Northern Wisconsin’s Apostle Islands National Lakeshore

We spent the first 30+ years of our lives in East Central Wisconsin but never made it up to the northern border along Lake Superior where you’ll find Apostle Islands National Lakeshore. It’s a shame, because the city of Bayfield, which is the main gateway to the islands, is super cute and the lakeshore is beautiful.

Fun Fact: At 487 residents (as of the 2010 census), Bayfield is the smallest official city in Wisconsin. For a new city to be incorporated today, state regulations require a population of at least 1,000 residents, so Bayfield would be considered a village with those parameters. But don’t let the smallness scare you — the city has some great food and retail options, and of course, outdoor recreation.

As we had spent the previous three nights dry camping, we wanted to have full hookups for a few days while we were in Bayfield. There are not a lot of options in this area, so we were fortunate to get two different sites for two nights each at Apostle Islands Area Campground. The first two nights were in a full hookup site and the second two nights were in a water and electric site.

Apostle Islands Area Campground

85150 Trailer Court Rd, Bayfield, WI 54814

www.aiacamping.com

  • Partial and Full Hookups Sites
  • Tent Sites
  • Cabins
  • Camper for Rent
  • Laundry
  • Restrooms
  • Pay Showers
  • Fire Ring
  • Picnic Table
  • Dump Station
  • Camp Store
  • WiFI
  • Playground
  • Boat/Trailer Parking

Navigating through the campground could end up being a little awkward due to the fact the streets are really only wide enough for one-way traffic, but two-way travel is allowed on most of them. Luckily, we never encountered an issue, but there were traffic jams near the dump station at times because of its location right on the side of a main thoroughfare. Our first site was #27, which was a full hookup (30 amp) site. It was an easy back in until we noticed after we had put the jack down and unhitched that we needed to back up about another foot in order to reach the water hookup that was in a really awkward spot. As a matter of fact, the electric hookup was in a very weird spot at this site as well, and we noticed this was a common occurrence at the full hookup sites in this section of the campground. After hitching up again, putting the jack up, and backing up another foot, we were good to go with all of our hookups. Kind of. Our sewer hose decided to fall apart on us and were worried we were going to have to drive at least a half hour to the closest Walmart to get a replacement. Luckily, the campground has a precent decent camp store with RV supplies, and had what we needed. Crisis diverted!

Site 27 is an end site, so it was very private and we had nice tree views.
Site 27 is a good size and easy to get into.
There’s a parking spot off to the side for site 27.
The electric hookup is on the wrong side, and because we had to back up so far to hook our water up, we opened the door right to the pedestal.
The water hookup is very far back and off to the side, basically in the site next door. It took us a little bit to determine this was in fact our water spigot. At least the sewer hookup was close enough that we didn’t have to break out our extension, and it was downhill, so that’s a win!

Our second site was #32 — a gigantic, woodsy, water and electric site. This was also a back-in site, but a little more difficult to get into as we had to make more than a 90-degree turn going down a steep decline. Thankfully, because of the size of the site, we had a lot of room to work with.

In site 32, a small stream ran below the back of our site.
Thankfully, the hookups at site 32 were in a much more sensical location.

Even though we had the site reserved for two nights, we ended up only staying one. We left early to avoid some weather that would have made our last day not very enjoyable. As we were moving on to a location without hookups, we made sure to fill water and stopped at the dump station before departing.

Food and Drink

Disclaimer: We still continue to diligently social distance and keep our public outings to a minimum, and on an infrequent basis, we partake in food/drink situations that are outdoors with a lot of spacing between tables. Because of this, we most likely missed out on some dining opportunities, but it gave us peace of mind.

Thanks to the weird hookups situation and having to get a new sewer hose, it took us longer than anticipated to get situated on our first day. When we finally did, we drove into town to find something to eat. It was that weird time of day between lunch and dinner and the only place serving food at the time was Greunke’s, which is both a restaurant and inn. We ordered a trout plate, which was HUGE — definitely enough for two people to share. It was the best trout we had ever had and we enjoyed it on their outdoor patio.

We picked up apple cider donuts from Erickson Orchard on two different occasions, as well as some apple cider. We enjoyed the first batch of donuts on a hike and the second batch for breakfast/travel snacks on the day we left.

