Northern Wisconsin's Bayfield Peninsula, what fun!

We recently made our "rookie run" to Wisconsin's Lake Superior region, what's known as the southern shore. This was our first visit to this area of the state, and our first visual sighting of this gigantic lake. We traveled from Wausau and stayed overnight in Duluth, Minnesota. In between all we found was fascination. A lot of people have worked very hard to "bring new life to historical buildings." This is what made the visit fun.

April 10, 2007


We recently made our "rookie run" to Wisconsin's Lake Superior region. This was our first visit to this area of the state, and our first visual sighting of this gigantic lake.

It was winter, the weatherman was threatening a storm, so we high-tailed it "postie-hastey" from Wausau to Hurley, and did the same on the westward run to Ashland. Instead of continuing on US 2 to Superior and Duluth, we jumped over to Route 13 and went up through the Bayfield Peninsula toward the Apostle Islands, through Washburn, Bayfield, Cornucopia, Herbster and Port Wing. All of these towns are in Bayfield County.

Since this was our first visit, we kept moving just to get a feel for the area. This short visit told us one important thing: coming back is a must, as is deeper exploration.


Lake Superior's Wisconsin south shore.

We lucked out and had great weather. On this, our first trip, there were two things we found striking. First, of course, was that big lake. This editor is a Buffalo, New York, Lakes Erie and Ontario boy, so it was a thrill to see even a small portion of the "Big Guy," or, as translated from the Ojibwe (Chippewa) language, the "Big Water." The second thing to strike us during this ride from Ashland to Port Wing was the "neatness," the pleasing look of the many small shops and taverns and other establishments along the way. In an article entitled, "Snapshots of the South Shore Scene," by Sandra Hoth, she suggests, "South shore artists bring new life to historical buildings." We agree with that. She provides this good overview of the area we visited:

"Between the shoreline of Lake Superior and the vast forests of the Chequamegon National Forest lies the extraordinary area know as the South Shore of Lake Superior. Because it offers beauty and inspiration at every turn, artists have, for years, come to vacation here and have returned to live and work. The area, home to writers, musicians, visual and performing artists, offers to the visitor a wealth of cultural experiences.

"The South Shore boasts a rich and varied history. Early settlement by miners, lumberjacks, fishermen and farmers, left the South Shore many interesting turn-of-the-century structures associated with those endeavors. Area artists, seeing potential in these abandoned or unused buildings, have created inviting studio and display spaces. Travelers visiting these studios, shops, and galleries have the opportunity to enjoy original art created by local artists while slipping back in history to early days on Lake Superior’s South Shore."

We'll show you what we saw. The photos will certainly underscore what Ms. Hoth has written.


The City of Washburn is on the shore of Lake Superior's Chequamegon Bay. It was founded in 1883. Chequamegon Bay is known as the site of the first dwelling occupied by white men in what is now Wisconsin.


This is Woven Earth. They offer a wide range of fiber arts, ceramics, textiles, and jewelry from local and global artists. Furthermore, they try to help create sustainable communities by supporting their artists. While we're here, we'd like to give a plug to "Hair by Emma" which is just around the corner in the same building.


This is Hedgehog Treasures, owned by Teresa Wyman. It is a great place for women, specializing in vintage clothing, jewelry and linens, as well as sewing, crafts, and beads. It does a good business in neat rocks, such as crystal as well.


Superior Artists Gallery. This is a cooperative of local artists with art work ranging from stained glass, paintings and reproductions in oil, watercolor, acrylic, and mixed media; along with a variety of pottery, jewelry, soaps, baskets, fiber art, photography and original greeting cards.


This is the Langford Pharmacy. One supposes a pharmacy is a pharmacy, but we got a kick out of the fact that this pharmacy not only does the normal pharmaceutical business, but also sells wine. We peaked through the window to make sure they really did, and they do! Excuse me dear while I go to pick a prescription!


Good Thyme Bistro and Catering. Art is clearly a big thing in Washburn, and while you wine and dine at Good Thyme, you can also view local art on the walls. This is a top drawer restaurant.


Fire House Pizza, "The Chief's Number 1 Place." Now we're cookin'.


This is a mural painted by local art students on the side of the building housing Washburn Iron Works. This is a small company in town that is central to the town's future: it is basic industry that exports products and brings new dollars into the community. Indeed the community is assessing ways it can attract companies to piggyback off Iron Works products. Founded in 1976 by Otto Rusch, Washburn Iron Works started life producing Apostle Island barrel stove kits for area hardware store chains. It then established itself as a quality foundry with the capabilities to pour gray, or ductile irons ranging in weight from ounces up to 250#.


