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Take the stress out of planning your Bayfield getaway. On the blog, you'll get the inside scoop of where to go, what to see, and what to do. 

Plan your day trip to Madeline Island

Our view at Seagull Bay looks to the eastern horizon of Lake Superior. You can rest your eyes on Madeline Island from most of our rooms – the largest of the Apostle Islands.

Madeline Island is where the sun and the moon rise each day. What a view! It’s the perfect place to spend a full day of adventure when visiting Bayfield and staying at Seagull Bay. Our guests love visiting Madeline.

But that usually opens the door to lots of questions. Today we’ll answer your FAQs and help you make a trip to Madeline Island one for the books.

The most common questions our guests ask are:

How do you get to Madeline Island?

Do people live on Madeline Island?

What are things to do on Madeline Island?

We have all your answers and more. Let’s start off with a bit of the island’s history.

A Short History of Madeline Island

Madeline Island is named after the daughter of Ojibwe Chief White Crane, Madeleine Cadotte. The Ojibwe people have lived on Madeline Island and called it home for hundreds of years. To the Ojibwe people, it’s called Turtle Island. And is an integral part of their migration story from the east coast.

Europeans first set foot on Madeline Island right around the time the pilgrims set foot at Plymouth Rock, about 1660.

For more than 150 years Madeline Island and the town of LaPointe was an essential outpost during the fur trade. The French, British, and American fur traders did business with the Ojibwe people and portaged furs across Lake Superior for the Hudson Bay Company and others.

Madeleine Cadotte was the wife of Michael Cadotte, a french fur trader. Their marriage was like many others of their time. Often french fur traders would wed Ojibwe women to create an alliance and improve trade agreements between the French and Ojibwe people. These arrangements often worked to the benefit of both parties.

Madeleine and Michael owned and operated a successful trading post on the southern tip of Madeline Island. A recent book, The Cadottes by Robert Silbernagel, describes their trading post and more. It’s definitely worth the read for history buffs.

Fur traders and the Ojibwe people often used large birch bark canoes to travel to and from the island. Later, sailing ferries would transport people and goods. Now over 150 years later, motorized ferries have replaced the wind-powered ones.

How Do You Get To Madeline Island?

The Madeline Island Ferry Line offers public transportation from Bayfield to the village of LaPointe on Madeline Island. This 25-minute ferry ride transports people, bikes, vehicles, and more.

You can access the ferry from downtown Bayfield. It’s a 10-15 minute walk from Seagull Bay.

In the winter months, when Lake Superior freezes over, you can get to Madeline Island by riding on the windsled or driving over the ice road once the ice gets thick enough. Fun fact the 2-mile ice road becomes an official county highway during its operation.

Do People Live on Madeline Island?

Madeline Island’s year-round population of about 300 people swells to 1500 during the summer months.

The Island has:

  • A post office
  • Library
  • Police department
  • One-room schoolhouse for children up to 6th grade
  • A volunteer EMS and fire department

It also has restaurants, marinas, a history museum, and Big Bay State Park that make Madeline Island a fantastic place to spend the day.

What Things Are There to Do on Madeline Island?

The short answer is LOTS! Here’s a sample itinerary of our favorite activities and places to visit on Madeline Island.

Start things off right by sipping your favorite beverage from Wonderstate Cafe while you take in the Bayfield hillside’s breathtaking views from the Madeline Island Ferry deck. You can check out the schedule here.

Whether you walk, bike or drive, consider making your first stop at the Madeline Island Museum. Located one block from the ferry boat landing, you can’t miss it. Here you can:

  • Tour 4 historic structures
  • Learn about the Ojibwe people
  • Discover the impact of the fur trading industry
  • Cast your eyes on the contemporary artwork of Ojibwe artist, Rabbett Before Horses Strickland

From here, you can walk along LaPointe’s streets, browsing its gift shops and restaurants. But we recommend you venture from LaPointe’s village across the island to Big Bay State Park. You’ll need a bike or car for this 6-mile trek. No car? No bike? No problem. Traverse the island in style by moped.

At Big Bay, take an afternoon or the whole day hiking above its sandstone bluffs or along its boardwalk. Kayak in the lagoon, or lay your towel down on one of the most breathtaking beaches in the Apostle Islands.

Before heading back to the mainland, buy a cold one and listen to live music at Tom’s Burnt Down Cafe. Here you’ll find a quirky atmosphere and experience island culture firsthand. You might even hear an outlandish story or two.

Are you looking for a farm-to-table dining experience? Then you need to go to Cafe Seiche. Cafe Seiche features local and organic ingredients from Wonky Acres on Madeline Island and other small farms on the mainland.

With your full belly, head back to Seagull Bay to lay your sleepy head on your soft pillow. Enjoy dreaming of your fascinating day spent on Madeline Island.

Launch Your Madeline Island Adventure From Seagull Bay

Seagull Bay is right on the edge of Bayfield, where you can park your car and leave it until it’s time to drive home.

You can easily access downtown Bayfield and the Madeline Island Ferry by walking on the Brownstone Trail that skims along Lake Superior.

We offer a variety of lodging arrangements making us your perfect destination for a romantic getaway or family vacation.

Picture yourself waking up to the sun rising over Madeline Island and listening to the waves sweep the shore as you fall asleep at night. Your room is waiting for you. BOOK NOW!

We can’t wait to meet you!

Mollie, Isaac, Axel, Ridge, and Banks


Madeline Island

Madeline Island Museum

Madeline Island Ferry Schedule

Moped and Bike Rentals

Big Bay State Park | Wisconsin DNR

Tom’s Burned Down Cafe’ – Home | Facebook

Cafe Seiche

August 4, 2022

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