North Shore Getaways

Whether it’s a family vacation, a getaway with girlfriends, or a romantic weekend, we provide an itinerary of where to go and what to do along the North Shore depending on the type of getaway you have planned.


If you have a day:

Duluth, just two and a half hours north of the Twin Cities metro, is a quick and easy drive for families itching to get out of town for the day. While in Duluth, check out the The Great Lakes Aquarium and their new saltwater exhibit, “Masters of Disguise,” opening May 31. This intriguing attraction will explore camouflage, coloring, mimicry and other visual tricks and behaviors that help sea creatures and land animals hide in plain sight. Shape-shifting fish, plant-like insects and color-changing reptiles are among the many new creatures that will be featured.

“Although originally envisioned solely as a freshwater facility with a focus on the Great Lakes Basin, the Aquarium’s scope has broadened over the past few years, reinforcing that all aquatic and marine ecosystems on earth are interrelated in a larger context,” explains Jack LaVoy, executive director of Great Lakes Aquarium. Located on the Duluth waterfront, The Great Lakes Aquarium is showing 11 exhibits and is open daily from 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.

While in Duluth, be sure to also visit the Duluth Art Institute, with interesting exhibits ranging from “In Focus: National Geographic Greatest Portraits” (May 20-July 18) and “Port-Traits: Duluth Superior Shows its Face: A Twin Ports Public Art Project” (May 20-September 16). This public art exhibit will be free and open to the public with added venues for viewing as the number of photos spill beyond the Great Hall of the Depot.

If you have a weekend:

Travel further up the North Shore and take the family on a kayaking adventure through Wolf Ridge Environmental Learning Center’s Split Rock Sea Kayak Tour. Kayak past towering cliffs, over shipwrecks, and under Split Rock Lighthouse, a great introduction to kayaking in a unique setting.

A morning tour is available June 29, 8:30 a.m. to noon, and an evening tour is available June 23, from 4:30 to 8 p.m. Tours begin and end at Split Rock Lighthouse State Park and include a picnic stop at a secluded pebble beach.

After the kayak tour, be sure to visit Split Rock Lighthouse, celebrating its centennial this year. The Minnesota Historical Society has planned a year-long birthday party with special activities and events, available at More than 120,000 visitors a year tour the lighthouse and keeper’s home, climb the lighthouse tower to see the original, still operational French bivalve lens, and take their own shots of one of the most photographed sites in the country. “For many who visit Split Rock Lighthouse, this is their first view of Lake Superior,” says Lee Radzak, the historic site’s manager and modern-day keeper. “Seeing the endless horizon from the top of the lighthouse and the great ships far out on the sparkling water, just as the early keepers saw them, is an experience many people never forget.”

Stay at Cove Point Lodge, the closest lodge to the lighthouse. “From Cove Point Lodge you can bike, hike, drive or kayak [to Split Rock],” says Steven Hillestad, co-owner. In addition to the numerous concerts and events planned by Split Rock, Cove Point Lodge is coordinating charters for anywhere from one to six guests to see the lighthouse from Lake Superior.

Spend the remainder of the weekend hiking along the Superior Hiking Trail, biking on the Gitchi-Gami Bike Trail, using one of the resort’s canoes, shopping in nearby Beaver Bay, visiting Gooseberry Falls, having dinner in the lakeside dining room, or sitting next to a campfire once the sun goes down.

Hidden from the highway, with every room facing Lake Superior (and no conventions or big meeting facilities bringing in large groups), you’ll be able to focus on family. Stay two or more nights midweek in any room or cottage from May 2 – June 30, and get half-off the posted room rate for that Wednesday.

If you have a week:

Experience an unforgettable outdoor learning adventure in a relaxed and friendly environment during a Wolf Ridge Family Vacation Week July 25-30 or August 8-13, 2010. According to one family vacationer, “This experience was the best family vacation that my family has ever been on. My children still talk about how much fun they had at Wolf Ridge.” Wolf Ridge is the first environmental learning center in the nation to be accredited as a K-12 school and is recognized nationally and internationally as a leader in environmental education. The 2,000 acre campus overlooks Lake Superior.


If you have a weekend:

Call your closest girlfriends and schedule a scrapbooking, shopping, or “just need some time with my girls” weekend at Larsmont Cottages on Lake Superior. Relax with a glass of wine in front of a fireplace in one of the luxurious three bedroom cottages while gazing at Lake Superior from the living room, dining room or well-equipped kitchen.

