A Perfect Daytrip to Minnesota’s North Shore of Lake Superior

If you haven’t visited the North Shore of Lake Superior, have you really visited Minnesota? In the “Land of 10,000 Lakes” (it’s actually more than 11,000 but I digress), Lake Superior is the granddaddy of them all.

Just a short drive from the Twin Cities, Minnesota’s North Shore of Lake Superior is a popular daytrip and weekend getaway.

Text: Minnesota day trip to Duluth & Lake Superior
Image: Water rushes through a gorge lined on either side green and yellow moss and trees on Minnesota's North Shore of Lake Superior.

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Why is Minnesota’s North Shore worth visiting?

For starters, of the 90,000+ miles of coastline in Minnesota, the rugged coast along the North Shore of Lake Superior is unlike any other. Its diversity includes towering cliffs, cascading waterfalls, remote beaches, and quaint towns. If you didn’t know better, you could mistake it for an ocean! But, the reality is it’s the world’s largest freshwater lake.

The city of Duluth is the gateway to the North Shore and the start of the 142 mile North Shore Scenic Drive. This drive begins in Duluth’s Canal Park and extends up to the Canadian border at Grand Portage. The port of Duluth is the end point for the St Lawrence Seaway, bringing in more than 900 ocean-going vessels per year from around the world.

In the distance is a peekaboo view of  the dark water of Lake Superior. From the foreground a small river flows out towards the lake. Framing the foreground are bright orange foliage on trees.
A peekaboo view of Lake Superior during Fall along Minnesota’s North Shore.

Long before these vessels came to Duluth, the Native American Ojibwe people had settled in this area before it was ceded to the United States in the 1800s for mining and industry. Today, the area is rich in Native American culture and history.

Dotted along the North Shore are several Minnesota State Parks, such as Tettegouche, Split Rock, Temperance River, and more. These offer miles of trails for hikers and bikers, including the Superior Hiking Trail (this trail should be on your Minnesota outdoor adventure bucket list!). Why not get your Minnesota State Parks passport during your visit and start collecting your stamps?

Pro Tip: If you love kayaking, check out the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore near Bayfield, Wisconsin where you can paddle through sea caves!

How to Get to Minnesota’s North Shore

A map shows the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St Paul in bottom center. In the upper right hand corner of the map is Duluth, located at the western corner of Lake Superior. On the upper left side of the map is an arrow pointing up towards the Canadian border.
Duluth, the gateway to the North Shore, is about 2.5 hours from the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St Paul in Minnesota.

From Minneapolis, it’s a 2-2.5 hour drive to the North Shore of Lake Superior. The drive mostly consists of four lane highway (2 lanes each direction), so during high traffic times your speed may be reduced.

In the summer months, Friday mornings and afternoons as well as Sundays tend to be higher traffic. During the peak of Fall colors, traffic can be higher as people are in search of the best views.

For a day trip, I recommend leaving Minneapolis or St Paul by 8am and on a weekday or Saturday, if possible. If you want to make a weekend out of it, drive further up to the adorable harbor town of Grand Marais. Alternatively, you could turn inland and visit Minnesota’s Iron Range.

Pro Tip: Minnesota is known for its mosquitoes, so come prepared! Here are my best tips to avoid mosquitoes and ticks for hikers!

Where to Stop on a Daytrip to Minnesota’s North Shore

There are so many things to do on Minnesota’s North Shore! How do you decide what to do if you only have one day? Here are my recommendations!

NOTE: Click the map and check the box to access the driving directions.


A wooden boardwalk runs from the foreground center to just right of center, with tall yellow green grass on either side. Overhead are cloudy white skies at Park Point near Duluth in Minnesota.
The boardwalk on Park Point takes you over the sand for a wraparound view of Lake Superior and the North Shore.

As you enter Duluth, drive through Canal Park and cross the famous lift bridge. If you’re lucky, you may even get to see it in action! Once you cross the bridge, drive until the road ends at the tiny airport on Park Point. (Seriously, keep going!) At the end of the road there will be several places to park in front of the gates to the airport.

Get out of the car and explore the area on foot! The wooden walkway over the sand dune will lead to a sandy trail and the beach that extends well out into Lake Superior. Listen for the sound of sea planes coming as they often fly right over Park Point for takeoff and landing at the airport! This is a cool place to get a view of the port of Duluth and a glimpse of the North Shore.

