I’ve been extremely privileged and fortunate to travel a lot in my life. I’ve been on 6 of the 7 continents (I’m coming for you some day, Antarctica!) and I’ve gotten to have some incredible experiences around the globe. With the toll that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on international travel, I’ve had to refocus my exploratory urges to places in my own country and even in my own state. And thankfully, Minnesota is full of treasures that I’ve still not seen. So, with much inspiration from Minnesota blogger, Lizanne Lately, Nayda and I took off on a long weekend adventure on the north shore of Lake Superior.
If you’re coming from the cities, be forewarned that it’s a long drive! It took about 4.5 hours for us to reach our campsite in Grand Marais. You can break up this trip by staying in Duluth or Two Harbors instead of going straight to Grand Marais, and if I were to do this again, that is totally what I would do.
Restaurants & Bars in Grand Marais
Blue Water Cafe
For breakfast on our first morning in Grand Marais, we stopped at Blue Water Cafe, a noted favorite of the north shore. Coffee to start, of course, and then we shared a fried walleye & eggs breakfast and a Swedish pancake with lingonberry jam. It was delicious and very filling, which was perfect before we headed out to climb Eagle Mountain – the tallest point in Minnesota!
No worries if you don’t wake up early – this spot serves breakfast all day!
World’s Best Donuts
World’s Best Donuts might not literally be the best donuts in the world, but they are delicious and worth a stop while visiting Grand Marais. They have a huge selection of donuts, as well as other treats and gluten free options too. We didn’t have to wait in line too long but I can imagine that in peak summer the line probably gets pretty long! They also have coffee here too.
Angry Trout Cafe
By far, this was the best meal we had during our stay in Grand Marais. The wait is long and the restaurant doesn’t take reservations, so I’d highly recommend getting your name on the last early. We had a drink while sitting in Adirondack chairs right on the shores of Lake Superior, so it was at least a very beautiful waiting spot.
For dinner, we shared a smoked fish platter, which was served with cheeses, fruits, crackers, and this incredible cranberry horseradish sauce. For our main course, we split a bison tenderloin that was served with a pasta and chimichurri sauce. It was all phenomenal. Angry Trout Cafe is a must-visit restaurant in Grand Marais for a reason, and it was perfect that it was our last meal in the town.
Another breakfast and coffee spot in Grand Marais to check out is Java Moose! We had delicious coffee and breakfast sandwiches here, which was perfect for a quick fuel-up before heading out on another day of hiking. Grab a maple latte, a breakfast sandwich, enjoy it with a stunning view of the lake, and then head off on another adventure!
After our biggest hike of the weekend, we were in desperate need of a hearty dinner. We stumbled into Gunflint Tavern, and were pleasantly surprised with the dinner we had here! This is one of those places where the menu is so varied that it can be nerve wracking, as in, how can a place do this many diverse dishes well? Something’s gotta give, right? Well, either we lucked out and ordered great items on the menu, or this place is truly a gem with a crazy menu. My fajita platter was exactly what I needed, and Nayda’s baked rigatoni and salad were also delicious. They have great cocktails and a fantastic beer selection. For dessert, the sundae hit the spot too. I’d definitely recommend a stop at Gunflint Tavern for a meal in Grand Marais.
Voyageur Brewing Company
While I’d definitely say this brewery is worth a stop while you’re in Grand Marais, I have to say, the beer at Voyageur Brewing Company did not get me that excited. The view from the rooftop is great, the staff is friendly, and the atmosphere is good. I just found their beer selection to not be very diverse or interesting, but I’m sure beer drinkers with preferences different to mine might find a beer they absolutely love here. It’s still 100% worth a visit when enjoying Grand Marais, if nothing else than to admire all the adorable doggos on the patio!
