Secrets of Superior
The Insider's Guide to the Best of Grand Marais, the North Shore, Bayfield, and Beyond
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Lutsen ➔ Grand Portage
WHERE TO STAY
East Bay Suites ➔ The East Bay Hotel was built in 1910 and has been a North Shore landmark ever since. In 2005, it was purchased by two women who re-envisioned the property as 31 suites, individually owned but also rentable. The new “condotel” has been completely remodeled and every unit is within 50 feet of the lake. Want the amenities of a hotel, too? There’s morning yoga on the beach, in-suite massages, and guided hikes. Simply ask the concierge for help. 21 Wisconsin St., Grand Marais, 800-414-2807, eastbaysuites.com
Sweetgrass Cove Bed & Breakfast ➔ First, you have to find the place: The driveway isn’t marked—presumably because privacy is paramount (the guest quarters share a wall, but not a door, with the main house). Once inside, here’s what you do: Take a steam in the wood-fired sauna, followed by a soak in the outdoor hot tub, capped by a massage from your host, Rick Anderson. And hope for a gale, when comfort amidst the elements is that much more decadent. 6880 E. Hwy. 61, Grand Portage, 866-475-2421, sweetgrasscove.com
WHERE TO EAT
Angry Trout Cafe ➔ Inside the humble, cedar-shake exterior of an old fish shanty is one of the North Shore’s best, and most progressive, eateries. The Angry Trout’s social and environmental ethic is well-suited to a town rich in artisans and natural resources. Everything from the rustic wood tables to the art on the wall was created in Grand Marais. Likewise, organic, locally grown, and sustainably raised ingredients are the centerpiece of a hearty menu of soups, salads, sandwiches, and daily catches from Lake Superior. Add a pint of beer and a slice of four-layered carrot cake, and savor life on the shore. 416 W. Hwy. 61, Grand Marais, 218-387-1265, angrytroutcafe.com
The Crooked Spoon Café ➔ One of the newest additions to Grand Marais serves up exactly what the town needed: really good food. It’s a combination that’s hard to find up north, and even harder to execute, but owners Nathan and Sara Hingos get it just right with their cozy nook. She’s the warm, no-nonsense presence at the front of the house who keeps the place humming. He’s the chef with a talent for making comforting bistro fare, like puff-pastry-topped French onion soup, “crooked” BLTs with honey- and black-pepper-glazed bacon and curried mayo, and rich maple crème brûlée. 17 W. Wisconsin St., Grand Marais, 218-387-2779, crookedspooncafe.com
World’s Best Donuts ➔ In response to customer accolades, the “Grand Marais Donut Shop” elevated its name in 1978. If you think that was a presumptuous move, you haven’t tasted these donuts. The classic cake version, with its perfectly crisp exterior and buttery flavor, needs no adornment. Most of the customers who spill out the door each morning, however, are hoping to claim the elusive Skizzle, a plate-sized disc of bubbly, sugary fried dough so popular it has its own e-mail address: email@example.com. 10 E. Wisconsin St., Grand Marais, 218-387-1345, worldsbestdonutsmn.com
» Known for its quiche, chowders, and hearty sandwiches on thick bread. Muffuletta pizza is a huge hit—provolone cheese with thin slices of salami, proscuitto, marinated olive salad, and topped off with a blend of four cheeses. Pick up a trail lunch or dine on the patio. 7126 W. Hwy. 61, Tofte, 218-663-8032
» When you’re driving on one of the most beautiful roads in America, you deserve better than the Holiday or the SA, Slim Jims and Monster Energy Drinks. You deserve a place that feels like a lumberjack’s fallout shelter, with creaky floors and a wall of coffee mugs and a room in the back where they serve you a pancake the size of a manhole cover. Hwy. 61, Lutsen, 218-663-7548
WHAT TO DO
Go moose-spotting ➔ In Cook County alone, there are more than 6,000 moose. Unfortunately, unless you’re a hunter who travels to the remote marshes where moose feed, you may never see one. From Dan Anderson’s float plane, however, the odds are in your favor. Book an hour-long moose scouting flight with Anderson Aero and you’ll likely spot several of the 800-pound creatures. Anderson will soar above Superior National Forest, over rivers and secluded lakes, until he spots a moose. He’ll then gently lower the plane so you can (safely) have a closer look. If moose aren’t your thing, Anderson offers shorter sight-seeing flights, as well as a fall-colors tour. 218-370-0645, skydanairtours.com
Take a class at the North House Folk School ➔ Started by locals in the mid-’90s and inspired by the Scandinavian folkehøskole tradition, North House Folk School offers a craft curriculum steeped in northern tradition, including instruction in sweet-grass basketry, timber framing, cedar-strip boat construction, and the most popular class: build your own casket. Artisans and professors from the Midwest and beyond come to Grand Marais to share their trade with students in half- and multi-day courses, many of which are taught in one of the school’s two historic waterfront buildings. The campus is always open to non-students, who are welcome to observe classes, or to visit the school store, where instructors and local artists sell their wares. 500 W. Hwy. 61, Grand Marais, 888-387-9762, northhouse.org
Sail aboard the Schooner Hjørdis ➔ With its distinctive double mast and brilliant orange sails, the 50-foot Schooner Hjørdis, has become a symbol of Grand Marais—one of the most striking sights along the Superior shoreline. Named after a Norwegian goddess, the Hjørdis and its convivial captains provide passengers with a tour of the harbor and great views of the shore and the Sawtooth Mountains. Two-hour sails are offered most days of the week from mid-June to mid-October. For reservations, call 888-387-9762.
COOL HISTORIC SITES
Built to resemble an English country estate, this 1908 mansion on Duluth’s London Road was also the scene of one of Minnesota’s most famous murders. Daily tours. Reservations recommended.
