The yodel of loons, splash of paddle strokes and creak of swaying pines create the soundtrack to the heart of the North Woods. In the million-acre Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness surrounding Ely, terrain and water merge in one vast adventureland.

By The editors of
June 12, 2012


Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness Several thousand lakes and streams spread over more than 1 million acres to create almost endless canoeing, kayaking and hiking opportunities. You have to reserve overnight camping permits in the summer, but day-use permits make short explorations easy. Choose from several entry points on lakes around Ely; we especially like easily accessible Fall Lake.

Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness

Brandenburg Gallery See National Geographic photographer Jim Brandenburg’s prints and films of Boundary Waters scenery, wildlife and nature.

Dorothy Molter Museum This cabin celebrates the last legal nonindigenous resident of the Boundary Waters; she sold root beer for 33 years.

Ely Folk School Hands-on learning experiences celebrate the natural and cultural heritage of northern Minnesota. Learn chip carving, weave a basket or observe the night sky.

The International Wolf Center An interpretive center lets visitors see a wolf pack through observation windows. Exhibits and films explore wolf behavior as well as the challenges of wolf-human coexistence.

International Wolf Center

Lake Vermilion-Soudan Underground Mine State Park At the state’s first iron ore mine, in operation from 1884 to 1962, travel 2,341 feet below the surface in a cage, then hop into a mine car to explore. The park also features new campsites overlooking Lake Vermilion, along with hiking trails and water recreation.

Soudan Underground Mine

North American Bear Center See the center’s four black bears while learning myths surrounding them.

Voyageurs National Park Travel by canoe, kayak or houseboat through this 340-square-mile park (95 miles northwest of Ely and near International Falls). The scalloped shorelines of the hundreds of islands are perfect for fishing, picnicking and camping.

Voyageurs National Park


Boathouse Brewpub Vintage logging and fishing photographs surround diners as they enjoy burgers, walleye sandwiches and house brews.

Ely Steak House This casual spot serves 50-plus kinds of beer, a solid Bloody Mary and the Bucky Burger bacon-cheese monster.

Insula Dishes like pulled pork wonton tacos and braised lamb shank with vegetable ragout impress diners who want something beyond typical pub fare.

Stony Ridge Cafe Build your own masterpiece of a burger with a huge selection of toppings, plus the option of having the patty blackened or glazed. Stony Ridge Cafe on Facebook

Where to stay

Burntside Lodge A white-tablecloth restaurant and well-kept cabins with knotty pine walls and comfortable furniture are the hallmarks of this former hunting camp, built in the early 1900s.

Burntside Lodge

Grand Ely Lodge On Shagawa Lake, this year-round resort supplies free fishing equipment, kayaks, canoes and pedal boats. Rooms contain log furniture and other North Woods-inspired décor.

For more information visit