Secrets of Superior

The Insider’s Guide to the Best of Grand Marais, the North Shore, Bayfield, and Beyond

North Shore

Duluth âž” Lutsen


Larsmont Cottages âž” Not too rustic, not too swanky, Larsmont is the Goldilocks of North Shore lodging. Modeled on a Swedish fishing village and located just south of Two Harbors, the resort radiates a sort of Pottery Barn-meets-Paul Bunyan vibe (think modern kitchens, gas fireplaces, and high thread counts) that’s comfy without being kitschy, contemporary without being austere. It’s a sensibility that extends to the resort’s amenities, as well. Sure, you can get a fancy massage, sit in the Finnish sauna, or go geocaching (whatever that is), but you can also bike, hike, kayak, or—best of all—just sit around a roaring fire, feet away from Superior’s rocky shore (the resort sits on 1,300 feet of shoreline property), contemplating all the reasons the place feels just right. 596 Larsmont Way, Two Harbors, 866-687-5634,

Surfside on Lake Superior/Temperance Landing âž” Twenty-five years after the folks behind Bluefin Bay changed visitors’ expectations about what a North Shore vacation could be, they’re doing it again with two new luxury properties: Surfside on Lake Superior and Temperance Landing. The latter sits on seven acres of forested land south of Tofte and is geared toward families and large groups—albeit groups looking for accommodations you’d expect to encounter in Aspen, not the Arrowhead. Indeed, each of Temperance Landing’s three-story, three-bath, 3,000-square-foot log homes sleep six to eight people and feature über-modern appliances, custom bed linens, floor-to-ceiling windows, and access to 600 feet of shoreline. Temperance Landing’s sister resort, Surfside, located just up the road, offers a more modern take, with contemporary, three-story town homes that boast every modern luxury—from gas fireplaces to Wi-Fi to a full-service spa (the region’s first)—and one very un-modern perk: jaw-dropping views of Lake Superior. Temperance Landing: from Duluth, follow Hwy. 61 north approximately 78 miles. Half a mile past the city limits of Schroeder, go east on Temperance Trail, 877-723-6426, Surfside: 10 Surfside Dr., Tofte, 877-361-7873,


Burrito Union âž” Burrito Union in Duluth has done for burritos what Minneapolis-based Pizza Lucé has done for pizza—that is, made them hip, hearty, fun, and above-all user friendly. Hip and fun? Opulent chandeliers, colorful chalkboards, and a regular entertainment roster featuring local bands attract a cute-rugged population. User-friendly? Most everything is under $8, and there’s a selection of local microbrews that would be destination-
worthy no matter what kind of food Burrito Union had. Oh, and the food: In addition to burritos filled with things like red chile beef, the place is known to feature specials like a turkey-dinner burrito, served with a side of salsa made from cranberries. Best of all, they serve it with Surly beer. 1332 E. Fourth St., Duluth, 218-728-4414,

Rustic Inn Cafe âž” Pies get all the attention when it comes to North Shore eats, but a big breakfast is the region’s true culinary signature. And no place does it bigger or better than Rustic Inn Cafe in Castle Danger. With its fluffy omelets, perfect home fries, skillet breakfasts stacked as high as Gooseberry Falls, Rustic offers the perfect fare to fuel a day of hiking, biking, kayaking, or doing nothing at all. And if the eggs, sausage, and potatoes don’t fill you up, there’s always another option (besides gastric bypass surgery). Pie, it turns out, is an excellent way to start the day. 2773 Hwy. 61, Two Harbors, 218-834-2488

New Scenic Café âž” A modest proposal: the New Scenic Café should think about dropping the “new” from its name. It’s not because the place isn’t new, though it’s not—it’s been around for 10 years. Nor is it because the cozy restaurant, with its focus on seasonal, refined-but-unfussy offerings (roasted beets, pork tenderloin, goat-cheese cake), has, over that time, become the go-to dining option for many North Shore visitors. It’s just that it’s beginning to seem a little odd to keep calling a place “new” long after it’s become, well, a tradition. 5461 North Shore Scenic Dr., Duluth, 218-525-6274,


Amazing Grace Bakery and Cafe
» Fair-trade brew, biodegradable cups, folksingers on weekends, fresh bread daily, and cinnamon rolls that are way better than Tobie’s. An easy stop, located in Canal Park. 394 S. Lake Ave., Duluth, 218-723-0075


Betty’s Pies  For more than 50 years, Betty’s has been as synonymous with the North Shore as pine trees and plaid. And despite its time-warp feel—imagine the diner in Happy Days set a stone’s throw from the shores of Lake Superior—it remains a dessert-lover’s mecca, a place to find, among other things, the world’s greatest five-layer chocolate pie.


