When fall in the Apostle Islands begins you’ll be treated to the perfect weather for enjoying the outdoors. This season is perfect for any event that may interest you, it’s less busy than the summer or winter, and best of all, there are unique opportunities in the fall that don’t happen at any other time in the year. 

Local festivals and changing leaves make this a unique time to visit the islands and even as the seasons leads a transition to the winter months, you’ll still find gorgeous weather for just about any activity that would bring you to Northern Wisconsin.

Fall in the Apostle Islands

What to Expect for Weather

Beach in the Apostle Islands
Lake Superior beach in early fall

Fall in the Apostle Islands can be defined as the months of September, October, and November. During these months, the islands will begin to give way to the winter season. This makes fall one of the best times to visit the islands.

During the early fall months you’ll have a hard time discerning between summer and fall when it comes to the weather. You’ll be able to enjoy warm days and pleasant nights. As you get further into fall, it gets more pleasant as the cooler evenings begin to diminish the bugs. This makes hiking and camping more enjoyable.

Temperatures during the fall months will range consistently from highs in the ’70s to lows in the ’40s. As you get into October, the leaves will begin to change and with it you’ll see an influx of visitors to the area. Leaf peeping cruises are popular at this time of year.

Best Time to Visit During the Fall Season

It can be hard enough to narrow down what season to visit the Apostle Islands area, and that’s not to mention what month to come to visit. Thankfully, there are a few things for you to consider when planning when to begin your vacation. 

The first thing to keep in mind is the weather. The Wisconsin area has some pretty relaxing summers – it’s rare for the temperature to get above the ’80s even in the peak of summer. However, their winters get a bit more on the chilly side.

Knowing this, consider what temperatures you are used to at home – moreover, think about what temperatures you want to experience while vacationing. If you like more of a crisp night by the campfire, come later in the fall. But if you aren’t about the cold, then you should probably come earlier.

Another thing to consider is tourism seasons – the bulk of visitors to the area come in the winter and summer. If you’re looking to maximize your money, then the shoulder seasons of spring and fall will get you the best rates. If you want to see some of the sights that the winter months allow without braving the crowds, then come towards the end of fall. 

Arguably though, the best time to visit is October. The Bayfield Apple Festival is not to be missed. It is a must-see for anyone, no matter what entices you. Beyond that, the natural beauties of the area are heightened in October.

The leaves are mid-change, and no matter what weather you like, you’ll find time in the day to go out and enjoy the sights. Whenever you decide to visit though, make sure you save some time for other adventures you see along the way and don’t forget your camera. 

Apostle Islands Fall Highlights

Fall Colors

People come from all around the United States to see the color changes in the leaves along the shores of Lake Superior. It is one of the most beautiful places to leaf peep and when you combine it with a visit to Bayfield, the Apostle Islands, and the surrounding area, you can’t go wrong.

Due to the location of Wisconsin in the north and the unique weather patterns that Lake Superior brings to the area, the leaves tend to change much earlier in this area than they do in other parts of the country.

While the leaf-peeping season out east comes in late October, you’ll want to visit the Apostle Islands in early October to avoid missing the natural phenomenon.

Bayfield in the Fall

If you like to see the local culture, head over to Bayfield – it’s, located just a few miles from the Apostle Islands Shorefront. This may be one of the smaller towns in Wisconsin but it is full to the brim with charm and options for tourism. Here you can visit shops that sell everything from adventuring equipment for campers all the way to locally created goods.

Something you must do when visiting Bayfield is trying some of their delicious food. The town is special for its restaurants being able to serve up fresh fish from Lake Superior brought in by local fishing companies – not to mention other local delicacies as well. So whatever brings you to the area, make sure you come with an empty stomach. 

There are plenty of other things to entertain you while in Bayfield – from local museums all the way to performing arts – but there’s one thing that happens only in the fall that you don’t want to miss out on, and that’s the Bayfield Apple Festival!

Bayfield Apple Festival

Touted as one of Wisconsin’s premiere festivals, the Bayfield Apple Festival is a celebration of the fall harvest and Bayfield’s unique agricultural heritage. The festival lasts for three days, typically the first weekend in October, and offers attendees the opportunity to tour local orchards, wineries, shop from local artisans and gorge themselves from more than 60 local food booths.

