cabin community that's crisscrossed by walking trails. The small, standalone houses sleep four people and are within walking distance of a Lake Superior beach and Roy's Point Marina. Some, like Cottage 26, have water views from the house and yard. The classic, comfortable Bayfield Inn has a convenient downtown location. Guests get passes to visit the nearby recreation center, which has an indoor pool, sauna, hot tub, gym and skate park.

Bayfield Inn, Bayfield, Wisconsin
Only steps away from downtown Bayfield, the Bayfield Inn is the cute and cozy hotel you'll never want to leave.The Bayfield Inn

Where to eat in Bayfield

Pier Plaza specializes in local ingredients like Lake Superior's trout and whitefish, local strawberries (which get used in cocktails, among other things) and Wisconsin beer. Housed in a Pepto-Bismol–hued building with a decor that's heavy on pink flamingos, Maggie's could easily get by on looks alone. But this Bayfield mainstay has made a name for itself thanks to appetizers like cheddar cheese curds, burgers and homemade ice cream.

Looking for more of the best vacations with kids? Check out TODAY's Family Travel Guide.

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  • Lexi Dwyer
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