Lake Superior’s North Shore is a vast area of special beauty shared by two countries, Canada and the US. Lake Superior is aptly named because it is the largest of the five Great Lakes, and one of the world’s great lakes as well. Following its shoreline marks the way for visitors to see a variety of cultural, historic and natural wonders.
A good place to begin discovering this magnificent area is Duluth, Minnesota, at the southwest part of the lake. After some time exploring Duluth, visitors can travel to the Canadian border, rarely losing sight of the big water.
Duluth’s lakeside boardwalk is a favorite spot for visitors and locals alike, with beach on one side and great shopping and dining on the other. From the boardwalk, enjoy views of the lighthouse and watch the ships as they come and go. Enjoy a great meal and browse the shops. If you want a relaxed view from the water’s edge, hop on the North Shore Scenic Railway. You can choose a 1.5 or 6-hour tour, which originates not far from the boardwalk. Numerous hotels line the boardwalk as well, so you can park the car and take in all attractions on foot.
Traveling north, the next great spots are Two Harbors, Gooseberry Falls and the Split Rock Lighthouse. Two Harbors is a quiet place where you can sit on the shore and watch ships depart, laden with the area’s iron ore. Gooseberry Falls is a good place to stretch your legs on the easy trail that leads to the magnificent falls and on out to the shore of the Lake. Split Rock Lighthouse deserves some time, so allow a couple of hours to tour the Lighthouse and lighthouse keeper’s home. Then sit outside, gaze across the water and imagine a fierce winter storm on the icy lake. You’ll suddenly have a new appreciation of the lighthouse and the people who kept the light working!
Further up the shore lies the town of Grand Marais, a favorite with many visitors. The town is small and easily seen on foot, and there is plenty to see. Quality art galleries beckon and a great bookstore features regional authors. At lakeside visitors will also find a couple of fine stores specializing in outdoor gear, wonderful clothing and home décor items. Across the harbor from here, are several good restaurants and the North House Folk School.
Head North from Grand Marais and escape the crowds. The highway on this stretch is far less crowded and visitors can see this area almost as it would have been before the massive development that threatens much of the southern part of the route. Visitors can pull off at any number of roadside areas and have the lake to themselves.
Grand Portage is the final stop on the American side. Take a boat trip out to Isle Royal to really see north shore wilderness and get out on the big water for an enjoyable cruise. Grand Portage is also home to the Grand Portage National Monument where visitors can learn of the early days and – during the two-week celebration in August – watch re-enactors bring to life the history of the fur trade. Collectors will find this a good spot to pick up one of the Ojibwe craft items.
Grand Portage is about a half-hour from the Canadian border. If you remembered to bring along your passport, is easy to travel on around the lake through Ontario. The 430 miles around the Canadian part of the lake offers a tranquil experience, ending in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario.
There are plenty of places to stay along Minnesota’s north shore as the area has seen tremendous development in recent years. Just be advised: summer traffic is intense between Duluth and Grand Marais. With so much to offer, it is little surprise the area risks being loved to death. You may want to plan your driving times for early morning weekdays. Be prepared on weekends and holidays to creep along in an endless line of traffic.