If you are lucky enough to attend, you’ll be able to experience local artists, food vendors, fun competitions, a parade, musicians, and even a carnival. This is more than your average harvest festival – Bayfield goes above and beyond, and you’ll see everything they could possibly have to offer at the Apple Festival.

Multiple events on offer feature this red fruit including apple peeling, apple bobbing, and even the crowing of an Apple Queen. More than 50,000 people typically attend the Apple Festival annually and if you’re in town you won’t want to miss it.

Fall Hiking in the Apostle Islands

One of the biggest draws to the Apostle Islands is hiking. There are a handful of expansive hiking trails that snake along the woods and shoreline of the area and hiking them in the fall can be pleasant and mild.

In the early months of fall, you’ll still be able to book shuttles to do some hiking on the outer islands but this will generally cease by mid-October. But that won’t leave you without options to hike on Madeline Island and the mainland.

The hiking trails in Big Bay Town Park and Big Bay State Park on Madeline Island offer fantastic fall options. The Lakeshore Trail on the Mainland is also very popular.

If you like to keep moving while on vacation, make sure to go give some of these a shot and maybe even pack a snack to enjoy as you look out on Lake Superior from some of the vantage points.

Fall Boat Tours

If you want to spend some time on Lake Superior itself, then you won’t be remiss. Grab a ticket for a boat tour of the shorefront and the Apostle Islands. Here you can see the caves and sandstone structured by the weathering effects of the lake’s waters and learn about the area from local guides.

These are also the last few months you’ll be able to book boat tours of the Apostle Islands as the tours typically cease to operate in mid-October. If you find that you have arrived after the boat tours are done for the season, you’ll likely still be able to take the ferry to Madeline Island and enjoy the likes of Big Bay State Park as an alternative.

Kayaking in the Fall

If you want a more hands-on approach, consider renting a kayak and get up close to some of the islands and other great sights along the water. This is the last chance for your to get on the water and see the sea caves before winter blows in and ends the activity again until spring.

Early fall is a very optimal time for kayaking as you’ll still have warm summer like weather but beware of strong fall storms and water temperature drops later in the fall season.

Fall Camping

The Apostle Islands area is common for campers of all varieties to venture to and during the fall months is no exception. No matter how you like to camp – from luxury RVs all the way to the bare minimum roughing of it in the wilderness, there are places for you to experience the camping of your choice. 

Apart from a series of camping sites around the area that are perfect for you to hook up an RV or pitch a tent, there are also some more unique lodging options that will make the nights of your vacation just as interesting as the days. 

If you want something similar to camping, then how about staying in a yurt for the night? These small, circular, tent-like structures are a unique experience for those who like simple living. Don’t worry though, they are still well furnished and even have a nice comfy outdoor seating area with a fire pit. 

The various campgrounds on the mainland, Bayfield area, and Madeline Island remain open in early fall but begin to close down for the season around mid-October. Keep this in mind if you’re planning a late fall adventure to the area.

Fall Lodging Options

If you don’t want to risk the chill of some of those late fall evenings, then there are a few options that verge even on the luxurious. One such option is the series of cabins in the area that are up to rent for a few evenings. These are well maintained and furnished, making them great for families who want to be close to nature without all the hassle. 

There are a few resorts settled in the hills near Lake Superior proper as well. Make sure to check these out for not only a soft bed, but some great food and other luxuries they have to offer.

On top of these options, there are even more unique places to rent for the night and plenty of BnB’s and vacation rentals that will make your experiences in the area all that more special.

If you want a more birds-eye view, arguably the most unique of the lodging options are a series of treehouses you can spend the night at. These are settled in the woods near Lake Superior, and they balance some amazing natural views with some of the comforts you’d find in a modern hotel room.

Our Favorite Apostle Islands Fall Activities:

  • Attend the Bayfield Apple Festival
  • Get in some fall camping
  • Hiking the Trails
  • Kayaking the sea caves
  • Boat cruises

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