This April I took my partner to the North Shore of Minnesota for the very first time. We were excited, being it was both of our first times staying at the Bluefin Bay resort along Lake Superior in Tofte, MN. We had only a weekend, so I was faced with the question: What are the must see places along the North Shore that a first time visitor would never forget? I have been going to the North Shore of Lake Superior for the past 10 years & put together a list of our favorite places to eat, activities and scenic views. Save this article for your own adventures along Lake Superior!

1. Stay at the Bluefin Bay Resort of Lake Superior- Tofte, MN

The Bluefin Bay is actually a family of resorts, and offers three different lodging options all located in Tofte or Lutsen: Temperance Landing, Surfside and Bluefin Bay. Our stay took place at Bluefin Bay in Tofte. This lodging experience is an adventure all it’s own. Our room was a master suite, complete with two adjoining rooms and a bathroom with a large whirlpool tub (perfect for luxurious bubble baths!). We were greeted with a basket of wine, along with an endless bedroom view of Lake Superior. We could even see the sunrise from our room!

The Bluefin Bay is packed with unique amenities. Guests are able to pick up complimentary S’Mores packs and use the fire pits. This resort is also very kid friendly (and pet friendly), complete with playgrounds and an indoor swimming pool & hot tub. For those who are brave, you can access the outdoor hot tub and heated swimming pool overlooking Lake Superior through their fitness center. The Bluefin Bay on Lake Superior also has spa and massage options.

The Bluefin Bay on Lake Superior has delicious food options, such as the Coho Cafe. They have delightful breakfasts (we love their eggs Benedict dishes) and the best pastries! Pick up a cup of coffee and go for a walk along Lake Superior using their Lakeside Trail. For dinner, make a reservation at the Bluefin Bay Grill, which offers an endless view of Lake Superior while you dine. Their cocktails here are wonderful, and they also have a small gift shop.

2. Lutsen Mountains- Gondola and Alpine Slide

The Lutsen Mountains are known as “The Minnesota Mountain Vacation”, being popular for skiing, the Gondola Rides and the Alpine Slide experience. The Gondola Ride on the Summit Express takes you to the top of Moose Mountain where you can experience the Summit Chalet, a top tier view of the Northwoods and hiking trails lined with scenic overlooks. The Alpine Slide is a unique, exhilarating experience all on it’s own. You can buy passes for either one, or purchase a combo pass for both ($40 per adult, $32 for children ages 6-15, children under 6 free).

3. Lutzen Massage in Grand Marais or Lutsen

If you want to spoil yourself, you have come to the right place! Lutzen Massage has two studios: Lutzen on the Mountain (in Lutsen) and Lutzen on the Lake (Grand Marais). I have been to both locations and the experiences were heavenly. I am a Lake Superior lover, so I would suggest the Grand Marais Location if interested. They offer various kinds of individual massages, facials and couples massages as well.

4. Shopping in Downtown Grand Marais

Grand Marais is not short of places to pick up unique items or holistic products. If you are looking for aesthetically pleasing gift shops (filled with “cabin core”), I always check out The Big Lake LifeUpstate MNDrury Lane Book StoreJoy & Co. (art supply store with cute trinkets), Picnic & Pine (small family owned gift shop), North Country (off Highway 61) and Sweetwater Clothing Co. The Beaver House is also neat to check out! The newest shopping edition along the North Shore is Roam & Whimsy Co., filled with unique little gifts!

5. Walk Artist’s Point

If it’s your first time in Grand Marais, you can’t miss walking Artist’s Point to get the best view of Grand Marais and the light house. Drive past World’s Best Donuts & the gift shop to the coast guard station. Behind the station, there will be a sandy path that leads to the Artist’s Point walk. You can walk all the way to the light house and get some gorgeous photos here!

6. Kadunce Wayside & Colvill Beach

If you are wanting a quiet spot to sit on the lake shore, Paradise Beach in Colvill is calling your name. Colvill is located right off HWY 61, about 10 minutes north of Grand Marais. Paradise Beach is located right off HWY 61, after the Kadunce Creek sign. My kids love to skip rocks and walk the beach here.

Across the street from the parking area is the trail head for Kadunce River Wayside Trail. The hike is a 1.1, out & back mile trail lined with wildflowers. We walked the trail until we got to the bridge and the waterfall. When the water is low enough, I have seen quite a few people walk in the canyon. It’s one of my favorite hikes along the North Shore because of the flowers!

7. Grand Portage State Park- High Rise Falls

Grand Portage State Park is accessible, stunning, home to the tallest water fall in MN, High Falls, along Pigeon River. There are 3 viewing areas for High Falls, which can be accessed behind the visitor’s center. The hike to High Falls is fully accessible, about 1 mile from the visitor center with paved trails and a wooden ramp. Side note: Taking the dirt hiking trail alongside Pigeon River will give you a unique view of the canyon surrounding High Rise Falls.

