Spring Getaway in Bayfield, Wisconsin
- Jim and Joanne Collins get ready to welcome travelers to their 12 gardens during Bayfield's annual garden tour.
Bayfield in bloom
Springtime visits to this Lake Superior town in northern Wisconsin reveal sights, sounds and scents Midwesterners welcome after a long winter. Daffodils and lupines nod as waves lap the shore. Pink and white apple blossoms blanket the ridge above town. And some of the town's 611 residents actually have time to sit and chat about Bayfield's natural beauty before the busy summer travel season starts.
Click through our slides for suggestions on when to go, what to do, where to eat and where to stay for a spring getaway in Bayfield.
- The harbor blooms with annual baskets by early May.
Beat the crowds
A Memorial Day visit reveals a side of Bayfield that disappears by July 4, when thousands of visitors pour in to tour the nearby Apostle Islands National Lakeshore and hit concerts under the Big Top Chatauqua tent. An apple festival brings another wave of tourists in October. But for those riddled with cabin fever after winter, the springtime setting is just right for strolling, driving, biking, breathing deeply and noticing the pop of fresh colors.
- Baskets of blooms bring bright seasonal color to Hauser's Perennial Barn, a 1928 Sears catalog barn.
Dozens of Master Gardeners (and other serious gardeners) live on this peninsula 80 miles east of Duluth. For years, gardeners from as far away as the Twin Cities have traveled here for the perennial plant sale and the annual garden tour. For other springtime visitors who miss those events, the blooms are like a private living-art show.
- Lupines are Bayfield's signature flower.
The flowers of May and June
The show starts in mid-May, when 40,000 daffodils unfurl sunny yellow petals along State-13 leading into town. That's about three weeks before bushy magenta lupines push up from the sandy dirt along the wooded hillsides. Lilacs welcome June with regal purple plumes. Colors deepen during 35-degree nights and brighten during 60-degree days.
Planning your Bayfield trip
Many attractions and restaurants keep limited hours until Memorial Day. Call to check on bloom times before you go. For more info, contact the Bayfield Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Bureau. (800) 447-4094); bayfield.org
- The Brownstone Trail hugs Lake Superior and offers a 5-mile ride along an old railroad grade.
What to do: Touring
Bayfield Bike Route The shop (open seasonally) offers maps with suggested rides around the area based on skill level. For a quick but totally worth-it ride, hop on the Brownstone Trail. The trail hugs Lake Superior and includes a narrow wood bridge you have to walk your bike over—which gives you a chance to hear the shush-shush-shush of Lake Superior's waves on the beach below. (715) 209-6864; bayfieldbikeroute.com
Bayfield Heritage Tours These 90-minute walking tours of Bayfield offer wonderful insights to the history and characters that settled this town and helped it grow. Most tours begin at Bayfield's Carnegie Library. Guides assume the identities of people who lived in Bayfield, and they dress accordingly. Admission charged; reservations required. (715) 779-0299; bayfieldheritagetours.com
- Eric Carlson and Ellen Kwiatkowski grow organic blueberries, raspberries and apples at Blue Vista Farm.
What to do: Orchards and farms
Bayfield Apple Company This apple-lovers' haven, which also is Wisconsin's largest raspberry grower, has developed a lower-sugar version of commercial pectin that uses apple juice produced on-site. Products in the orchard's store include an apple cider with a subtle raspberry undertone, apple mustards and butters and jams. (800) 363-4526; bayfieldapple.com
Blue Vista Farm This Earth-friendly grower uses composting, organic herbicides and apple varieties bred to resist local pests. Blueberries, apples, raspberries and fresh-cut flowers are among the items sold in the on-site barn store. (715) 779-5400; bluevistafarm.com
Erickson's Orchard and Country Store You've probably had apple cider doughnuts at other orchards, but these are seriously exceptional -- crusty and juicy at the same time. Also available: garden supplies and sculptures, plus jams, ciders and pies made on-site. June brings you-pick strawberries. (715) 779-5438; bayfieldorchard.com
Hauser's Superior View Farm Gardeners come here each spring for locally grown perennials, annuals, fruit trees, shrubs and tomato plants. You'll also find locally made apple wine, jams and jellies, plus gardening T-shirts. (715) 779-5404; superiorviewfarm.com
- Locals love the Egg Toss Bakery Cafe for hearty breakfasts.
Where to eat
The Egg Toss Cafe Fresh-squeezed orange juice and coffee precede asparagus omelets and the fantasy French toast, which comes stuffed with cinnamon and cream cheese. (715) 779-5181; eggtoss-bayfield.com
Big Water Cafe and Coffee Roasters House-made lavender syrup subtly flavors the lavender latte, while the grilled ham and cheese on artisan sourdough and creamy tomato soup make for a fine lunch at this downtown Bayfield cafe. (715) 779-9619; bigwatercoffee.comCoCo Artisan Breads and Fine Pastries The only bakery on State-13 in nearby Washburn has an ever-changing menu of goodies. The strawberry scones' sweetness will change what you think you know about this British-imported bread. (715) 373-2253; coconorth.comDaLou's Bistro For cheap but authentic New York-style, Italian-neighborhood-tasting wood-fired paninis and pizzas, follow State-13 10 miles south to Washburn. (715) 373-1125; dalousbistro.comEthel's at 250 The Bayfield Apple Pizza, topped with thinly sliced Granny Smiths and chopped Canadian bacon, is a must-try. Owners Sally and Bill Heytens share the story of how they ditched their old lives in Superior, Wisconsin, to travel all 50 states and settle in Bayfield. Opens in May. (715) 779-0293; ethelsat250.comMaggie's Pink flamingoes decorate just about every part of this restaurant inside and out, a quirk of owner and local restaurateur Mary Rice. The whitefish and chicken sandwiches and crispy kettle potato chips offer satisfying local flavors. (715) 779-5641; maggies-bayfield.com
- Flower baskets lining the wraparound porch at the Old Rittenhouse Inn announce spring's arrival.
Where to stay
Old Rittenhouse Inn This Queen Anne mansion has luxe rooms and suites with fireplaces, steam showers and whirlpool tubs. No TVs. Plan to have dinner here at least one night. The $39 two-course meal satisfies, but the $59 five-course feast is splurge-worthy. From $165, including continental breakfast. The hot breakfast is worth the extra $16. See Midwest Living's review. (888) 611-4667; rittenhouseinn.comBayfield Inn All-white rooms are decked with duvets and whirlpools -- and have windows with screens that allow in cool Superior breezes. From $179, including breakfast. (800) 382-0995; bayfieldinn.com(A version of this story appeared in Midwest Living® March/April 2010. Prices, dates and other details are subject to change; please check specifics before making travel plans.)