There are no other words to describe Minnesota’s North Shore other than stunning. The North Shore drive begins right in the heart of Duluth and hugs the coastline of Lake Superior for almost 200 miles before finishing off in Thunder Bay, Ontario.
A few things about Minnesota I didn’t know about before moving:
- Nearly the entire state is flat out gorgeous – we have so many trees and water sources, truly the land of 10,000 lakes
- The term “Minnesota nice” -which is confusing AF and warrants
- It snows a hell of a lot but that’s what makes us stone-cold badasses
- The North Shore of Lake Superior is the perfect weekend vacation – it’s so close to the Twin Cities and stupidly gorgeous
- And just cause I’m being honest…I probably didn’t know Minnesota was on one of the Great Lakes #fifthgradegeographyfail
North Shore Drive:
North Shore of
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Written by: Stephanie
I like to say a lot of things are my favorite things, right? I mean how can anyone possibly choose just one favorite thing when it comes to any given topic?
When it comes to what I think are the best things to do in Minnesota – this is it! The North Shore State Parks are
In full disclosure I haven’t completed the entire North Shore drive yet, I’ve made it as far as Grand Marais which is only about 2 hours shy of Thunder Bay, which is in Canada. I’ll get around to it one day because like I said – FOMO inducing. It’s like each park gets better and better. I can’t even handle it.
This will be part one of the North Shore MN guide taking you from Duluth to Tettegouche State Park. So, let’s get this road trip started, shall we?!
Minneapolis to Duluth
This section of the drive is just over 150 miles and spoiler alert: It’s boring AF. It’s just one of those things you have to get through.
Things to do in Duluth
Once you arrive in Duluth you can park downtown near the waterfront. It can be a little hard to find but just look for the gigantic lift bridge. You can also put Canal Park into your GPS and it’ll get you close.
There is a big shopping area where you can buy anything from Lake Superior agates to art to jewelry to fudge and chocolate.
I’m not a big shopper so after about an hour of wandering around, I was bored. If that’s also your personality you can go for a walk along the lake or in town.
Duluth has tons of parks and hiking trails, a really nice one is the 7ish mile lake walk that takes you along the lake, obvi, but also around Duluth’s downtown.
Also pretty is the rose garden or the sculpture walk…
A walk along the lake will take you past some Duluth icons:
The lift bridge raises over a hundred feet in the air to allow large boats to pass. If you have a lot of traffic coming into town, chances are it’s because the bridge was up!
Park yourself somewhere along the wall and wait for it to raise up/lower down – it’s pretty neat. It’ll also blow the mind of your kids if you have any.
This is the breakwater lighthouse which I think is nice. Is anyone else obsessed with lighthouses, too?
If your trip allows, it would be fun to stay a night or two in Duluth and really see what the city has to offer.
If not, get to drivin’!
Duluth to Two Harbors
From Duluth keep heading up the shore for about 30 minutes and you’ll run into the town of Two Harbors.
Things to do in Two Harbors
Here you can see the only operating lighthouse in Minnesota, walk along the waterfront, or hit up one of the agate beaches.
Really though, all of those things are an excuse to burn some calories before you hit the real highlight of town…Betty’s Pies.
Just to have a rounded menu they also serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner…so get some food if it makes you feel better, but honestly, there is zero shame in just ordering a pie. You know I did.
They serve banana, blueberry, chocolate, Butterfinger, cherry, pecan, coconut, key lime, on and on and on. Everything is delicious and no drive up the shore is complete without picking up some pie.
And the answer to “do you want ice cream with your pie?” is always a resounding YES!
Once you’re hooked after that first bite, rest assured knowing you can have pie DELIVERED TO YOUR HOME no matter where you live. Is this heaven? I think this is heaven.
Betty’s Pies is located at 1633 Highway 31, Two Harbors and they are open from 7:30 am – 9 pm daily.
While you’re in Two Harbors be sure to hit up Castle Danger Brewery! I’m not a big beer fan, but Pete enjoys it and is actually brewing his own now! He’s such a babe.
Even though I don’t really like beer, I LOVED Castle Danger! They have this delish honey raspberry wheat that I downed in about 10 minutes. Record time,
They have a really cute space and a sick outdoor patio. Grab a couple of board games, beers, and your dog and go hang out in Two Harbors for a while!
Castle Danger is located at 17 7th Street and they are open from 12 pm – 9 pm during the week and 12 pm – 10 pm on Friday and Saturday.
Gooseberry Falls State Park
3206 Highway 61 East, Two Harbors / 218-595-7100
gorged eaten all the pie and drank all the beer, get back in the car for about 10 minutes and make your way to Gooseberry Falls State Park.
Gooseberry is known for…wait for it…
WATERFALLS! Does anyone else start singing “Don’t go chasing waterfalls” whenever someone says the word? 90’s baby here.
