Tips for a Weekend Trip to Bayfield, Wisconsin

This Lake Superior harbor community is already blooming with flowers and activity

Kayaking in Bayfield, WI.
Living Adventure Kayak Tours

photo by Gail Green/Owner: Living Adventure Inc.

OK, it’s a smidge early to set out toward Bayfield, Wisconsin. But turn that key and go.

By sidestepping the summer crowds arriving for kayaking, performing arts at Big Top Chautauqua, and berry-picking, you might hit spring’s sweet spot. It’s a magical week or two when bridal-white blooms fill orchards, and ditches erupt in spiky purple and rosy lupine. It’s an enticing coastal getaway for romantics itching for a road trip.

Wisconsin’s Highway 13 follows Lake Superior’s southern shore northeast from Duluth, cutting across a peninsula and dipping into this harbor town.

A smattering of shops and restaurants are open year-round, most along Rittenhouse Avenue, within three blocks of the marina.

Bay Front Inn provides a front-row Great Lake view of the sunrise featuring Madeline Island on the horizon and breezes jostling the sailboats.

Fuel up at Kickapoo Coffee’s airy cafe, or the Manypenny Bistro, for wild-rice pancakes, eggs Benedict with crab cakes, or a ham-cheese-and-egg sandwich on cranberry walnut bread.

Nearby, Apostle Islands Booksellers provides tales of life on the islands and maps for charting adventures, and you might catch artists in action at shops such as Stone’s Throw, Bayfield Artists Guild, and Eckels Pottery, which bring together paintings, bowls, blown glass, jewelry, and wearable art often inspired by the regional landscape.

By mid-May, sight-seeing cruises and museums start humming. More than 50,000 daffodils and other flowers open during the month-long Bayfield in Bloom that kicks off with a garden expo and plant sales the weekend of May 11.

Lake Superior regulates temperatures and buffers late-spring frosts on the peninsula. Farms take advantage of this to grow not only apples and berries but also cherries, pears, and peaches, which make their way onto local menus and into pies.

Pick up blueberry jam at Blue Vista Farm, cider doughnuts at Erickson Orchard & Country Store, sparkling hard cider and apple brats at Bayfield Apple Company, and The Wineries on Betzold Road samples and spring perennials at Hauser’s Superior View Farm.

Just beware of the Great Lake’s moodier nature. Even the gentlest day can turn with a blast of lingering winter chill or spring rain. Be flexible.

The Apostle Islands National Lakeshore visitors center, in the former Bayfield County Courthouse brownstone, opens in May and provides advice for beaches, trails, sea caves, and 21 nearby islands.

On a day for the indoors, devour Lake Superior’s fresh catches. There’s a Friday fish fry at Pier Plaza Restaurant; sautéed whitefish livers and smoked trout dip at Maggie’s, with its eclectic beach decor; and whitefish served cedar-planked or parmesan-crusted at the harbor-front Bayfield Inn.

Eat, Play, Stay

Bayfield has more than a dozen fruit farms, mostly along County Road J and within 15-20 minutes of downtown. Among the standouts: Blue Vista for blueberries, Sunset Valley Orchard, and the aptly named Hauser’s Superior View Farm, perched 600 feet above Lake Superior.

If you’re anything short of an expert sea kayaker, look for a guide service such as Living Adventure for half-day tours or outfitted overnight trips to the Apostle Islands.

The Bayfield area offers  700-plus guest rooms, many of which are guest homes, condos, or inns. Old Rittenhouse Inn, Bayfield’s first bed and breakfast, provides Victorian charm, a graceful porch, and an elegant restaurant. Bayfield Inn has 21 rooms along the harbor and more than 40 vacation rentals. Legendary Waters Resort and Casino overlooks the lake three miles north of Bayfield.