Bayfield is a small town, 2000 census 611 people, but it is a beauty, and is a first-class stopping point for visiting the Apostle Islands. There are 22 Apostle islands which form a protective barrier for this part of Wisconsin. The Apostle Island National Lakeshore includes 21 of these islands. Madeline Island is approachable by ferry, which you can catch at Bayfield. It has a population of about 100. The other islands are accessed by boat.


We approached Bayfield on Route 13 from the south. This next photo shows what we saw when, for our very first time, we rounded the curve several miles south-southwest of the city.



It was still winter, Lake Superior was still sort of frozen over, it was cold. The view coming in is breathtaking. On the first shot, you see a basin about two miles south of town, the host to Pike's Marina and Port Superior Marina. If you look carefully center and center-right, you can make out Lake Superior's southern shore. On the second photo, you see the Marinas a little better. We drove into see them once we got there.


This aerial shot was taken in 2007, provided to us by Pike's.

We drove down in there briefly and took these shots.




This is a first class, modern operation. Plenty of slips, each spacious, with many amenities, and floating docks. No boats were in the water when we visited. Many were in dry storage. There is a very nice looking set of condominiums overlooking the marina and the lake. As an old Chesapeake Bay boat driver, this was top drawer.

Let's drive into town.


This is Newago's Fish Market, closed for the season, but ready to go when the season opens. Oly's barber shop is attached. Newago's features fresh and smoked fish. Kathy and Alan Newago have been involved with commercial fishing in Lake Superior for over 20 years. Alan owns a fishing tug and has a crew to get the product. Alan's brother, David, owns the shop. Kathy makes specialty fish spreads.


In all honesty, we drove past this place, then hit the brakes, turned around and came back for a photo. The idea of a "Gourmet Garage" was just too intriguing. Its full name is Judy's Gourmet Garage. It features homemade pies, cakes, tortes, cheesecakes, cookies, breads, lefse and pasties, Scandinavian specialties, and wedding cakes.


This is a rather famous landmark and establishment, the Old Rittenhouse Inn, "Victorian lodging and dining." The Inn is comprised of five historic Bayfield homes: the Rittenhouse Inn, Le Chateau Boutin, the Rittenhouse Cottage, the Rittenhouse Inn's Retreat, and the Silvernail Guest House. Each is located within a few blocks of downtown Bayfield, Wisconsin and Lake Superior.


Bates Art Barn features the artwork of Mary Rice (watercolors), Karen Soderman (mixed media) and Steve Soderman (photography, collages and one-of-a-kind cards). You are invited to browse their collections as well as those of other local artists.


You're not going to miss Blue Horizons. This is a fantastic paint job. A terrific color. The left side houses the Inspire curiosity shop, while the right side is the Blue Horizon's cafe and catering service. The windows were painted over because they were remodeling for the new season. It will re-open under new ownership as "Burt & Francis." We have seen reports they have poured some marvelous cups of coffee here.


Roxanne's at Currie Bell. This is a gift shop. You can get a nice look through the window.


In the gee whiz category, the store is owned by Tom and Roxanne Frizzell. Tom graduated from Northland College of Ashland, Wisconsin, with a BS in biology, and later got a MS in physical education from UW-La Crosse. He was something of a jock at Northland, basketball, baseball and track, and was on three championship basketball teams. He once led conference scoring.


We only visited the Bayfield Harbor, a wonderful place.


This is a view of Bayfield Harbor from out on the city dock, looking back toward the town. This looked to us like the place from which the serious fishermen launch out when the weather improves. The Apostle's Island Marina is also located here. We have seen summer photos of this harbor and it hosts lots of different kinds of boats.


Here's a nice look at the town from the Bayfield Harbor city dock. We want to zoom in just for the heck of it.


That's postcard stuff.


Here's the entry to the Bay Harbor, or exit, depending on how you look at it. Hook a right to the south and then a left to the east and you can head out into the wide open lake waters.

We'd like to take a closer look at the boats that were at dockside when we were there. These are very interesting boats.


There's a nice web site operated by Harvey Hadland and Bob Mackreth about this kind of boat, "Fish Tugs of the Greatest Lake." We commend it to you. The Fish Tug is designed to operate in tough environmental conditions, which Lake Superior certainly offers. Hadland and Mackreth say "the Great Lakes fish tug is a form seen nowhere else." Indeed they remark that Bayfield is a great place to see this classic kind of boat. These boats were built in Bayfield for a long time, until the late 1940s.

These boats are more than a half century old. They are for commercial fishing. Their design evolves from the requirements they must meet. The crew can spend much of its time inside, away from the elements, there is a large hold for the fish, and little need for the crew to be on the deck. You'll note what's referred to as the "sprayhood" bow, covered. Earlier designs had this area open. Some pilothouses are mid-ship, especially on the earlier designs, but by the 1950s most boats were built with the pilothouses to the stern.