The North Shore waterfalls are amazing, plentiful, and beautiful. Take a short walk along the river to view the upper, middle, and lower falls or hike for a bit and be rewarded with views of fifth falls. Get outta hereeeeeee. SO PRETTY.
You can actually get pretty close to the falls without getting wet. And if you’re careful, head downstream a little to some calmer water and go for a walk in the river.
I’m usually not one for visitor’s centers, but do check this one out. It’s huge, quite fancy, and has a fireplace.
Split Rock Lighthouse State Park
3713 Split Rock Lighthouse Road, Two Harbors / 218-226-6372
Back in the car for about 5 minutes and you’ll find yourself at Split Rock Lighthouse. For me, Split Rock is one of the highlights of the entire drive, definitely one of the best places on the north shore, and probably one of my favorite places in Minnesota.
Make sure you budget a good amount of time here because there is a lot to see.
You can spend some time browsing the visitors center or sign up for a tour. Otherwise, grab your tickets ($5-$10) depending on what time of the year you’re visiting, then check out the historic buildings on site. You’ll see the keeper’s house, the fog signal building, and a few others.
Make your way over to the actual lighthouse and take some pictures. The lighthouse is cute and the cliff it sits on makes for some nice scenery.
You can also go inside and see the light. Unfortunately, the light is only lit one night a year – November 10th, which also serves as a memorial to sailors who have lost their lives on the lake.
Which is mind-boggling to me – We don’t have many lakes in Texas so hearing that people have actually died on a lake was shocking. The great lakes are practically great oceans.
After you’ve explored the lighthouse and the surrounding buildings go for a nice hike and make your way down to the beach. Don’t plan on going for a swim though, Lake Superior is SUPER COLD and never ever warms up.
If you like to camp, Split Rock has some great cart in campsites, otherwise, grab a hotel in Two Harbors and see what fun you can get up to!
Tettegouche State Park
5702 Highway 61, Silver Bay / 218-353-8800
12 miles up the shore is the stupidly pretty Tettegouche State Park.
This park is
Tettegouche is made up of a mile of Lake Superior shoreline, cascades, lakes, the Baptism River, and tons of forested areas.
When you pull into Tettegouche you can park at the visitor’s center which is massive. If you don’t have an annual state parks pass, which costs $35, then go ahead and pick up a day pass for $7 and then browse the gift shop, exhibits, and the cafe if you’re hungry.
Alternatively, if you want to bring a picnic there are several tables on the side and back of the visitor’s center where you can sit and have lunch.
Things to do in Tettegouche State Park
Hiking, hiking, and more hiking!
Tettegouche has over 20 miles of moderate to difficult hiking trails scattered throughout the park, including 12 miles of the Superior Hiking Trail!
For all y’all that don’t know, the Superior Hiking Trail is an epic 310-mile trail that goes from Duluth to the Canadian border.
We just spent a couple of hours in the park so we didn’t do too much hiking, but we did get out on a couple of trails. I really wanted to go to this park to see Palisade Head, which is a huge rock formation that juts out into Lake Superior.
When you’re driving up Highway 61 prior to entering Tettegouche, you can park very close, but if you’re on it you can’t see it, obviously.
In order to see Palisade Head, you’ll want to take the Shovel Point Trail which is less than a mile and can be picked up behind the visitor’s center.
Even though this trail is short, it is fairly tough. It starts out pretty easy but eventually turns into a straight-up staircase after staircase.
Once you finally make it up to the top, it’s jaw-droppingly gorgeous.
Once you come down off of Shovel Point, you can continue straight on the trail for another thousand feet or so (past the visitor’s center) and see the beach. It’s nothing spectacular so not a must-do if you’re dead tired from the stairs.
Another real easy hike is the 3/4 of a mile trail to the cascades.
The state park maps in Minnesota
Take your car down the only road leading you into the park and you’ll quickly see a little lot off to your right, park here. Don’t drive over this bridge.
*This was walking back to our car after hiking, so that’s why the lot is on the left.
Once you park in the little lot, you’ll walk across this long bridge and you’ll see a sign off to the left that says Cascade trailhead or something to that tune.
Then hike down it and walk under the kinda scary bridge and check them falls! Well, not really – there are better falls on this trip, but these are kinda cute, right?
To be fair, Tettegouche does have some epic waterfalls – High Falls and Illgen, but we didn’t have the time or energy to hike them.
That’ll do it for part one of the North Shore drive – stay tuned for the grand finale into Canada!
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Stephanie is a travel obsessed, food-loving baby girl and dog mom from beautiful Minnesota! She is a mom to Ella, wife to Peter, yogi, baker, amateur photographer, and family-friendly travel blogger. Come along as she explores Minnesota, the Mid-West, and the world beyond…with a baby and sometimes, a dog, in tow!