We got lunch at The Deck at the Bayfield Inn on our second day. Missy got the fish tacos and Travis got a burger, and both were absolutely delicious. They were very diligent with their COVID protocols, which was nice to see. Actually, every establishment in this area strictly adhered to protocols that the city had put in place. The views were beautiful from the rooftop deck and the cocktails were tasty!

We walked along the waterfront after lunch as it was a gorgeous early fall day. We came upon the Maritime Museum that looked very intriguing from the outside, but it was closed — we wouldn’t have gone in on this trip anyways.

The last food establishment that we patronized in town was to pick up some smoked trout at Hoop’s Fish Market. You guys. It was so, so, so good! We bought two filets — only one is shown in the picture below — but we wish we would have gotten at least twice as much.

Hiking

Meyers Beach Sea Cave Trail

This is an out and back that can be as long as 11 miles (where you’ll find a campsite), but the normal turnaround point for most people is at 3.6 miles. We ended up doing a little over five miles round trip, which gave us plenty of opportunity to see some nice views and enjoy our donuts at the halfway point. It’s an easy to moderately difficult trail with more elevation gain the further you go, and the first 3/4 mile is a plank trail.

Lost Creek Falls Trail

We really enjoyed this hike! It’s about 2.5 miles roundtrip and a decent stretch has boardwalks, making this fairly doable for all skill levels — though it does get a bit more aggressive toward the end. I’m assuming this trail is pretty busy during the summer, but we had the falls to ourselves on the late September Tuesday afternoon that we went.

Obviously, one of the main things to do at Apostle Islands National Lakeshore is to kayak amongst the islands and various sea caves. When we visited, the kayak outfitters were no longer renting out gear for the season. I did find one that was still doing guided tours, but only on the weekends, and we were there midweek. Boo. It was probably for the better anyways. There were [rough water? rough sea? high surf advisory?] warnings while we were there, so we probably would have capsized anyways, because 2020. There are various tours offered by Apostle Islands Cruises, though the schedule was a bit diminished this season. Again, because 2020. A lot of the islands have lighthouses and camping, accessible via the tours/water taxis. There’s also a ferry to Madeline Island, which while not technically part of Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, is the largest island and has commercial development such as restaurants, as well as full-time residents. It’s unfortunate we weren’t able to experience Apostle Islands from the water, but that’s the breaks when you still work full time — you can’t be confined by a ferry/cruise schedule.

Regardless of our waterless adventures, we enjoyed finally visiting this part of our home state.

North Bay Shore County Park – Oconto, WI

After spending eight nights at the fairgrounds in our hometown, we were ready to stay somewhere a little more rural with a lot more space. As we made our way from our week-long stay in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin to Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, we spent two nights at North Bay Shore County Park. This lovely little park is in Northeastern Wisconsin on the shore of Green Bay, about halfway between Oconto and Peshtigo. North Bay Shore is less than 25 minutes from the state border cities of Marinette, Wisconsin and Menominee, Michigan, and a little more than 2.5 hours from our next destination — Bay Furnace Campground in Munising, Michigan by Pictured Rocks.

Sometimes we get dazzled when we pull into a new campground/RV park. This was one of those times. This campground is small with 34 large, spread-out sites and is very well cared for. While the sites on the inner part of the loop are a little difficult to get into due to the placement of the site number signs, all of the sites are deep and seem to be level. A handful of sites back up to the bay and all sites have nice tree cover, with leaves that were starting to turn as we moved into autumn. Some sites appear to be tent sites, but still offer electricity. The RV sites have water and electric, and there’s a dump station available. The park also offers a boat launch and a nice jetty from which to fish. The nightly rate for this campground is $30, but they offer a midweek special August to October of $15 Monday through Wednesday. We happened to stay on a Tuesday and Wednesday night, so we only paid $30 (plus $5 reservation fee) for our two-night stay.