Cornucopia ("Corny" to the locals)

Cornucopia is located on Siskiwit Bay on the northern side of the Bayfield Peninsula. This is a fascinating place. It has just turned 100 years old. We wish we would have had more time to explore it.


Among the first things you spot entering the town on Rt 13 from the east is Cornucopia Public Harbor.


Just prior to the public harbor is a nice wayside view of Lake Superior on a March day in 2007. Once you pull into the public harbor area, you can park, and walk around to view the old buildings that people are turning into entrepreneurial ventures. They are really neat.


This is the Good Earth Shop. It was closed, and we couldn't see much through the windows. But we have learned that it features quality gifts, books and cards.


The building is most intriguing. This shot of the phone booth could be a video grab from a wide variety of movies.


Next door to the Good Earth Shop is another fascinating set of buildings. The one on the left is marked, "River's End," which we understand offers work by local artists, used items, and organic produce in season. The one to the right is marked, "What goes round." It offers quality used books, drawn from a shop in Bayfield. Both buildings abut the harbor. You can see part of a fish tug in dry storage behind "What goes round" on the right.


This is truly an intriguing building. There was no one around, so we had no way to ask what this was all about. We've labeled this "High Tech Central." He's got solar panels up there for juice, an anemometer on the tower to measure the wind velocity or pressure, and a row boat leaning against the side of the building.


Next in line is Sea Hag Gifts, which, among other things, sold art, Wisconsin cheese curds, gourmet coffee, pop and ice cream. Unfortunately there was a for sale sign on the building when we were there. We understand it featured the work of Nancy Raeburn and displays other artists and local antiques. Let's hope it still does.

If you were to round the corner here to the right, you would come on a harbor inlet, with a couple fish tugs berthed in all their splendor. The area had a Scandinavian look to it; Norwegian to be sure. Everything green belongs to Halvorson's Fresh Fish.


Here you see the fish tug "Jackie II." She's a beauty. You can see she is likely to be an older model with her pilothouse mid-ship. The large green building is Halvorson's Fisheries, offering fresh and smoked fish and local specialties such as whitefish livers and trout cheeks. Our guess is Jackie II, and her side-kick Cindy Marie, which we will show in a moment, work for the Fishery.


This is Cindy Marie, pilothouse to stern. These are magnificent boats. One of the things running through our minds in looking at these ladies up close was how brave and experienced their crews must be to take them out against the challenges of Lake Superior. Next time, we'll try to sweet-talk someone into letting us aboard to see what these gals look like down below.

As so often happens with our small "Wisconsin Central" operation, when we set out on our "get lost rides," we really don't know what we're going to see, and when we see it, we often don't exactly know what we're seeing and what we're missing. We almost never study the problem, but just grab the keys, the notebook, and camera while heading out the door to escape the feds! Such was the case here.

After doing some exploring on the internet, we sensed we had missed something here at the Cornucopia Harbor Park. We then went to an aerial view using our favorite,, and sure enough, we had only seen one portion of the harbor area. Take a look.


In retrospect, we believe the area we have been looking at is roughly marked by the red arrow. It turns out there are a total of three inlets in which to berth boats. Furthermore, the Siskiwit River flows into the harbor and the lake. And finally, we completely missed what looks like one each terrific bed and breakfast (B&B), The fo'c'sle. We'll borrow two photos from its web site to show the B&B and an oblique aerial photo of the entire area.


Cornucopia Harbor, presented by The fo'c'sle.


The fo'c'sle

It's also worth going into town. It's not a big place, but it too is neat.


As you come into town, you run into the Siskiwit Bay Coffee and Curiosities.


Then, music to any hungry stomach or thirsty tongue, "Fish Lipps" Lounge and Restaurant. The US Post Office is parked right next door, boasting it is Wisconsin's northernmost post office.


Look at the smacker on that fish!


Santa is still on guard at the door!

Herbster and Port Wing

Next on the road is Herbster. We must confess time was growing short, the day was coming to and end, and we could not spend much time in Herbster or the next town, Port Wing. But we did bang off a few shots which are worth seeing.


A beautiful view of Lake Superior from the Herbster area. The sun is out and the ice is melted. We are told that in this area you can see incredible storms approaching the lake from the Duluth area and the northern shore in Minnesota People have told us the sight is inspiring.


The Hoth-Lee Art Gallery in Port Wing occupies a former Swedish Mission Church building, which was built in 1922 and served a congregation until 1998. The building still has its American Gothic windows and, inside, a great presentation of local artistry. It will celebrate its 5th anniversary on June 19, 2007. That's worth a trip.


Across the street is Port Wing Pottery and Gallery. It used to be the Port Wing Catholic Church, built in 1857. It has been a gallery for about 15 years and just got a wood-fired kiln.

We'll be back when everything is open and we have more time to get "down and dirty."