Go biking, kayaking, or swimming in the indoor pool, soak in the all-season outdoor whirlpool, or unwind in the Finnish sauna or in the special Massage Cottage (right on the water’s edge!) Enjoy a delicious breakfast, lunch, or dinner at the Ledge Rock Grille.

“Girlfriends gather at Larsmont Cottages for many reasons,” says Barbara Swenson, marketing director. “Some come as groups to play cards and some to cook and share stories. They come for different reasons, but all leave with a new appreciation and new perspective of nature’s wonders.”

Shopaholics, adventure seekers, and art lovers will find plenty to do in Grand Marais, a harbor village on the shore of Lake Superior.

“There’s a timeless quality here, similar to that of a fishing village on the coast of Maine,” says Diane Brostrom, director of the Grand Marais Area Tourism Association. A Grand Marais getaway with the girls can include fresh air and relaxation, shopping at dozens of boutiques and galleries, or outdoor adventure, including hiking and biking near the Sawtooth Mountains and along the Gunflint Trail, or kayaking and canoeing inland or out on Lake Superior.




The options are endless

There is a sense of timelessness and history at the iconic Lutsen Resort, set among beautiful North Shore scenery.

“To start your day, grab a cup of coffee and watch the breathtaking sunrise over Lake Superior, then head over to our lakeside dining room for a delicious breakfast like cream cheese and lingonberry French toast or Norwegian Eggs Benedict,” says Nancy Burns, owner.

Lusten ResortDuring the day, participate in a guided hike in the Sawtooth Mountains, take part in a sea-kayak instruction and tour, try your hand at a par 3 golf course, or play a round of disc golf. If relaxation is the aim, sign up for a couple’s massage at the resort’s WatersMeet Spa, grab an Adirondack chair and open a good book, or take a stroll along a lakeshore trail.

At the end of the day, order a glass of wine from the pub and enjoy a candlelit dinner. Before you head back to your lodge, take a stroll down to the beach and roast some marshmallows at the campfire, then enjoy the in-room whirlpools and fireplaces, and plenty of solitude.

Bayfield, Wisconsin, on Lake Superior’s South Shore, is a spectacular destination for couples.

Kayak or sail the Apostle Islands (be sure to take in the sea caves), go berry picking at numerous orchards, or catch the ferry over to Madeline Island. Take a boat tour of the historic lighthouses, go golfing at a course overlooking the Lake, and enjoy fabulous shopping at one-of-a-kind boutiques and galleries and restaurants and eateries.

The Inn on Madeline Island is situated on a beautiful sandy beach, with a wonderful lakeside restaurant, The Pub Restaurant & Wine Bar, and an outdoor heated pool, jacuzzi, sauna, and tennis courts.

“Upon arrival a loved one could arrange flowers, candles, truffles, and champagne to be waiting in your hotel suite, condo, or cottage,” says Susan Hartzel, co-owner of The Inn on Madeline Island. “Included would be a dinner for two at a window table at The Pub Restaurant & Bar, at sunset.”

Start the next morning with a visit to the local coffee shop and walk the trails of the state park along the rugged beauty of the island coastline. After lunch on the patio, take a boat ride to the sea caves.

Look for specials like the annual La Pointe Center Wine tasting Gala, held May 30, and the Spring Fling Package at

Romance abounds at the Best Western Superior Inn & Suites in Grand Marais.

“Our award-winning, 66 room lakefront, smoke-free hotel is located on the cobblestone shore of Lake Superior, within walking distance of many unique shops, galleries and restaurants in the village of Grand Marais. It’s a fantastic destination for couples,” says Chris Holland-Mehlhaff, co-owner. Couples are encouraged to stay in the Renewal Steam Suites, featuring a luxurious, spacious walk-in shower with five shower heads, a steam unit, and a picture window offering dramatic views of Lake Superior. In addition, these lakefront suites feature a gas fireplace, a hydrotherapy whirlpool, a private balcony, wet bar, and comfortable seating overlooking the lake.

Those planning a special getaway can call ahead to reserve a rose petal turndown and bottle of champagne, waiting upon arrival.

A weekend at Bluefin Bay on Lake Superior can recharge any romance. With rooms overlooking Lake Superior, complete with cozy fireplaces and private in-room Jacuzzis, sparks will surely be flying. Bluefin also features award-winning restaurants and spa services. Stay from June 11– 13 for Bluefin Bay´s first annual Vow Renewal Weekend, a celebration of romance like no other.




