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Apostle Islands Campsites & Route Recommendations

Updated: Mar 25

The Apostle Island National Lakeshore campsites are operated by the park, and are reserved through Within this category there are 3 campsite options; GROUP (8 or more people) INDIVIDUAL (7 or less) and ZONE. (5 or less) Zone camping is essentially primitive camping with no amenities. You camp wherever you like, so long as you are away from other campsites. In the map below the numbered campsites are Individual, and the lettered campsites are group.

Which campsites are best? First you'll want to know your route. We recommend 10 miles per day as a good distance for beginners to paddle, while still leaving time to visit the sites along the way. Leave time for weather changes and side-tracks. Maybe even schedule in a layover day somewhere. You can always do a day trip (with no gear in your boat being a plus!)

Some of our favorites from west to east...

The Mainland Sea Caves can be visited along the route to Campsite 1, 2 & 3. Campsite 1 is otherwise known as Sand Point campsite. Sites 2 & 3 are a short paddle (or walk) from the Meyers beach parking area. These are individual sites located on the mainland, not an island. Start at Meyers beach and paddle to camp, or start in Little Sand Bay for a 7-10 mile paddle, or start in Cornucopia for a paddle of 8 miles. This is the location of our most popular guided tour.

Eagle Island is a small island 2 miles out from the mainland sea caves. You can't stop here due to bird nesting, but it's a cool and remote island to paddle around. There are some sea caves out there too!

Sand Island is great because it's not a far paddle, yet gives visitors a taste of the Apostle Islands with a historic lighthouse and historical artifacts, hiking trails, and the sea caves of Swallow Point. We run a guided day trip there too. Group and individual campsites are available, and as of this writing there is a wheelchair width boardwalk running from the campsites in East Bay to the lighthouse. This makes Sand Island one of the most accessible to campers of all abilities.

York Island is next, with some of our favorite campsites on a north facing beach. It feels remote, and it is a GREAT beach.

Little Sand Bay is one of the main launch points for kayakers heading to the islands. There is a great tour of a historic fishery here and other interpretive programs. The town of Russel runs the campground here, and it is reservable. A great place to start your trip.

Raspberry Island is famous for it's historic lighthouse, where they still keep up the gardens and interpreters provide tours in period clothing. No camping here.

Devils Island has the most amazing sea caves of all locations in the islands. But they're hard to get to. On our longer overnight trips we always try to get a permit on or close to Devils Island. Since 2017 camping has not been allowed due to infrastructure issues. (Dock wiped out in storm, no good landings)

Oak Island is one of my favorites because it has the most topography. You can hike to your hearts content, and I love the wide open oak/maple forests.

Manitou Island offers a look at how folks used to commercial fish from these islands. There's still commercial fishing in the area, but they no longer allow fish camps on the islands. They kept this one for you to check out! Nice large campsite on the west side with a trail to the fish camp.

Long Island has recently added a developed individual campsite near the western end. Long Island always feels remote to me. Looking out to the northeast all you see is Lake Superior.

Walking Trails are on many of the islands. Check out the current map of Apostle Islands Hiking Trails.

Apostle Islands Kayak Route Recommendations

It's difficult to recommend a 'best' route, since some paddlers want to paddle just a few miles and spend time in camp, while other perhaps more experienced paddlers can make it out to the furthest campsites in just one day. I know people who have paddled out and around Outer Island (The furthest island) returning to the mainland, all in one day! Below are a few nice trips with conservative mileage.

1 night out and back (3-6 miles)

  • Little Sand Bay to Sand Island

  • Bayfield to Basswood Island

2 night inner islands (26 miles max)

  • Little Sand bay to Sand or York. Then on to Oak, and in to Bayfield on the last day. (or the other way around) This route lets you see the Sand Island caves, the Raspberry Island light, and shipwrecks along the Red Cliff shoreline.

3 night inner island + (32 miles max)

  • Same as the 2 night option, but add Stockton Island.

4 night +

  • Once you get to 4 nights your options open up to the outer islands, or maybe choosing to have a 'duff day' and stay 2 nights at one camp. A typical 4 night trip for us might be Little Sand Bay to Sand-> Otter->around Devils Island to South Twin-> Oak ->Bayfield.

Camping Options Outside the Park

Great for before and after your island trip

Port Wing

Is about 24 miles from the Apostle Islands boundary on the west.

*Anchor Inn has tent and RV sites. 8865 WI-13 Trunk, Port Wing, WI 54865 (715) 774-3658

*Bark n Beavers Wilderness Campground has tent and RV sites. 80770 Evergreen Rd, Port Wing, WI 54865 (715) 774-3629


The town campground Is 12 miles from the lake shore boundary on the west, has RV sites and tent sites right on the lake. Pretty sweet!


Town is 4 miles from the world famous mainland sea caves.

*Town of Bell Campground has 10 sites and is NOT reservable and better for tenting than RV (small sites). This campground is right on Siskiwit Lake, known for good fishing. A great campsite and inexpensive.

Town of Russell

Operates the Little Sand Bay Campground, which gives you access to one of the main launch sites to the Apostle Islands. A great launch for Sand Island, York Island, Otter Island, Bear Island, and Oak Island campsites. Many people stay here to stage their trip out to the islands, but reserve early, it books up fast and is crowded during the warmer summer months. Nice showers and group sites.

Red Cliff

*Point Detour Campground is operated by the Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa and can be reserved via the Red Cliff Casino below. This is the northern most campsite in Wisconsin! No good beach access for launching kayaks at the camp, but there is access at the casino.

*Buffalo Bay Campground is part of the Red Cliff Casino property. Feeling lucky? This campground has RV and tent sites and direct access to launch out to Basswood Island, and Oak Island.


*Dalrymple Park & Campground is north of Bayfield and does NOT take reservations. Vault toilets, no showers. Smaller RVs under 30' ok.

*Apostle Islands Area Campground has RV sites, tent sits, and cabins available.

Here's a link to reference our Google Map

We're always happy to answer questions regarding your visit to the area and make recommendations for campgrounds. Just give us a call at (715) 953-2223 or visit our website.

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