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Apostle Islands National Lakeshore and Madeline Island
Located in Lake Superior, the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore consists of 21 wilderness islands at the northwestern tip of Wisconsin. The islands are perfect for sea-kayaking and sailing, and many have trails, beaches, cliffs, sea caves, and campsites. There are 19th century lighthouses on both Sand Island and Raspberry Islands.
Madeline Island is the only developed island, measuring 14 miles long and 3 miles wide. The small town of LaPointe, established in 1834, rents bicycles for island exploration and also has a few hotels, restaurants, history museum, and a marina.
Madeline Island is accessed by 25 minute car-ferry crossing from Bayfield, Wisconsin, or by private aircraft on the island's landing strip.
The Huron Island are the most incredible islands in all of Lake Superior. They are a national wildlife refuge defined by towering cliffs and an abandoned lighthouse.
The three separate islands require a two mile crossing from the mainland, and doing so in a kayak (or canoe) requires calm or light winds, a rarity on this freshwater ocean.
I have paddled to and from the Huron Islands many times, and never tire of their beauty, the clear water (which I drink directly from the lake) and solitude.
Land o' Lakes, Wisconsin
When people visit Wisconsin's northwoods, they want to stay. They can sleep beneath the stars and northern lights, swim in over 2,000 clear lakes, and hike trails with panoramic lake and forest vistas. There are waterfalls for swimming, rivers, eagles, wolves, moose, black bear, and wild raspberries and blueberries. Loons call throughout the night. Interconnected waterways offer ample opportunities for canoe trips. In a short drive or flight with me, they can be kayaking on Lakes Superior, Michigan or Huron.
The mystique of this region is addicting. In the summer and fall, there's no place else I'd rather be.
St. Ignace, Michigan
The final approach into St. Ignace, Michigan's airport west runway is over the turquoise colored water of Lake Michigan. The quiet airport is scenically situated along the shoreline, and has a couple of vehicles available for use at no cost.
St. Ignace is a convenient entry point for numerous outdoor activities. To the north, the Les Cheneaux Islands, at the northern tip of Lake Michigan, are an adequate kayaking destination. Across the channel sits historic Mackinac Island, with an airstrip operated by the National Park Service. It's not an adventure destination, but in the fall, when most tourists are gone, a day on the island provides excellent biking and hiking options. No cars are allowed on the island, and transportation is by horse-carriage and bike.
Northport, Lelanau County, Michigan
Long, wide, and well maintained grass airstrips sit on a beautiful Lake Michigan peninsula. This is the pilot's gateway to Lelanau County in northern Michigan.
The area is home to North and South Manitou Islands, about 20 miles offshore in Lake Michigan. These wilderness islands can be kayaked and camped for days, while experiencing some of the most impressive sand dunes, beaches and hiking trails in North America.
Inland, Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore offers miles of hiking on immense sand dunes with panoramic vistas of Lake Michigan. Many of these dunes are over 200 feet high, and I have hiked them for hours without seeing another soul. Bring a tent, wine, and dinner and experience a sunset from atop your private, sand dune skyscraper. At night in August or September, watch the northern lights shimmer over the lake.
The dunes are a geological phenomenon unique to this shore, and a very spiritual experience as the region is steeped in American Indian lore.
The Northport airstrip is quiet, remote, and seldom has more than a few aircraft, even during the peak summer weekends! Camp right there, next to your airplane, and you'll fall asleep beneath brilliant stars.
For the less adventurous, the towns of Leland and Sutton's Bay offer charming restaurants and lodging.