A Lake Superior State of Mind


Find your own little piece of paradise along the world’s largest freshwater lake

For some, the ideal vacation revolves around where (and what) they’re going to eat. For others, it revolves around visiting the area’s hottest attractions. Some want outdoor recreation opportunities; some want culture; others want shopping, shopping, shopping. There are those who want to do it all, and those who want to do absolutely nothing. No matter what kind of vacation you’re searching for, one of the quaint towns along Lake Superior will provide the perfect ingredients for an unforgettable getaway.

Photo courtesy of Visit Duluth/Seaquest


Whether you’re seeking solitude, family bonding, romance, or adventure, a trip to the North Shore is just what the doctor ordered.

Duluth, two and a half hours north of the Twin Cities, is a true escape for a day, weekend, or weeklong trip. Built into a steep, rocky hillside, the city overlooks the sparkling blue waters of Lake Superior.

Most visitors see the vista unfold as they crest the hill of Interstate 35, and what a view it is.

Gene Shaw, director of public relations for Visit Duluth, sums up the city this way:

“Duluth is a city of historic splendor and cultural grandeur–preserved so perfectly it’s as if time slipped by. It’s a quiet little coffee house or a hot new band in a cool new club. It’s galleries, antique boutiques worth rummaging through, out-of-the-way mom and pop shops, sculptures in gardens, and art everywhere you look. It’s a breath of fresh air.â€

Invigorating fresh air and the liquid blue horizon of Lake Superior are best appreciated along Duluth’s three-mile Lakewalk. Stretching from 27th Avenue to Bayfront Festival Park, the paved path takes visitors past Leif Erickson Park, the Rose Garden, Canal Park, and area attractions and restaurants. Just steps from the Lakewalk is Fitger’s Inn and Brewery Complex, listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Once a functioning brewery, Fitger’s is now the site of several restaurants, retail shops, a brewpub, and Fitger’s only four-diamond hotel. Everything is conveniently located under one roof, within easy walking distance of Lake Superior. Rooms offer city or lake views, with optional amenities such as balconies, fireplaces, wet bars, double whirlpools, and skylights.

While visiting this pretty city, enjoy world-class opera in Canal Park, on the shores of Lake Superior.

“Minnesotans can now combine their passion for Lake Superior’s beautiful lakeshore with their passion for an opera of nationally-recognized quality,†says Craig Fields, general/artistic director of the Duluth Festival Opera.

After spending the day kayaking, shopping, harbor-cruising, strolling the lakewalk, site-seeing, or dining, take in a star-studded production of The Barber Seville in the Duluth Entertainment Center, or enjoy an elegant dinner/cabaret presentation of Side by Side by Sondheim at the Inn on Lake Superior’s Northern Lights Ballroom.

“This is a win-win for the culturally aware Minnesotan who wants an enriching musical/operatic experience along with blue waters, gorgeous vistas, charm, and the natural beauty in and around Duluth,†Fields says.

“Opera Weekender†packages are currently available, including lodging, kayaking, cruises, massages, chocolate tastings, and premium opera tickets, based on availability. See the resource guide for more details.

Glensheen Mansion – Photo courtesy of
Visit Duluth/Seaquest Photography

Another item on the “list of things to see and do in Duluth†is a visit to Glensheen, the Historic Congdon Estate, located just up the road from downtown Duluth (off I-35 on the shores of Lake Superior). The 39-room Jacobean-style mansion is open daily for tours during the summer.

“A Glensheen guest today experiences the same thing a visitor would have encountered in 1908, because nearly everything at Glensheen is original. From the magnificent furnishings to the top hats in the closet, this authenticity is a rarity in historic house museums, and gives our visitors a genuine feel for the opulence of Duluth at the turn of the last century,†explains Lori Melton, Glensheen’s director of marketing.

The estate features beautiful gardens, a carriage house with original carriages, a museum shop, stone bridges, and more. In addition to regular tours, Glensheen is hosting “Concerts by the Lake†Wednesday evenings throughout July and August, featuring the swinging tunes of the Jim Melde Big Band. The concerts will take place on the Carriage House Lawn.

There are plenty of dining options in Duluth, but one restaurant visitors will definitely want to try is Nokomis Restaurant, Bar and Wine Shop, located about 20 minutes from downtown Duluth on the shores of Lake Superior. Panoramic views of the lake can be seen from the restaurant, bar, and patio.

“Sipping a cool drink on the Nokomis patio and watching the big lake is about as good as it gets,†says Sean Lewis, chef and co-owner. “And then you can go into the dining room and follow up with a superb dinner.â€

Nokomis offers contemporary American cuisine always changing to reflect what is fresh and best in season. The restaurant also carries over 130 carefully selected wines, with regular wine tastings and wine dinners offered throughout the year.



