Bayfield, WI: America's best little town just got better

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  • America's best little town. America's best little town. Photo by: WTC Staff
  • The Bayfield Inn. The Bayfield Inn. Photo by: Bayfield.org
  • A view from the Bayfield Inn. A view from the Bayfield Inn. Photo by: Moving Water Photography
  • Photo by: Moving Water Photography
  • Photo by: Moving Water Photography
  • Photo by: Moving Water Photography
  • Photo by: Moving Water Photography
  • Inside the Bayfield Inn. Inside the Bayfield Inn. Photo by: Moving Water Photography
  • A Crabby Benny at Egg Toss. A Crabby Benny at Egg Toss. Photo by: WTC Staff
  • Breakfast at Coco's. Breakfast at Coco's. Photo by: WTC Staff
  • Weddings at Apostle Highlands. Weddings at Apostle Highlands. Photo by: WTC Staff
  • A Spanish Mustang preserve. A Spanish Mustang preserve. Photo by: WTC Staff
  • Wild Rice Restaurant. Wild Rice Restaurant. Photo by: WTC Staff
  • Dinner at the Rittenhouse Inn. Dinner at the Rittenhouse Inn. Photo by: WTC Staff
  • Photo by: WTC Staff
  • Photo by: WTC Staff
  • Photo by: WTC Staff
  • Photo by: WTC Staff
  • Sailing with Superior Charters. Sailing with Superior Charters. Photo by: WTC Staff
  • Inside a Jeanneau yacht. Inside a Jeanneau yacht. Photo by: JJ Bernier
  • Photo by: WTC Staff
  • Photo by: WTC Staff
  • Photo by: WTC Staff

CHICAGO, Illinois, January 10, 2013 – Something is happening in Bayfield, Wisconsin. Something big.

In 1997, Bayfield was voted the “Best Little Town in the Midwest” by the Chicago Tribune, a stamp of approval that has inspired thousands of tourists to attend its charming apple festival every year since. 

More than a decade later, there’s still not a Subway or streetlight in sight. Bayfield locals venture to Egg Toss for “Crabby Bennys” not McDonald’s Egg McMuffins. Stop signs are obeyed…happily. The sand here still “squeaks.”

That is the Bayfield code.  

But Bayfield is in the midst of a transformation. It is no longer solely content to be the place where the “Water Meets the Soul.” It is no longer content with the moniker of “America’s best little town.”

Ron Madich knows Bayfield can be “something more.”

Something a Martha’s Vineyard can no longer really be: exclusive.

Madich runs the exquisite Bayfield Inn, 20 Rittenhouse Avenue (800-382-0995), a stone’s throw from crystal shining Lake Superior. In a former life, he was the public relations guru behind the luxury five-star Grand Hotel Minneapolis.

Now, the elegantly-bearded Madich lives across the lake on Madeline Island, population 220. It is the land the Chippewa Indians calls “Moningwunkauning,” which means “home of the golden-breasted woodpecker.” Where residents leave their doors unlocked. In summer, he commutes to the inn by ferry. In winter, he calls the “Ice Road Hotline” to make sure it is safe to take a frozen-through Lake Superior, lined with Christmas trees, to work.

It is a much different life. It is what the Indians would have called a life in “gwayahkooshkawin” or balance.

“This is a healing place,” explains Madich. “We walk lightly here.”

But Madich also understands Bayfield’s secret double life. A life that caters increasingly to an elite class of wealthy travelers, tired of upscale tourist traps and in desperate need of Bayfield’s special brand of “balance.”

So the Bayfield Inn recently completed a one million dollar renovation in 2012 and began offering guests luxury amenities, from small touches like gourmet chocolates and Wolfgang Puck coffee to LED slim panel TVs and luxury bedding by Connoisseur®. You can even greet the Superior sun from a lakeside Jacuzzi suite or arrange a massage from Superior Body Massage & Spa (715-209-0428).

When Madich says his expertise is in “cookin’, cleanin’, teasin,’ and pleasin,’” he means it.   

There’s more. Much more.

Want an18-hole championship golf course at the Apostle Highlands Golf Course (715-779-5960) perched on a hilltop 500 feet above sea-level? Or a premier wedding venue with panoramas of Lake Superior’s Chequamegon Bay?

Bayfield has it.

Maybe you are a foodie with an appetite for five-star dining at Wild Rice, 84860 Old San Road (715-779-9881) or lighter fare at Coco’s, 146 West Bayfield Street (715-373-2253) for artisanal bread and scrumptious cinnamon pecan rolls? Or have a taste for fresh-caught Lake Superior trout chowder and signature apple glazed pork chop at the Rittenhouse Inn, 301 Rittenhouse Avenue (715-779-5111), where it is the tradition for waiters to recite the five-course menu verbally?

Bayfield has that too.

Perhaps you are an adventure traveler in search of your next transformative experience?

Source: National Park Service

In cold weather, rugged adventurists can tackle dog sledding, downhill and cross-country skiing, snowmobiling, or explore gigantic icicle formations in the sculpted Bayfield Ice Caves. In warm weather, trade in your snowshoes for a kayak and explore the Apostle Islands and sea caves via Gichigami’s sun-lit waters.  

This is the new Bayfield, transforming but not changing. At least, not Bayfield’s essence. Not its spiritual core.

 Madich says luxury travelers to Bayfield will be able to find the premier offerings they have come to expect around the globe: packages offering five-star dining, championship golf, spa services, and even a new luxury cruising experience called Sail Nouveau.

Even for the initiated, the Apostle Islands may be one of the cruising world’s best-kept secrets. Cindy Kalow of Superior Charters (715-779-5124) recalls the reaction of a wealthy CEO, an experienced sailor to some of the world’s most exotic cruising grounds: in one word, reverent.

Kalow wasn’t surprised by the CEO’s reaction. These waters, these islands, she says, hold you captive, willingly. There is a calmness here that’s not forced or practiced; it just “is.”

And it is that understanding that inspired Superior Charters to create Sail Nouveau, which officially launches this summer. Now, experienced sailors or not, luxury travelers will be able to cruise these majestic islands on a Jeanneau 57’ yacht, complete with captain and crew.

Its worry-free personalized yachting with all your needs taken care of: manning and sailing the boat and gourmet meals in the luxuriously appointed cabin space. You can even add-on concierge and spa services, bookings to world-class golf, or even a trip to the Kalows’ rare Spanish Mustang preserve (yes, I said Spanish Mustangs). 

After three days of cruising, you’ll be hooked. You’ll wonder why you are leaving and you’ll begin to plot your immediate return.

Approaching from the water, Bayfield actually looks bigger, not smaller. With its colorful historic Victorian manors rising from the hilltops, this could be the New England seaside. No, actually, this, this is better.

Perhaps only the truly sane can live in Bayfield - those who value harmony, inner peace, breathing, life.  But America’s “best little town” has some serious surprises in store for elite travelers this year.

And it’s not just squeaking sand.

Additional photo credit: WTC staff and Moving Water Photography


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