Come for the smoked whitefish, stay for the beautiful beaches
By MORDECAI SPECKTOR
The historical marker on Madeline Island informs visitors that the largest of the Apostle Islands, located in the west of Lake Superior, was known to its Ojibwe inhabitants as Moningwunakauning, the Home of the Golden-Breasted Woodpecker. A short ferry ride from Bayfield, Wisc., Madeline Island is a forested gem in the North Country.
Families looking for an idyllic getaway, with myriad scenic and cultural attractions, should consider a visit to Bayfield and the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore. We did recently and agreed that it was a pleasurable few days away from the urban clamor.
- A view of Bayfield from the Madeline Island Ferry. The Bayfield Inn is on the left. (Photo: Mordecai Specktor)
Bayfield is about a four-hour drive from the Twin Cities. My wife, Maj-Britt, and son, Isaac, 15, and I kicked off our expedition to Wisconsin with a picnic lunch at a canoe landing on the Namekagon River on our way north.
For first-time visitors to this neck of the Wisconsin woods, a stop at the Northern Great Lakes Visitor Center, two miles west of Ashland at County Hwy. G and U.S. Hwy. 2, (715-685-9983), will orient you to the people and lore of the region. The kids in the car might gripe and groan about visiting a museum; but it’s the job of parents to rip the ear buds out of their little heads and pour in some history and culture.
After your arrival in Bayfield (when the picnic lunch has stopped repeating on you), you’ll probably want some smoked fish. There are a number of sources, including Bodin Fisheries (208 Wilson Ave., 715-779-3301 •Â firstname.lastname@example.org). We’re still working on some delicious pieces of smoked Lake Superior trout and whitefish.
Our home away from home in Bayfield, a relaxed tourist town, which is popular with the boating crowd and landlubbers, was the Bayfield Inn (800-382-0995 • email@example.com). The property, which offers rooms, suites and guesthouses, is located in downtown Bayfield and next to the city pier. Our room, with a king bed and a rollaway for Isaac, was clean and spacious. A rooftop deck overlooking the lake was the perfect spot to enjoy a beverage.
We wanted to get on the water, of course, and a great way to see some of the Apostles (there are 22 islands) is on a cruise from the Apostle Islands Cruise Service (715-779-3925). There are cruises leaving several times a day during the summer; we took the two-hour Islander Lighthouse Cruise on a warm sunny afternoon. The ship’s captain provided an amusing and informative narration.
- The restored Raspberry Island lighthouse is one of eight historic lighthouses in the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore. (Photo: Mordecai Specktor)
Music fans should know that top-flight acts perform in the Lake Superior Big Top Chatauqua (888-244-8368). The 900-seat canvas tent played host to Joan Baez when we were in town; unfortunately, that show was sold out. We saw the “Wild Woods and Waters” show, featuring the accomplished house band, the Blue Canvas Orchestra.
A few miles north of Bayfield, a traveler leaves the United States and enters the land of the Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa. If you’re feeling lucky, or just want to contribute something to the tribal coffers, you can gamble at the modest Isle Vista Casino at Red Cliff.
Just north of the reservation is one of our favorite beaches, Little Sand Bay, which is a favored landing for sea kayakers. On a warm day the cold waters of Lake Superior are refreshing. There is also a National Park Service station, and the friendly ranger on duty will show you a 20-minute video about the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore.
When you’ve had enough of shopping, eating and drinking in Bayfield, hop on the ferry for Madeline Island. Actually, we drove onto the ferry and stayed overnight at The Inn on Madeline Island, an upscale place that offers all the comforts of home (and some comforts you might not have in your home).
The proprietor of the Bayfield Inn, Ron Madich, knew that I was from the Jewish newspaper in the Cities, and mentioned that I should see his friend, Alan Fischlowitz, the proprietor of the premier resort property on Madeline Island. So, we met with Alan and his wife, Beth, at their beautifully restored home on the island. The Fischlowitzes run the Brittany Cottages (715-747-5023), five cottages and a new “special occasion” suite, which are set amid immaculately tended gardens above the shore of Lake Superior. The resort dates back to 1913 and was recently listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Alan Fischlowitz, a native of St. Louis, came to Minneapolis in 1966, to work as a Honeywell engineer. He said that he likes to develop and restore “old, historic buildings,” and built the Nicollet Island Inn in 1982. He spent five years winterizing his home and the Brittany Cottages; he and his wife are year-round Madeline Island residents.
While enjoying a drink and the ambiance one evening at Tom’s Burned Down Café, a unique establishment in LaPointe, the island’s town, we ran into a friend who was camping with a Minneapolis school group at Big Bay State Park (715-747-6425). There is a nice beach at Big Bay, or you avoid the fee and dip your toes in the lake at Big Bay Town Park; the beach and a boardwalk connect the two parks.
Bayfield, the Apostles and Madeline Island — there’s still summer fun to be had; then the leaves turn in nature’s big fall color show. And don’t forget the smoked whitefish.
The American Jewish World thanks the Bayfield Inn, which provided accommodations and help with this story. Also providing assistance were Bayfield County Tourism and Recreation, the Bayfield Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Bureau, the Madeline Island Chamber of Commerce, the Wisconsin Department of Tourism, and David Fantle of the Greater Milwaukee Convention and Visitors Bureau.