Looking up from the parking lot, the corner of Fitger's Brewery towers overhead with a vertical sign with yellow letters. The building is covered in bright red flowers and vines, with fluffy white clouds and blue sky overhead.
Fitger’s is an 1800’s era fixture in Duluth, offering microbrews and delicious pub food.

When you’re ready to continue exploring the North Shore, head back across the lift bridge and head to Fitger’s. This historic late-1800s era brewery serves an awesome array of their own microbrews alongside delicious pub food. It’s the perfect stop for lunch anytime of year! Their most notable menu items are the wild rice burger and elk burger with beer battered french fries. They’ve got several vegetarian and gluten-free options.

Other great restaurants in the Duluth area include the local and organic food at Duluth Grill and the New Scenic Cafe (temporarily closed due to Covid, so check their website).


Gooseberry Falls State Park

To the left in the distance is a tall waterfall lined on either side with yellow and green pine trees. In the foreground, the water flows over large rocks at Gooseberry Falls State Park along Minnesota's North Shore of Lake Superior.
The Middle Falls at Gooseberry State Park along Minnesota’s North Shore are stunning year-round.

As I mentioned, there are many state parks to visit along the North Shore. I recommend stopping at Gooseberry Falls, though, for a day trip for a few reasons. First, it’s beautiful! Hike along the gorge and view the upper, middle and lower falls. Many visitors never see anything beyond these waterfalls, but I recommend following the trail along this gorge down to the shore of Lake Superior.

Split Rock Lighthouse

From the left is a granite rock formation with a peach lighthouse, overlooking the dark water of Lake Superior. In the foreground is a rocky beach and in the distance to the right is a peek at a blue sky through the dark stormy clouds at Split Rock Lighthouse State Park along Lake Superior in Minnesota.
Split Rock Lighthouse as viewed from the rocky beach near the pump house at Split Rock Lighthouse State Park.

If you have the time, just a few miles further down the road is Split Rock Lighthouse State Park. Walk up to the top of the lighthouse or, if you’re up for it, walk down the more than 150 steps to the shore to get stunning views of the lighthouse from below.

Betty’s Pies

If you’re looking for a sweet treat before you drive back to the Twin Cities, make a stop at Betty’s Pies. Here’s the thing, don’t let the parking lot scare you. It’s always crowded. But, the secret is to get your slice of pie to go! Yep, they have a takeaway menu and a separate window to order from! You can even call ahead! They also have gluten-free options.


Want More of Minnesota’s North Shore?

It’s easy to spend more than a day on Minnesota’s north shore. Spend a night so you can explore more! One of my favorite places to spend a long weekend is the adorable Lake Superior harbor town of Grand Marais.

Wanna add on another hike? Try the 5-mile Carlton Trail at Jay Cooke State Park, which is just south of Duluth.

Enjoy your time exploring all that Minnesota’s North Shore has to offer!

Related content to read next:

3 Days in Grand Marais Minnesota (for Hikers!)

10 Outdoor Adventures for Your Minnesota Bucket List

Check out my Minnesota travel page for even more inspiration and tips!

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Text: A perfect daytrip to Minnesota's North Shore from a local.
Image: A crooked wooden boardwalk with handrails on either side goes down the center of the image. On either side are trees, bright green brush and a hint of yellow fall colors at Gooseberry Falls State Park in Minnesota.
Text: A perfect daytrip to Duluth & North Shore Lake Superior from Minneapolis!
Image: On the left is tall and rugged granite rock with a pale peach lighthouse on it. The lighthouse looks out onto dark blue water below, with a rocky shoreline in the foreground. Above is a cloudy sky. This is Split Rock Lighthouse in Minnesota.
Text: Minnesota day trip to Duluth & Lake Superior
Image: Water rushes through a gorge lined on either side green and yellow moss and trees on Minnesota's North Shore of Lake Superior.

10 thoughts on “A Perfect Daytrip to Minnesota’s North Shore of Lake Superior

  1. This Big Wild World says:

    Thank you! One of my IG followers suggested Park Point and I’m so glad they did! Thanks for the tip on the malt shop will def be trying that this summer 🙂

  2. This Big Wild World says:

    You’re welcome! I hope you’re able to experience all that this awesome state has to offer!

  3. Stephanie Taleghani says:

    I can’t wait to explore Minnesota! Thank you for sharing these awesome must-see’s!

  4. Jai says:

    Love Minnesota – I’ve been southern parts of the state but never far north. This past summer I made my first real trip to the Great Lakes and loved everthing about it, so this would definitely be on my list.

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