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Things to do along North Shore Scenic Drive are endless. When you say North Shore to most people in the united states, they think of Hawaii. Ask anyone from Minnesota about the North Shore and they know you are referring to highway 61.
This highway is so popular, that during the summer months it seems like a non-stop flow of traffic. The highway is so breathtaking, I dare you not to stop at least once. Minnesota’s favorite road trip destination along the north shore will have you coming back year after year.
Along the way, there are plenty of things to see and opportunities to pull over. In order to keep my lists as concise as possible, I’m going to do my best to call out the ‘Must See’ Destinations, as well as some that you may not even realize exist.
There are just too many to keep to my normal 28 things to-do lists. So here are over 28 things to do along Minnesota’s North Shore.
Over 28 Different Things to Do Along Minnesota’s North Shore Scenic Drive
Traveling South to North. You own find mile markers on this list, because who really pays attention to that anyway. I’ve also included the google maps directional link to help you find it.
Some like to start the list with Jay Cooke State Park. But it’s not along Superior, so I’m leaving it off the list.
All things along Minnesota’s Road Trip along highway 61 in Duluth. It’s kind of hard to see the north shore without passing through Duluth. It can be done, but why. There are a bunch of fun things do to in Duluth alone.
Many spend a week enjoying all the sights and checking out their waterfalls. Below is a list of my all-time favorites to stop at. You could easily spend a full week in Duluth and still not see it all.
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Duluth has its very own tower on a hill. When a wealthy bachelor, Bert Egner died in 1931, he left two-thirds of his estate to the city of Duluth for development on the Grand Mountain area.
He wanted a lookout tower built surrounded by beautiful grounds and footpaths. Within six years, they made it happen. Today the park is a popular overlook of the city and lake, along with a fun place to walk and wander.
Lake Superior Railroad Museum
The North Shore Superior Railroad Museum is one of Duluth’s most underrated attractions. If you enjoy trains, you need to see this. If you enjoy the turn of the century’s ingenuity, you need to visit.
The museum is located at the base level of the Depot. Inside are trains of every kind. Better yet, you can even go inside them.
If you like seeing the trains, why not take a ride on one. The North Shore Scenic Railroad has trains leaving all the time. They have short trips taking you to the edge of Duluth, and a long day excursion to Two Harbors.
Everyone can get off and explore the town on foot before returning back to Duluth. This is only one of the two different scenic train ride destinations you can take in MN.
If you go anywhere in Duluth, you have to stop at the Duluth Lakewalk. This fun area is filled with fun things to do, like shopping, the Duluth North Pier Lighthouse and Shipping Pier, Grandmas Restaurant, and the iconic Arial Lift Bridge.
On the southwest side of the pier is the William A Irving Museum.
My favorite thing to do is stroll down the lake walk and watch waves splashing. Parking does cost during the summer. On weekends the area is heavily congested.
The Glensheen Mansion
If you ever wanted to see how the elite lived, you have to see the Glensheen Mansion. I’ve been to elite historical houses in Minneapolis, but nothing compares to the view of the Glensheen Mansion.
The grounds are absolutely stunning. The inside is something you’ll never forget and if you really need something extra to seal the deal, there was even a murder there. Though they keep it all hush-hush.
Duluth is a town to stay in if you are looking to start your Highway 61 Road Trip. For those that want a taste but don’t want to get too far away from big cities. I recommend staying at the Pier B Resort has easy access to everything with great views. You can reserve your room by clicking here.
Old Highway 61 – DO NOT SKIP
Old Highway 61 is the beginning of the original Minnesota North Shore Scenic Drive. The incredible view is worth any slowdown you might experience.
In the six years, I’ve consistently been making the north shore drive, I’ve found that there is usually construction on this drive at some point. But always make a point to drive this way go as far as you can. You won’t regret it.
The only reason you should skip it is if you are on a mission to get north before a storm. The turn-off is just past Kitchi-Gammi Park. It’s the best tease for fun things to do along Minnesota’s North Shore Scenic Drive.
Tom’s Logging Camp
If you have kids, you have to stop at Tom’s Logging Camp. The camp is a blur along Highway 61. The entrance is on old highway 61.
The logging camp is not an actual camp or resort. It’s a gift shop and a recreation of an old logging camp. There is a horse barn, blacksmith shop, harness shop, Shoe Shop, Horseshoeing Stall, Bunkhouse, Cook Shanty, and Finnish Sauna.
There are also llamas to feed, pygmy goats, rainbow trout, and a gravity house to explore.
