Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.

Henry David Thoreau

Kayaking Around the Fabulous Apostle Islands Sea Caves

Thursday July 3, 2014
Apostle Islands Area Campground
Bayfield, Wisconsin




First let me talk about outfitters and then the tour.

After yesterday’s hike we were determined to see the caves in a kayak. I read great Trip Adviser reviews about the company Living Adventures. Really great reviews.

But of course at this last minute they were already full up for the entire week-end. It is a holiday after all. We really wanted to do this kayak on Thursday since that was the last of the for sure good weather days.

















So we went with Trek & Trail which was the first outfitter to start sea kayak tours in Bayfield in 1986. Both groups charged $100 a person for an all day tour. 9-4 or 9:30 to 4:30.

That’s a chunk of change for us to put out but we absolutely wanted to see the caves in a kayak and ours just aren’t suitable for this kind of water.

ALTHOUGH, this particular day was so calm we could have probably done it. But you just never know with the Great Lakes and it appears at least one person a year drowns thinking they can handle the lake. So we opted for an experienced guide and rescue person.















Our guide, Bill, is experienced. 16 years. He knew a lot, was very low key and I liked him. The problems weren’t with him and they weren’t major, just irritating. But they would keep me from using this outfitter again.

Someone in their office forgot to get the lunch organized the day before so they had to send someone out at 8 am this morning to run around town and pick up frozen pita breads, bags of baby carrots, lunch meats, pre sliced cheese and oreo cookies. That was lunch. Ok but it left me wondering what the normal lunch fare was.

Among the comments for Living Adventures were many mentions of the excellent food. So if that matters to you….. 

But the second thing was much more problematic.










We arrive in the van at Meyer’s Beach, change into wet suits which were provided.  Also provided are PFD’s, spray skirts and dry bags if you need them.

The guys carry the boats down the long flight of stairs to the water. There are 3 staff, Bill, the van driver and an assistant for Bill.  

Everything is going well






We get down on the shore and Bill begins giving paddle stroke instructions along with some other safety information.

The other two staff are setting up the boats when the driver comes up to say they are one boat short and he will go back and get it.

It’s a 25 mile drive. Bill was clearly irritated but handled this very well. He stretched out everything he was doing and all the information as along as he could.

Finally we start out late and paddle very slowly to allow the assistant and one young boy in his double kayak to catch up.

The lack of organization on the part of this company just seemed very unprofessional and I would not recommend them.  I had read similar accounts in reviews beforehand, but they were the only company that had spots when we called the day before wanting to go. And I am glad we went. The tour is awesome. If you can book early, choose Living Adventures.   If not, Trek & Trail is better than nothing.   The caves are awesome no matter who takes you.




















You’ve been looking at the pictures so it’s time to talk about the tour.



We are paddling along the same shore of our hike yesterday. Only today we are on the water instead of up on the cliffs. It’s so exciting to recognize the same formations we saw yesterday.

The day is picture perfect. In fact there is so much sun that it gave me fits as you will see. Although it did make it easier to cut out some pictures.






Bill gives information about the lake as we go along and about what the various formations and caves are called.

These red sandstone cliffs and sea caves are considered to be the most spectacular in the Great Lakes.

In the winter, if the ice is frozen deeply enough as it was this year at 3’ thick, the park service allows people to walk from Meyer’s beach all along the shore to what are now dazzling ice caves. I’ve seen the pictures and boy would I love to come up here and see that. Unfortunately during winters we are much too far away.  This year’s visits to the ice caves were quite popular and there are pictures and information on the web.  Just ‘google it”.




I am too busy taking pictures to remember most of the information Bill gives us as we paddle along.

I travel mostly in the Nancy Mills style where I sit in the front of the tandem and take pictures while David paddles. This caused us to frequently be at the back of the pack and I have to paddle in order for us to catch up.

Paddling a tandem is not the same as a single and David had a slight case of some stomach disorder which kept him from feeling top notch. He’s since gotten over that thankfully.









Some of these formations look like things to me, especially faces.  What do you think?













We paddle along the edge of the caves marveling at their shapes and colors.

We go into little rooms, under arches, through doorways.

In one dark room, a cliff swallow flies in and perches right in front of David and I. 

In some of the tunnels we have to bend forward (NEVER back) to get through the opening. It is simply magnificent.





The sounds made by the caves make me laugh out loud over and over. The deep bellows, glunks, ker plops.

David says Mother Earth and he both have digestion problems. HA! I think the sounds are percussive.

