Minnesota’s North Shore Must-See Spots
I can’t believe I’ve lived in Minnesota for nine years and my husband was born and raised here, and this past weekend was our very first trip along Lake Superior’s North Shore. It is absolutely one of the most amazing places we’ve been in Minnesota and perhaps the country. We went all the way up to Grand Marais stopping for food, hiking and overlooks along the way. Here’s the full summary on the absolute must-see spots along Minnesota’s North Shore.
Stay Lakefront for an Affordable Price
To start off, let’s talk about where we stayed. We booked a reservation at Cascade Lodge in Lutsen for our first night of the trip. When I initially began planning the trip, I was looking for a place to stay in Grand Marais as that was the farthest point north on our road trip. Even with COVID, I was shocked at how booked everything was and I couldn’t find many openings. 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. Cascade Lodge is super flexible and allows for a one-night minimum, which was great for our itinerary.
Cascade Lodge has several options for what kind of a place you can stay. There is a large lodge with several rooms inside, small cabins on the premise and they even have a few luxury homes. You can really find whatever level of comfort and price point you’re looking for.
We stayed in the main lodge, which was a very nice experience. The building was clean, quiet and the employees were friendly and helpful. There is an open and charming lounge with a lot of natural light. It had a real Minnesota feel with plaid pillows, a fireplace and large wooden beams running across the ceiling.
We were lucky to get a room with windows that faced Lake Superior. An early morning breeze was blowing across scenic highway 61 right into our open windows. It’s a real special treat to wake up and see Lake Superior sparkling just a few hundred feet away. We didn’t get to go inside any of the cabins, but we walked past them. They looked super cozy and rustic and they backed up to the tall trees running along the property.
One of the most convenient treats was that there is a restaurant adjacent to Cascade Lodge. They have a large outdoor seating area with picnic tables and more great views of Lake Superior. To get our morning started we enjoyed strong coffee, fresh fruit and egg sandwiches, and the restaurant even gives Cascade Lodge guests a discount.
Grab Drinks at Castle Danger Brewery
We left the Twin Cities around 9 a.m. and didn’t stop until we reached Castle Danger Brewery in Two Harbors. We were so excited to visit the brewery because we love their cream ale beer.
Even though we are currently still in a pandemic with COVID-19, the process was seamless and stress-free. We sat outside on their huge lawn and ordered a few beers along with pretzels. Masks and social distancing are required. It was sunny and beautiful, and from the outdoor tables you can get a little peak of Lake Superior in the distance.
Have a Picnic by the Water
After the brewery, we grabbed sandwiches to-go from Cedar Coffee Company and had a picnic around the corner at Agate Bay Beach. I had a turkey and avocado sandwich and Nic had a turkey club. Both were delicious and made with fresh ingredients. Parking is free and the view is unreal. Dip your toes in the water and walk out to the lighthouse.
Swim at Pebble Beach with Views of Split Rock Lighthouse
Drive or hike to Pebble Beach for a killer view of the Split Rock Lighthouse. If you choose to walk, it’s about ten minutes through a wooded path. After taking photos, we cooled off in the crystal clear water.
Another option is to enter the Split Rock Lighthouse grounds for an additional $8 fee. Tours are offered inside the lighthouse, or walk around the grounds to get a close up look.
Take a Hike at Tettegouche State Park
Stop by Tettegouche State Park and hike to the Shovel Point lookout for mesmerizing views of Lake Superior’s North Shore. Although the hike is just ¾ of a mile each way, it’s almost entirely climbing stairs on the way up to the lookout point. The view is definitely worth the workout, however, and you won’t regret the climb.
Spend Time Walking around Grand Marais
Walk around Artists Point and skip rocks on the lake. Stop in to any number of the cute shops and boutiques in downtown Grand Marais. Grab pizza at Sydney’s or dinner at Hungry Hippie Tacos. We grabbed beers and food at Voyageur Brewery, which is set back from the downtown area, and still has a view of Lake Superior. Finish off the night with a drink at Gunflint Tavern, which has an awesome view of Artists Point. We had the best seats in the house and stayed until the sunset. For much more information on Grand Marais, check out my post here.
Have Your Mind Blown at Palisade Head
Palisade Head is my number one favorite place along the North Shore. If you only make one stop, this must be it. We couldn’t believe we were in Minnesota, we thought we had been transported to Maine or Vancouver. It’s easy to forget Lake Superior is a lake and not an ocean with this expansive view. And the best part? No hike necessary, just drive up the hill and you’ll find a free parking lot at the top.
Take a Walk Along Black Beach
The sand is actually black at Black Beach, which is a testament to the industry that built the town of Silver Bay. Due to taconite being dumped into the lake and then washing ashore, the sand is now black and has created a man-made beach. The property used to be privately owned, but luckily for all of us, in 2015 it became public. I personally believe this is the absolute best beach on Lake Superior’s North Shore, and it’s completely free!
Walk Around Duluth’s Harbor
Walkout to the pier and take pictures by the lighthouse. You’ll likely get a chance to see the lift bridge in action too! Stop by Canal Park Brewery for burgers and beer. We grabbed some seats outside and refueled after tons of hiking! For much more inspiration on things to do in Duluth, check out my post here.
The North Shore is Simply Incredible
Various spots along the North Shore of Lake Superior remind me of Maine, Vancouver, and Ireland. It’s absolutely breathtaking and it’s hard to believe it’s just a few hours away from the Twin Cities. There are many more places along the North Shore to hike and discover. I hope this list of my absolute favorite spots gets you started! Looking for more North Shore inspiration? Check out my post on things to do in Duluth and Grand Marais!