Walking in you’d have no clue anything was hiding behind the building. When my husband wanted to spend money on it, I was a little hesitant. I had no idea they could hide that much stuff back there. The cost of admission is $5 for adults and $4 for kids. You have to check it out.
Russ Kendall’s Smoke House
Stop into Russ Kendall’s Smoke House for some of their specialty sugar-cured smoked salmon, trout, and Lake Superior Whitefish. Gordy Kendall is a third-generation owner of Russ Kendall’s Smoke House in Knife River.
He spends most of his time stoking the fire and cutting fish. All of the fish is sourced locally, with the exception of the salmon, which is caught in Bristol Bay in Alaska. This is a must see on Highway 61 Minnesota Road Trip.
Great Lakes Candy Kitchen
Great Lakes Candy Kitchen has been making candy the old-fashioned way for more than 100 years. All of their candies are made in small batches.
The shop has a small parking lot in front with overflow parking across the street. Going inside the store you can smell the fresh confectionaries.
Due to its popularity, it can be challenging to even make it in the front doors. Outside you’ll see plenty of people enjoying their fresh Air Crunch, brittle, caramels, and ice cream. Around the building is a bear trail. A short walk through the woods is perfect for kids.
The next big town you’ll come across on highway 61 is Two Harbors. If you are traveling along old highway 61 or the new expressway, both lead to in Two Harbors.
This is the last time you will see a drive-through fast food place. It’s also home to the Superior Hiking Trail Store. This is your place to pick up last-minute paper maps or other SHT merchandise.
Two Harbors Lighthouses
There are actually two Light Houses in Two Harbors. The original was a red brick house on the shores of Agate Bay.
First lit in 1892, this was a modern lighthouse with lightkeeper quarters inside and a fog signal. The keeper’s quarters would be built two bricks thick while the tower was three bricks thick.
The thick walls where the two structures come together are a safety measure to protect the keeper’s family in the event of a fire or explosion. Today it’s known as the lighthouse museum.
The second lighthouse is just down the way from the first, on the breakwater. The breakwater was built to help improve the harbor, but a lighthouse was needed on the end of the concrete pad so boats could see.
This smaller lighthouse was constructed in 1906. The tower is 33.5 feet high. You can walk along the edge of the breakwater and check it out.
Agate Bay Beach
As the focal point of Two Harbors, Agate Bay Beach is a prime spot to search out the famous Lake Superior Agates. This a great place to relax and watch ships come, walk the water’s edge and soak in some of Lake Superior.
Castle Danger Brewery
Castle Danger Brewery is a North Shore brewery that has taken off and made a name for itself all over Minnesota. Starting in 2011 in Castle Danger, they became so popular they outgrew their regional facility in just a few years.
In 2014 they opened up a larger location in Two Harbors. They have 13 tap lines. Their outdoor deck faces Lake Superior.
Burlington Station Candy and Souvenirs
The newest edition to the North Shore is Burlington Station Store. Inside you’ll find a selection of truffles, sweets, and more. Then take some time and see the 500ft model railroad, with a track that goes inside and outside the store.
This is the USA’s LARGEST Indoor/Outdoor G-Scale Railroad. It is part of my favorite candy stores in MN list. The store is a lot of fun, you gotta check it out.
Bettys Pie Shop
Bettys’ Pie shop is a staple for any North Shore road trip. They are only two restaurants I call out on the list because of how mouthwatering the food is.
I’ve probably been in the store a dozen times and only gotten the pie twice. That’s because I gorge myself on their amazing lunch platters, I don’t have any room for deserts.
My new favorite tradition, thanks to COVID, is to order some food online for pickup. Then take our food about 3 minutes south of the restaurant to the Flood Bay State Wayside.
There is ample parking, with a view of the bay. It beets sitting in a restaurant parking lot anyway.
Check out more great things to do in Two Harbors MN by clicking here.
Silver Creek Cliff Tunnel
Next up is the Silver Creek Cliff Tunnel. Remember when I said that highway 61 has some changes to it. The Silver Creek Cliff Tunnel was a change designed to make the road much safer.
The old highway has used to hug the edge of the mountain. The road was narrow, steep, and on the side of the cliff. There were little protecting cars from going over the edge.
And to make matters worse, erosion caused rocks and boulders to tumble down and onto the roadway. It took almost 80 years for them to finally make a change. In 1994 they had completed the tunnel.
The old Highway is part of the Gitchi-Gami State Trail. It’s a 86-mile trail running up the coast of Lake Superior. On the north end of the tunnels is a wayside. This is a perfect time to stretch your legs, take some pictures or get on your bike and start exploring.
