North Shore Trip Guide | Midwest Living

North Shore Trip Guide

Sprawling parks and maritime marvels line the Lake Superior shore between Duluth and Grand Portage. The best way to see it all? The 154-mile-long North Shore Scenic Byway (State-61).
Duluth's Aerial Lift Bridge.
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Split Rock Lighthouse
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Gooseberry Falls State Park.
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North House Folk School.
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The Superior Hiking Trail.
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Portland Malt Shoppe
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Aerial Lift Bridge Duluth’s 135-foot-tall bridge rises more than 20 times each day for sailboats and skyscraper-length ships traveling between Lake Superior and Duluth Harbor.

Artists Point A ½-mile hike from the parking lot at Grand Marais Harbor leads visitors over lava rock and through forest to the painterly scene at the end—a rocky shore and lighthouse.

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;

Canal Park Near the foot of the Aerial Lift Bridge, Duluth’s revived warehouse district contains shops and some of the city’s best restaurants, like Canal Park Brewing Company and Grandma’s Saloon and Grill.

Cascade River State Park Hiking or cross-country skiing trips lead past waterfalls crashing over black volcanic rock in a gorge 10 miles southwest of Grand Marais.

Glensheen, the Historic Congdon Estate Tour the 39 rooms and 7 acres of gardens of this 1908 mansion, built by one of Duluth’s iron mining barons.

Gooseberry Falls State Park North of Two Harbors, pull off of State-61 for a ¼-mile walk to the first of a series of copper-color falls.

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 (otters and gigantic sturgeon) at this Duluth aquarium.

Gunflint Trail Scenic Byway This two-lane road winds 57 miles inland from Grand Marais to hiking trails, fishing spots and wildlife viewing areas. Make reservations for dinner at Loon Lake Lodge, which serves a different entree each night. Gunflint Lodge offers horseback riding, ziplining and dining in Red Paddle Bistro.

Hawk Ridge Bird Nature Reserve More than a dozen species of raptors stop here during their fall migration. Bring binoculars to see them from the trails off Duluth’s East Skyline Parkway.

Jay Cooke State Park Hikers get a bird’s-eye view of the St. Louis River from the swinging bridge in this trail-loaded park 20 miles southwest of Duluth.

Lutsen Mountains’ Sawtooth Mountain Park A tram takes you up to panoramic views of Lake Superior; an alpine slide speeds you down Eagle Mountain.

North House Folk School In Grand Marais, year-round lessons keep traditional crafts alive. Try basket weaving, canoe building, moccasin making and blacksmithing.

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

Park Point Beach Watch ships pass through a Duluth canal from a spot on the largest sandbar in the world—or the chilly waters off it.

Spirit Mountain Zoom down the Timber Twister—an alpine slide and roller coaster combo—or take the chairlift to mountain bike runs at the Duluth resort.

Split Rock Lighthouse Climb the stairs of the 105-year-old light for lake views near Two Harbors.

SS William A. Irvin Climb aboard Duluth’s 1938 iron ore workhorse to learn about Great Lakes freighters. In October, the decks become a haunted maze.

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

Two Harbors Light Station Museum Two Harbors Light Station Museum Tour the oldest continuously operating light station—since 1892—in the state.


Amazing Grace Bakery and Cafe The motto “Be brave, be kind, don’t eat bad bread” sums up the attitude of this Canal Park spot frequented by musicians, poets and diners looking for comfort food.

Angry Trout Cafe This sunny favorite on the harbor in Grand Marais is local to the core: Lake Superior fish and artisan decor.

Betty’s Pies Frequent visitors know to order pie after one of the traditional diner entrees. Five-layer chocolate … yum.

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 and Bakery Designer breakfasts, like granola pancakes and caramel croissants, add big flavor at a small lakeside cafe in Tofte.

The Crooked Spoon Cafe Try fresh sea scallops with cilantro radish salad at this intimate spot in Grand Marais.

Dockside Fish Market Order smoked fish and fish chowder to go, or dine in at the local favorite in Grand Marais. (218) 387-2906;

Duluth Grill Local, organic, gluten-free, vegetarian? Yep, those buzzwords rule here. Even the ketchup and coffee mugs are locally made.

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;

New Scenic Cafe Fourteen miles northeast of Duluth, the restaurant looks like a typical roadside cafe, but it plates expertly prepared dishes. We crave the grilled cheese made with Gruyère and cheddar.

Papa Charlie’s Mountain views from the deck of this Lutsen spot make a meal of barbecue ribs or rosemary chicken ravioli all the more enjoyable.

Portland Malt Shoppe Order at the to-go window then slurp blackberry malts while admiring Lake Superior from the Duluth Lakewalk.

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;

Va Bene Berarducci’s Caffe The scent of garlic pulls diners into this cafe perched above the Lakewalk in Duluth. After homemade pasta, savor an espresso and gelato.

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

Zeitgeist Arts Cafe Yes, the menu lists artistic compositions of fresh ingredients. But the name also refers to the Duluth venue’s movie house and black-box theater.


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.

Edgewater Resort and Waterpark A tropical-theme water park with two tube slides attracts families to this Duluth hotel.

Fitger’s Inn Top-notch staff work at this stylish inn in walking distance of Duluth’s Canal Park.

Grand Superior Lodge North of Two Harbors, the resort offers amenities like kayak tours and massages. Choose from rooms, cabins or lakefront homes.

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 Twenty miles north of Duluth, luxurious rentals line Lake Superior. Swim in the indoor pool and unwind in the wood-fired Finnish sauna.

Lutsen Resort on Lake Superior Reasonable prices for the lodge, condos and cabins include kayaking, yoga and campfires.

For more information: 

Visit Duluth (800) 438-5884;

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

Gunflint Trail Association (800) 338-6932;

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

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