North Bay Shore County Park

500 Bay Road, Oconto, WI 54153

www.co.oconto.wi.us

  • RV Sites with Water & Electric
  • Tent Sites with Electric
  • Restrooms with Showers
  • Level, Blacktopped Sites
  • Waterfront Sites
  • Dump Station
  • Picnic Table
  • Fire Ring (Firewood for Sale Onsite)
  • Playground
  • Boat Launch
  • Fish Cleaning Station
  • Basketball Court
  • Camp Host (Referred to as ‘Caretaker’ – Seemed to Be MIA During Our Stay)
  • Recycling
Site 10 is a level, blacktopped site with W/E hookups
We had so much space between us and the neighboring sites!
The sites across from us backed up to Green Bay.
It was pretty empty our first night, but by Wednesday night, all of the RV sites were full.
The leaves were starting to change during our stay!
Two other Airstreams parked across from us on the second day.
There’s a nice little area to fish…
…or you can head out to the jetty.
Even the easily-accessible dump station had nice views!

There isn’t a whole lot happening in the immediate vicinity, be we did check out Copper Culture State Park, which was a short drive from the campground. The park is a small historic park that contains an ancient burial ground used by the Old Copper Complex Culture of early Native Americans during the Copper Age. There’s a small museum onsite which was closed when we visited, but we did walk the grounds along a short trail that winds through fields of wildflowers.

This was a perfect and peaceful two-night stopover and we would definitely stay at North Bay Shore Park again!

A Week at the Fond du Lac County Fairgrounds

We rolled into our hometown of Fond du Lac, Wisconsin on September 7 and spent eight nights at the Fond du Lac County Fairgrounds. The fairgrounds are nothing fancy, but are in a good location, have full hookups, and are only $25/night. The sites are all back in, narrow, and have the hookups in weird locations. There’s a camp host onsite that pops out of his trailer the moment you pull in in case you don’t happen to know your site number. Both the electric box and the sewer connection are locked up when not in use, so his other job seems to be to lock and unlock the utilities.

Fond du Lac County Fairgrounds

520 Fond du Lac Avenue, Fond du Lac, WI 54935

www.fdlcountyparks.com

  • Full Hookups
  • Restrooms with Showers
  • Gravel, Level Sites
  • Some Sites Have Picnic Tables

The entire fairgrounds complex consists of the fairgrounds itself, including a grandstand (more about that later); a large park area with swing sets, slides, and other playground equipment; and the Fairgrounds Family Aquatic Center, which is an outdoor pool complex with water slides and a concession stand. Our stay during the week was very quiet; however, the weekend not so much. As I mentioned earlier, the sites here are very narrow. We were barely able to fit our truck next to our Airstream without infringing on our neighbor’s space. The sites are also laid out in such a manner that there are two rows of sites that back up to each other, with a fence (where the hookups are located) in between. A number of RVs rolled in on Friday morning and didn’t leave until late Sunday. At first we thought they were there because of the hockey tournament that seemed to be taking place at the ice center next door, but that didn’t seem to be the case. Then we figured maybe they were there to take part in the tractor pull scheduled at the grandstand for Sunday — yes, a tractor pull — but that wasn’t the case either. They just seemed to be locals camping. At a fairgrounds. In the rain. In really tight spots. We couldn’t understand how staying at the fairgrounds was a good time, but to each their own! They also took advantage of the fact that there is no quiet time listed on the very brief list of rules. The tractor pull on Sunday was a good six hours of tractor noises and air heavy with diesel fumes, as well as a stand full of mask-less spectators. So, we give two thumbs up for the fairgrounds if staying during the week, but two thumbs down due to the loud, crowded weekend.

This is how things looked during the week – lots of space and hardly anyone around.
This is how things looked on the weekend — crowded without enough room to park our truck in our site due to our neighbor’s slide.
This is the view from our back window on the weekend — close neighbors and tractors.
This is after the craziness of the busy weekend, but shows how close the grandstand where the tractor pull took place is.
Here are the hookups at the back of the site. We had to run the hose and the electric cord under the trailer and use our sewer hose extension in order to reach the connections. During the weekend, the people in the site behind us had to hook up to that water spigot as well.

