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Duluth/Lake Superior’s north shore, Minnesota

Great Destination:

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Total Stars:

Personality Types that Like it Best

Did You Know … ?

  • Lake Superior is the world’s largest lake based on surface area (31,800 square miles).
  • Singer/songwriter Bob Dylan was born in Duluth.
  • Lake Superior’s water could cover all of North America in three feet of H2O.
  • In 1907, Duluth moved more tonnage through its harbor than New York City.
  • Lake Superior holds 10% of Earth’s fresh surface water — and it would take 191 years for its sources to refill it.

The world’s largest lake

The north shore of Lake Superior in Minnesota extends from Duluth, a city of less than 100,000, on the west, to the U.S.-Canadian border. The fact that there is a designated North Shore Scenic Drive indicates the area’s appeal to those who love natural beauty.

The 150-mile drive introduces the visitor to a craggy shoreline, low-rise forested mountains, sweeping views of the world’s largest lake, the occasional lighthouse, small towns with histories linked to fishing and shipping, a village reinvented as an art colony and, not least, Duluth, a city built into a steep cliffside.

The area rates highly for its outdoor attractions, but outdoor lovers don’t all visit for the same reasons. Their pleasures range from ice climbing and whitewater rafting to dinner cruises and riding on vintage trains. Designated birding, cycling and hiking trails attract those with the related interests, as do the ski resorts. Choices also include boating on the rivers and lakes beyond Superior’s shoreline and fishing or sailing on the clear waters of the Great Lake itself.

Residents entertain themselves and visitors with an array of festivals. These include music festivals, marathons (including one with dogsleds), fishing contests and boat shows.

Grand Marais, the area’s art colony, is unique among its neighbors for its artists’ workshops, folk art school, community theater and galleries.

Duluth, the anchor among the region’s cities and a former fur-trading settlement, blossomed in the 19th century as a transportation center for iron ore, wheat and timber. The international port still bustles, but the boom period created millionaires and yielded for the city a downtown now styled the Duluth Commercial Historic District (encompassing architecture from 1872 to 1929), plus the mansions built by the rich and other historic districts and landmarks.

Tourists are drawn to the restored neighborhoods for the history and for their restaurants, shops and museums. They tour the historic Glensheen Mansion and head to Canal Park for access to the Lakewalk, good for cycling and walking, and to get an eyeful of the very photogenic Aerial Lift Bridge.

The city even boasts that bears, deer and moose may be found within its limits.

Things to do for Venturers

  • Hiking is a choice at several points along Lake Superior’s north shore. One example is the 200-mile Superior Hiking Trail. Follow it on a multiday backpacking/camping trip, or hike from lodge to lodge.
  • At Silver Bay, dive to explore an old shipwreck.
  • Participate in the Plein Air Painting Competition. Held in late summer, the event invites artists into the outdoors in or near Grand Marais to capture nature’s scenes on canvass. Or, take a class or workshop offered by the Grand Marais Art Colony. Examples include creating glass pendants with a torch and encaustic painting (using beeswax and pigment) and collage making.
  • In June, run in Duluth’s Grandma’s Marathon, named for restaurants called Grandma’s, not the contestants.
  • Choose whitewater rafting on the St. Louis River in Carlton, south of Duluth. Or rent a sea kayak for paddling pleasures on Lake Carlton or on Lake Superior at Two Harbors, Split Rock Lighthouse or near the sea cliffs of Shovel Point or Palisade Head.
  • Another option is rock climbing along the Great Lake’s north shore. Or, in winter, make that ice climbing.

Things to do for Centrics

  • Join the fun at the June Wooden Boat Show and Summer Solstice Festival in Grand Marais on Lake Superior’s north shore. Or, attend the Bayfront Blues Festival in Duluth in summer.
  • Hike in the Isle Royale National Park. Access is via a 22-mile boat trip across Superior from Grand Portage.
  • Station yourself at Hawk Ridge ready to spot thousands of migratory hawks, eagles and other birds of prey.
  • Charter a boat at Grand Marais or other ports on the lake and go fishin’.
  • Drive the 150 miles of the North Shore Scenic Drive, between Duluth and Minnesota’s border with Canada.
  • Travel the slopes at Lutsen Mountains Ski Area, described as the Midwest’s largest and highest downhill ski area. Or, in summer, ride the Alpine Slide for half a mile, on a sled.

Things to do for Authentics

  • Risk a few dollars at the Grand Portage Casino. Or, try the Fond-du-Luth Casino in Duluth.
  • Ride a snowmobile or a pair of cross-country skis on trails in the Superior National Forest.
  • In Grand Marais, with its community of artists, attend a performance at the Grand Marais Playhouse. Or come for the Fisherman’s Picnic in summer; get your chuckles at the rock skipping contest and the kiddie tractor pull.
  • Jog or take a carriage ride along Lakewalk, Duluth’s boardwalk. Take a dinner cruise in the city’s harbor, or choose a half or full day on the lake to fish for salmon and trout.
  • Tour historic lighthouses, beginning with the 1910 Split Rock Lighthouse not far from Two Harbors. Or, choose the still-active 1892 lighthouse in Two Harbors itself.
  • Take in the fall colors on the back roads around Tofte, not to mention along the lake’s shoreline itself. Or, enjoy the North Shore Scenic Railroad, traveling from Duluth on various routes along the shore, summer or autumn.

Additional Resources

For more information, consult Explore Minnesota at