Gitchi-Gami State Trail âž” Ah, the Getaway Paradox: You drive two, three, four hours to see some bit of natural splendor, to leave it all behind, to get away, only to arrive at your destination and find hordes of people doing the exact same thing. Well, we have an answer to the Getaway Paradox, at least when it comes to the North Shore: Bring a bike. More specifically, bring a bike and hit the Gitchi-Gami State Trail. When completed, the paved trail for non-motorized vehicles will run all the way from Two Harbors to Grand  Marais, an 86-mile companion to Highway 61. Until then, the trail’s longest completed section, from Gooseberry Falls to Beaver Bay, offers the best and coolest way to enjoy one of the most scenic stretches of North Shore: over rolling hills, through birch and aspen forests, across waterfalls—into places where you’ll actually be able to get away from all those people getting away from it all. Park at the Gooseberry Falls State Park, 3206 Hwy. 61 E., Two Harbors, 218-834-3855,

The Alpine Slide at Lutsen âž”  The experience starts with the chairlift ride to the summit of Eagle Mountain, where the expansive views of the Sawtooth Mountains and Lake Superior should comfort and please even the most leisurely inclined members of your tribe. Then there’s the ride itself. The key to the alpine slide is that you get to control the speed of your sled as it dips, turns, and churns down the luge-like, half-mile track. Cautious folks are free to move slower than a Merchant-Ivory film, while adventurous types can rocket down the mountain at speeds that will make their insurance agents sweat. 467 Ski Hill Rd., Lutsen, 218-663-7281,


Temperance River
A mile-long loop brings you to the Temperance River gorge, Hidden Falls, and vertiginous views of the frothy cauldrons below.
Illgen Falls
Sculpted black granite and picturesque thundering falls. A short walk from the parking lot on the north end of Tettegouche State Park.
Bear and Bean Lake
On the west end of Silver Bay, the Superior Hiking Trail heads north until it arrives at a cliff overlooking these twin lakes. Five miles roundtrip.
Oberg Mountain
Five miles north of Tofte, off Onion River Road, this 2.3-mile loop gradually circles the mountain, making for an easy stroll or trail run.



Tettegouche State Park âž” Here’s what you think when you stand on the edge of Shovel Point in Tettegouche State Park—at least, here’s what you should think: Thank God for rich dudes. In 1910, after a large tract of land north of Silver Bay had been logged within an inch of its life, some Duluth businessmen bought the property to use as a retreat. Eventually, it was acquired by the state, and today, the park boasts dramatic cliffs and inland bluffs, the cascading High Falls of the Baptism River, and the historic Tettegouche Camp, where visitors can stay the night. So hike out to Shovel Point and take in the spectacular view of Palisade Head. Then say a silent toast to a bunch of guys you’ll never get the chance to thank. 5702 Hwy. 61, Silver Bay, 218-226-6365,



North Shore

Lutsen âž” Grand Portage


East Bay Suites âž” 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,

Sweetgrass Cove Bed & Breakfast âž” 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,


Angry Trout Cafe âž” 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,

The Crooked Spoon Café âž” 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,

World’s Best Donuts âž” 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: 10 E. Wisconsin St., Grand Marais, 218-387-1345,


Coho Café
» 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

Lockport Store
» 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


Go moose-spotting âž” 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,

Take a class at the North House Folk School âž” 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,

Sail aboard the Schooner Hjørdis âž” 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.


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.

Naniboujou Lodge
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.


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.


The Devil’s Kettle âž” 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 âž” 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 âž” 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


Grand Marais Arts Festival
July 11–12: Juried art fair with ceramics, photography, jewelry, and other crafts and fine arts.
Bayfront Blues Festival
August 7–9: A Duluth tradition devoted to great music and soulful sounds celebrates its 21st year this summer.
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.