Gooseberry Falls State Park
The north shore is filled with State Parks, Gooseberry happens to be the first one you’ll run across. Because of its proximity to Duluth and Two Harbors, it happens to be one of the more popular locations.
From the parking lot, follow the paved path and check out Gooseberry Falls State Park. It’s a stunning drop. For those looking to do a little hiking, take the trek to Fifth Falls or even on their hiking club trail.
One of my favorite locations in the park is the rocky shores and tide pools that form near the picnic area. There are tons of wide-open spaces and uninterred views of the coast.
The park is an official state rest area. If you stay parked in the Visitors Center parking lot, you do not need a state park permit. The picnic area does require a permit.
Iona’s Beach SNA
Iona’s Beach is best experienced in person, with a light breeze coming off the lake. That is because when each wave comes in, its’ unique stones get stirred up.
As they settle, they sound like a bunch of little tiny bells. The beach is made of tiny pink rocks, which formed from fallen pieces of rhyolite cliff.
The beach is 300 yards along Superior’s North Shore. The stones are all worn and smoothed by years of erosion. This beach is one of three scientific and natural areas along the lake.
The beach has two parking lots, a top and a bottom one. The top lot has easier access to the beach. The beach also allows swimming and the Gitchi Game State Trail runs through the park.
Split Rock Lighthouse
It’s an easy to cruise right by so make sure you put it in your navigation. After that, stop into either the state park or the Split Rock Lighthouse Museum. Both give you more access to the lighthouse in varying degrees.
The state park does require a parking permit for entrance. If you are parking in the museum, there is no cost. The Museum/lighthouse has an admission fee.
I have a few tips for seeing the lighthouse on the cheap. If you have the time, I highly recommend you step inside the lighthouse and learn a little more about it.
Beaver Bay/Silver Bay
The next two towns you’ll come into on your North Shore Road Trip is Beaver Bay followed up with Silver Bay. Beaver Bay is a fun place for unique North Shore Shopping.
Silver Bay is a little bigger and just a few miles north. It comes with a few more amenities, including a marina, and adventure park.
Silver Bay Marina
Take a stroll in the Silver Bay Marina. This is where you’ll see all the big luxury boats. After passing all of them, walk along the rocky breakwater out to the small island. The outcropping is popular with fishermen. It’s pretty magical.
As you drive into town, you’ll see a sign near Outer Drive for a scenic overlook to the left. It sends you inland and up the cliffside to the top of the hill.
There is a short one-mile trail giving you an unbelievable view of the entire bay and town. Along the trail are different vantage points. It’s a short loop and worth the detour.
North Shore Adventure Park
Off Highway 61 and Outer Drive is a newly developed challenge course run by North Shore Adventure Park. The park has 6 high ropes courses and 10 ziplines. There are 5 levels of difficulty.
The park was designed for those 7 and up. For younger kids, three to six, they have a smaller course complete with a sit-down zipline.
Tip: North Shore Adventure Park does offer walk-up slots, but I highly recommend reserving before you leave. You can do so by clicking here.
Black Beach, also known as Onyx Beach is an increasingly popular stop on the north end of Silver Bay. This place is a photographer’s paradise. With crescent shape beaches jutting out creating crystal clear coves.
The colored sand resulted from taconite waste rock dumped into Lake Superior decades ago. There are two entrances to Black Bach. If you are looking for the one picture, it’s on the google maps link below.
It’s most recognizable by the radio tower on the tall cliff along the coast. There is a small sign at its entrance.
The is a small parking lot at the bottom of the hill is an overflow lot and is used for those with big vehicles and trailers. Or during winter since the road up to the top isn’t plowed. If you are in a regular car, keep driving up to the top.
Up top are the most spectacular views you’ll ever see. The rocky cliffs are popular with rock climbers and photographers. The cliffs are part of Tetteguche State Park so they follow Park hours.
There are no permit requirements. This detour only takes 10 minutes. So not skip it. Definitely, a must-see thing to do along MN NorthShore.
Tetteguche State Park
The main part of Tettegouche State Park is another stop you have to do. First, they are an official highway rest stop which means they have great facilities, and no fee to park in their lot.
Once you venture from the main lot, you’ll need a parking permit. They also have some beautiful waterfall trails. High Falls has a swinging bridge going over it.
Two-Step falls is a short way away and breathtaking. They also have Cascade Falls. These are all great hikes to do.
If you don’t have that much time, take the trail by the visitor’s center, north to Shovel Point. It’s a beautiful overlook of Lake Superior. Shovel Point is a mile from the visitor’s center.