I try very hard to get some of the waves splashing in and being tossed out but it’s nearly impossible. There is no rhythm to it.  It’s always a surprise and by the time you know it is happening and click the shutter it is gone. I’ve included a few of my attempts in the pictures. Maybe you can find them.









There are even little waterfalls. We are so close to many of them that I cannot get a picture from the top of the cliffs all the way down and the only indication is the drip line in the water. If you wonder why I’ve included a picture, it might be the drip line. Some pictures were included for their amazing designs. These are the shapes and patterns used in Native American art. Time flies by. One wonder after another.






No more words for a while,just scroll through the pictures, enjoy our tour and imagine yourself there right along with us. 


















































































Each of the tunnels and caves is different.   Even within the caves the stones, mosses and colors differ.  On my own I would  have spent much more time inside exploring and marveling at the beauty.
















We stop for lunch on a sand beach which in the brochure is described as “deserted” but I guess that’s in everyone’s brochure and another tour group from another company is here before us.

I neglect to get any pictures of the aforementioned feast. Bill says “the facilities are just beyond the 3rd bush”. We take turns. It’s like standing in line outside the women’s restroom. Even the men have to deal with the wetsuits.






We turn around at the beach and travel back. Because we are unfamiliar with this landscape, everything looks different. But the light is more sharp and my return pictures not as rich.

I do manage to get this one of the swallows’ nests and some of the formations which have toppled down from above or fallen over from below. Bill tells us his favorite arch fell in last month and is now buried under water














Our group consists of 7 members of one family, Bill, his assistant, another couple and us. The family has one older daughter and her boyfriend described by her mother as “a keeper”, a middle daughter and a 10 year old son and his friend. The friend rides tandem with Bill’s assistant.

On the way back the entire family engages in bilge pump wars. I would love to have been part of this spraying and splashing each other. Remember we all have spray skirts. But I’m not taking any chances with my camera.

Since they are chasing after each other at high speed, I do more paddling than on the way out in order to keep up.  Thus I’m not able to get any pictures of them sneaking up on each other and firing away. The mother swings a mean paddle splash though and the assistant is quite the instigator.   We watch as he helps the young friend plot a sneak attack.  Bill too stays out of the way and lets them have their fun.












As you can see from these ‘few’ of the over 600 pictures I took, this trip was more than worth what I thought was a pretty steep price. I’d do it again in a heart beat.   Next time, on the right day, we would probably rent sea kayaks and go by ourselves especially if I could co ordinate it so that we were there when the tours were not. There were 3 different tours out today and the number of people slightly distracted from the beauty.





This experience is so fabulous that not even too many boats could keep me from saying
Oh wow!  
Can you believe it?? 
Look at that!! 


The varieties of extraordinary beauty on this planet are just astounding.
The Great Lakes have treated us over and over again.

Don’t miss Pictured Rocks and don’t miss the Apostle Island Sea Caves.


  1. Beautiful! I definitely need to do this.

  2. Wowzers, really amazing. I think I'd shell out the cash for that experience, too.

  3. You can't put a price on that kind of beauty and adventure!!! That was spectacular...thanks for taking us along:o)) As always....NATURE IS AMAZING!!!

  4. Looks like a wonderful experience. Thanks for taking a lot of pictures. It's just amazing how many areas of beauty there are out in nature.

  5. What an awesome day! I don't think I have ever taken anywhere near 600+ pictures in one day...going through them must have been fun! What great memories you're able to take away from this experience!

  6. This was most definitely a fabulous day! What great fun to tour inside the caves you saw from above. Thanks for all the photos. They were awesome.

  7. I am thrilled that you were able to do your "cave" adventure. . .not really my thing. . .but looks great from your perspective. . .and some great pics. . .yaaa for you!

  8. I hope you didn't see everything there was to see through the lens of a camera. 600 pictures is a lot of focusing and snapping! The best word I can think of to describe this place is AWESOME - truly awe inspiring.

  9. First of all, I cannot thank you enough for taking the time to write such a lengthy and descriptive post of what must've been a wonderful day. You made it come alive and did a great job capturing the beauty. But it had to have taken you the better part of a morning or afternoon to write, so thanks! Sorry about the "issues," but very glad you felt the adventure was worth it anyway. (Lengthy email from me coming soon)

  10. We wimped out and took a boat tour along the sea caves :) Even though we weren't up front and personal like you were, they are definitely a sight to see...beautiful! Wisconsin is my home state and I'm so glad you enjoyed it!

