Madeline Island

Madeline Island

Madeline Island is the biggest of the Apostle Islands, located in Wisconsin's Lake Superior. One can stroll the sandy beaches, unwind to the beat of the crashing surf, feel the air as it sweeps through the tall trees, immerse in the past, enjoy expertly cooked local meals with a side of lakefront views, shop the galleries, and feed one's creative side. Hiking, bicycling, kayaking, swimming, canoeing, golfing, napping, reading, shopping, and dining are just a few of the many activities available. Madeline Island has it all. 

Geography And Demographics Of Madeline Island 

Madeline island
Winter docks on Madeline Island in Northern Wisconsin on Lake Superior. Editorial credit: natmac stock /

Madeline Island is the biggest of the twenty-two Apostle Islands in Lake Superior, situated off Wisconsin's North Coast. It is the only Island with commercial development, measuring fourteen miles long and three miles broad. La Pointe, founded in 1834, is Madeline Island's only town, is located on the southern tip of the Island. To get to Madeline Island, take one of the four steel-hulled car/passenger ferries that run between Bayfield, Wisconsin, and the Island. The Town of LaPointe is a twenty-minute, 2.6-mile boat ride through the pristine seas. Not only is the boat voyage required to access the Island, but it is also a beautiful panoramic excursion on Lake Superior.

The year-round population of the Island is roughly 265 people, but it expands to between 2,500 and 3,000 people during the summer, many of them are relatives of early Island inhabitants who came to log, fish, and farm, while others came just to build a summer hideaway.


According to the Köppen climate classification, Madeline Island has a "Dfb" climate subtype (Warm Summer Continental Climate). The average annual temperature is 5.4°C, with August and January recording the highest (19.3°C) and lowest (-9.7°C) average temperatures, respectively. On average, Madeline Island sees 57 days of rain and gets 838.2mm of precipitation each year, with May, June, July, August, September, and October reporting the highest numbers. The average annual relative humidity is around 69%, with a wind speed of 12km/h.

Brief History Of Madeline Island

town of LaPointe on Madeline Island
The town of LaPointe on Madeline Island.

Madeleine Cadotte, daughter of Chief White Crane and wife of fur merchant Michael Cadotte, inspired the name of the Island. Before European contact, the Ojibwe (Chippewa) and other native people lived here for hundreds of years. A French adventurer named Etienne Brule visited Madeline Island at the same time the Pilgrims arrived at Plymouth Rock. Groseilliers and Radisson, two explorers/fur dealers, arrived at Chequamegon Bay around 1660. Jesuit Father Claude Allouez and Father Jacques Marquette came five years later. On Madeline Island, a mission was quickly built at LaPointe. It was a key foothold for French, British, and American fur traders for the following 150 years.

Lake Superior country was opened with the building of the locks at Sault St. Marie, Michigan, in 1855. All ferry boats, save those linking Bayfield and the Island, were eventually phased out due to the advent of rail and road networks. Ferries have been running here for a century and a half, with early sailing ferries eventually giving place to gas and diesel vessels that provide contemporary transit.

Attractions In Madeline Island

Sunrise at Town Beach, Madeline Island.
Sunrise at Town Beach, Madeline Island.

Madeline Island Heritage Center

The history of Madeline Island may be explored and experienced through the Madeline Island Historical Museum, which offers a complete overview of Island history. The Madeline Island Historical Preservation Association's Heritage Center on the outskirts of town houses numerous noteworthy, restored structures from the Island's history. For a better understanding of our past, visit the historic Old Fort monument near the end of Old Fort Road, the historic Indian Burial Grounds near the marina, and the historic Madeline Island memorial on Highway 13, just south of Bayfield, to mention a few.

Hiking Trails

Madeline Island provides many hiking routes as well as a flat area to cycle for outdoor enthusiasts. You may hire or bring your own bicycle, or you can ride a motorbike around the Island. Kayaking or canoeing at Big Bay Town Park might give a fresh experience or simply a different viewpoint for seasoned paddlers.

Big Bay Town Park and Big Bay State Park 

Big Bay Town Park and Big Bay State Park are located on the other side of the Island from the ferry dock. Biking or driving to the parks affords a magnificent perspective of the Island's interior as well as the option to travel between the parks on hiking paths or relax on one of the parks' many beaches. Take in the scenery, enjoy the sometimes-singing sand, cliff jump (with caution, of course), or dip your toe into Lake Superior.

Madeline Island Ferry Line

The Madeline Island Ferry Line connects the scenic communities of La Pointe and Bayfield. The 25-minute journey offers breathtaking views of the Lake and some of the 22 Apostle Islands. 

Madeline Island has some of the best restaurants, accommodation, and activities. Many exciting adventures can be had along the beaches of Lake Superior! It is absolutely a place to visit on your next island vacation in the United States.


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