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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.

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. It’s 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.

Get a peekaboo view of Lake Superior from the Gooseberry Falls State Park Visitor Center on 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. Why not get your Minnesota State Parks passport during your visit and start collecting your stamps?

How to Get to Minnesota’s North Shore

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.

RELATED: Best Breweries in Minneapolis, By Neighborhood

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.

Duluth

Just past Duluth's Canal Park, explore Park Point for gorgeous views of Minnesota's 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.

Feeling adventurous? Take a ride in a seaplane!

Fitger's Brewhouse in Duluth is the perfect place to enjoy lunch before driving along Minnesota's North Shore.

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.

RELATED: Best Breweries in Minneapolis, By Neighborhood

Gooseberry Falls State Park

Enjoy the waterfalls at Gooseberry Falls State Park on Minnesota's North Shore of Lake Superior.

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

View Split Rock Lighthouse from the shore of Lake Superior on a daytrip to Minnesota's North Shore.

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!

Booking.com

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

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A trip to Minnesota isn't complete without a visit to the North Shore of Lake Superior, including Duluth, Gooseberry Falls, Park Point, Canal Park and more! Here's the perfect itinerary to see the highlights in a daytrip from the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St Paul. #midwestus #minnesota #lakesuperior
Don't miss Duluth and the North Shore of Lake Superior when visiting Minnesota! Enjoy the highlights with the perfect daytrip itinerary, including Park Point, Canal Park, Gooseberry Falls, Split Rock Lighthouse and Betty's Pies! #minnesota #lakesuperior #midwestus

6 Comments

    • This Big Wild World Reply

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

  1. 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.

    • This Big Wild World Reply

      Oh my gosh, yes! You definitely need to experience Northern Minnesota and Lake Superior!

    • This Big Wild World Reply

      Thank you! I hope you’re able to visit. It really is a special place 🙂

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