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Lake Superior North Shore

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The 150 miles of Lake Superior North Shore highway between Duluth and the Canadian border can be traveled in a few hours.

Lake Superior North Shore in Minnesota

Most family vacation destinations in Minnesota include beautiful family vacation resorts, cabins, and dozens of state parks and many other top family vacations spots.

You will, however, want to set aside several days to even begin to explore Minnesota's "All American Road."

A few of the attractions along this amazing highway include the Sawtooth Mountains, stunning cliffs, dozens of cascading waterfalls, several lighthouses, and the chance to see a moose.

Minnesota is privileged to have the world's largest inland freshwater lake within its boundaries. The "greatest of the Great Lakes," with its  appealing small towns, gorgeous state parks, and enchanting vistas along the shore, will have you returning time after time.

Lake Superior North Shore vacations might begin in Duluth then head on up the Lake Superior North shore that features seven of Minnesota's amazing state parks and incomparably dramatic scenery. Learn about the history of the North Shore with a stop at Split Rock Lighthouse. Travel on to Two Harbors, then to Grand Marais, and end at Grand Portage National Monument right near the Canadian Border. 


Plan Your Lake Superior North Shore Trip

Lake Superior's Historic North Shore: A Guided Tour

Lake Superior North Shore Map

Lake Superior North Shore Minnesota vacations most often begin with a visit to Duluth.  Plan to spend enough time here to see the attractions before heading up the highway. 

If you do nothing else in Duluth, go down to Canal Park to see the iconic Aerial Lift Bridge and visit the Lake Superior Maritime Visitor Center. If you are fortunate you will be able to watch a ship arrive in the harbor.

Lake Superior Vacation Rentals - Perfect lodging for your North Shore adventure. Rent the whole house for a family or group, a small cabin for fewer people.

Because the North Shore area is so popular it is a good idea to book hotel reservations well in advance of the summer season and, as well, for the fall color tour season.


“By the shore of Gitche Gumee, By the shining Big-Sea-Water” ~ an excerpt from The Song of Hiawatha by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow that tells the story of our state's original residents.

Top Attractions in Duluth include the shops, ships in Canal Park, the Lift Bridge, a drive up skyline drive at night to see the lights of the city, excursions on the North Shore Scenic Railroad, and tours of Glensheen Mansion.

There is a variety of museums in Duluth that includes the Lake Superior Maritime Visitor Center, the S.S. William A. Irvin Museum, the Lake Superior Railroad Museum, and the Duluth Children's Museum.

Other attractions in Duluth include Vista Fleet Harbor Cruises, Leif Erikson Park that showcases a stunning rose garden, and the Great Lakes Aquarium.

Plan your road trip from Duluth to the Canadian border with stops at the Top 10 North Shore attractions.

Lake Superior North Shore:
Duluth to Two Harbors

Lake Superior North Shore Voyageur

When you are ready, continue on to  explore the North Shore of Lake Superior from Two Harbors to Grand Marais.

If you just want to get to Two Harbors as fast as possible, stay on 4-lane Highway 61. If you want a more scenic drive, exit on to North Shore Drive (also known as old Highway 61). This is the road we always take as it offers nearly constant views of the Lake Superior North Shore and lots of tourist attractions along the way.

Stop at any one of many roadside pullouts or lookout areas and take some time to sit on the rocky shore to just enjoy the lake or sift through the rocks to hunt for Lake Superior agates

Scenic Highway 61 meanders up the shore between Lake Superior and the remnants of the Sawtooth mountains. Along the way you will discover incredibly tall cliffs, Lake Superior lighthouses, cascading waterfalls, charming small towns, meandering moose and so much more.

The North Shore offers a diversity of Minnesota vacation destinations. 

Many of the most beautiful Minnesota state parks and forests are in this area. In autumn lodging fills up fast for this popular Minnesota autumn scenery destination.

When hotels are in short supply, check out  Lake Superior vacation rentals all along the shore.

Read reviews of Minnesota travel destinations and tourist attractions.

Where to Stop on This Stretch
of the North Shore

  • French River Fish Hatchery: There is a small visitor center here with a glass viewing window. You can watch a video and learn about how trout and salmon are raised to be stocked in the lake.
  • Tom's Logging Camp: Tour replica's of lumbering days buildings. Kid's can feed deer, llama's and goats.
  • Stoney Point: a well known storm-watching spot.
  • Knife River: This small town began as a logging town and now depends on fishing. Commercial fishing still provides income for some here. We never fail to stop at Russ Kendall's Fish House to get some smoked salmon or whitefish to snack on in our cabin. You could also visit Mel's Fish House for similar treats. If you are interested in catching your own fish, head over to the Knife River Marina to learn about charter fishing trips. The Candy Kitchen is another "must stop."

Two Harbors: Even if you plan to continue on up the shore, spend some time here. This town of about 3,600 residents is the launching spot for many Lake Superior North Shore adventures and activities.

There are several gift shops, agate shops and, as well, some quaint little cafes. We always try to time our trip to stop at the Vanilla Bean Cafe and Bakery for lunch.

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North Shore State Parks

Lake Superior North Shore

Minnesota state parks along the North Shore are some of the best places in the state to camp, hike, and explore this area. These 8 state parks are:

  • Split Rock Lighthouse - Tour the lighthouse in this most well known of our state parks.
  • Tettegouche - The largest North Shore state park with some of our favorite camping spots. 
  • Crosby Manitou - The first Minnesota State Park created for backpackers. Beautiful wilderness. 
  • Temperance River - Experience the “best of the North Shore” within the 5,007 acres of this beautiful state park.  Another family favorite.
  • Cascade River - The foamy river is the primary attraction here, cascading 900 feet down the craggy rocks and over two waterfalls.  
  • Judge Magney - Explore the unsolved mystery of the Devil’s Kettle Falls on the Brule River.  
  • Grand Portage - One of Minnesota's smallest state parks and the state's highest waterfall. 

The North Shore
From Two Harbors to Grand Portage

There is so much to share about the Lake Superior North Shore that we split the travel guide into three pages.

You can make the drive from Duluth to Grand Portage in a day however you will not have much time to explore the delights along the way. 

Some of the best Lake Superior scenery is on this stretch of highway and you will be competing with fewer travelers for road space. At Grand Portage you will be able to visit a recreated fur-trading post. And....what I think  is the best view in the state...the High Falls in Grand Portage State Park.

Lake Superior Circle Tour  

An amazing North Shore vacation is the Lake Superior Circle Tour

This tour will take several days as you follow the shore into Canada, back into the U.S. in Michigan, on through Wisconsin and back to Duluth.

Another way to enjoy time in this area is to book a Lake Superior Fishing Charter and get out on the lake.

If you are curious about what lies beneath the waves you might consider scuba diving Lake Superior. You may even discover a Lake Superior shipwreck.

Lake Superior North Shore

Sea kayaking trips on the lake are another way to get up close and personal with the waves.

For all of these adventures you will want specific guidebooks and Lake Superior maps.

Your road trip along the shore will be more fun by knowing some of these fun facts about Lake Superior.

If you are driving from the Twin Cities make a stop in Hinckley.

Lake Superior ice formations all along the shore attract visitors even on the coldest days as Lake Superior shows us the unique beauty of winter on the North Shore.

Lake Superior Guidebooks

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Minnesota State Parks: From Afton to Zippel Bay