Dockside Fish Market âž” 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,

Lake Superior Trading Post âž” 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,

Sivertson Gallery âž” 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,

Drury Lane Books âž” 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,


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.


North Shore

North of the Border


Eldorado Beach Bed & Breakfast âž” Despite all the shoreline, Lake Superior features surprisingly few docks, where you can just stretch out and let the water lap your toes as if this were any other lake. But the cozy Eldorado, a favorite of kayakers, just north of Thunder Bay, offers this simple pleasure, along with a beach. An added bonus: the colorful stories of the proprietor, a German woman who knows the lake and its attractions like she knows how to make strudel. 2845 Eldorado Beach Rd., Thunder Bay, 866-205-0855

Sailboat B&B and tours âž” Your captain, Gregory Heroux, is an adventurous soul who once sailed from Thunder Bay to the mouth of the St. Lawrence River before deciding to keep going—all the way to Portugal. And so, while he’s happy to host a 90-minute tour of the Thunder Bay harbor, with its massive grain elevators and views of Sibley Peninsula jutting into the lake, you could keep going for a 3.5-hour excursion to the uninhabited Welcome Islands or beyond. You can also have a sailboat all to yourself—Heroux keeps a 38-footer anchored in the harbor as a bed-and-breakfast. Sleep in the cabin, eat in the galley, and earn your sea legs without going anywhere at all. 807-628-3333,


The Hoito âž” You’ll know you’re closing in on this culinary landmark when you see the sign for the “Finntastic Sauna” and the Marimekko prints in shop windows. This is Little Finland, an unexpectedly authentic enclave in Thunder Bay—the largest Finnish-speaking community outside of Europe. And the Hoito is its gathering place, a humble café in the basement of the Finnish Labour Temple, where for just a few loonies you can sample such Old World staples as sweet pancakes, mojakka (a fish soup), or, if you’ve got some sisu—that certain Finnish fortitude—you can try the viili: clabbered milk. 314 Bay St., Thunder Bay, 807-345-6323,

Moonlight Tea âž” In a town of log cabins lit by candlelight, you need to break out the good china once in a while. So every Saturday night in summer, the Silver Islet General Store—the only restaurant for miles around—holds Moonlight Tea, drawing just about everyone in town, campers, and folks from Thunder Bay for tea, ice cream, and pie. The place itself is an antique marvel, with stained-glass windows and a patio overlooking the lake. It’s really more like sunset tea, however, given that, this far north, darkness doesn’t fall in the summer until 11 p.m. Silver Islet, 807-683-8512


Little Niagara âž” Maybe it’s the accent, or the incessant “eh,” or the road signs of moose icons with the warning “Night Danger.” But something is vaguely exotic about crossing into Canada, and it shows up in Kakabeka Falls, a short drive west of Thunder Bay. This 154-foot-high cataract in the great woods seems as sprawling as the country itself—and it’s the largest falls in the Lake Superior watershed. The brochures call it Little Niagara, or Niagara of the North, but really it’s Niagara au naturale—naked beauty. From Thunder Bay, take Trans-Canada Hwy. 11/17 for 18 miles to Kakabeka Falls Provincial Park. 807-473-9231

Fort William Historical Park âž” In its 19th-century heyday, Fort William was the rustic metropolis of the Northwest. And it actually remained a city until 1970, when it merged with Port Arthur to create Thunder Bay. Nowadays, though, the fort is seemingly populated by theater students, who keep families entertained (“I see you need some new moccasins—I’m not familiar with the Nike tribe”) even as they relay the voyageur village’s history. 350 King Rd., Thunder Bay, 807-473-2347,

Sleeping Giant Provincial Park âž” Locals will tell anyone arriving from Minnesota that this rustic park, occupying most of Sibley Peninsula, is where Lake Superior really starts to get interesting. And they may be right, eh, given such bizarre rock formations as the Sea Lion arch, numerous islands within kayaking distance, and hikes that climb from gentle bays to the top of the Sleeping Giant—really a series of high mesas that, from afar, resemble a man on his back, a formation recently voted the No. 1 natural wonder in Canada. It’s enough to make Grand Marais seem like Bland Marais, so long as you don’t mind sleeping on the ground yourself. 807-977-2526,