  11. Absolutely stellary gorgeous! look at the color of the water … !

  12. 600+ pictures to go through? Oh my! I admire your fortitude :-). Great pictures and we'll have to save up for that some day!

  13. Oh, MY!!!! THAT was truly beautiful!!!! Would love to do that!!!! Wonderful colors! A bucket list item for sure!

  14. WOW.... what a wonderful day, gorgeous colours, well worth the money.

  15. That was just beautiful. Thanks for the great pictures! Mother Nature sure showed her beautiful side to you!

  16. Beautiful! We are looking forward to doing this later this summer!

  17. Been to Wisconsin a few times, but really need to spend time in that northern area of Wisconsin, Michigan and Minnesota. You know what they say, so much to see out there..... Glad you all are enjoying your time up there, we hope to hit the road again after Labor Day ourselves once mom is back on her feet a bit more. --Dave (GoingRvWay.com)

  18. Fantastic looking trip- another one to put on our must do list!

  19. 600 pictures? You're as bad as me! Isn't digital photography nice that you can take all the pictures you like and not have to pay for developing them?

    That was a beautiful paddle and certainly different than anywhere we've kayaked. It reminded me a little of the Suwanee River when the water is low. What gorgeous colors. I bet it would look different anytime you went with different lighting.

    Don't forget you have a video on your camera and can take videos of things that move too fast to capture. On my underwater camera I shot video, then I found I could edit them later and "snap" the still pictures I wanted. Not sure that would work with the Canon, but worth a try.

    I hope you get a chance to go back and spend more time exploring the caves. I think I would prefer a guide myself...at least the first time.

  20. Lovely photos and what an adventure!

  21. Oh, this didn't disappoint!! You must have had goose bumps from Mother Nature's architecture. So sorry that the company itself wasn't up to par, but once you were on the water, who cares! Love the pictures of the formation 'faces'. I saw a turtle, and a skull :) Very, very nice!

  22. One of those rare adventures where the short folks have the advantage! Loved all the pics, the big ET face and the drip lines and the swallows......the cave interiors.....just so much to marvel at. Unorganized professionals make me a bit nuts so I'm glad you didn't let it distract from the wonderful experience. Glad David is feeling better!

  23. I'm so happy that you guys did this kayak trip -- it was wonderful to experience it through your words and photos. The colors of the painted rocks contrasted with the unique blue-green of the water is stunning. You must have had a blast wending your way in and out of the arches and caves! Thanks for the honest review of the tour company, too.

  24. Gorgeous photos of a truly beautiful place.

  25. Oh, Wow - incredibly beautiful!!!

  26. Sherry, you've been to some amazing places and seen some really cool things, but this tops them all!!! :c)

  27. I might write a review of that company. Or maybe not if they dealt witb it well. Someone definitely dropped a few balls. Gorgeous tour. I did see a face and the rock and water colors are wonderful. Splashing sounds fun! Expensive experience for that size a group. Thanks for taking us aling with so many pictures :)
    group. So worth it; glad we could join!

  28. What a fantastic tour and great pictures! I sure hope we can follow your trail for these caves are pretty amazing. I can relate with the 600+ pictures which actually add more time in writing the blog for it is challenging selecting which photos to post in to the blog.
    I'll keep in mind with Tour co we will get when we get there. Thank you for your honest review.

  29. I do feel like I went along, albeit a little late. Must be some fantastic energy in those caves carved by water. Think I herd a kerplunk or two. Sometimes you just have to bite the bullet on tours, both cost and inconvenience but this group does sound a bit unorganized. You'd do better on your own. Yet so glad you did it and shared this amazing place.

  30. Fabulous job capturing the adventure complete with stunning pictures! The careless counting of boats and almost forgotten lunch were definitely worth mentioning. Wonder what they may have forgotten that might be needed for a rescue if someone accidentally flipped their boat.

  31. Thank you for posting this a year ago - it inspired us to go there! With more that 30 years of canoeing together and many of those on the open waters of the great lakes, we decided to take advantage of a calm day (and clear forecast) and paddle out ourselves in our 15' canoe. Arriving early, we beat what seemed like hordes of kayak groups and had the place to ourselves for most of our paddle out to the beach. It was a magical, spiritual journey. We met the first groups of kayakers as we left the beach and ended up bee-lining it back to the put in to avoid the crowd. Steven took a brief video of our journey into one of the caves (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6KBQZ46xasA&feature=share) which you might enjoy.
    I've loved your blog for a long time - first time posting though :) Cheers


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