After stopping or staying in Duluth, continue north along the North Shore Scenic Drive. A combination of the lake’s beaches and rocky cliffs on one side and the Sawtooth Mountains and thousands of acres of forest on the other provides some truly breathtaking scenery. During the drive, picnic in Split Rock State Park and tour the Split Rock Lighthouse, (located about 45 minutes north of Duluth, near Two Harbors) before continuing along your journey. Stop to take photos of Superior National Forest and sweeping expanses of Lake Superior.

Once in the town of Beaver Bay, stay at the Scandinavian-style Cove Point Lodge, where guests are treated to peace and solitude. The setting–a picturesque lodge surrounded by 150 acres of woods and rocks, with all rooms facing Lake Superior–is ideal for a romantic getaway. Located just outside the Superior Hiking Trail, near Gooseberry Falls, Tettegouche State Park, and the Gitchi-Gami Bike Trail, guests can hike, bike, golf, kayak, fish, canoe, or pick fresh berries in the area, or simply stay at the lodge and relax (rooms include fireplaces and/or Jacuzzis). Favorite dinner options include walleye, steak, pasta, stuffed mushroom appetizers baked in champagne, and Split Rock shrimp served on wild rice. Guests are treated to a Scandinavian continental breakfast each morning.

Temperance Landing – Photo
courtesy of John Gregor,
Coldsnap Photography

Just a little further up the road, in the Lutsen-Tofte area, is Chateau LeVeaux, a cozy lodge “right in the middle of everything you want to do, and the perfect place to do nothing at all,†says Kay Wiermaa, group coordinator at Chateau LeVeaux.

The lodge appeals to people who want a peaceful, family-oriented vacation in a small resort setting.

“We want to keep the peace, meaning we aren’t your hard-core partying place,†Wiermaa says. “We want every guest to benefit from the serenity of the lake and the beauty of our natural surroundings. We work hard to maintain tranquility on our property.â€

A biking and walking path meanders for miles through the woods and along the lake, providing a nice way to connect with Mother Nature. Canoes and kayaks are also available for use. There are several state parks close by, and Superior National Golf Course only minutes away.

After playing outside, many guests return to Chateau LeVeaux to swim laps in the indoor pool or soothe sore muscles in the hot tub. Specials are offered throughout the year for honeymooners, returning guests, and seniors.

One of the newest developments in the Lutsen-Tofte area, Temperance Landing, is a small community of privately owned custom log homes, fondly referred to as “log mansions†by some. Framed by Lake Superior and the forest, each 3,000-square-foot three-level home is fully furnished with designer furnishings, and features a stone fireplace in the great room and master bedroom, a whirlpool tub in the master suite, three bedrooms, three bathrooms, a large grand porch overlooking the lake, and direct access to the beach.

“A vacation at Temperance Landing allows guests to experience the North Shore on their own terms,†says Lori Schaefer, Temperance Landing marketing director. If you want an escape from the hustle and bustle, “sit on your porch in your pajamas all day while sipping coffee and watching the ships go by,†she says. If you want action, Temperance River State Park is literally right out the back door.

“Wake up to the sun rising over Lake Superior’s eastern horizon, spend the day on the shore beachcombing, or explore all of the activities this amazing area has to offer,†Schaefer says.

Due to Temperance Landing’s recent opening, they’re offering an Early Bird Special Promotion with discounted rates through June 30, 2007. Rates start at $150 per night for a log home on the water that sleeps six to eight.

Summer vacationers searching for a resort that has a little something for everyone will find Bluefin Bay a good fit. A children’s program and play area keeps the little ones busy, and kids of all ages enjoy the outdoor pool and hot tub/spa, indoor pool and whirlpool, volleyball and tennis courts, sea kayaking lessons, naturalist program, and complimentary use of mountain bikes. Bluefin offers the entire resort experience–gourmet dining at Bluefin Grille, bonfires on the beach, charter fishing, outdoor activities, unwinding with a massage at Superior Waters Wellness Center, and luxurious amenities within the midst of the North Shore’s rugged wilderness.

Photo courtesy of Lutsen Resort

Lutsen Resort is another popular destination for those who want the total vacation experience. Spring programs include a Women’s Getaway Weekend May 17-20 (sea kayaking, canoeing in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, and hiking along the North Shore waterfalls), and a Sea Kayak Instruction Getaway from May 30 – June 1. Adam Harju, activities and recreation director at Lutsen Resort, says guests will learn paddle strokes and rescue training before heading out on a full day tour of the Lake Superior shoreline.

With full-time activities directors on staff, Lutsen Resort excels in year-round programs, offering a great way to experience the best of the North Shore.

