Largest of the Apostle Islands
Madeline Island, the largest of the Apostle Islands and the only one not included in the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, is 2.5 miles across the channel from Bayfield. In spring, summer and fall it is accessible via the Madeline Island Ferry Line or private watercraft. In the wintertime, when the lake is frozen, visitors and local alike use the Ice Road to drive back and forth. The Ice Road uses a similar route as the ferry, but instead of gliding over open water, travelers navigate their own vehicle over the frozen Lake Superior.
Visitors from Bayfield can walk, take a bike or drive their vehicles aboard the Madeline Island Ferry Line for a visit to Madeline Island. In the summer months, the ferry leaves every 30 minutes during the day and the trip takes about 25 minutes one way.
Upon arriving on Madeline Islands, visitors are be welcomed to the historic town of La Pointe, with a year-round population of about 250. Boasting shops, restaurants, lodging and a marina, La Pointe also features a Wisconsin Historical Society museum and a golf course designed by Robert Trent Jones Sr. For those interested in the outdoors, Madeline Island offers Big Bay State Park and Big Bay Town Park, each with its own campground, swimming beach and hiking trails.
Madeline Island is the spiritual center of the Lake Superior Chippewa, the Anishinaabe people. According to Anishinaabe history, the people were led there by Glitch Manitou, the Great Spirit, who told them to seek the place where food grows upon the water. Their travels led them to nearby Chequamegon Bay, where they discovered wild rice rice beds, the place where food grows upon the water. Madeline Island is named for Madeleine Cadotte, also known as Ikwesewe, the daughter of the Ojibwe chief White Crane. Ikwesewe was married to Michael Cadotte, a prominent fur trader and head of the trading post in the early 1800’s, which at that time was managed by John Jacob Astor’s American Fur Company.
The Anishinaabe name for Madeline Island is Mooningwanekaaning, which means Home of the Golden Breasted Woodpecker. Public signage on Madeline Island is bilingual, with place names written in both English and Anishinaabe.