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The Apostle Islands Ice Caves: Directions & What to See

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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 North America’s largest inland freshwater caves, 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

The Apostle Islands Ice Caves
Credit: Josh Brown

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

The islands, which are typically 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 a chance! Visiting on the weekends can sometimes be difficult because of the popularity of the ice caves right now.


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 Bayfield, Wisconsin, or Madeline Island, Wisconsin. There are several tour companies that offer boat tours to the caves, but if you have your 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 and well worth visiting! 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 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 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.

See Related: Places to Visit in Wisconsin

How Do You Visit the Ice Caves?

IceCaves1 The Apostle Islands Ice Caves
Credit: Josh Brown

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 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!

See Related: Best Pink Lakes In the World

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


Sea caves are accessible all year round, whereas 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, too.

Can I Bring My Pet?

Pets are not allowed on the sea caves tour.

Are There Bathrooms or Food Nearby?

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

Conditions at the Apostle Islands Mainland Caves


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 the Apostle Islands. It’s a one-mile trek over the ice. The weather is always dangerous, even when Northern Wisconsin is at its cold and windy 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 necessary, as are 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 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 in the snow can be very painful. For stability, boots, ice cleats, or skis are required. The terrain can be quite uneven, so bring a comfortable set of boots and plenty of layers to put on or take off as needed!

If there is significant snowfall before you arrive, you can use snowshoes for a smoother walk. 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 also wish to take overland gear with you if you expect to spend much time exploring the ice caves. For many, 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!

Inside the Apostle Islands Ice Caves

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 was one of the most impressive years for formations in the ice caves ever seen.

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

Officials recommend daytime trips to the ice caves because of the dangers of the night, such as the bitter cold, but night adventures can happen. You can bring your dog on the trip, but can’t climb on the ice! And don’t worry if you hear something like a shotgun blast while on the lake. It’s not hunters… it’s the ice shifting underneath your feet!

Ice Caves Lead

Final Thoughts

One thing is certain: this is an adventure you won’t want to miss! Pack your sense of adventure because visiting the Apostle Islands’ sea caves is definitely an expedition. However, with careful planning and following these directions to the sea caves, you can experience this natural wonder.

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 prepare for an expedition! You’ll be able to experience this natural wonder with careful planning. Be sure to follow these directions to visit the ice caves successfully.

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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 questions about visiting Apostle Islands Park and seeing Sea Caves during your Bayfield or Madeline Island stay, 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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