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Camping at Big Bay State Park

Big Bay State Park is on Madeline Island, which is part of the Apostle Island archipelago. The “Big Bay” referred to in the title is Lake Superior, which accounts for 10% of the world’s supply of fresh water. 

When it’s time to go camping, this park has an attractive amount of waterfront excitement. You may even be able to throw a rock from your tent into a body of water which ends in another country (Ok, maybe not…). 

Too much of life is spent indoors being sedentary. The outdoors calls you to get in touch with your active self. What better place is there to do so than America’s biggest lake? 

Check Out Our Picks For The 30 Best Places To Go Camping in Wisconsin.

Why Visit?

Spring at Big Bat State Park, WI
Spring at Big Bat State Park, WI

The location has a high volume of migratory birds doing a flyover for your viewing enjoyment. You might have to take wing yourself to get there, as the Madeline Island is only accessible by sea and air. This is part of the park’s charm, because when you find yourself in a place where cars can’t go without help then you know you have succeeded in getting in to nature. 

Separate yourself from the hustle and bustle. Get up close and personal with a Canadian goose. Explore a sea cave. Bring the whole family and make a fresh, healthy memory at Big Bay State Park. 



Seven miles of scenic hiking is available to you here. Overlooking the lagoon’s eastern side is an observation deck from which you can enjoy spotting some of 240 native birds. The DNR has a checklist that has a list of them for you to mark off. Some of the species labeled as “uncommon” include the bank swallow, the peregrine falcon, and the bald eagle. If you get checks for these rare fellows, you know your bird-watching skills are beyond reproach. 


Enjoy a mile and a half of beach from which to check off swimming in the largest Great Lake from your bucket list. You will be swimming in the largest freshwater lake by area in the entire world. Somewhere beneath your toes will lay the remains of French warships, as well as the vessel immortalized in Gordon Lightfoot’s ballad “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.” A beach wheelchair is lent out by the park so that everyone can join in the beach fun. 


Small mouth bass, lake trout, and several species of salmon are just some of the fish to be caught in Lake Superior. The lake is big enough to contain all of the other great lakes combined, which means it has plenty of room for its 34 native species. You might run in to a lake sturgeon, which is a species that can get to weigh 300 pounds. This fish is edible, so catching one could be enough to feed many of your fellow campers. 


Although there aren’t any boat launches in the park, you can rent kayaks nearby. If the at-times hazardous waters of the lake seem like too much, you can float securely in the lagoon. Also, Madeline Island has sea caves for your viewing interest. They were formed by the water, ice, and wind carving the sandstone, resulting in picturesque features for you to explore. 


If hunting for buck is your game, you can use your firearm or bow and arrows to go after the big one, according to the season. Other game to pursue include turkey and bear. The trapping of furbearers is also permissible. Bear hunting, however, is almost assuredly the best story you could bring back to amaze your friends about your time at Big Bay State Park. 


Cross-country skiing is a great way to burn some extra calories and relieve stress. Also, it’s a good excuse for a little social bonding with friends and loved-ones. People can also be found snow-shoeing around the park when the thermometer drops. 

La Pointe:

Winter road at La Pointe on Madeline Island
Winter road at La Pointe on Madeline Island.

An easy bike ride away from the park takes you to the quaint town of La Pointe, with a population scarcely over 300. Stop by Cafe Seiche to try some local fare. Mission Hill Coffee House can give you the caffeine you need to get back to enjoying nature’s splendor with verve. Lori’s Store can supply you with any of the essentials which you may have forgotten to pack. 

Camping features

Shoreline on the Apostle Islands
Shoreline on the Apostle Islands

There are 15 sites with electricity and seven walk-in sites available. In total, there are 60 sites. Flush toilets and showers are only a walk in the park away. Most of the sites are able to be reserved if you call ahead. 

The sites are within walking distance of the beach, where naturalist programs are also featured. Drinking water and restrooms are available at the picnic area. If you find yourself in need of firewood, the park can sell you some. 

Gear to consider bringing

Sleeping bag:

Did you have a favorite comfort blanket that you loved to carry around with you as a child? Now you have the chance to recapture that feeling of security, but with the purchasing power of an adult. 

You can consider the temperature range, shape, and material of the bag for you. Also, maybe you want one with pockets or a built-in pillow. Who knew sleeping bags could be so much fun? 


This is going to be your main line of defense standing between you and the elements during your adventure at Big Bay State Park. How many people are you going to be fitting in there? Perhaps you should consider buying bigger just in case one of the kids has a nightmare and has to join you from the kids’ tent.

Think about how long you are planning on carrying it. Is it just in and out of the car, or do you think you might be hiking with it on your back while you trek to a site? This will determine how heavy you are willing to have the tent be.

A grill:

Camping is an iconic and time-honored recreational activity, but so is grilling. Why not combine the two? One thing that paddling all over an enormous lake will do is work up a healthy appetite. 

You can plan if you want to use propane or charcoal. How much grilling area do you need to feed all the troops in a timely manner? You can even get a grill that dangles over your open fire. This method is tricky but makes for a smoky flavor. 

Solar power:

Perhaps you didn’t know it, but it is both possible and affordable to bring the means to harness the power of the sun with you on your camping trip to Big Bay State Park. Even though you are trying to escape the hassles of modern life, it is still handy to be able to charge up your phone from the campsite (you know… for emergencies). 

Solar power is quiet so you don’t have to worry about scaring the fish away. There are different sizes, durabilities, and power levels to choose from. 

Big Bay State Park Campground

The birds, lake breezes, and island culture of Madeline Island are waiting to reenergize your love of nature. The only thing missing from the picture now is you. Make reservations for your campsite by visiting the Big Bay State Park website or calling 888-947-2757.