The family-friendly ambiance of Ruttger’s Bay Lake Lodge makes this Minnesota resort an ideal place to spend time with the family. Shopping, a spa, a ropes course, quality food, guided fishing for crappie, walleye, bass, muskie, and rainbow trout on beautiful Bay Lake, golf on the 18-hole championship course, and Kids’ Kamp all make for a memorable road trip Up North.

Nestled in the lake and forest region of north central Minnesota, Ruttger’s Birchmont Lodge is located on the northwest shore of Lake Bemidji. The accommodations include lakefront rooms, suites, town homes, a whirlpool suite with fireplace, and cottages with one to four bedrooms, spread out along 1,700 feet of natural sand beach. Ruttger’s offers a host of summer activities including fishing, swimming, sailing, waterskiing, sailboarding, canoeing, tennis and basketball, and kayaking. Excellent golfing is a short drive down the road. Ruttger’s also offers a complimentary supervised children’s recreation program. Children love the hiking, bonfires, treasure hunts, and other planned events, most provided at no additional charge.

“The month of June is the best-kept secret at Kavanaugh’s Sylvan Lake Resort. It’s not busy and the weather is great. It’s when I would go on vacation, if I could,” laughs Tom Kavanaugh, co-owner.

June is the start of the summer season at Kavanaugh’s, but because of the record-breaking Minnesota spring, June might feel like summer is already here. Spend your family time at Kavanaugh’s, in the Brainerd Lakes area, paddleboating, kayaking, canoeing, or sailing out on Sylvan Lake, swimming at one of two beaches, or playing a round of golf on the 108 holes that are within walking distance.

Gull Lake take full advantage of the beach-front and pool complex, guided bike rides on the Paul Bunyan trail, free tube rides on Gull Lake, and dinner at the family-friendly Italian Garden Restaurant. The Summer Spectacular is available June 1-30 starting at $159 per night, and the hot summer deals change often.

Aside from offering the normal departments of a mountaineering store (camping, climbing, men’s and women’s clothing, footwear, etc.) there are plenty of activities going on at Midwest Mountaineering throughout the month of June from kayaking and climbing 101 to Midwest Paddlemania and lightweight backpacking. Get the most of your trip up North, by making a stop by the store in Minneapolis.


Spend a day with the girls at Shooting Star Casino in Mahnomen. Receive some much-needed pampering at the Sereniitee Spa, enjoy a great concert (Adam Lambert is coming June 11), and enjoy the sophistication of Mahnomen’s newest restaurant, 2 one 8, all while being just steps away from the gaming action in the casino.


Big Pelican Lake shimmers peacefully and invites you to relax and enjoy the splendor of Breezy Point Resort. Stay in the Eagle’s Nest or Point Place one bedroom cabins overlooking either the fourth fairway or the crystal clear Big Pelican Lake. The four-season Breezy Center indoor pool and recreational complex, golfing at the Whitebirch Course or the Traditional Course, boating, canoeing, kayaking, and paddle boating, tennis, beach volleyball, and access to the Paul Bunyan Trail help to make your couple’s retreat unforgettable.


  • Start out slowly, gradually increasing your pace and distance traveled.
  • Let the slowest person in your hiking party set the pace. This is especially important when children are part of your group.
  • Plan the trip ahead of time and assign tasks that people enjoy. The goal is to have a good time outdoors.
  • Take turns leading the group and sharing decision-making responsibilities.
  • Hike only on marked trails in wilderness areas unless you have excellent navigation skills.
  • Leave your itinerary with a friend or family member and check in with them upon your return.
  • Wear sunglasses and a hat or visor when you hike, and always bring sunscreen.
  • Develop an emergency plan before you start your trip. Make sure everyone knows what to do if they become lost or a medical emergency arises. Give children whistles with the instructions to “stop and blow” if they become lost.
  • Drink plenty of water. Water is heavy to carry, but thirst on the trail is a hazard. Take a tip from athletes: Before a hike, drink some water so you’re well hydrated and energized. Don’t run out of water. Backcountry water supplies are unpredictable. Treat or filter all water.
  • Pack carbohydrates – energy bars, granola, candy, gorp and fruit provide an instant pick-me-up on the trail.
  • National parks and many state parks and other federal lands prohibit dogs. Be sure to keep pets on leashes in restricted areas. Bring water for pets and make sure they have nametags.

Courtesy of LL Bean