Isle Royale Kayaking Tours

Isle Royale National Park Kayaking

Copper Harbor is one of two ports in Michigan providing passenger ferry service to Isle Royale National Park, which is one of just five National Park Service sites in Michigan! Isle Royale is the largest island in the largest freshwater lake in the world, and is one of the least visited National Parks — it’s said that more people visit Yellowstone in a day than Isle Royale in an entire season.

Isle Royale and the Keweenaw Peninsula are both closely related. They are a mirror image to each other, sharing the same Michigan county, the same Great Lake and in fact, are part of the same bedrock! Composed of some of the oldest exposed rock in the world, the unique geologic compounds, mineral deposits, parallel spiny ridge lines and botany are virtually identical. Eagles, loon, and waterfowl inhabit both, however, Isle Royale is also home to wolves, moose, and otters. What’s more both showcase premier Midwestern wilderness areas ideal for paddling adventures and are two of the best places for kayaking in Michigan.

Isle Royale offers some of the best kayaking in Michigan! An Isle Royale kayaking trip offers a true wilderness experience unlike any other place in the world! Hiking and boating are the only means of travel, as no vehicles are allowed on Isle Royale. The island has over 150 miles of shoreline and numerous barrier islands and fjord-like bays that can best be explored in a sea kayak.

The three-hour, 56-mile journey on board the Isle Royale Queen IV across the world’s largest freshwater lake, is the start to your adventure. Gain a first-hand perspective on just how large the BIG lake is and perhaps have a close encounter with a behemoth 1000 foot freighter while in route.


Swap the backpack for a kayak:

Leave the hiking boots and blisters behind and let a kayak haul all your gear and equipment. Pick up a paddle and soak in the island from the unique perspective of a kayak’s cozy cockpit. Paddling allows for a heads up view while navigating verses staring down at a hiking trail. Witnessing the wonders of the isle from its exterior shorelines adds a whole new dimension of discovery and kayaks also permit access to awesome – oftentimes less occupied – island campsites with zero hikers.


Quality vs. Quantity- Group Size:
With only five guests per tour our groups have flexibility and mobility larger tour groups do not. Our groups are not restricted to the island’s group campsites and can very often snag the luxury of an Adirondack shelter. Additionally, traveling by kayak we can take advantage of the smaller boat-only accessible campsites and avoid some of the inland campsites with higher capacities.

Our quaint groups are also afforded the advantages that come from having fewer people. We focus on pairing couples, solo travelers, and mixed groups compatibly so that our group members are more united and supportive towards one another — no one gets lost in the crowd or feels left out.



We work with tour participants to develop an itinerary that best meets the ambitions, physical abilities, and paddling experience of every group, while the trip duration and current marine forecast have an impact on where we will visit. In general, we tend to highlight both the southeast and northeast areas of the Island, as its finger-bays and barrier islands host an area of truly world-class sea kayaking opportunities.  For some of our shorter tours the group may prefer to set up a base camp (Sample Base Camp Itinerary) whereas in many other tours camp will be set up in multiple locations in order to explore more of the island.  AS mentioned previously, participants ability and mother nature and the two primary factors in dictating the tour schedule.

It is also recommended to schedule a few days beforehand or afterward to explore the Keweenaw Peninsula. It’s rude to play favorites and one would not wish to offend the Keweenaw Peninsula by only visiting her more celebrated sister, Isle Royale. Geologically these two share the same foundational volcanic bedrock and have incredibly similar rocky shorelines, uninhabited barrier islands, and unique rock formations — making the Keweenaw Water Trail (a 100+ mile route circumnavigating the peninsula) an epic exploration. What’s more, the Keweenaw Peninsula is the more human populated sister, meaning she arguably boasts a more robust heritage and list of “things-to-do” for outdoor adventurers, historical buffs, and the curious explorers in general.

