“Why did we wait so long to visit one of the most scenic areas in the country?” were my thoughts as we drove back on the infamous Highway 61 that hugs Lake Superior from Duluth to the Canadian Border.

We’ve been living in Minnesota for almost 3 years now and recently decided to visit this eye-popping North Shore area during 4th of July weekend’19. It’s approximately 5-6 hours drive North of Minneapolis. You could fly into Duluth International Airport too if you’re from out of state.

If you drive from Duluth to the Canadian border, you’ll get approximately 160 miles of unsurpassed beauty. There are so many incredible stops along the way and you can easily spend a week or more just exploring this stretch.

We spent 3 nights and 4 days at the Blue Fin Bay Resort as our base and we wish we had more time to explore everything. Below are some highlights of where to stay and what to do, but whatever you do -Don’t miss seeing this unforgettable area in your lifetime.

In this post, we’ll cover a few highlights while visiting the North Shore of Lake Superior:

  • Where to Stay
  • Where to Go
  • Where to Eat

Where to Stay

Many resorts and cabins in the North Shore get booked out far in advance. I wanted to rent out a private cabin that was pet friendly but when none was available a few months ago, I was fortunate to get a condo at The Bluefin Bay Resort right on Lake Superior.

I would stay in this area just for the incredible natural sunsets! No filter or editing needed to capture this brilliant moment.

Dramatic sunsets at Bluefin Bay Resort. My pic completely unfiltered and unedited.

We wanted a weekend getaway in the outdoors with our dogs and was delighted that The Bluefin Bay Resort had a few pet friendly condos. Our 1 bedroom/1 bath unit was clean, had great views of Lake Superior, and convenient layout for pets.

Our condo unit has nice grassy patch, perfect for pets!
Our condo was right on Lake Superior with fantastic views

Extensive Complimentary Amenities

Bluefin Bay Resorts has 3 property styles you can choose from- Bluefin Bay, Surfside, or Temperance Landing. These properties range from condominium units to townhomes to luxury log homes.

If your family likes a lot of complimentary activities or you have pets, The Bluefin Bay Resort is the best option. They have professional guided tour activities, rental equipment for land and water, rental DVD’s, all you can eat S’mores, fire pits, pools, hot tubs, gyms, hiking trails, wifi in room and throughout the resort, and more- All Complimentary!!

Free all you can eat S’mores

Roasting marshmallows for our S’mores in our real wood burning fireplace
Free S’mores kits at resort guest services! All you can eat. So good!!
You can make s’mores at any of the fire pits throughout the resort or just chill

Free professionally guided tours and activities

We were impressed with the extensive list of complimentary professional guides tours you can take by foot, canoe, or kayak. Unfortunately, we knew too late and they were completely booked. If you stay here, be sure to sign up well in advance. Easy to sign up online on their website.

Pages of free professionally guided tours and activities. Sign up in advance!

Free equipment rentals

If you’d like to bike, canoe, or kayak, you can rent out these items at their gust service.

Free leisure equipment to rent

Free DVD rentals

If you want to just do a movie marathon, the resort has a good DVD free rental shelf in their guest service area. Plenty of movies to choose from and the all rooms are equipped with a DVD player.

Free DVD rentals whenever you want

Free 4th of July fireworks

The resort is right next to Tofte Park where they have a fabulous 4th of July fireworks display every year. We didn’t have to deal with any crowds, we saw it from the backyard of our unit.

4th of July fireworks from our unit’s backyard. No travel or crowds

Spa….aaaahhhh

The spa is not free, but a relaxing experience from all the activities. They use organic Eminence products which I love. I had the body scrub and deep tissue massage. Hubby got the Gent’s facial and deep tissue massage. The rooms were specious and comfortable. The waiting area was cozy and came with a private garden and lite snacks to enjoy. Guests can come early or stay afterwards for the pool, jacuzzi, and gym amenities.

My spa room for a body scrub and deep tissue massage. Room conveniently has shower.
Spa garden to relax
Cozy waiting area for spa guests
Spa pool, jacuzzi, and gym with Lake Superior views

Where to Go

We had time to visit 2 parks and the town of Grand Marais during our visit to the North Shore. There are so many little towns and parks to choose from so we hiked one north of us and one south of us. We went to Grand Marais for the food and the site seeing ops.

  • Cascade Falls hiking trail
  • Gooseberry Falls State Park
  • Town of Grand Marais

Cascade Falls

Cascade Falls is part of the Cascade River State Park

About 15 mins North of our resort, Cascade Falls is part of the Cascade River State Park. You don’t have to park in the Park’s parking lot if you’re just interested in the Cascade Falls trail and don’t want to pay for a vehicle permit. There are parking areas alongside Highway 61 close to this sign where you can park for free.

Great hike at Cascade Falls
Cascade Falls
Cascade River at Cascade Falls
Lake Superior at Cascade Falls
Views of Lake Superior walking or driving up Highway 61. Cascade Falls

Gooseberry Falls

About 50 mins South of our resort is Gooseberry Falls State Park. We visited this park on our way back to the cities. It’s quite a hot spot, but never felt crowded on the trails. We hiked the Fifth Falls Trail which is just over a 3 mile loop. There were plenty of scenic spots to enjoy along the way and you can easily spend more than 2 hours hiking this trail. It’s considered moderate with some steep elevation throughout and slippery rocks along the river banks.

