Best Things to Do in Grand Marais, Minnesota

things to do in grand marais

Don’t Wait to Visit Grand Marais Like We Did

I can’t believe I’ve lived in Minnesota since 2011, and my husband grew up here, and our very first trip to Grand Marais, Minnesota wasn’t until August 2020! Since then, we’ve already returned a few more times! Something about this special town just keeps pulling us back.

Grand Marais is an adorable harbor town with a plethora of options for outdoor adventurers and nature lovers. Grand Marais itself offers stunning views of Lake Superior and has many hikes to choose from. It also has easy access to the Boundary Water Canoe Area, state parks, and the Superior Hiking Trail.  If you have the opportunity, I highly suggest you stay in Grand Marais for at least three nights, if not more. Read on to see how I recommend you spend your time in Grand Marais!

The Drive to Grand Marais is Breathtaking

The scenic drive along Highway 61 is pretty incredible by itself, and when you enter downtown Grand Marais the trees open up and you have an expansive and beautiful view of Lake Superior. Once you’re in town, there is plenty of free street parking and you can easily walk around town to a variety of coffee spots, restaurants, and shops.

Located about 4.5 hours North of Minneapolis, this cute town offers a relaxing and beautiful getaway. Grand Marais is just 40 miles south of the Canadian border. This magical and totally underrated part of Minnesota is packed with state parks, hiking trails, and a quaint little town. 

grand marais

1. Walk to Artists Point and Skip Rocks

Be sure to walk along the beach and out to Artists Point, which is a narrow peninsula that juts into Lake Superior. Be aware that sometimes this narrow pier is slick and wet in warmer months and icy in colder months as water often splashes over during high tide. For a short and easy walk, and some of the best views of Grand Marais, you’ll want to check this spot out. The water is so clear and the rocks along the shoreline are great for skipping.

grand marais
grand marais
grand marais
grand marais

2. Visit Unique Stores to Get Your Shopping Fix

Downtown Grand Marais offers a variety of adorable shops and boutiques. Many of them offer beautiful mugs, sweaters, and jewelry. Each one has more character than the next. Grab candy and fudge at Gunflint Mercantile, shop locally made artwork at The Big Lake, or browse the massive book collection at Lake Superior Trading Post.

grand marais
grand marais
grand marais
grand marais

3. Enjoy Fresh Fish, Pizza, Donuts and Ice Cream

Grand Marais has so many great places to eat, and many of them are lakefront. Check out Sydney’s Frozen Custard and Wood-Fired Pizza for dinner and dessert. Get your taco fix at Hungry Hippie Tacos, stop by World’s Best Donuts for the world’s best donuts, literally. Eat fresh fish at the Angry Trout Cafe, or grab a slice of pizza at Sven and Ole’s. The possibilities are endless and many of these places have outdoor seating with great views of Lake Superior.

Things to do in Grand Marais Minnesota
Things to do in Grand Marais Minnesota
Things to do in Grand Marais Minnesota

4. Listen to Live Music on a Rooftop

Stop by Voyageur Brewery for some beer and appetizers. They are set back from the downtown area and have a rooftop patio with great views of Lake Superior. They also sell food and the fish tacos are really good.

Finish off the night with a drink at Gunflint Tavern, which has an awesome view of Artists Point from their rooftop bar. They have live music fairly often and have a great, relaxed vibe. We were lucky enough to get a seat in front of the huge window (see the image above). We enjoyed cocktails and watched the sunset, which was a really special moment.

grand marais
grand marais

5. Get Caffeinated at Java Moose

Java Moose is a family-owned business that first opened in 1992. Located in the heart of downtown Grand Marais, you can grab your iced coffee or latte and sit on their outdoor deck facing the lake. Or, walk across the street and find a bench, where you can listen to the waves crash and watch people skip rocks.

cascade river

6. Venture Out During the Day for Incredible Hiking

The wildlife that surrounds Grand Marais is amazing. It is unlikely, but along your hikes, you may encounter a black bear, moose, or deer. With natural beauty comes potential encounters with wild animals. Be prepared and stay safe.

It’s difficult to pick where to hike because there are so many options, each one offering something unique and beautiful. Some of the most popular spots include:

  • Grand Portage State Park for paved paths and waterfalls
  • Cascade River State Park for a dirt trail with rocky terrain and waterfalls
  • Mount Josephine Trail for a hike with breathtaking views of Lake Superior and Isle Royale
  • Temperance River State Park for even more waterfalls, a gorge, and a bridge
  • Judge CR Magney State Park for a short two-mile round trip hike where you can see the popular Devil’s Kettle waterfall

I was extremely blown away by Cascade River State Park. After a short walk from the parking lot you’ll arrive at your first waterfall. Continue walking and you’ll quickly learn why this park is called Cascade River. The river cascades over and over again creating incredible waterfalls and quick moving rivers. It’s pretty breath taking, especially in the spring!

Book a Place to Stay Far in Advance

The first time I planned our visit to Grand Marais, I was shocked at how booked everything was several months in advance. Even though there are so many hotels and Airbnb options, I couldn’t find many openings during the peak months.
The other issue I kept running into was that we only wanted to stay one night, as this was part of a larger trip and we were traveling around to other spots. Most places in Grand Marais require a two-night minimum, which didn’t work for our plans. We ended up staying in Lutsen, which you can read about here. Lutsen is a 15-minute drive south of Grand Marais.

Grand Marais is a North Shore Gem

There are so many things to do in Grand Marais. If you’re looking for more inspiration, read my post about the must-see spots on the North Shore, or 10 Great Reasons to Visit Cook County.


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