When I move to a new state-I have this innate need to explore every ounce of it-all of the events in the city, local watering holes, best places to eat, and where the natives visit on the weekends. One place on my MN bucket list has been heading up the north shore to Grand Marais. With my two girlfriends in tow, Kadi, Ashley, and I took a trip one late summer weekend. Kadi and Ashley are Minnesotans and had driven up the coast many times in their childhood. I always love their enthusiasm to show me part of their home state!
We met in Duluth Friday am and started making the trek up the north shore. Our first stop – Gooseberry Falls state park. Here we walked along the waterfalls and rocks, and I officially coined my nickname for the week of “cautious Kate” since I was terrified to climb some of the rocks!
Next up, Split Rock light house-my first light house experience. Here at the top of the winding steps, you could take in a beautiful view of Lake Superior. We toured the lighthouse keeper’s house, walked along the shore, and saw the old remnants of the lift used to haul supplies up to the lighthouse.
Next we went to silver lake bay, where we hiked to bean and bear lake. Kadi deceived us by stating it was only a 3 mile loop with little elevation and should only take us about an hour.. It ended up being 3 miles one way-with Ashley and me gripping and starving-but it was worth it towards the end for the beautiful views.As Ashley and I officially confirmed we were done with physical activity, we needed something easy, hence onyx beach. This was my absolute favorite attraction of our weekend-the deserted beach with black rocks against the rusty iron cliffs was stunning. This unique beach received its black hue from taconite being dumped in the water near the beach for decades.A few miles ahead was Palisade Head, a large cliff off of Lake Superior. Worth the stop for these views.
Next up-Lutsen. This town is a Minnesotan favorite winter destination with to go skiing, but we were there at the end of summer for the alpine slides. I rode my first ski lift (this trip was of many firsts) and showed my nickname of cautious Kate was pretty on point.
As we were about to head out and head to our hotel in Grand Marias, Kadi spotted a winery on the side of the road (this happens with us frequently). This was worth the U-turn. North Shore Winery has been open for a little less than a year, but the staff was knowledgeable about their wines and made for great conversation. We even grabbed a sneak peak in their back room with the wine barrels.
Saturday morning in Grand Marias, we stopped for donuts next to our motel at World’s Best Donuts. As a big tourist stop, I think it’s a stretch to call yourself world’s best in donuts, but I’m also biased coming from Ohio (buckeye donuts anyone?).
The girls and I then drove further north up the shore to the border of Canada-I had packing remorse we didn’t bring our passports! We took a pit stop overlooking lake superior, then continued along to Grand Portage state park to see the high falls, one of the longest falls in Minnesota.
That afternoon, we took a break at Grand Marais one and only brewery, Voyageur. Here we soaked in the local band, brews, and pub pretzels. We continued on to local favorites such as my sisters place (for poutine in honor of seeing the Canadian border), Sven and Oles (for pizzas by the slice college style) , and Gunflint Tavern for late night cocktails on the roof.
On our way home, we weren’t quite ready to realize Monday was around the corner, so we stopped in Two Harbors at Castle Danger Brewing Company. Here you can watch the pizza train come in from Duluth while enjoying good beers such as Mosaic IPA and Summer Crush.
To end our great weekend, after Kadi and I stopped at Northern Waters Smokehouse in Duluth for the best schnitzel and smoked salmon sandwich I’ve ever had. I’m still daydreaming about it.
My overall view of the weekend-there’s not much to do in Grand Marias, but for a few days to get away from the city, it’s a perfect destination with your girlfriends. Making a day out of the drive up was the ultimate way to explore the great North Shore.