Ouimet Canyon âž” Standing at the edge of this 350-foot-deep scar in the earth, you expect a stagecoach to fly across the boulder-strewn bottom and rumble into the mesas at either end. Like it’s Utah or Arizona, not a short drive from Lake Superior. Stranger still, the 1.5-mile-long canyon is so deep and narrow that the granite floor—where the sun hardly shines—has its own arctic microclimate, with lichens and cold breezes that sweep up the steep sides like ghosts of winter. As recently as 30 years ago, you could drive directly to the canyon lip (until someone drove right off the edge). But now a platform, cantilevered into nothingness, lets you feel like you’re falling into this geologic portal to the Old West. 807-977-2526,

Eagle Canyon Suspension Bridge âž” To step onto Canada’s longest pedestrian suspension bridge, stretching 600 feet across a deep canyon, is to realize what Wile E. Coyote must have felt when he accidentally ran off a cliff. You’re 152 feet up, a river beckoning below, swaying on a wood-planked bridge no wider than a Volkswagen. But here you have a view of everything—boreal forests, mesas, lakes—even as you stand on practically nothing. 807-857-1475,

South Shore

South of the Lake


Hotel Chequamegon âž” The original hotel burned down years ago, but this stately structure, modeled partly after the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island, looks as lovely as the one it replaced—a white swan nesting on the Lake Superior shoreline. The lakeside rooms offer an unparalled view of the Bayfield Peninsula in one direction and the ore docks that made Ashland the industrial center of northern Wisconsin in the other. High-backed chairs with velvet cushions line the lobby, and there’s enough wood and wicker to make the place feel sufficiently old-timey (though the new building was erected in 1986). So take a moment to revel in this place that time (almost) forgot: Order a drink from Molly Cooper’s restaurant on the ground floor, find a seat on the deck, and imagine the ore boats and passenger ferries steaming across Chequamegon Bay. 101 Lake Shore Dr. W., Ashland, 800-946-5555,


Wild Rice Restaurant âž” Yes, you can order the wild-rice soup. But don’t expect the usual carpenter’s-glue-with-celery-chunks sort of glop that most Wisconsin eateries ladle up. Like the restaurant itself, Wild Rice’s version is surprisingly fancy for this neck of the woods—made with smoked chicken and Granny Smith apples. The rest of the menu is similarly sophisticated—lobster bisque, white asparagus in puff pastry, herbed duck breast saltimbocca with seared foie gras, crème brûlée—and the setting, designed by acclaimed Duluth architect David Salmela, is as striking in its simplicity and proportions as anything served up by the kitchen. 84860 Old San Rd., Bayfield, 715-779-9881,

Egg Toss Bakery Café âž” If you’re the sort who crawls out of bed at 11, scowling at the first person you see and cursing the light, the Egg Toss Bakery Café is not for you. Everything about this place is perky, bright, and optimistic about the future, from the colorful carpet tiles and the east-facing windows to the glossy sheen of the hollandaise on the crab eggs Benedict. The servers are spritely, the coffee well-caffeinated, and the hash-browns heaped. So as you tuck into that plate of huevos rancheros, French toast, or biscuits and gravy, take note of the smile on your face and that sense of energy in the air. 41 Manypenny Ave., Bayfield, 715-779-5181,

Second Street Bistro âž” The setting is nothing remarkable, and the live music won’t be Yo-Yo Ma, but take a glance at the menu at Second Street Bistro and you’ll wonder if you’ve stumbled upon that rarest of finds on the South Shore: a place where people really care about food—how it’s sourced, how it’s prepared, how it’s plated and presented. The list of nightly specials may include a grilled T-bone, with a red-wine demi-glace (the meat sourced from a local farm), or fresh Lake Superior whitefish, paired with purple garlic-horseradish mashed potatoes. The salad greens will be organic, and the breads will likely be made in nearby Bessemer. In short, this is locavore eating at its best. The fact that you’ve discovered it in a place so remote—well, that’s all the more reason to celebrate, with a glass of Syrah or Sauvignon Blanc from the restaurant’s carefully cultivated wine list. 201 E. Main St., Ashland, 715-682-6444,

