There are no other words to describe Minnesota’s North Shore other than stunning. The drive up the shore begins right in Duluth and hugs the coast of Lake Superior for almost 200 miles before finishing off in Thunder Bay, Ontario.
A few things about Minnesota I didn’t know about before moving:
- Nearly the entire state is flat out gorgeous
- The term “Minnesota nice” -which we can get into another time
- It snows a hell of a lot but that’s what makes us tough
- The North Shore is the perfect weekend vacation
- And just cause I’m being honest…I probably didn’t know Minnesota was on one of the Great Lakes #fifthgradegeographyfail
I haven’t completed all of the drive yet, I’ve made it as far as Grand Marais which is only about 2 hours shy of Thunder Bay. I’ll get around to it one day because the hiking and waterfalls up there are creme de la creme.
This will be part one of the North Shore guide taking you from Duluth to Split Rock, which I think is the best section and if you’re gonna do any of it, this is it.
SO, let’s get this road trip started, shall we?!
Minneapolis to Duluth is just over 150 miles. It’s not the most exciting drive as it is all highways and passes through a lot of small towns, but whatev, it’s only 2 hours.
Once you arrive in Duluth you can park downtown near the waterfront. It shouldn’t be too hard find, just look for the gigantic lift bridge. There is a big shopping area known as Canal Park where you can buy anything from Lake Superior agates to art to jewelry to fudge and chocolate.
I’m not a big shopper so after about an hour of wandering around, I was bored. If that’s also your personality you can go for a walk along the lake or in town. Duluth has tons of parks and hiking trails, a really nice one is the 7ish mile lake walk that takes you along the lake, obvi, but also around Duluth’s downtown. Also pretty is the rose garden or the sculpture walk…y’all know how I love sculpture gardens! Duluth also has a handful of off-leash dog parks if your little buddy is traveling with you!
A walk along the lake will take you past some Duluth icons:
The aerial lift bridge raises over a hundred feet in the air to allow large boats to pass. If you have a lot of traffic coming into town, chances are it’s because the bridge was up! Park yourself somewhere along the wall and wait for it to raise up/lower down – it’s pretty neat. It’ll also blow the mind of your kids if you have any.
This is the breakwater lighthouse which I think is nice. Is anyone else obsessed with lighthouses, too?
If your trip allows, it would be fun to stay a night or two in Duluth and really see what the city has to offer.
If not, get to drivin’!
From Duluth keep heading up the shore for about 30 minutes and you’ll run into the town of Two Harbors. Here you can see the only operating lighthouse in Minnesota, walk along the waterfront, or hit up one of the agate beaches.
Really though, all of those things are an excuse to burn some calories before you hit the real highlight of town…Betty’s Pies.
Just to have a rounded menu they also serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner…so get some food if it makes you feel better, but honestly, there is zero shame in just ordering pie. You know I did.
They serve banana, blueberry, chocolate, Butterfinger, cherry, coconut, key lime, on and on and on. Everything is delicious and no drive up the shore is complete without picking up some pie.
And once you’re hooked after that first bite, rest assured knowing you can have pie DELIVERED TO YOUR HOME no matter where you live. Is this heaven? I think this is heaven.
Gooseberry Falls State Park
eaten gorged yourself on the pie, get back in the car for about 10 minutes and make your way to Gooseberry Falls State Park.
Gooseberry is known for…
wait for it…
They’re plentiful and beautiful. Take a short walk along the river to view the upper, middle, and lower falls or hike for a bit and be rewarded with views of fifth falls.
Get outta hereeeeeee. SO PRETTY.
You can actually get pretty close to the falls without getting wet. And if you’re careful, head downstream a little to some calmer water and go for a walk in the river.
I’m usually not one for visitor’s centers, but do check this one out. It’s huge, quite fancy, and has a fireplace.
Back in the car for about 5 minutes and you’ll find yourself at Split Rock Lighthouse. For me, Split Rock is one of the highlights of the entire drive and probably one of my favorite places in Minnesota.
Make sure you budget a good amount of time here because there is a lot to see.
You can spend some time browsing the visitors center or sign up for a tour. Otherwise, grab your tickets ($5-$10) depending on what time of the year you’re visiting, then check out the historic buildings on site. You’ll see the keeper’s house, the fog signal building, and a few others.
Make your way over to the actual lighthouse and take some pictures. The lighthouse is cute and the cliff it sits on makes for some nice scenery.
You can also go inside and see the light. Unfortunately, the light is only lit one night a year – November 10th, which also serves as a memorial to sailors who have lost their lives on the lake.
After you’ve explored the lighthouse and the surrounding buildings go for a nice hike and make your way down to the beach. If you like to camp, Split Rock has some great cart in campsites, otherwise, grab a hotel in Two Harbors and see what fun you can get up to!
We are actually heading back up to Split Rock to go camping this summer so check back in for that!
Looking for other things to do in Minnesota? Check them out here!
Has anyone ever driven Minnesota’s North Shore?
Spent any time on the Great Lakes?
Who loves camping!?
Comment below and let me know!