There are three options in the immediate area for places to stay with an RV. The fairgrounds, Columbia Park, and Breezy Hill. Just like the fairgrounds, Columbia Park is owned and operated by the Fond du Lac County Parks and Fairgrounds Department, and you can make reservations through their website or over the phone. Unlike the fairgrounds, Columbia Park is water and electric only, but does have a bathhouse and dump station. As the park is a bit outside of the city, the sites are more spacious with a more natural park setting. Columbia Park itself is located on the shore of Lake Winnebago and also offers a boat launch.  We had originally reserved part of our time in Fond du Lac at Columbia Park, but instead decided to stay put at the fairgrounds where we were closer to family and had full hookups. The woman from the Parks Department that helped us switch our reservation around over the phone was very helpful both when we changed to staying at the fairgrounds for the duration and when I initially made the reservation and there was a billing issue. We stayed at the third option, Breezy Hill, during our visit to Fond du Lac in 2018. You can read about that here.

Another Harvest Hosts Win at Garvin Heights Vineyard

After our fourth day of driving, we spent the night at Garvin Heights Vineyard, a Harvest Hosts location. If you are unfamiliar with Harvest Hosts, you can visit their website here. The gist is that for one low annual membership fee, you get access to over 1,250 locations throughout the country that allow you to spend the night in your RV on their property for free. These locations can include wineries, breweries, farms, museums, etc. You are expected to purchase something from the host, and at this particular stay, we bought a bottle of wine and pack of cheese curds. If you use this link, you’ll receive 15% off.

Garvin Heights is a small property, and the parking provided to us was in their (also small) parking lot. Thankfully when we arrived, there were not a lot of cars parked in the lot and we were able to back in to our designated spot without issue. The winery is only open a handful of hours each day from Thursday to Sunday (we stayed on a Sunday), but received quite a few visitors while we were there. As we are still being diligent about our social distancing, we opted out of doing any wine tasting, and instead just picked a bottle of their Great River Rouge for purchase. The winery closed at 5pm, and from that point on, it was a VERY quiet evening. We had hoped to utilize more Harvest Hosts for the previous few nights, but Sunday was the first day it wasn’t crazy hot and the evening into overnight temps were comfortable. We spent the night with the windows open to thoroughly enjoy the crisp air and all of the chirping and buzzing of the various insects and creatures that make this area home. It was one of the best nights of sleep either of us had experienced in a long time!

After getting settled in at the winery, we drove around Winona a little bit. We found our way to Garvin Heights City Park, which offers fantastic views of the city, Mississippi River and Buffalo, Wisconsin. The city is super cute and in any other time (sans pandemic, that is), we would have done a little more exploring. Instead, we headed back to the Airstream to enjoy some wine and play Scrabble.

One Year on the Road

Today marks one year since we started living, working and traveling full time in our Airstream. One year ago feels both so incredibly distant, but also like it flew by! We have learned a lot in the last twelve months — about ourselves, about our airstream, and about what we hope to get out of this lifestyle. Here’s a look back at our first year as nomads:

We travelled 7,997 miles across 16 states:

California

Alabama Hills – Lone Pine, CA
Trinidad, CA
Poway, CA
Newport Beach, CA

Nevada

Valley of Fire State Park – Overton, NV
Las Vegas, NV
Zephyr Cove (Lake Tahoe), NV

Utah

Snow Canyon State Park – Ivins, UT
Snow Canyon State Park – Ivins, UT

Arizona

Page, AZ
Antelope Canyon – Page, AZ

New Mexico

Santa Fe, NM (We were in Santa Fe for only one night and checked out Meow Wolf, which we highly recommend!)

Colorado

Pueblo, CO
Lake Pueblo State Park – Pueblo, CO
Lake Pueblo State Park – Pueblo, CO

Kansas

Dodge City, KS (It was VERY cold and windy the couple of nights we were there, so we didn’t get a chance to explore.)

