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Ely Minnesota Vacations 

Gateway to the Boundary Waters

Ely Minnesota vacations will take you to the wildest and most scenic part of our state. Known as "One of the United States' Last Pure Wilderness Experiences," the Ely area fulfills this promise. 

Enjoy the attractions right in and near Ely or use it as a staging area for your trip into the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.

Ely Minnesota Vacations

"On the map, Ely appears to be at the end of the road. For people who love wilderness and beauty and solitude, on the contrary, it's at the center of the world." ~Charles Kuralt

Ely is often called "The Canoe Capital of the World." You will likely see many canoe-topped cars parked along Sheridan Street in downtown Ely. Even if you are not interested in a canoe trip into the wilderness there are many good reasons to make Ely your Minnesota vacation destination.

There are five hundred lakes within twenty miles of Ely and, as well, about two million acres of public forest.

Visitors to the state offer their opinions about the very best attractions, activities and amenities. Read what other travelers have to say about Minnesota Vacations.

"Roughing it" is not the only way to enjoy a vacation in Ely. You can explore the beauty and recreation in, and around, Ely then return to comfortable lodging in one of Ely's Hotels, Resorts or Bed & Breakfast Inns.

North American Bear Center

Downtown Ely reflects our state's love of the outdoors. The streets are lined with canoe-topped vehicles owned by people who are making a stop here on the way to the Boundary Waters. Ely Minnesota vacations should include stops at shops that cater to your love of Ely with shops like Steger Mukluks, Piragis Northwoods Company outfitters, and art galleries that feature the work of Boundary Waters artists.

Ely Minnesota Tourist Attractions

Ely Has a Thriving Arts Community

The Northern Lakes Arts Association sponsors music, dance, theater, literary and visual arts events all year long.

Summer concerts take place in Whiteside Park.

Festivals and Celebrations in Ely Include:

  • Blueberry Arts Festival
  • Harvest Moon Festival
  • Boundary Waters Blues Fest
  • Ely Winter Festival

Explore the specialty shops along main street. These include Steger MukLuks and Piragis Northwoods Company. Don't miss the art gallery of photos by internationally acclaimed photographer Jim Brandenburg. 

We love the stories about Ely in Ely Echoes: The Portages Grow Longer

Ely Gateway to the Boundary Waters

Ely outfitters offer guides, biologists, and area history lovers who can give you advice and "insider" information that will make your trip into the BWCAW a "trip of a lifetime." One of these local outfitters will consider your goals and abilities and custom design your adventure.

Trips into the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness are what bring many people to Ely, Minnesota. Plan your Boundary Waters Minnesota vacation or a trip to Voyageurs National Park with the help of Canoe outfitters Boundary Waters companies in Ely and the surrounding area.

How to get to Ely: This remote town can be reached by highway or air travel. Known as the place "where the road ends and the adventure begins," Ely is about a four hour drive from Minneapolis or a two hour drive from Duluth.  

Ely does not have commercial air travel; private planes can fly in to the Ely Municipal airport four miles outside of Ely. 

Ely Minnesota Vacations Lodging

Ely Family Vacation Resorts are geared up for almost anything any family member might want to do on the vacation of a lifetime. Minnesota is famous for "vacations at the lake." Your time at an Ely resort will leave you with a lifetime of wonderful memories.

Ely Minnesota Vacation Rentals – You get the whole house!

Two of our favorites places to stay in Ely are Burntside Lodge and the Blue Heron bed and breakfast inn.

  • Burntside Lodge: Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, this resort also features one of the best restaurants in the area.
  • Blue Heron Bed & Breakfast Inn: Located on the edge of the BWCAW; you will have stunning views of the lake.

You will also find some of the most beautiful resorts in the state in nearby Cook, Minnesota.

We have lists and ratings for hundreds of vacation rentals, large and small, everywhere in Minnesota:

Minnesota Vacation Rentals: Book Your Best Vacation Ever!


Fishing Minnesota lakes and rivers is an amazing experience here. You have access to more than 5,000 lakes, rivers, and steams while having very little competition for your favorite fishing spot. 

Once you experience this lovely wilderness area, you will want to return again and again.

More Things to Do in Ely Minnesota: Consider renting a houseboat for a unique Ely Minnesota vacation. Two companies on Birch Lake, 15 miles south of Ely in the town of Babbitt, rent houseboats:

  • Kinsey Houseboats: 218-827-3763/888-827-3763
  • Timber Bay Houseboats: 218-827-3682/800-846-6821

Hikers love the Ely area. Some of the best hiking trails include:

  • The Trezona Trail: four miles of paved trail around Miner's Lake and is part of the new MesabiTrail.
  • Mesabi Trail: will eventually extend from Ely to Grand Rapids; a total of 132 miles.
  • Taconite State Trail: is primarily a snowmobile trail and also stretches from Ely to Grand Rapids.
  • Hidden Valley Recreation Area: created for cross-country skiing and loops for 12 miles through the birch and pine forest just off Highway 169.
  • The Gunflint Trail out of Grand Marais

Ely Minnesota Restaurants:The Chocolate Moose is a tradition for our family. Burntside Lodge, in our opinion, has no rival for an evening out. If you love the best burgers most anywhere, be sure to try Stony Ridge.

Minnesota Bed & Breakfast Inns Choose a romantic, cozy B & B anywhere in Minnesota you want to be.

Ely Minnesota Vacations
Boundary Waters Planning Resources like maps, guide books and other resources are essential to the success of your trip.

Ely Minnesota Vacations

Camping on your Ely Minnesota vacations will have you in a lovely wooded campground overlooking one of the areas scenic lakes. Your chosen campsite can be one that offers access to the Boundary Waters and lead you to hiking trails where you can see wildlife, pick berries, and leave with amazing photos of your adventure in the wilderness.

Ely Minnesota Vacations

Staying up late for star-gazing is another favorite thing to do in this area. If you are fortunate, you may be rewarded with the shimmering colors of an aurora in the night sky.

Dogsledding tours have become one of the most popular Minnesota winter adventures on Ely Minnesota vacations.

Ely Minnesota Vacations

Minnesota State Parks Near Ely Minnesota

Bear Head Lake State Park  - How to Get to Bear Head Lake State Park: Take U.S. Highway 169 east for nine miles out of Tower, MN. When you get to Highway 128, drive south for seven miles to the park. Or, from Ely, go west on Minnesota Highway 169 to County Highway 128. Follow this road south 7 miles to the park.  

Soudan Underground Mine State Park - How to Get to Soudan Underground Mine State Park: Drive 2 miles east of Tower on U.S. Highway 169 to the park entrance.

Lake Vermilion State Park - How to Get to Lake Vermilion State ParkDrive 2 miles east of Tower and follow the signs to the Soudan Underground Mine State Park entrance. The park is on the eastern shores of Lake Vermilion, adjacent to Soudan Underground Mine State Park, and just south of the Superior National Forest and the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.

See why Ely Minnesota Vacations are on our list of the 10 Best Vacation Spots in Minnesota

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