Oh yes, the North Shore (of Lake Superior)! One of my favorite places on earth!
When I (Shawn) am talking about the North Shore, I basically mean the shoreline of Lake Superior from Duluth to Canada. Duluth has A LOT to offer, and so does Canada. But today, I'm talking about the area in between (not Duluth and not Canada, those are worthy of their own posts). But here's the deal, I've not experienced everything there is to do on the North Shore, even though I've been there 100+ times in my lifetime. What I'm covering are some of my favorite places to go/see. And the ones I'll definitely be hitting the next time I'm there. I have my opinions, and so do you... but hopefully at least a little bit of this is useful.
The Next Time I go to the North Shore, I Will:
Take the Scenic Route
Specifically, I'm talking about taking Scenic Highway 61 instead of the Expressway Highway 61. Why did you come to the North Shore? The North Shore is a SHORE for some reason right? Oh yeah, Lake Superior. If you are heading north from Duluth, right when you get on the north east side of town you have a choice to make. You can either take the Expressway to Two Harbors, OR you can take the Scenic Highway. Do yourself a favor and take the Scenic Highway (at least on the way up). Once you get to Two Harbors, it doesn't matter... there is only one road after that. But, don't skip the first 30 minutes of Lake Superior's beauty. You are welcome.
STOP in two harbors
Two Harbors is a cool little town. This is your first taste of North Shore living. Being a small town guy myself going to Two Harbors doesn't feel small to me, but if you are coming from a larger city take the time to enjoy things slowing down a little. This little "speed bump" town has a lot of cool stuff going on in it. If you have kids with you or not, you need to head to the south side of town to Agate Bay. There is a little Lighthouse Museum over there, a break-water, ore docks and other cool stuff that you can't see just anywhere. This is a great place to stop for a picnic, take a rest from driving, or throw rocks in the water.
If I don't have kids with me, I'd likely stop at the Castle Danger Brewery. They make great beer; my favorite is probably the Castle Cream Ale.
Just down the street from Castle Danger Brewery is Do North Pizzeria, this became my favorite pizza place when I lived in Duluth. Excellent pizza, and a good employee culture.
Also, if you happen to be in Two Harbors in July, check out this link (https://www.facebook.com/Chalk.a.Lot.TwoHarbors/). They do a sidewalk chalk festival called Chalk.a.Lot, which is super cool. Amazing how many talented people turn out for this event and do art right on the sidewalk. Great for kids and adults, and free.
Eat at Rustic inn cafe
The point of this post is not to promote places to eat. I'm not getting paid for any of it. Wait, should I be getting paid somehow? I better check into that, maybe even just some free food. But my FAVORITE PLACE to eat on the North Shore is the Rustic Inn Cafe. My wife and I found it 15 years ago, and LOVE IT. Great food, and great pie. What's that? You've heard of another pie place up the North Shore with a somewhat famous name? Rustic Inn Cafe's pies are better and it's not even close. If you and I were in a pie fight I would use the other people's pies to throw at you, and I would give you Rustic Inn Cafe pies to throw at me whilst I block all of your pies with my face and an open mouth.
See GOOSEBERRY FALLS
Gooseberry Falls State Park is right off the road, and very little walking (all things considered). Good for all ages, and a must see. I very seldom drive past this because the bang for the buck (read as effort) is very high. Specifically, if you can see these falls during the spring melt, BONUS!
Besides the falls, there is a "Picnic Area" that takes you right down to the lake. You can eat your lunch while looking at Lake Superior, and it is beautiful. I also have kayaked in this area. The water is so clear you can see some cool stuff under you (like cool rocks, a serious drop-off cliff, sharks, and a pirate ship). I recommend it!
Visit Split Rock Lighthouse State Park
If you have never visited Split Rock Lighthouse (and I mean the lighthouse), this is worth doing. It has some cost to it (see link below for pricing), but the tour is quite good for kids and adults. The history of this area and structure is excellent. This link is for the Lighthouse only, https://www.mnhs.org/splitrock, not the State Park.
However, if you've been to the lighthouse lately, I still recommend the Split Rock Lighthouse State Park. You can enter this park without having to pay to see the Lighthouse itself. This State Park is one of my favorite places to tent camp, but also to have a little North Shore beach experience or kayaking. You want to go to "Pebble Beach", which may also have signs saying "Little Two Harbors" or "Ellingson Island". But basically you want to be on the lake shore, southeast from the lighthouse. From Pebble Beach (as you walk towards Ellingson Island), you get an exceptional view of the Split Rock Lighthouse (from the side and below it). This view is what you most commonly see in pictures of the Split Rock Lighthouse. The little bay in this area is amazing, I could spend half a day just sitting by the water.
Take an adventure at silver bay marina
OK, this one is not advertised anywhere. But if you are looking for a little adventure that most people don't do... here you go. If you go to the Silver Bay Marina (about 15 minutes up the shore from Split Rock, but before the town of Silver Bay), there is a long rock break-water that extends all the way out to a little island named Pellet Island. At the end of the rock break-water you hit a rock-face that practically screams "climb me". Once upon a time, there was actually a rope on the face you could use to help you. Not sure if it's still there; also not sure what it was tied to on the top. :) Regardless, you can climb this face and then explore this little island. Watch out for seagulls that WILL defend their territory. If you do this, send us a pic! firstname.lastname@example.org
not fall off of palisade head
As you continue up the shore, Palisade Head is a definite must. Please, hold onto your children and DON'T take a selfie too close to the edge. This is a cool spot, and very accessible, but dangerous if you aren't paying attention.
hike the temperance river
Just north of Schroeder on 61, the trail-head for this hike is right off the road. If you hike this for 5 minutes it is worth it, if you hike it for 30 minutes it is even more worth it. Point is, this is one of my favorite spots and it is accessible for almost everyone. Even small kids. Keep the kids close however, people fall in and die practically every year. The raw power of this river and the gorges it has cut is soooo cool. I highly recommend this relatively easy hike.
RIDE THE LUTSEN ALPINE SLIDES
As I am writing this, it is spring. So my mind isn't thinking of skiing. But if you go up the north shore and are looking for a little fun for everybody, the Alpine Slides at Lutsen are a great time. You can also buy a gondola ride for some good site seeing. Follow this link for pricing, https://www.lutsen.com/summer/alpine-slide/, it's a little pricey in my mind... but worth doing. Especially if you've never done one before, kind of a unique experience.
spend a HALF DAY in grand marais
You can spend as much or as little time as you want in Grand Marais, that is up to you. But I'm going to spend a half day there. Hanging out by the bay, checking out Artists' Points, looking in the shops and eating some local grub. This is a beautiful little town, and I love it. Recommend Angry Trout Cafe, My Sister's Place, World's Best Donuts, Voyageur Brewing Company, Crooked Spoon Cafe, and Gunflint Tavern. If you decide to cut inland from here, this is where the Gunflint Trail starts. If you are looking for camping, canoeing, kayaking, fishing, hiking, moose spotting, and general adventure, you are going to want to go up the Gunflint Trail. That's all I'll say about that for now... could write a lot on the Gunflint Trail.
That's it for now!
Did I miss your favorite place?
What are your favorite places to stop between Grand Marais and Canada?
Let me know what it is via email: email@example.com
The Gitch Gear team loves to "Get Outside". Specifically, we LOVE Lake Superior, the greatest lake in the world. Wait, the greatest great lake in the world. Well both actually. Now I'm confused. Where am I?