The North Shore: Take an Electric Vehicle Road Trip

Charging stations for your EV—and the most tempting bites in northeastern Minnesota—make this trip a breeze

Highway 61, in Minnesota’s Arrowhead, is ready for your EV.

Photo by Brett Patzke

Many of us are quite fond of road trips in Minnesota. Two of the most rewarding parts of the state for driving are the scenic northeast and the North Shore, which make up the Arrowhead Region. Beautiful year-round, the northbound drive along I-35 from the Twin Cities, followed by Highway 61 from Duluth, shows a transition from farmland to forest to Duluth to the Sawtooth Mountains on one side—and Lake Superior on the other. 

With my 86-year-old father as co-pilot, I recently took this journey in a way that is becoming common: in an electric vehicle. With charging stations dotting the route, I had ample opportunities to juice up my sporty Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV, which was furnished by White Bear Mitsubishi and the Twin Cities Auto Show. (I drive a 2007 Jeep in the winter months and a scooter during the summer, so this was a serious transportation upgrade.)

Our first stop was Doc’s Sports Bar and Grill, not far from miles of ATV trails in Sturgeon Lake. The impressive beer selection and never-frozen meats set this pit stop apart. After a stick-to-your-ribs lunch of a smoked brisket sandwich smothered with cheddar cheese, and a charge-up for the Outlander at the station in the parking lot, I was back on the road to grab a growler and an incredible homemade root beer at Moose Lake Brewing Company’s welcoming taproom right on the shore of Moosehead Lake. (The brewery also has a charging station.)

Next stop, Duluth. After passing Spirit Mountain, we soon came to a bend in the road, mounds of iron ore, and the city resting on the shore of Lake Superior. We headed directly to Northern Waters Smokehaus in Canal Park. The line was out the door. My sandwich: Silence of the Lambwich. This masterpiece is a combination of lamb and vegetables topped with red curried yogurt all neatly stacked on delicious naan—spectacular.

Glensheen Mansion in Duluth

Courtesy Glensheen Mansion

Fighting off a meat-induced coma, I grabbed a Colombian Cold Brew from the Duluth Coffee Company Cafe and headed to the Glensheen Mansion for the 90-minute guided tour. For a new way to experience the historic estate, the 21-plus flashlight tour runs until mid-March. Imagine: The place is pitch black, and only your guides have flashlights.

Before leaving downtown Duluth, we headed up to the Skyline Parkway for a drive overlooking the city of Duluth and Lake Superior. Here is an insider’s tip for a great Instagram shot: Head to the top of Lake Avenue, east of Observation Hill, for a great view of the Historic Old Central High School clock tower, the Lift Bridge, and Canal Park.

After a full day of sightseeing around Duluth, Canal Park, and the vibrant Lincoln Park area, we arrived at Larsmont Cottages in Two Harbors on the shores of Lake Superior. We plugged in our vehicle for the night and headed to Larsmont’s Ledge Rock Grille for a classic North Shore dinner. I chose the Lake Superior crispy walleye with a citrus panko, wild rice, and Brussels sprouts. My father ordered the Swedish meatballs over garlic mashed potatoes with lingonberries and vegetables. Both throwback dishes were like pages pulled from a 1960s Betty Crocker cookbook—with a dash of 2019 seasoning.

Gooseberry Falls

Courtesy Gades Photography

In the morning, we caught the sunrise on Lake Superior—a wonderful sight at any time of the year—and drove northeast of Two Harbors to Minnesota’s most-visited state park, Gooseberry Falls. We spotted a beautiful white-tailed deer at the entrance. After plugging in the Outlander in the main parking lot, we headed into the Joseph N. Alexander Visitor Center, which added an interactive topographic exhibit and wolf diorama last summer. What followed was a hike along the Gitchi-Gami State Trail and time on the Highway 61 pedestrian bridge walkway taking in the majestic beauty of the falls.

On the way back south, we meandered through the towns along the North Shore Scenic Drive. A few Two Harbors locals unanimously suggested that we head to the Vanilla Bean for breakfast. One unique item that jumped off the pages was the wild rice porridge, a tasty mash-up of wild rice, pecans, and blueberries topped off with a generous pour of maple syrup. This hearty number comes in a cup for $6 or a bowl for $8. Trust me on this one, order the cup. I barely finished it, and it stayed with me for the rest of the day.

We didn’t want to head home empty handed, so we visited Russ Kendall’s Smoke House in Knife River to pick up an assortment of smoked king salmon, lake trout, arctic keta salmon, and a selection of herring. This place has been in the family since 1908, and you will likely find current owners Gordon and Kristi (Kendall) Olson behind the counter. Mile by mile, as we approached St. Paul, the scent of fish in the Outlander was getting stronger. But with a nibble here and there, it was well worth the scented distraction. 

In Minnesota, it is always road trip season. Head to the North Shore and create your own journey, as there are many hidden gems that are already calling me back for another adventure—and all perfectly friendly to an electric vehicle.

North Country Charging Stations

There are charging stations for electric vehicles from the Twin Cities up the North Shore to Grand Marais. Download the PlugShare mobile app to find all of the places to pull up and plug in. Here are a few to get started.

Hinckley: Grand Casino Hinckley

Sturgeon Lake: Doc’s Sports Bar and Grill

Moose Lake: Moose Lake Brewing Company

Cloquet: KOA Campground

Duluth: Locations include University of Minnesota Duluth and Canal Park

Larsmont: Larsmont Cottages

Castle Danger: Grand Superior Lodge

Gooseberry Falls State Park: Visitor Center

Tettegouche State Park: Visitor Center

Tofte: Bluefin Bay Family of Resorts

Lutsen: Lutsen Resort on Lake Superior, Papa Charlie’s

Grand Marais: Grand Marais Recreation Area

Win a 2019 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV at the Twin Cities Auto Show, March 9-17 at the Minneapolis Convention Center. Register in person in the Electric Room, March 9-15. The winner will be announced on March 16.