Additionally, Copper Harbor is not just a “Gateway to Isle Royale” – it’s also “Where the Road Ends and Adventure Begins.” Pre or post your isle adventure, consider booking a stay in the Harbor for a night or two (or maybe a whole week?)! Michigan’s northernmost town located at the tip of the Keweenaw Peninsula — with a year-round population of about 100 hearty souls — the Harbor’s summer residency swells to around 300 and all of the village’s artisans, shops, restaurants, brewpubs, and motels are entirely (and refreshingly) Mom & Pop owned and operated. Sort of a weird combination of Isle Royale, Moab, British Columbia, Telluride, Idyllwild, Sedona and Key West all blended together with a distinct U.P. flavor.


Let a Professional Guide guide you:

No fuss, no muss, a guide helps to ensure a true care-free adventure. Let the guide deal with all the supplies, gear and equipment, the permits and ferry boat tickets. Let the guide submit a planned itinerary (note: NPS uses these as a starting point for search and rescue, passing along messages, and monitoring campground usage), and let the guide be responsible for weather forecasts, warnings, and safety. Let the guide reveal hidden bays, a diversity of trails, historical sights and secret spots and knowledge experience has taught them. Let the guide delight your appetite with a bountiful and high quality menu, and filter your water too. Ultimately, let the guide bring your group together for an unforgettable trip of a lifetime! Meet An Isle Royale Guide: Click Here!



– Reservations are suggested to be made far-in-advance to guarantee availability — space is limited in both tour group and on ferry.
– Tours can be confirmed with a 50% deposit.
– All trips have a mandatory Orientation at 3pm on the day prior to the starting date of the trip, which includes a Mini-Fundamental Water Safety Course in which participants will be taught how to perform a wet exit, paddle-float re-entry, and a t-rescue.
– Participants need only to provide a compact sleeping bag, pad, their personal items and a sense for adventure (view Suggested Packing List)!
Cancellation Policy: 50% deposits are refundable, minus a 15% cancellation fee, with notice any time prior to two months of scheduled activity — otherwise non-refundable. 

If you are interested in adventuring with us please fill out our brief Interested Parties Questionnaire.  We will then be in contact with you to answer any questions you may have and to book your tour.


Related Adventure Journal posts:
Where Moose are Loose
Eco-Minded? Paddling Isle Royale is Perfect!
Swapping the Backpack for Kayak
Isle Royale – Open Water Dreaming

5-Star Trip Advisor Reviews of Isle Royale Tours: Click Here!

Featured on National Geographic’s 25 amazing places to inspire future journeys and remind us why we love to travel!


General Trip Safety Information

The Keweenaw Adventure Company operates many of its sea kayak tours in very remote, uninhabited areas. Although our overnight tour guides are certified Wilderness First Responders, emergency and medical response can be distant and time-consuming at best. Participants need to be aware that weather conditions on Lake Superior can sometimes be extreme with greatly varying temperature, wind and wave conditions. We will not set out if there are poor conditions on the Lake or if there is an unfavorable marine forecast, but conditions are sometimes subject to change throughout the course of the day. Participants need to be aware for the possibility of cold water immersion and for paddling in choppy or rough water.

Although we do not require previous paddling experience for our multi-day tours (our guides will provide instruction), participants need to be aware that our multi-day sea kayak tours generally paddle between 5 to 10 miles per day. Participants must have the physical ability to complete these routes as evacuations for non-medical emergencies can be nearly impossible.

Safety is always our number one concern and we do everything possible to manage the risks for our clients! Your guides have gone through sea kayak instructor and trip leader training with the American Canoe Association (ACA) on Lake Superior.  Guides are certified as Wilderness First Responders (WFR). Our guides also carry two-way VHF marine radios and a GPS tracking device capable of sending messages and to call for advanced help in an emergency.

Weight/Size Limits: There is a minimum of ~80lbs and a maximum of ~280lbs. Kayaks can be size discriminate and having a safe fit is largely dependant upon height and body shape, too. Our largest cockpits are 17 x 33 inches in size and elongated, so one must be able to comfortably fit into this space to have the freedom to get in and out of the cockpit.

Isle Royale is the perfect paddling location for all skill levels. Our guide had expert skills and knowledge. I felt I was safe at all times. Every campsite had a magnificent view. There’s nothing better than watching the sun set with the boreal forest in the foreground. This experience was everything I was hoping for.


Nan B.