Missouri

National World War I Museum and Memorial – Kansas City, MO
The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art – Kansas City, MO
Harry S. Truman Presidential Library and Museum – Independence, MO

Iowa

(We spent two isolated, quiet nights in Cedar Point, IA and have nothing to show for it. Sorry, Iowa)

Wisconsin

Breezy Hills Campground – Fond du Lac, WI
Van Dyne, WI
Neshonoc Lakeside Camp Resort – West Salem, WI

Minnesota

Minneopa State Park – Mankato, MN
Bunker Hills Campground – Coon Rapids, MN
Bunker Hills Campground – Coon Rapids, MN

South Dakota

Dignity Statue – Chamberlain, SD
Black Elk Peak – Black Hills of SD
Black Elk Peak – Black Hills of SD
Custer State Park – Custer, SD

Wyoming

Devils Tower, WY

Montana

Max was super excited for Montana!
Garryowen, MT
Billings, MT (with cotton from the Cottonwood trees floating in the air)
Along the ‘M’ Trail in Bozeman, MT

Washington

Spokane, WA
Spokane, WA

Oregon

Cannon Beach, OR
Otis, OR
Ona Beach State Park – Newport, OR
Reedsport, OR
Winchester Bay, OR
Coos Bay, OR

 

We visited 24 National Park Service sites:

Joshua Tree National Park

Death Valley National Park

Saguaro National Park

Petrified Forest National Park

Badlands National Park

Wind Cave National Park

Glacier National Park

Redwood National Park

Lassen Volcanic National Park

Yosemite National Park

Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument

Montezuma Castle National Monument

Casa Grande Ruins National Monument

Devils Tower National Monument

Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument

Cabrillo National Monument

 

Harry S. Truman National Historic Site

Minuteman Missile National Historic Site

Manzanar National Historic Site

Glen Canyon National Recreation Area

Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area

Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area

Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge

Mono Basin National Forest Scenic Area

…and one ghost town (Bodie, CA)…

…the world’s only corn palace (Mitchell, SD)…

…and a cheese factory (Tillamook, OR).

We drank some beer…

Santa Fe, NM
Yachats, OR
Coos Bay, OR

…and some liquor…

Coram, MT

…and some wine!

Pahrump, NV
Temecula, CA

We boondocked for the first time in Wisconsin on a family friend’s farm…

…and stayed at a Harvest Hosts for the first time in Nevada.

Travis ran a half marathon in Death Valley…

…and we learned how to play pickle ball.

We did a lot of hiking…

…and a bit of relaxing.

But most importantly, we were able to spend a lot of time with family and friends!

As you can see, it was a great year! We have a lot of amazing adventures planned for 2019, and we look forward to sharing them with you!

Neshonoc Lakeside Camp Resort – West Salem, WI

As we drove across Wisconsin from spending some time in our hometown on the east side of the state, we needed a place to stop for a night on the west side of the state. We originally were going to attempt Veteran’s Memorial Campground in West Salem, which is a first come, first served spot that offers electricity, but after boondocking for the long Memorial Day weekend, we decided we’d rather have full hookups. We needed to empty our tanks and refill with water as the next place we were staying was electric hookup only.

I found Neshonoc on the Campendium App, and we decided to our take chances pulling into the campground on Memorial Day at 9am. In the office, I asked if they had a full hookup site available for the night and she said, “Sure, no problem!” I then asked if they had a full hookup site available right now for the night and she said, “That may be a problem.” She told me that people had definitely pulled out already that morning, she just didn’t know from what sites as they don’t have to check out when they leave. She gave me a map, told me where to look, and said to park at whatever site was open and to just let them know when we found one. Thankfully, we found a spot after driving around for a bit! We were also thankful that we were able to get parked and settled in before the rush of departing campers — the streets are narrow and don’t allow for two vehicles to pass each other which can make it difficult while you’re trying to park/leave. By noon, we had the place almost to ourselves! It was a tad less mosquitoey here and we were able to take advantage of the refreshing pool. We also appreciated the 20% they offer for veterans!

Address: N5334 Neshonoc Road, West Salem, WI 54669

Phone: (608) 786-1792

Amenities:

  • Full Hookups
  • Pull Throughs
  • Cabins
  • Tent Sites
  • Two Swimming Pools
  • Access to Lake Neshonoc
  • Basketball, Volleyball, Horseshoes
  • Laundry
  • Restrooms with Showers
  • Dump Station
  • Propane Fill
  • Boat Launch
  • Playground
Site 194 was a pull through with full hookups and a nice lake view!

