More to Bayfield than a couple (thousand) apples

With Bayfield's celebrated Apple Festival right around the corner, it seemed like the right time to learn more about Wisconsin's little city that could.

With Bayfield's celebrated Apple Festival right around the corner, it seemed like the right time to learn more about Wisconsin's little city that could.

To do so, the Budgeteer spoke to Mary Motiff, director of Bayfield County Tourism & Recreation. Though she's only lived in the county -- which also includes the more-populous Washburn and bumps against the South Shore's biggest city, Ashland -- for three years, she's been visiting "for almost 20." (In case you've never made the 86-mile trek to Bayfield, it's only a two-hour car ride from Duluth if you take the popular Highway 2 east-to-Highway 13 north route.)

Budgeteer: What drew you to the area?

Motiff: The incredible beauty of the area, along with the abundance of orchards and fruit farms, the arts and culture and the great restaurants.

It's a winning combination -- I describe the area as the "cultural hub of Wisconsin's Northwoods."


The people who live here are willing to trade off some of the conveniences of big city life for the wonders of nature and a close-knit community.

If you had to pick five not-to-be-missed attractions in Bayfield (the city), what would they be?

A tour of the orchards and fruit farms -- don't miss Muriel's fresh, homemade apple cider doughnuts at Erickson's Orchard and Country Store; a cruise of the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore; a show at Big Top Chautauqua; a leisurely multi-course meal at the Old Rittenhouse Inn; and a visit to the art galleries to enjoy the work of our talented local artists.

Is 611 still the correct population for Bayfield? Additionally, what kind of jobs do most of the city's residents hold?

The latest estimate is 616. Many of the city's residents are self-employed. Some of these are tourism-related businesses and some are people who can telecommute, so that they can work from anywhere.

Others work for the city or other government entity -- National Park Service, Bayfield County, the Red Cliff Tribe, etc. -- or for the school district.

What is Bayfield's connection to apples, and how did the annual Apple Festival come about?

There is a temperate microclimate on the Bayfield Peninsula that creates the perfect growing conditions for apples and other fruit, which explains why there are over a dozen orchards and fruit farms in the hills surrounding the city. Back in the early 1960s, a few growers and some Chamber board members decided that instead of trying to deliver apples hundreds of miles away to all of the people that wanted them, they would have an apple festival to bring people to the apples instead. They couldn't believe that people in Duluth didn't know that Bayfield had apple orchards!


Does the city have any other unique annual events?

My favorite is the Apostle Islands Sled Dog Race in February, but there are so many: the Scarecrow Festival, the Holiday Spirit Gallery Tour -- great for holiday shopping -- the Run on Water across the ice road and Bayfield in Bloom. The complete list can be found on .

What is access to La Pointe/Madeline Island like in the winter? (For the uninitiated, Madeline, one of the Apostle Islands, is just a quick ferry ride across Chequamegon Bay during the warmer months. Highlights include the quaint village of La Pointe and the pristine Big Bay State Park.) How long is the ice road safe?

The ice road can last anywhere from a few days to a couple of months.

I think last year it was good for about six weeks. When it's not safe to drive on the ice road, there is a wind sled that you can ride, which is quite an adventure.

When's the best time to visit the city if you don't like crowds or want to save money with off-season lodging?

Autumn is a great time to visit as far as beauty, bounty and reduced crowds. There are many lodging facilities that do have off-season rates so that you can enjoy the quiet beauty of winter and take advantage of the outdoor recreation opportunities that exist. Most people don't realize that almost half of the land in the county is in public ownership, which makes for great access to our incredible natural resources.

Do you have any favorite stops between Duluth and Bayfield?


If you take Highway 2 all the way to Highway 13 and go north through Washburn, you've got to stop at B's Busy Bakery in Iron River -- [as well as] Jim's Meat Market and the White Winter Winery.

Then you can hit some of the galleries in Washburn, too.

If you go up Highway 13 before you get to Iron River, then make sure you allow extra time to stop in at all of the shops and galleries in the South Shore communities of Port Wing, Herbster and Cornucopia. Stroll the huge expanses of sandy beach, too, which is even fun in the off-season -- if you're dressed for it. Don't miss Ehler's Store in "Corny," and you've got to try the fish chowder at the Village Inn.

Know of an interesting place you'd like to see featured in the "Fun on One" series? E-mail .

The 47th annual Bayfield Apple Festival will be held Oct. 3-5. Events range from all the expected booths to picking apples at Sunset Valley Orchard and concerts at nearby Big Top Chautauqua. To download a PDF of all scheduled events (including a few smaller ones on Oct. 2) or to learn more about this treasure of a city, visit its official Web site, .

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