While we’ve explored the exciting winter wonder of Madeline Island’s ice caves, the largest of the Apostle Islands has plenty to offer before the snow flies and the fatbikes come out. Here’s one way to explore Madeline Island by bike this fall; you’re likely to be inspired to plan your own autumn adventure!
The Tour Begins
Bicycling on Madeline is an experience that starts long before you place your foot on the pedal. The 20-minute ferry ride from Bayfield to “the Island” is a perfect introduction to the vast, powerful waters of Lake Superior and a sure way to leave your workday life behind. Boats cruise the lake as cars, motorcycles, bikes, and tourists share the upper and lower decks of the ferry. Passengers gaze out over the timeless view of the Apostle Islands while open water breezes blow their cares away.
“We are returning this summer. Madeline agrees with our family and we all relax, just what the doctor ordered!”
— M.C., Madison, WI
Biking on the Island is all about rolling, paved roads, stunning Lake Superior views, and beautiful park destinations. Ferries disembark in the heart of downtown La Pointe where many bikers begin their 17.5 mile round-trip Island tour with a visit to the Island Museum and historical village both just a short walk from the Ferry Dock—impossible to miss! Discover the stories that have made the Island so enchanting. Make cultural connections to this Ojibwe homeland and to Europeans who followed. The Museum Store offers handmade crafts and jewelry, toys, books and games. Art galleries, specialty gift shops, and restaurants are also easily accessible by walking or you can join a tour with a local guide, free to all visitors and hosted by the Madeline Island Ferry Line.
Ready to hop on your bike?
It’s a smooth ride and a mere seven miles to the to entrance of Big Bay State Park. Although bikes are not allowed on the trails (bike racks are provided at the trailheads) don’t hesitate to hop off your bike and hike the natural beauty of the Park. Big Bay State Park occupies 2,350 acres, and offers rugged wooded cliffs, dramatic views of Lake Superior and a natural area that is open to the public. Habitats which include bogs, barrier beach, boreal forest and old growth hemlock are a hiker’s dream. There are 60 camp sites for those who want to linger, and two outdoor group camps. With four miles of Lake Superior shoreline and 1.5 miles of golden sand beach which—even at its busiest is never crowded—one can easily tune into Island time and tune out of alarms and schedules.
If you can get up off the beach and back on your bike, it’s an easy and very scenic ride on Black Shanty Road to Big Bay Town Park where blue water and expansive views make the Town Park’s beach “the best beach in northern Wisconsin.” The 60-site campground and family park is in one of the most impressive natural areas in not only the Apostle Islands, but the entire state of Wisconsin. RV sites and a comfortable pavilion for open air picnics have been recently added. Big Bay Town Park provides unparalleled views as well as public access to the spectacular Big Bay Lagoon, where you can rent a canoe and explore this watery homeland for birds, turtles, and fish. Big Bay Town Park is a top choice for camping, hiking, swimming, biking, kayaking/canoeing, picnicking, beach combing, bird watching, or simply lying back on the beautiful sandy beach.
Making the tour complete, bikers head back to La Pointe on forest-lined Big Bay Road which passes by a small airport, Capser Trail, a historic Town Hall, and the legendary Island Library. This completes a bike ride of exploration: natural beauty, compelling history, and laid-back La Pointe. Take a nap before dinner at one of many rentals found on the island: lakeside cottages, condos, hotels and homes. Bonfires, swimming, and the lazy days of summer entice long stays and memories to last a lifetime! Come over.
“My husband and I always bike the Island when we’re there and have learned the hard way to remember sunscreen, water, and hats. Last year we ended an especially long day at Cafe Seiche and fell asleep early listening to the waves roll in. Divine!”
— J.B., Minneapolis, MN
For up-to-date information on events, activities, businesses, and lodging, please visit: madelineisland.com. Maps are available to download for recommended bike routes on 27 miles of paved road.
For a Ferry schedule: madferry.com or call 715-747-2051. Leaving your car in Bayfield will lower your ferry expense. Bikes, of course, are welcome on the Ferry.
And, YES you can rent a bike in La Pointe at motion-to-go.com.