8. Temperance River Landing off Highway 61

Temperance River State Park is located in Schroeder, MN along HWY 61. One of my favorite views of this state park is the gorge, and the where the mouth of Temperance River empties into Lake Superior. You can get a beautiful overlook right off the HWY. If you pull over into the lot after the Temperance River sign, there is a trail that goes down to the bridge which leads to a viewing platform. Of course, there are hiking trails along the gorge & riverside. Temperance River State Park is about 10 minutes away from the Bluefin Bay on Lake Superior Resort.

9. Illgen Falls in Finland, MN

If you are short on time or prefer great views and a short hike, Illgen Falls from Baptism River is the perfect waterfall for you.  Although Illgen Falls is technically part of Tettegouche State Park, you cannot reach it from the trail system. Turn on County Road 1 from HWY 61 & drive for 1.6 miles. You will see a pull off alongside the road- park there. There will be a sign saying “state park property”. Follow the dirt trail leading down into the trees. You will come to a cabin in the woods. Walk past it and keep going on the dirt trail. You will see the shallow, upper area of Baptism River. To the left, you will hear and see Illgen Falls. Such a beauty!

10. Palisade Head in Silver Bay

An iconic stop along Lake Superior is Palisade Head, right off HWY 61! To be fully transparent, it was not open yet during our visit in April, although you can still park and hike up Palisade Head. Palisade Head would be my other top view for the North Shore- take a slow drive to the top of the mountain for 360 degree views of the North Shore! (I saw people rock climbing here, but I am not that brave!).

11. Black Beach in Silver Bay

One of the most promising places for a dip in Lake Superior (preferably within the days of July) can be found at Black Beach, famous for it’s black, colored rocks credited for giving this exotic beach it’s name. You can follow the signs off of Highway 61. Eventually you will turn onto a gravel road called West Lakeview Drive. Parking can be difficult to find on the weekends, especially during the summer, so you may see some people parking along the gravel road. We like to go here for lunch on a week day, which usually gives us plenty of space to lay out our picnic blanket and enjoy the view.

12. Split Rock Lighthouse in Two Harbors

Split Rock Lighthouse is certainly one of the most iconic points of the North Shore. We have visited it countless times, and suggest going on the tour to learn about the different buildings near the light house and the history what used to be a it’s own little town. Make sure to check out the museum and use the telescope to view Bayfield, WI. You can also view Gold Rock Point, the resting site of the Madiera, which sank there during a storm in 1905.

13. Gunflint Trail Scenic Byway & Overlook

Even on a rainy day, the cruise down the Gunflint Scenic Byway is well worth it! There are various hiking trail heads off the road, and if you drive further down, you can visit the cute little coffee shop, Loon’s Nest! If you are short on time, I suggest pulling into the Lake Superior Overlook site, where you can also get the best view of Grand Marais. If you have time, I suggest hiking to the Pincushion Mountain overlook.

14. Best Places for a Drink

If you are looking for some delicious ciders, tasty wines or unique cocktails, save this list! Two Harbors is home to the infamous Castle Danger (well known for their cream ale). If you are a fan of breweries, make sure to check out Voyageurs Brewery in Grand Marais- especially during the summer time! Wine lovers should be sure to try a wine flight paired with truffles at the North Shore Winery in Lutsen.

For unique cocktails, the Tipsy Mosquito is a MUST! Their entire restaurant is the most unique you will ever find, so going inside just to see everything is fun. Gunflint Tavern in Grand Marais switches out their specialty drinks, and has something for everyone.

15. Favorite Food Spots

The North Shore is decorated with delicious places to eat, especially places that feature delicious fish caught from the surrounding lakes. In Grand Marais, we enjoy the Nordic Miel or Maple Latte with breakfast sandwiches. If they’re open, I suggest picking up a donut kabob from World’s Best Donuts. The lines can get very long, so I suggest, ordering a day in advance online if you can. For food, we really enjoy Hungry Hippie Tacos (they use delicious Native American fry bread), The Angry Trout (I love their chowder and whitefish dishes) and Gunflint Tavern (anything here is mouth watering).

As mentioned earlier, we really love the Bluefin Bay Grille (reservations are encouraged) and the Coho Cafe for the Lutsen/Tofte area). If you are in the Two Harbors area, the Tipsy Mosquito also has wonderful flatbread. Betty’s Pies is also an iconic diner along Highway 61 with delightful burgers. Rustic Inn is also a popular spot along Highway 61 for lunch or dinner. Our favorite breakfast spot in Two harbors is Vanilla Bean-great coffee and unique, nordic-style breakfast food!

Lake Superior Circle Tour

Looking for more itineraries along Highway 61’s North Shore of Lake Superior or wanting to do the Lake Superior Circle Tour? Check out these articles: 4 Day Road Trip Itinerary for North Shore and Grand Marais MN near Lake Superior, Summer Itinerary for Lake Superior Adventures, 20 Best Ways to Experience Grand Marais, Best Food Spots Along Highway 61, and 21 Scenic Stops Along Highway 61.

If you are exploring Lake Superior from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan or Wisconsin, check out our road trip article, Road Trip Itinerary for the Upper Peninsula, MI and 10 Fun Things to Do in Bayfield, WI.

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