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Visit The Apostle Islands Ice Caves: Directions & What to See

Visit The Apostle Islands Ice Caves: Directions & What to See

The Apostle Islands National Lakeshore is located on the northern edge of Lake Superior in Wisconsin. They offer visitors a wide range of activities for all seasons: hiking, biking, fishing, and boating in summer; snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, and ice climbing in winter. The islands also have one of the largest inland freshwater caves in North America called the Sea Caves.

Visiting the Apostle Islands in winter is important for people who want to experience something new during those cold bitter winter days in the Midwest. You can also see the water from the lake in the mainland ice caves

About Apostle Islands Ice Caves

Every so often, Lake Superior manages to freeze over hard enough for people to trek out onto the lake itself and walk over to the Apostle Islands ice caves.

The islands, which are normally only accessible by boat, have a fantastic cave system that, in winter, creates incredible ice stalactites that would definitely poke your eye out if given the chance!

The Apostle Islands Ice Caves
Credit: Josh Brown

Visiting on the weekends can sometimes be difficult because of the popularity of the ice caves right now.

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Parking is free but limited. For $2, you can access a shuttle that will take you there and pick you up at pre-scheduled times. For more information about getting there or accessing the shuttle, you can visit Bayfield’s website about the ice caves.

Directions to Wisconsin’s Apostle Islands Ice Caves

The mainland ice caves are only accessible by water and can be reached from the town of Bayfield, Wisconsin, or Madeline Island, Wisconsin.

There are several tour companies that offer boat tours to the caves, but if you have your own boat, there is a channel called “Iceberg Alley” that leads to the Sea Caves. The channel is open from January to March when the ice is thick enough to support boats.

The Sea Caves are a beautiful sight to see and well worth the visit! To get there, follow these directions:

  • From Bayfield, take Wisconsin Highway 13 north for about 8 miles until you reach the intersection with County Road H. Turn left onto County Road H and drive for about 2 miles until you reach the marina on the right. Park in the lot and walk down to the dock to catch your tour boat.
  • From Madeline Island, take Wisconsin Highway 13 south for about 8 miles until you reach the intersection with County Road H. Turn right onto County Road H and drive for about 2 miles until you reach the marina on the right. Park in the lot and walk down to the dock to catch your tour boat.

Since winter is still cold in Northern Wisconsin, a visit to Bayfield and the ice caves before spring sets in could be the perfect weekend trip to see one of our favorite Apostle Islands attractions.

How Do You Visit the Ice Caves?

A weekend trip is the best way to make a trip to the ice caves happen. The closest town is Bayfield and motel rooms book up fast in this small Northern Wisconsin town. You may wish to consider staying an hour or two away from Bayfield to maximize your opportunities to find room and board.

This year is the first time they’ve been accessible by foot since 2009, and since winter is still cold in Northern Wisconsin, a visit to Bayfield and the ice caves before spring sets in could be the perfect weekend trip for an unusual tourist attraction!

IceCaves1 The Apostle Islands Ice Caves
Credit: Josh Brown

See Related: 10 Best Pink Lakes In the World

What’s the Difference between Visiting Sea Caves and Ice Caves?

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Sea caves are accessible all year round, whereas the ice caves are only accessible for a few months out of the year.

What Should I Bring on my Visit?

Warm clothes, water-resistant shoes, a headlamp, and snacks are all essential items toa

Can I Bring My Pet?

Pets are not allowed on the sea caves tour.

Are There Bathrooms or Food Nearby?

There are no bathrooms available on the sea caves tour, and the nearest food is located in Bayfield.

Conditions at the Apostle Islands Mainland Caves

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If the weather is right, the Ice Cave is generally only accessible until February/March. Vendors are not permitted to charge an extra fee for visits to the ice caves at the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore.

Visitors should go to It’s a one-mile trek up over the ice to get to the Apostle Islands. The weather is always dangerous, even when Northern Wisconsin is at its cold and blustery best because it’s lake ice.

Beginning at Meyers Beach, you’ll be hiking 2 miles into an extensive cave system so gloves and a hat are a must, as is sturdy footwear such as ice cleats. Make sure to layer your clothing because you will be active while outdoors.

The sea caves may be closed at any time due to weather conditions. Cave visitor safety is the first priority. During the colder months, the mainland ice caves are only accessible by boat tour

What to Bring to the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore in Winter

Get the latest weather information at 715-7793317 or visit the Apostle Island National Lakeshore website. A journey on snow can become very painful. For stability, boots, ice cleats, or skis are required.

The terrain can be quite uneven, so be sure to bring a comfortable set of boots and plenty of layers so that you can put them on or take them off as needed!

If significant snowfalls before you arrive you can use snowshoes to get a smoother walk. Make sure to stay covered – in good clothing and drink – for hours at the beach during the day.

The cave is accessible via Meyers Road, four miles north of Cornugalis, Wisconsin. The trip to Duluth takes 90 minutes. It’s about three hours from downtown Minneapolis.

Keep in mind that there are no facilities available for this hike once it has begun. You may wish to take overland gear with you as well if you expect to spend a lot of time exploring the ice caves. For many people, the average trip will take about 3 hours to hike out, hike back, and explore the caves.

See Related: The Ultimate Ice Hotel Experience

Yes, The Great Lakes Can Freeze!

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Nearly 35,000 people have taken this journey since the National Park Service called the journey a “low risk” endeavor. According to various news reports, rangers have never seen the ice caves so popular, but that’s likely because of the massive polar vortex that covered most of the nation in an icy blanket not once, but twice this winter.

Because of the massive cold and accompanying precipitation that the vortex brought, 2014 is one of the most impressive years for formations in the ice caves that has ever been seen.

Because the ice caves are part of the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, there are rangers available for emergencies, but no set hours where a visit must take place.

Officials recommend daytime trips to the ice caves because of the dangers that the night can present, such as the bitter cold, but night adventures can happen. Best of all, you can bring your dog with you on the trip… but you can’t climb on the ice!

And don’t worry if you hear something that sounds like a shotgun blast while you’re out there on the lake. It’s not hunters… it’s the ice shifting underneath your feet!

With over 2 feet of ice covering the lake right now, your worries aren’t going to be about falling into the lake. It’ll be that you’ve got enough time to explore all of the magnificent ice formations at the Apostle Islands!
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Final Thoughts

One thing is for certain… this is an adventure you’re not going to want to miss! Pack your sense of adventure, because visiting the Apostle Islands’ sea caves is definitely an expedition. However, with some careful planning and following these directions to the sea caves, you’ll be able to experience this natural wonder for yourself.

Now that you’ve been given a few insights into how the Apostle Islands’ sea caves work, it’s time to pack your sense of adventure and get ready for an expedition! You’ll be able to experience this natural wonder with careful planning. Be sure to follow these directions in order to visit the ice caves successfully.

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FAQ

When was the last time the Apostle Island ice caves were open?

The cave was opened in 2014 and 2015.

Which of the Apostle Islands have sea caves?

The locations include Devil Island, Meyers Beach, Sand Island, Romans Island – Isle of Hope – Houghton Point, Chequamegon Bay, and the South Bay.
If you need more information or have any questions about visiting Apostle Islands Park and seeing Sea Caves during your stay at Bayfield or Madeline Island contact their Visitor Center.

How do I get to the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore Sea Caves?

The cave is located in the Meyer’s Beach area in the mainland Units park in northern Bayfield County. The park has paved parking spaces and steps to the beach/ice at the end of Meyer Street. Meyers Beach is located 18 miles east of Bayfield.

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