Gooseberry Falls is a must when visiting North Shore, Lake Superior-MN
Doggies loved the hike! Gooseberry Falls State Park
You can sit in a waterfall cascade for a nice break, Gooseberry Falls State Park
Sit in a waterfall cascade and listen to the dashing water. Gooseberry Falls State Park
You can walk across the Falls. Careful! Can be slippery, Gooseberry Falls State Park
Well kempt and shaded trails throughout, Gooseberry Falls State Park
Nice bridges throughout to view and cross the rivers

Grand Marais

About 25 mins North of our resort is a cute town called Grand Marais. In the 1700’s it was inhabited by the French. Grand Marais is French for “Great Marsh,” referring to the marsh area where fur trading took place. Prior to the French colonization, the Ojibwe tribe inhabited the area and called it Gichi-biitoobiig which means “double body of water,” referring to the 2 bays that exist there. Grand Marais has excellent food except for the donuts, don’t be fooled by “World”s Best Donut” shop that’s there.

A lot of history in Grand Marais
One of two beautiful harbors in Grand Marais
The beaches in Grand Marais are little colorful rocks. Water so clear but cold!
Do NOT go to this donut shop. It wasn’t good at all. Tourist Trap
Cute little shops like this book store throughout the tiny town
Haha!

Where to Eat

We were pleasantly surprised by how good the food was in North Shore. The places we dined at the resort and Grand Marais used fresh local ingredients. Since the French heavily populated the area historically, it makes sense it would have delightful French influences in the food. Here are some fantastic places to eat when you’re in the area.

  • Bluefin Bay Grill
  • Coho Café
  • The Crooked Spoon
  • Betty’s Pies

Bluefin Grille (Casual)

For great food and lake views, dine at Bluefin Grille at the Bluefin Bay Resort. It’s the best restaurant in the North Shore area and conveniently located at our resort. We ate here several times and everything was delicious. They’re known for their duck chowder and Chocolate Chip Cookie Á La Mode dessert served in a skillet, but don’t miss their Blueberry Cobbler and White Chocolate cheesecake! Their ribeye and pasta are highly recommended.

Duck Chowder, Red pepper bisque, and fresh baked sour dough. All delicious!
Chocolate Chip Á la Mode served in a skillet
This was the best cheesecake we ever had. Blueberry Cobbler & White Chocolate Cheesecake
Wonderful views while you dine at Bluefin Grille

Coho Café and Bakery (Quick Bites & Coffee Shop)

Another great place to grab a bite to eat at the Bluefin Bay Resort is Coho Café and Bakery. They bake fresh goodies and custom make coffee and espresso drinks everyday. They have items if you’re on the go and a menu for dine in options as well. They have yummy lattes, pizzas, and tacos.

Lattes, Margherita pizza, and Walleye fish tacos at cute Coho Café

The Crooked Spoon in Grand Marais (Casual)

Outside of the resort, there are some really good eats in Grand Marais. The Crooked Spoon is fit for foodies and gets really busy. They do not take reservations of parties less than 6 people. We arrived around 6pm on a Saturday and it was about a 25 minute wait, prime time around 7pm the wait is easily an hour. The food was so fresh and unique. We enjoyed the French Onion soup with puff pastry, the best pimento cheese hubby has ever had, fantastic scallops, and Blackberry panna cotta for dessert. The menu changes seasonally, but don’t miss out on this restaurant.

French Onion Soup with puff pastry instead of crostini.
The best pimento cheese ever!
Loved this dish. Scallops, hanger steak, and cauliflower mash!
Blackberry and almond orange panna cotta. Nice and lite after a heavy meal

Betty’s Pies (Casual)

Do not travel to the North Shore and miss Betty’s Pies!!! It’s about an hour from the Bluefin Bay resort and only 10 mins from Gooseberry Falls State Park. If you’re visiting Duluth, it’s 35 mins North from it. Now this place has excellent award winning pies and always has a wait. We tried stopping by on the way to the resort and had a 45 minute wait so we passed the first time. The second attempt we prepared for a wait which was 25 mins on our return to the cities. If you’re in the area during peak Summer season, be prepared to wait to dine. I have to say, it’s worth it!

They have many pie options baked fresh daily to choose from, fresh fruit menu and cream based menu. The most popular is their 5 Layer Chocolate Pie layered with dark chocolate, cinnamon meringue, whipped cream, and chocolate whip cream. Their flaky crust is amazing and the pie was not too sweet, perfectly delicious!

We had lunch also, not just the sweets. The sandwiches were also very good.

The day’s pie menu. Hard to choose one
Best Seller, The 5 Layer Chocolate Pie is a must! Hubby had to get the Walnut Maple to go.
Milkshakes are extra thick and delicious. Mike’s look before he thiefed my chocolate milkshake.
Great lunch baskets. Pulled turkey sandwich on ciabatta and onion rings
Besides pies, they had all of these fresh baked treats too, but we were too full to try the amazing looking cinnamon roll and donuts.

Hot Tips

  • For the best family value and great service, stay at the Bluefin Bay Resort on Lake Superior. They offer extra quality amenities and activities that are complimentary.
  • Stay 4 night at Bluefin Bay Resort and save an extra 5%.
  • Do not miss Betty’s Pies right on Highway 61, try the famous 5 Layer Chocolate Pie.
  • See the Summer Sunsets on Lake Superior for dramatic colors
  • If you continue 40 miles North from Grand Marais, you’ll hit Canada! Don’t forget your passport if you want to see that area.
  • The North Shore Lake Superior area books out during Summer peak season, make reservations in advance especially if you bring pets.
  • Some parks may require a parking permit. We did not get one as there was plenty of parking areas that did not require it, but good to check in advance.
  • Bring appropriate hiking attire and shoes, the river areas can be slippery.
  • Lutsen is known for great skiing if you want to enjoy the area in the winter time.

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You know you’re in the North Shore when you see these wild flowers all along Highway 61 for many miles

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