North Shore Trip Guide | Midwest Living

North Shore Trip Guide

Where Minnesota hugs Lake Superior, expect cozy cabins, stately lighthouses and lake views stretching all the way up the shore to Canada. You'll travel via the one road to the North Shore: US-61. It winds north from Duluth and slides through to Silver Bay.
Duluth's Aerial Lift Bridge.
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Split Rock Lighthouse in Two Harbors has gorgeous Lake Superior views.
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Gooseberry Falls State Park.
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Gunflint Northwoods Outfitters at Gunflint Lodge rents gear for fishing and skiing.
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North House Folk School.
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The Superior Hiking Trail.
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What to do

Boundary Country Trekking Along with other adventure vacations, this small outfitter plans lodge-to-lodge routes on the Superior Hiking Trail, arranging accommodations, meals and shuttle service. (800) 322-8327;

Cascade River State Park Trails 10 miles southwest of Grand Marais attract the cross-country ski crowd, but the lush waterfall gorge (visible within minutes of the US-61 parking lot) is wonderful, too. (218) 387-3053;

Glensheen, the Historic Congdon Estate Tour the 1908 mansion, built by one of Duluth’s iron mining barons along Lake Superior in Duluth. (888) 454-4536;

Gooseberry Falls State Park Stretch your legs along 20 miles of hiking trails or just enjoy the fabulous waterfalls. (218) 834-3855;

Grand Portage National Monument Costumed park rangers share stories about the Native Americans and European fur traders who once lived and worked here. Seasonal; free. (218) 475-0123;

Great Lakes Aquarium Check out the freshwater critters (gigantic sturgeon, otters, trout) at this two-story aquarium on Duluth’s lakefront. (218) 740-3474;

Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory Thousands of birds of prey fly over Hawk Ridge (on Duluth’s East Skyline Parkway) during fall migration. Peak viewing from September through October. Free; donations appreciated. (218) 428-6209;

Lutsen Mountains’ Sawtooth Mountain Park Enjoy a ride on a mountain tram to panoramic views of Lake Superior, then take a ride down Eagle Mountain on an alpine slide, or hike to spectacular vistas of Superior National Forest. (218) 406-1320;

North House Folk School Learn basket making, canoe building, knitting and much more at this wonderfully wholesome school in Grand Marais. Classes offered year-round. (888) 387-9762;

North Shore Scenic Railroad Interesting narrated train rides chug along Lake Superior’s rugged shore. (800) 423-1273;

Park Point Beach The beautiful beach lies on a sandy swath of land separating Lake Superior from the Duluth harbor. Chilly waters don’t hamper beachgoers. (218) 730-4300;

Split Rock Lighthouse This lighthouse, more than 100 years old, is open to climb. (218) 226-6372;

Superior Hiking Trail This trail stretches more than 300 miles along the ridge above Lake Superior. (218) 834-2700;

Two Harbors Light Station Museum Tour the only continuously operating light station in the state and a restored assistant keeper’s house. In Two Harbors. (218) 834-4898;

Where to eat

Betty’s Pies This Two Harbors restaurant serves up traditional diner fare, but the many pies are the main draw. It’s worth the wait. (218) 834-3367;

Bluefin Grille The eatery attached to Tofte’s Bluefin Bay resort offers innovative takes on local specialties, such as wild-rice pancakes and cranberry duck. (218) 663-6200;

Clyde Iron Works Restaurant and Bar Enjoy wood-fired pizza and wood-grilled burgers in Duluth’s former steel manufacturing plant. On the main floor, diners can even enjoy a quick game of bocce ball on the full-size indoor court. (218) 727-1150;

Coho Cafe Near Tofte, coffee, breakfast (apple-walnut French toast), baked goods and pizzas satisfy. (218) 663-8032

The Crooked Spoon Cafe Try blue crab cakes with Firecracker Jicama Slaw at a primo spot in Grand Marais that’s artsy and intimate rather than ultramodern or stuffy. Menus change seasonally. (218) 387-2779;

Dockside Fish Market Grab food to go, or dine in. Options include smoked or batter-fried fish and fish chowder. In Grand Marais. (218) 387-2906;

Grandma’s Saloon and Grill At the original location in Duluth’s Canal Park, diners sit practically at the foot of the Aerial Lift Bridge. Choose from a hearty array of salads, sandwiches and entrees. (218) 727-4192;

Gun Flint Tavern A diverse menu in Grand Marais showcases microbrews, organic ingredients and a mix of ethnic dishes. Live music entertains many nights of the week. (218) 387-1563;

Loon Lake Lodge A set menu, a set serving time and all-inclusive prices make dinner on the Gunflint Trail feel homey. Entree options may include ribs, roasted duck or lasagna.  (800) 552-6351;

Rustic Inn Cafe Tasty fruit pies and hot, made-to-order sandwiches satisfy at a cozy cafe 10 miles northeast of Two Harbors. (218) 834-2488;

Valentini’s Vicino Lago Years of experience feed the Italian menu at the family-owned Duluth eatery. (218) 728-5900;

Where to stay

Caribou Highlands Lodge In Lutsen’s Sawtooth Mountains, the ski resort is a four-season destination. (800) 642-6036;

Cross River Lodge A quiet resort along the Gunflint Trail makes a hospitable and family-friendly fishing base. (866) 203-8991;

East Bay Suites Stay in sleek lakeside condos with balconies and fireplaces in the heart of Grand Marais. (800) 414-2807;

Edgewater Resort and Waterpark A tropical-theme water park draws families to this Duluth hotel. (218) 728-3601;

Fitger’s Inn The staff at this stylish inn is top-notch, and the location is fab: downtown Duluth and an easy walk to Canal Park. Ask for a lakeview room. (218) 722-8826;

Grand Superior Lodge Just north of Two Harbors, the resort is a perfect base for year-round exploring and offers lots of family activities, such as ATV rides and kayak tours. Choose from rooms, cabins or lakefront homes. (800) 627-9565;

Gunflint Lodge All-inclusive packages draw guests to a lakefront resort at the edge of the Boundary Waters, 43 miles northwest of Grand Marais. (800) 328-3325;

Larsmont Cottages on Lake Superior Stylish, luxurious cottages line the lake 20 miles north of Duluth. Swim in the indoor pool, walk along the beach and unwind in the sauna. (218) 834-8250;

Lutsen Resort on Lake Superior Budget travelers like the affordable historic lodge rooms, but the modern condos and cabins are reasonably priced, too. Rates include great amenities such as guided sea-kayak trips. (800) 258-8736;

For more information: 

Visit Duluth (800) 438-5884;

Grand Marais Area Tourism Association (888) 922-5000;

Gunflint Trail Association (800) 338-6932;

Lutsen-Tofte Tourism Association (888) 616-6784;

Two Harbors Area Chamber of Commerce (800) 777-7384;

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