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.
The Apostle Islands National Lakeshore is located off Wisconsin’s peninsula in Lake Superior, the “largest, cleanest, and coldest of the Great Lakes.” The lakeshore comprises beaches, cliffs, water, and 21 islands. Madeline Island is the only one of the Apostle Islands not included in the national lakeshore, although a portion of the island is protected as Big Bay State Park. The island's accessibility by ferry or ice road, along with the shops, restaurants and other commercial establishments of the island town of La Pointe, make it popular with visitors to the national lakeshore.
Beginning in the west, going north around the outer islands, then west, then east, ending with the southern most island, the islands are:
- Eagle Island
- Sand Island - dock, ranger station, camping and lighthouse
- York Island - camping
- Bear Island
- Devils Island - dock, lighthouse, and camping
- Rocky Island - dock, ranger station, and camping
- South Twin Island - dock and camping
- North Twin Island
- Outer Island - dock, lighthouse, and camping
- Cat Island - camping
- Ironwood Island - camping
- Otter Island - dock and camping
- Raspberry Island - dock, ranger station, and lighthouse
- Oak Island - dock, ranger station, and camping
- Manitou Island - dock, ranger station, Manitou fish camp, and camping
- Stockton Island - two docks, ranger station, and camping. Sites include Trout Point Logging Camp and a sandstone quarry
- Gull Island
- Michigan Island - dock, lighthouse, and camping
- Hermit Island - includes a sandstone quarry
- Basswood Island - dock, camping, and the McCloud-Brigham Farm
- Long Island - modern lighthouse on the point
Historical evidence suggests that another island formerly existed alongside Eagle Island. It was known as Steamboat Island, although this name was apparently also used for Eagle Island itself, in which case Steamboat Island was called "Little Steamboat Island." Multiple sources dating from August 1901 document the disappearance of the island around that time, due to unknown natural forces.
Many of the islands offer public docking; a small fee is charged for overnight use. The shoreline contains some historical sites, such as the many lighthouses throughout the islands. Fishing on Lake Superior is a popular activity for boaters and non-boaters alike. The lake holds several species of trout and some species of salmon. In seasons when the water is warmer visitors can catch fish from the shore in water as shallow as ten feet.
Camping is a popular choice of the islands' visitors. The options range from more civilized sites that offer many amenities, such as well water, vault toilets, and food lockers, to sites that are more remote, further from other campers and offer nothing more than a tent pad or fire ring. Camping is offered on 18 of the 21 islands in the national lakeshore. Permits are required from the National Park Service in advance; reservations for group sites begin most years in January and for individual sites 30 days in advance.
Hunting is permitted on some islands for certain periods of the year. Game include white-tail deer, black bear, grouse, and other small game. As white-tailed deer have become abundant in recent years, deer hunting opportunities have been plentiful, although the logistics of hunting on the islands can be difficult. Hunting black bears is limited to two islands, and there are rules and regulations that apply only to specific areas.
To get from island to island many visitors choose to kayak, either bringing their own kayaks and equipment or renting from a local shop. The islands also offer opportunities to scuba divers to view interesting rock formations and shipwrecks. Scuba diving within a quarter-mile of any island shore requires obtaining a free permit from the park's visitor center.
For most of the century, the six Apostle Islands Lighthouses have guided ships and boats through the rough waters of Lake Superior, and through the Apostle Islands. Sand Island lighthouse is one of the most popular lighthouses to visit on the islands. This lighthouse is approximately 44 feet (13 m) tall and was one of the first lighthouses to be automated in 1921. Boats tour this island June through late August every year on trips provided by volunteers of the National Park Service.
The lighthouse on Raspberry Island has been completely renovated and is one of the most scenic in the Apostle Islands. Other lighthouses in the Apostle islands include both Old and New Michigan Island Lights, New La Pointe Light and Chequamegon Point Light on Long Island, Devils Island Light, and Outer Island Lighthouse. The ruins of Old LaPointe Light can still be seen on Long Island, approximately 0.5 miles (0.80 km) away from the wreckage of the schooner Lucerne.