If you are low on time, take the head south from the visitors center to the mouth of the Baptism River. There is a nice rocky outcropping to explore.
Tetteguche State Park has great hiking trails. Go inland, or along Lake Superior. Check them out!
Caribou Falls wayside is a great little detour. This wayside is on the inland side of the road. There is a great parking area tucked back on the turn. From there, take a 3/4-mile trail to the untamed waterfall.
The hike also gives you views of Lake Superior and the Caribou River gorge. The parking lot is also a parking area for Superior Hiking Trail access.
Silver Bay is about an hour north of Duluth. It’s a good location to base camp all of your Minnesota’s North Shore Scenic Drive adventures.
Sugarloaf Cove Nature Center
Sugarloaf Cove Nature Center is a phenomenal little stop on the north shore. Start off by stopping at the visitor’s center and learning about the unique geology of the area. Grab a pamphlet and start out on their hiking trail.
The hike takes you past features like the Rocky Shoreline, Cliffs, old Log Chutes used by loggers, old buildings, and cobble beaches. Then take some time and enjoy the cove’s natural beauty.
This is a private establishment and not a wayside. They charge a $5 fee to park and enjoy the area.
Temperance State Park
Temperance State Park is a beautiful park along Minnesota’s North Shore Scenic Drive. The best part about this park is that you can camp feet from the waterfalls.
The park has a deep gorge running through it. There are plenty of hiking trails to explore. Make camping here a priority!
Temperance River may be my favorite campground to stay at along the North Shore. With great shorelines and waterfalls like crazy. It was centrally located making it easy to get to other stops. Check out all of my favorite parts about the park by clicking here.
Oberg Mountain Loop
Oberg Mountain is a beautiful hike in Northern Minnesota. It is a 3-mile hike overlooking Lake Superior and Moose Mountain. The trail is a 230-foot climb but flattens out around the peak of the mountain.
From high above there are many scenic vistas. It’s also a favorite place to catch the sunset or sunrise. This is a spur trail off the Superior Hiking Trail.
Take Highway 61 North approximately 4 1/2 miles. Turn left onto Forest Road 336 (Onion River Road). Proceed up the Onion River Road for about 2 miles to the parking area on the left.
Gandala at Lutsen Mountain
Get a look at the sawtooth mountains without having to climb the mountains. The Summit Express Gondola is the only transportation in the Midwest. Ruffed grouse, eagles, pine marten, deer, bear, timber wolves, and moose have all been spotted from the gondola.
Once at the top of the mountain, stop at the Summit Chalet at Lutsen Mountain. It’s a mountain-top chalet with lunch, snacks, and beverages. Purchase a round-trip ticket, or choose to hike down when you are done.
North Shore Winery
Visit the North Shore Winery and see what’s fermenting. The North Shore Winery offers many varieties of wines made from grapes grown in California and Minnesota.
Stop and get a tour of their operation, or enjoy a glass of wine in their cellars. They also have a hard cider line that is made from 100% Minnesota-grown apples.
Cascade River State Park
Cascade River State Park is a great location to explore along Minnesota’s North Shore. The most popular attraction is parking at the wayside and viewing the waterfalls.
For those that want to see a little more, hike up to the Lookout Mountain Overlooks. It’s a 3.5-mile loop that leads to a view of Lake Superior, the Cascade River Valley, and the Sawtooth Mountain Range.
The hike has a 600 feet incline. It is so worth it.
Parking in the State Park does require a parking permit. If you decide to park along Highway 61, there is no fee.
Good Harbor Bay Overlook
Good Harbor Bay overlook is a nice bay overlook only our way before reaching Grand Marais. The overlook comes out of nowhere.
If you miss it, continue on and pull off at the next road, the Cutface Creek Rest Area. There is ample parking, restrooms, picnic tables, and walking areas.
Grand Marais is a fun town to spend a weekend in. It’s usually the last town in most people’s journeys before hitting the BWCA or other ‘Up North’ adventures. Many get as far as Gooseberry Falls sand and turn back on their Minnesota’s North Shore Scenic Drive tour. They are missing out!
Grand Marais has delicious coffee shops, restaurants, and more. If you are looking for a quick bite, the only option for comfort food is a Subway. The next big town is almost 45 minutes away.
Artist Point is a beautiful stretch of rocks along with the Mariana and east bay in Grand Marais. The rocky shoreline has plenty of places to relax and watch the waves come in.
The rocky area is covered in trees and trails, allowing visitors to get all the way out to the point.