Split Rock Lighthouse
This scenic yellow-brick tower kept ore boats from foundering on what was once known as the most dangerous stretch of water on the planet. Open for tours mid-May to mid-October.
Babe Ruth and Ring Lardner were among the charter members of the club that built this swank resort in 1929. The Cree-inspired design in the main room is a North Shore must-see.
NORTH SHORE HALL OF FAME
Gooseberry Falls Arguably the state’s most scenic pit stop, Gooseberry’s a place where you’ll see waterfalls, river gorges, and myriad wildlife—whether you’re there for a day, or an hour.
WHAT TO SEE
The Devil’s Kettle ➔ Located 14 miles northeast of scenic Grand Marais, near mile marker 124, Judge C. R. Magney State Park is home to one of the North Shore’s most intriguing natural phenomena: the mystifying, much-
ballyhooed Devil’s Kettle. You’ll need a daily permit to hike here, but $5 seems a small price to pay for the reward of this two-mile roundtrip trek. The path to the Kettle consists of a well-groomed trail and man-made steps, which lead down to a view of two roaring waterfalls: one that empties into the Brule River, and another that disappears into a rocky “kettle,” its final destination unknown. Lake Superior? The Nevada desert? China? Ponder the possibilities—before you head back up those 176 wood steps. Judge C. R. Magney State Park, 4051 E. Hwy. 61, north of Grand Marais, 218-387-3039
The Witch Tree ➔ To see this oft-photographed icon of the North Shore you have to drive to the outskirts of Grand Portage, crash through the woods, and, to show your respect, leave an offering of tobacco at the base of this little cedar that’s clung to a cliff high above Lake Superior for an estimated 300 years. None of which you’re likely to do without the help of a local. The site is a secret and rightly so: To the Ojibwa, who own much of the lakeshore here, the tree is a sacred symbol of self-determination.
The High Falls ➔ The rangers at Grand Portage State Park want you to know that when you stand beside the approximately 120-foot drop of the High Falls, a short walk from the park entrance, you’re viewing the highest waterfall in the state. Never mind what their colleagues at Tettegouche State Park say. “It’s semantics,” says a Grand Portage park employee, explaining that Tettegouche has claimed its (much smaller) falls as the true record-holder because the Grand Portage waterfall is partly in Canada. But let’s be honest: Amid the thunder and spray, you’re unlikely to care which is higher or what country you’re in—so long as you can snap a good photo. Grand Portage State Park, 9393 E. Hwy. 61, 218-475-2360
HOT SUMMER FESTS
|Grand Marais Arts Festival |
July 11–12: Juried art fair with ceramics, photography, jewelry, and other crafts and fine arts. grandmaraisartscolony.com
|Bayfront Blues Festival |
August 7–9: A Duluth tradition devoted to great music and soulful sounds celebrates its 21st year this summer. bayfrontblues.com
|Two Harbors Kayak Festival |
August 7–9: Races, kids activities, demos, and an 18-mile kayaking marathon.
|Lake Superior Dragon Boat Festival |
August 21–22: Forty-foot boats, crowded with 20 paddlers apiece, battling it out off Barker’s Island. lakesuperiordragons.com
WHERE TO SHOP
Dockside Fish Market ➔ Family-run for more than a decade, this is the place on the shore—heck, in Minnesota—for locally caught bluefin herring, lake trout, whitefish, and Canadian walleye. Other varieties, like Coho salmon, halibut, tuna, and seafood are flown in fresh—and never frozen. The deli sells addictive brown-sugar-brined and smoked fish, fish-cake batter, and picnic-ready spreads. Or, take a seat on the deck overlooking Superior and order—what else?—the fish and chips. 418 W. Hwy. 61, Grand Marais, 218-387-2906, docksidefishmarket.com
Lake Superior Trading Post ➔ Whether you need a new camp stove or pair of Tevas isn’t the point—trawling the Trading Post is a rite of passage for Grand Marais visitors. The beachfront location is always bustling with kids, pets, and adults who’ve been lured by the Adirondack chairs overlooking the harbor. The Trading Post stocks everything you need for an outdoor adventure—maps, hiking gear, camping equipment—as well as plenty of non-necessities, like soaps, candles, jam, and jewelry. You probably didn’t come to Grand Marais to shop, but trust us—you will. 16 S. First Ave. W., Grand Marais, 218-387-2020, lstp.com
Sivertson Gallery ➔ Jim Brandenburg’s nature photography, Betsy Bowen’s whimsical woodcuts, and Faith Lowell’s oil landscapes are among the works of some 60 regional artists exhibited at Sivertson Gallery. Their art captures the character of Lake Superior, the North Shore, and the surrounding wilderness. Canadian Inuit stone carvings, Alaskan ivory sculptures, and nature-inspired jewelry also have a place in the gallery that Jan Sivertson and her father, artist and author Howard Sivertson, started in 1980. 14 W. Wisconsin St., Grand Marais, 888-880-4369, sivertson.com
Drury Lane Books ➔ There will be plenty of hiking, and perhaps a little too much eating, but summer on the North Shore is made for curling up with a book. Stepping into Drury Lane Books is the surest path to that fate. Once the home of Grand Marais’s first lighthouse keeper, Joseph Mayhew, the historic, lavender-trimmed white cottage by the water’s edge now stocks a small but notable selection of bestsellers, classics, and featured authors. Once a month, during the full moon, the shop sponsors a fireside reading by the lake. 12 E. Wisconsin St., Grand Marais, 888-887-3370, drurylanebooks.com
NORTH SHORE HALL OF FAME
Sven & Ole’s What started as a snack shack in 1981 has since become an institution, famous for its pizza, including the Uffda Zah, a chunky, glorious rendition of the supreme, or the Vild Vun, which takes wild rice to new heights.