There’s the iconic northwoods of Wisconsin… and then there’s Bayfield, even farther north than that. With no stops, the drive is just over six hours from Milwaukee and comes with a ton of scenic views. My mom and I recently made the trek “north of Up North” and clocked over 800 miles of driving in just 56 hours! Whether you have a day, week, or more to explore, I hope that my summer road trip from Milwaukee to Bayfield will help guide your own adventure. If you have a tight budget for travel right now, here are some tips to help you explore more for less.
Where to Stay in Bayfield
I discovered the Seagull Bay Motel through Instagram and am so glad to have stumbled upon it! The motel is owned by the Carrier family, who purchased it in 2017, and is truly their heart and soul. I love supporting other peoples’ lifework and enjoyed a wonderful stay. The rooms are adorable and the views of Lake Superior are simply breathtaking.
Where to Eat in Bayfield
We enjoyed a great breakfast at the Manypenny Bistro on our first morning in town. The restaurant is family owned and operated by locals who love their Bayfield home. The food was great and the turnaround time was quick, which made it easy to visit before our boat tour. I loved the #PursuitOfCoziness vibes in the design of this classic American diner!
For lunch or dinner, you’ll want to stop at Maggie’s. Finding it amongst the buildings in downtown Bayfield is pretty easy thanks to its colorful exterior! The same cheery vibes (and a lot of flamingos) can be found inside.
Things to Do in Bayfield
This lakeside town is all about boating, so prepare to spend time on the water if you want to make the most of your stay. We let the folks at Apostle Islands Cruises give us the Grand Tour of the famous Apostle Islands National Lakeshore. I highly recommend taking one of their tours to see the islands up close and learn about their unique histories.
Though there are 22 Apostle Islands, only 21 of them are classified as a National Lakeshore. The outcast, Madeline Island, is home to a town with over 200 residents, as well as restaurants, shops, and a state park. We took the Madeline Island Ferry Line over to La Pointe, then hiked at Big Bay State Park and took in the beauty of the Lake Superior coastline.
Tips for a Road Trip from Milwaukee to Bayfield
Take a different route each way!
We drove up via Highway 51 and Highway 2, which took us through beautiful lake towns, desolate forestland, and along the Lake Superior shoreline, and came home via Highway 13 with a pit stop at Timm’s Hill County Park! Timm’s Hill is the highest natural point in Wisconsin.
Pack for diverse weather conditions!
Coastal weather can vary drastically and change rapidly, so be sure to dress in layers. Rain, wind, and sun all made an appearance throughout the course of our boat tour.
Prioritize your hikes!
There were so many state parks and hiking trails nearby! We didn’t have time to visit them all, so we had to prioritize. We decided to visit Big Bay State Park because it is more difficult to get to compared to nearby parks on the mainland and would thus limit our opportunities to visit again.