Other perks of staying at Lutsen Resort include complimentary childrens’ programs, kids’ camps, guided hikes, naturalist programs, and kayak tours. 

When guests aren’t out and about exploring the area, they’re lounging on the pebble beach in front of the lodge, playing shuffleboard or golf, swimming in the pool, unwinding in the Jacuzzi, or dining  at the lakeside restaurant or pub. Stay in a sea villa, luxury condo, log home, or hotel-style room at the lodge.

Nestled in the Sawtooth Mountains is the family-friendly destination of Caribou Highlands Lodge, offering a variety of lodging styles and price points for every visitor. The resort offers complimentary activities for kids, such as the Mountain Kids Camp, so parents can take advantage of activities like guided canoeing, pool volleyball, or water workouts. The Superior National Hiking Trail and Superior National Golf Course are minutes away. The lodge also features a heated outdoor three-season pool, an indoor pool, three spa areas, two saunas, tennis courts, volleyball and basketball courts, picnic areas, and game rooms. Accommodations include up to four-bedroom luxury log homes, townhomes that sleep up to 12, condos which sleep up to six, and hotel-style rooms in the lodge, all with optional whirlpools and fireplaces


“Summertime, and the living is easy,†or so the song goes, and that’s just how it is in Grand Marais, the last town before the Canadian border. 

Visitors enjoy casually wandering the streets of Grand Marais (the only North Shore community whose downtown is right on the lake), walking out to the lighthouse, going on a guided kayaking or canoeing trips, hiking along the Superior Hiking Trail, or watching a performance at the Grand Marais Playhouse, all the while enjoying the fabulous scenery.

Grand Marais also marks the start of the Gunflint Trail, an old logging route that now offers access to camping and the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, a unique wilderness of more than a thousand lakes and streams joined by short overland trails called “portages.â€

Guests can enjoy the wilderness setting from The Inn at Terrace Point, where solitude equals the sound of waves rolling along the rugged ledge rock shoreline, coastal seagulls singing overhead, Lake Superior breezes, and the warm glow of the fire in your room. The structures at Terrace Point are integrated into the natural setting of Lake Superior’s North Shore and represent the design principles of Frank Lloyd Wright and John Howe.

Another Grand Marais lodging option is the smoke-free Best Western Superior Inn and Suites. The hotel is conveniently located within walking distance of many unique village restaurants, shops, and galleries, and is within two blocks of the North House Folk School.


Kakabeka Falls – Photo courtesy of
North of Superior Tourism


Thunder Bay, Ontario, located just across the Canadian border and 90 minutes from Grand Marais, is the largest city on Lake Superior. A mix of metropolitan sophistication and natural beauty make Grand Marais a popular vacation spot.

Clean, crisp, unspoiled lakes provide some of the best canoeing around, in addition to some of the best-tasting fish ever served over an open fire (try the walleye). There are numerous attractions in the area, including  the Founders’ Museum and Pioneer Village, complete with a one-room school, general store, church, train station, pioneer home, and shops of Village Square; Eagle Canyon,  Canada’s longest foot suspension bridge (600 feet long from anchor to anchor, sitting 150 feet off the canyon floor at its lowest point); Thunder Oak Cheese Farm, the only farm in Ontario producing Gouda cheese; Eagle Ridge Trout Farms; Whitewater Golf Club; Thunder Bay Charity Casino; and both the Amethyst Mine Panorama and Ontario Gem Mining Company, where families can embark on a pick-your-own gemstone adventure. 

Other attractions in the area include Sleeping Giant Provincial Park, a scenic wonderland located on a rugged peninsula of thick forests, several lakes, and high granite cliffs; Old Fort William, one of the largest historical reconstructions in North America (once the front line of the fur trade era and anchor to a chain of Canadian trading posts); and Kakabeka Falls, west of Thunder Bay. Stay in a hotel, motel, bed and breakfast, or campground near the action.

A vacation along the shores of Lake Superior–whether close to home or across the border in Canada–is bound to be a vacation experience like no other. What are you waiting for?

Resource Guide

Best Western Superior Inn and Suites


Bluefin Bay on Lake Superior

The Boathouse Restaurant

Brickyard Creek Cottages

Caribou Highlands Lodge

Chateau LeVeaux

Country Inn of Two Harbors
877-604-5332 – 218-834-5557

Cove Point Lodge

Duluth Festival Opera

Fenstad’s Resort

Fitger’s Brewery Complex and Fitger’s Inn

Glensheen: The Historic Congdon Estate
1-800-454-glen (4536)

The Inn at Terrace Point

Lutsen Resort and Sea Villas

Nokomis Restaurant and Bar

North Shore Real Estate

Pets Are Inn

Rittenhouse Pines Cottage

Tourism Thunder Bay

Visit Duluth

Vista Fleet