Love Grand Marais? Check out these 12 Exciting Things To Do in Grand Marais MN
Breakwater & Lighthouse
To the west of Artist Point is another stretch of rocks that eventually leads to the breakwater and lighthouse. This is one of 5 lighthouses viewable along the north shore.
Starting out along the naturally rocky surface, enjoy the shoreline. The walkway transitions into a manmade narrow concrete walkway and eventually leads to the lighthouse.
Worlds Best Donuts
When the name boats World’s Best you have to try it out and see if it lives up to its name. in this case, Worlds Best Donuts does.
They bake tasty confections all morning long. Make sure to visit before noon to guarantee a donut. In most cases, they stay open until they sell out.
Looking to stay further up north. Grand Marais is amazing. I recommend staying at Lutsen Mountain. Lots of great hiking, a gondola, and beautiful rooms. Click here for reservations. They will fill up on weekends.
Gunflint Trail and Pincushion Mountain Trail Overlook
Before leaving Grand Marais, take a short ride up the Gunflint Trail. The Gunflint Trail is another fabulous drive into the wilderness and other adventures. It cuts through the Boundary Waters Canoe Area and ends at Seagull Lake.
If you are looking for a shorter detour, take the Gunflint Trail just up the hill and check out the overlook onto the Pincushion Mountain Trail.
It overlooks all of Grand Marais, Lake Superior, and the bay. The Superior Hiking Trail also crosses over the marking area.
Judge CR Magney State Park
A few miles north of Grand Marais is the Judge CR Magney State Park. The park is pretty primitive, but the biggest draw is Devils Kettle Falls.
You may have heard about this waterfall on some nature programs already. For those that don’t know, the falls split in two with half the waterfall falling into an underground cave system.
The rest continues on the Brule River before dumping in Lake Superior. Hike in a mile to see it for yourself.
The Naniboujou Lodge & Restaurant
The Naniboujou Lodge and Restaurant is a beautiful lodge originally built in the 1920s. Its centerpiece is a grand dining room with colorfully painted ceilings.
The fireplace, which is the largest native stone fireplace in the state of Minnesota, is made of two hundred tons of native rock and stands in the 30’ x 80’ dining room of the main lodge.
They serve breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea, and dinner in the half. For guests staying there, they do not have WIFI, tv, or anything like that so their guests can truly disconnect on their stay.
*** This is the last chance you’ll be able to use your phone. Cell signals drop off. If you are using Google Maps, make sure to start your navigation now
Grand Portage MN
Grand Portage National Monument
Also known as the great carrying place, Grand Portage National Monument is named for its 8.5-mile portage trail that allowed American Indians to travel from the Site of Fort Charlotte, all the way to Grand Portage Bay on Lake Superior.
This trading route has become a National Park, celebrating the history of the Ojibwe Nation. The monument’s Heritage Center and trails are open year-round. The site also holds events.
Ryden’s Border Store
Ryden’s Border Store has been serving border visitors from the very start of Highway 61. When Highway 61 was further inland. When the road moved, so did Ryden’s.
This store provides a little bit of everything for those along the border. They have gas, Money Exchange and Souvenirs.
The staff is super friendly and bends over backward to help out people in the area.
Grand Portage State Park
The end of the road or the beginning depending on how you look at it is Grand Portage State Park. The State Park is on the United States Canadian border.
If you drive any further on Highway 61, you’ll be at customs. This park has the tallest waterfall in the state. Just on the other side of the falls is Canada. It’s a short walk to the falls from the parking lot.
The State Parks also doubles as an MN Visitors Center and rest stop so no parking permit is needed.
Where to Stay on along Minnesota’s North Shore Scenic Drive?
State Parks are always my first choice. Getting a reservation is very competitive. Otherwise, there are a few good hotel locations in Duluth, Two Harbors, and Grand Marais. In between, you’ll find bed and breakfast, VRBOs, and private and municipal campgrounds.
For more ideas on where to stay, I’ve got my top pics of Where to stay on the North Shore in Minnesota.
Would I go back to Minnesota’s North Shore Scenic Drive?
Of course! If you can’t tell, I usually get up there once a year to explore a new section of the north. This past year, I even did a trip along the Superior Hiking Trail.
What most people don’t realize, is from the Twin Cities, you can even take a day trip up there. I recently saw someone from Nothern Iowa do a day trip to Split Rock Lighthouse.
Getting to all these Minnesota’s North Shore Scenic Drive locations will take you an entire summer. It could take you years to fully enjoy. It is truly a magical place.