Minnesota’s North Shore Vacation Ideas

Minnesota has many lakes and shorelines to enjoy during the summer months. The one lake that is the biggest, coldest and deepest is Lake Superior.  This lake has an ocean feel because it’s so big and it’s the closest a Minnesotan is getting to any Ocean.  Let’s take a Vacation to the North Shore of Lake Superior.

If you plan a trip to the Northshore, you can plan a weekend trip or a whole week vacation because there are that many things to do and places to see.


Weekend Trip

If you can only do a weekend trip you may want to spend your time in Duluth and Two Harbors.  Duluth offers you the city amenities while enjoying the water.  Two Harbors is smaller in size with the same shoreline fun.


Spend time at Canal Park in Duluth. This provides shoreline to walk near, and a pier at the aerial lift bridge.  If you go at the right time you may see a “Laker” Ship arrive and the bridge will need to be lifted.   

One visit it was very foggy out and the ship that was supposed to come in was told to wait.  There was miscommunication and the ship started to come in.  The bridge operator barely got the bridge up in time.  The bridge operators announced they had never had that happen and we got to see it first-hand.

Canal Park also has many restaurants, hotels, and shops to enjoy near the waterfront. There is a lake walk or biking trail along the shore. A rose garden and Leif Erickson Park are also near the water to enjoy the water breezes.  Note: if it’s windy, you will be cold, because the water is usually 45 degrees.


Park Point Beach in Superior, Wisconsin offers a long stretch of beach just over the lift bridge on the point.   They have a nice park with a beach to swim if that’s your desire.

Duluth also has a Skyline Parkway that overlooks the city below. Away from the shoreline are malls, shopping, restaurants, and hotels. Take the Glensheen Mansion/Estate tour if you are into mansions.  There is also a zoo, aquarium, boat museum, sightseeing and dining cruises and of course Spirit Mountain in the winter or summer.

Two Harbors

If you have time on the weekend trip you can head north to Two Harbors.  This town has a lighthouse museum and a pier you can walk out to.   The downtown has shops, restaurants and coffee shops.  On the way to or back from Two Harbors, you can take the Northshore Drive to get a view of the water.  It’s a slower pace than the divided highway but well worth your time.   Stop at some water overlooks along the way.

 Kayak Lake Superior

Week Vacation Ideas: Heading up the North Shore  

Do all of the above but take your time and smell the roses.  Then head farther north exploring more of the northshore. 

When leaving Two harbors to head north, stop at Betty’s Pie.  Just buy a whole pie to share and eat later or grab pieces to go.  They have long lines to eat there unless you go at odd times.

There are many resorts or rentals you can stay at between Two Harbors, Tofte and Lutsen ski resort.   We have stayed at a couple of small resort rentals on the lake and have enjoyed the water.  We were able to walk on the rocks and watch the waves near our resort/rental.  

One time Superior was so still it barely had a wave.  This is very rare. The lake usually sounds like an ocean.   My husband brought his inflatable kayak and was able to kayak the shore around our resort.   This probably would not have been safe since it was inflatable and the water is cold, but with no wind, who could resist.  You can rent sea kayaks, stand up paddle boards along the Northshore or in Duluth.

Go to Lutsen ski resort and ride their gondola in the summerIts fun swinging through the woods to see the area.

Gondola Ride

Superior also has a great hiking trail system that is beautiful in the fall when the leaves are changing.   If you like to hike, this is your place in the summer or fall.

A couple of places I have enjoyed is Iona’s Beach Scientific and Natural Area and Sugar Loaf Cove Nature Center. Iona’s Beach, near Two Harbors, has exclusive pink rocks and is great to hang out at on a hot day.  There is a great story behind this area. We just discovered this beach last summer.  Sugar Loaf is located near Schroader, MN. This Cove area is fun to skip rocks and enjoy superior in a sheltered area.    


State Parks

If you head up farther north and like hiking check out Gooseberry Falls State Park, Tettegouche State Park, Split Rock Light House State Park, and Cascade River.  You can hike near the waters, woods, rivers, and falls.  Take picnic lunches into the parks for your adventures.  We have also spent long weekends at some of these state parks camping.   State Park Map.

Split Rock light house

Grand Marais

If you head farther north you will reach Grand Marais. This is another town in a bay with a pier, lighthouse and shops.

One of my favorite places to eat at in Grand Marais is the Angry Trout. They have the best fish chowder that I order every time I eat there. The trout is caught on the lake nearby.

If you take the Gunflint Trail north west of Grand Marais it will lead you to the Boundary Waters.  If you want more info on another trip you can take to the boundary waters, check out my blog on Boundary Waters the Easy way. 

We have explored the Northshore from Duluth to Grand Marais with many weekend and week-long trips. If you go once you will have to go again and again. Get your trip planned for this summer or this fall and enjoy the towns, state parks, hiking, and Minnesota’s north shores of Lake Superior. Maybe you will find a new vacation spot that is your favorite. Enjoy!

What’s your favorite vacation spot along the North Shore? Share your ideas with us in the comment section.

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