Black Cat Coffee âž” Caffeine-addled minds demand distraction. So when you happen upon a coffee shop where no two chairs match, where the walls are clogged with amateur photography collages, and where the entry is papered with fliers advertising events as disparate as paper-marbling classes and accordion concerts, you know you’ve come to a place where coffee is taken seriously. Some further evidence: Black Cat uses only organic, fair-trade espresso beans from Alakef Coffee Roasters in Duluth; its mochas are made with pure Dutch chocolate (Hershey’s syrup this ain’t!); and, finally, if you’re thinking about having a fancy latte or macchiato or cappuccino made with virtually flavorless skim milk, that’s fine by the management, but you’ll have to make a special request: Serious coffee drinkers wouldn’t think of using anything other than whole milk that comes, in this case, from a local dairy. 211 Chapple Ave., Ashland, 715-682-3680


Whitefish Livers
A northern Wisconsin delicacy, whitefish livers are often served with sautéed pepper and onions. For a more contemporary take, try them on pizza at Ethel’s at 250. 250 Rittenhouse Ave., Bayfield

Come fall, the South Shore is awash in apple fritters, apple sundaes, apple doughnuts, and cider. There’s even an Apple Ale, brewed by Ashland’s South Shore Brewery. 808 Main St. W., Ashland

Wild Rice
What Native Americans called manomin has been a staple of South Shore cuisine for centuries. A festival celebrating its harvest is held at the Bad River Lodge and Casino every August.


Ashland Baking Company
» The Ashland Baking Company makes flaky, buttery croissants, along with fresh-fruit Danishes, savory biscuits, and nearly a dozen kinds of bread: ciabatta, baguettes, sesame bagels, and several varieties of rye.
212 Chapple Ave., Ashland, 715-682-6010,

Gabriele’s German Cookies & Chocolate
» Nobody bakes better than the Germans. If you’re looking for proof, sample a few of Gabriele Block’s almond crescent cookies or her Berliner Brot confections. Block, a native of Bavaria, also sells Gummi Bears, homemade chocolates, and jams and jellies. 413 W. Main St., Ashland, 715-682-2114,


Play croquet on Raspberry Island âž” The life of a lighthouse keeper can be lonely. You work nights. You worry about storms. And even if your ship “comes in,” as they say, well, it doesn’t mean you get to quit your job. So you might imagine that when lighthouse keepers have a day off, they really let their hair down, tap the keg, grill some brats, and invite the neighbors over to play Texas Hold ’Em, right? But in fact, they play croquet. With mallets. Colored balls. White wickets. Turns out, it’s a tradition: Lighthouse keepers have been doing it for centuries. And in places like the Apostle Islands, they theoretically can still do it (though most of the keepers were replaced by mechanical devices years ago). Visitors have a chance to play a match on Raspberry Island, where the course is up all summer long. So take a whack. Count your strokes. And for chrissakes, if you see a lighthouse keeper, indulge him in some chat about the weather. He’ll be happy for the company. 715-779-3397,

Catch a Show at the Big Top Chautauqua âž” What do the Indigo Girls, Suzanne Vega, Greg Brown, and Joan Baez have in common? Well, yes, they all know their way around a folksy ballad. But this summer they also share a vacation destination: the blue-and-white-striped canvas tent that stands at the foot of Mount Ashwabay on the Bayfield Peninsula in northern Wisconsin. Vega, Brown, Baez, the Girls, and dozens of other talented vocalists, instrumentalists, actors, and even comedians will appear onstage at the Chautauqua, which is modeled on a festival series started in upstate New York in 1874. The Big Top is Wisconsin’s answer to a night with Garrison Keillor in St. Paul—but with a Friday fish boil. 888-244-8368,

Pick blueberries at Blue Vista Farm âž” You may be ambitious enough that you intend to pick a bucket of the blue gems on your own. Or you may just decide to buy an already-picked flat and eat half the berries on the way home. Whatever you decide, Blue Vista Farm near Bayfield is set up to accommodate your level of effort. With more than nine acres of berries—organic and conventional—there’s plenty of ground to cover in your search for blueberry perfection. And the place is scenic, too, with an old barn on a stone foundation and apple trees and flowers all around. 715-779-5400,