Our First Time Boondocking

While in our hometown of Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, we found ourselves without a place to stay for Memorial Day Weekend. Whether it was poor planning or uncertainty of what the length of our stay in the area was going to be (we had already stayed for a month at a campground), we reached out to a family friend to see if we could moochdock at their farm. Thankfully, they said yes.

We had never boondocked before, and the 90+ degree temps (with high humidity) and swarms of mosquitoes educated us very quickly as to what kind of conditions we would choose to boondock in in the future. We have a Champion 3500 watt generator with wireless remote start that saved us during the hot, hot weather. We were able to run the air conditioning continuously, though we never left the generator running unattended and instead turned the fans on and opened the windows whenever we would leave. During the hottest times, we had to refill the generator with gas every 4-5 hours, which meant it kicked off at 3am one night. Instead of getting eaten alive by the mosquitoes while trying to refill it in the dark, we opted to open the windows and use the fans instead. Our last night was a little cooler which allowed the generator to run all night — yay!!

We had filled our freshwater tank before leaving the campground and had no issues making it last the long weekend, especially since I was able to shower at my parent’s nearby cottage one day. I was going to a baptism so I needed to wash and dry my hair, which would have used a large portion of our water and forced us to turn the AC off as it can never be running when a blowdryer is being used.

We had solar panels installed by Airstream when we purchased our trailer and during the times we weren’t using the generator, we were able to depend on those to be able to continuously use our lights, fans, TVs, etc. without worrying about killing the battery.

The refrigerator ran on propane and did a good job of keeping everything cool, and while the hot water heater could have also ran on propane, we never turned it on because we really didn’t need hot showers with how hot it was outside.

Our takeaway from our first boondocking experience is that we like having electricity. We’d have no problem staying a night or two somewhere without it, but it would need to be in cooler temps.

Our spot was a little difficult to get into due to uneven ground, trees, and driving through field grass, but we did it!
We had nice view of Lake Winnebago which we shared with the neighboring cows.
Moo.
We determined it’d be much easier to pull the trailer out of it’s spot with a tractor. For the last night, we were parked in a flat, gravel area so we could hookup and hit the road by 6am the next morning.

Breezy Hill Campground – Fond du Lac, WI

After an aggressive travel schedule/route that began in Arizona, we made it to our hometown of Fond du Lac, Wisconsin on April 24th.  There aren’t a lot of options within the city for places to stay with a travel trailer, so we opted for Breezy Hill Campground, which is located right outside of the city. There are obvious indicators of its formal life as a KOA, such as the distinct cabins and bright yellow benches, but Breezy Hill is in its fifth season as a privately owned, family run campground. When we pulled into Breezy Hill, they were less than a week out from a spring snow storm that left four inches on the ground. While there was very little snow left, it was quite wet throughout — and it remained that way during most of our month-long stay as it rained at least every other day. The campground is very well maintained and has a lot of amenities that cater to families. At least a third of the 144 sites are for seasonal (aka permanent) trailers and there are six sites that are year round with heated water so you don’t end up with frozen pipes. While busy on the weekends, the weekdays were very quiet, as there were usually only about a half dozen other sites occupied, including seasonals.

Address: N4177 Cearns Lane, Fond du Lac, WI 54937

Phone: (920) 477-2300

Amenities:

  • Full Hookups
  • Pull Throughs
  • Year Round Sites
  • Cabins
  • Tent Sites
  • Arcade
  • Playground
  • Swimming Pool
  • Hot Tub
  • Store
  • Restrooms with Showers
  • Laundry
  • Fishing Ponds
  • Swimming Pond
  • Snack Shack
  • Picnic Tables
  • Fire Rings
  • Dump Station
  • Propane Fill
  • Volleyball, Basketball, HI-Ball, Teather Ball
Our site (#135) was a nice, long pull through across from the swimming pond.
Breezy Hills is in the country, surrounded by farmland, allowing for beautiful sunsets and lots of stargazing.
There weren’t a lot of nights we were able to have a fire due to all of the rain, but we took advantage when we could.
During our stay, there was a Kansas City Barbecue Association sanctioned BBQ contest held at Breezy Hill — and it was fantastic!
Kelley Country Creamery is right up the road from Breezy Hill. They sell their award-winning ice cream as well as cheese curds and other such Wisconsin fare.