The beach at Big Bay State Park âž” The beach at Big Bay State Park isn’t easy to get to. You have to take a ferry. Then a bike or a car. And finally a few steps along a path and a boardwalk. But the trip is worth the effort, because this crescent-shaped beach stretches more than a mile and a half. It’s a sunbather’s paradise. And wading is a favorite activity, too. Swimming? Well, that depends on your tolerance for chilly water, but by August things are generally bearable. 715-747-6425,


Rittenhouse Inn  Sitting atop a knoll at the top of Bayfield’s central avenue, the Rittenhouse is the grand dame of the city’s B&Bs, a perfect place to linger over Sunday brunch or read a book on the porch.


White Winter Winery âž” Jon and Kim Hamilton once plied the beekeeping trade, so perhaps it’s not surprising that honey is the main ingredient in many of  the beverages sold by White Winter, the business they started in tiny Iron River in 1996. Medievalists will recognize mead, of course, the honey-based “wine” that animated more than a few Canterbury Tales. The Hamiltons offer bottles infused with strawberry, blueberry, and raspberry flavors, as well as a drier black-currant variety. But curious epicurians should also sample White Winter’s brackett, a beer-like drink made with fermented honey and grain and imbued with many of the same flavor nuances found in a glass of wine. 68323 Lea St., Iron River, 715-372-5656,

Oulu Glass âž” This glassblowers’ shop, owned by artists Jim and Sue Vojacek, is off the beaten track. But travelers willing to navigate country roads and capable of spotting the small signs that steer traffic to the remote studio will be amply rewarded: The shop is stocked with creations both funky and functional, giant and gemlike. Looking for a unique gift? Consider a hummingbird feeder. Need a paperweight? The buck stops here. There are vases, goblets, whirligigs, lamps, bowls, candleholders, and gleaming earrings and brooches in almost every hue. But equally fascinating is the building in which the shop is housed, an odd, shingle-clad structure that looks like it was created by Antonio Gaudì—or Papa Smurf. From Hwy. 13 take County Road B east 5 miles. Turn south on Oulu Rock Road and drive 1 mile. 715-372-4160,

Port Wing Art Galleries âž” Few towns along the South Shore are as picturesque as sleepy Port Wing. Its rustic cottages and charming harbor have attracted painters, potters, and fiber artists for decades, and this preponderance of creative talent may, in part, explain why a town with a population of roughly 400 people and no evident industry has three art galleries. Port Wing Pottery sells ceramist Shane Upthegrove’s functional wares, as well as an assortment of paintings, knitwear, and cookbooks; the Hoth Lee Gallery, across the street, displays photography, wood carvings, baskets, and more; and the Trout Run Art Gallery, housed in the town’s first saloon, features a collection of pottery, paintings, and wood carvings, and offers art classes every Saturday at 1:30 p.m. during the summer. Port Wing Pottery, 82980 White Birch Rd., Port Wing, 715-774-3222. Hoth Lee Art Gallery, 83010 Washington Ave., Port Wing, 715-774-3117. Trout Run Art Gallery and Ice Cream, 83315 Washington Ave., Port Wing, 715-774-3799,

What Goes Around Used Books âž” There are few things more reassuring to a reader than to enter a bookshop and encounter a bearded, old fellow sitting behind the register, tipped back in his wooden chair, completely engrossed in a tome on wildflower identification. He looks up only to nod briefly, acknowledging your presence and applauding your fundamental right to be left alone as you decide whether to immerse yourself in Cooking, Music, Psychology, or Local History. The shelves reach quite literally to the rafters, adding to the cozy-yet-not-rabbit-warren-ish feel of the place. New and used books are stacked everywhere, but the discerning eye detects a certain pattern, signs of a palate that enjoys both Joyce and James, but doesn’t rankle when presented with a biography of Mick Jagger or a good Hardy Boys tale. At the back of the shop, through a pair of French doors, lies a small gravel patio with a bench and some shade. You select a couple of novels to thumb and ultimately decide to purchase them. But to be honest, it’s not because you really want to read this pulp. No, it’s because you want this place to still be here when you come back again. 38 S. Second St., Bayfield, 715-779-5223,

Facebook Comments