Grand Marais Budget-Friendly Accommodation
Hungry Hippie Hostel & Campground – Glamping Tent #3
With very limited options on the north shore, combined with the increased demand for accommodation for weekend getaways in Minnesota during the summer, it can be really hard to find anything affordable in Grand Marais or other towns on the North Shore. There is plenty of camping, but it can be tricky to book a campsite on a busy weekend, and many are very remote with limited facilities. We found the perfect middle ground – glamping tents at the Hungry Hippie Hostel!
This farm and campground offers a hostel, glamping tents, and campsites. Our glamping tents were a great way to have the best part of camping without the need to bring our own tent and other gear. We just had to bring our own linens and pillows. There is a great shower house/bathroom that is super clean with hot water, providing the comforts needed while still feeling rustic. Enjoy hearing the birds and wildlife, sleeping under the stars just outside Grand Marais. It’s still not a super cheap option, but it’s a lot more budget friendly than hotels and resorts on Lake Superior and we enjoyed sleeping on an actual bed rather than on the ground or air mattresses.
Things To Do on a North Shore Minnesota Trip
The North Shore is a place for lovers of the outdoors. From the pristine shores of Lake Superior to the unspoiled sprawling wilderness of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area that surrounds this part of the state, plan to spend a lot of your adventures outside.
Hike Eagle Mountain
Eagle Mountain is a part of the Misquah Hills, and it’s the highest natural point in the state of Minnesota. The summit is 2,301 feet, so it’s nothing compared to the mountains of Colorado, but I’d say it’s definitely worth a spot on a Minnesota Hiker’s bucket list. Misquah is the Ojibwe word for “red” and the hills spread across northeastern Minnesota.
Located in the Superior National Forest, it offers about a 3.5-hour roundtrip hike to the summit and back. The trailhead is located just outside Grand Marais, and here you can get yourself a self-issue permit for your hike.
While not being super high altitude or a crazy steep climb, it’s a challenging hike as there are tons of rocks and stumps and other things on the trail to trip on. Be careful and wear sturdy shoes or hiking boots. Definitely not a hike to do in sandals, you’ll come out with bloody or broken toes. Bring plenty of water, there is nowhere to fill up a bottle on the trail. Snacks are a good idea, as well as sun protection. A lot of the hike is in the shade but there are portions of exposure. There is no cell service for most of the hike, so be prepared to not have contact with the world for a while. It was super quiet when we went, we saw almost no other hikers. Truly a fun experience and an excellent workout.
Temperance River State Park
After our intense day of hiking Eagle Mountain, we wanted to make the most of the north shore and visit another state park, but at a much more leisurely pace. Temperance River State Park is about 30 minutes away from Grand Marais and is a fantastic spot for a day hike. My one regret was not bringing a swimsuit, there were several spots along the route we took that I would have loved to jump in for a cool-off. It’s a great place for quick visit or you could spend an entire day exploring the park.
This is a picturesque point in Lake Superior right in Grand Marais. We walked around it on our first morning and it’s easy to see why it’s a favorite spot for photographers and painters. It juts out into the lake and is somewhat an idyllic representation of the North Shore – the clear, glassy waters of Lake Superior with the green trees and wilderness on top of it.
Shopping in Grand Marais
Even if you’re like me and not into shopping, taking a spin around the antique shops and tourist shops in Grand Marais is a hoot. You never know what treasures you’ll find at the stores here, and there are a lot of great shops for gifts and other gems like Gunflint Mercantile, Lake Superior Trading Post, and Cabin Antiques. At the very least, get an ice cream cone at Gunflint Mercantile and find other great consumable gifts here.
Dip Your Toes in Lake Superior
And last but not least, no trip to the north shore is complete without at least sticking your feet in the cold and cleansing waters of Lake Superior. The largest body of freshwater on the planet, Lake Superior, or Gitchi-Gami in the Ojibwe language, is one of the most amazing features of Minnesota. The water is unbelievably clear and the whole energy that is given off by the lake is peaceful and calming. Soothe your sore feet or brace yourself for a cold shock and go for a swim. You can see straight to the bottom on a quiet day.
So those were the highlights of our North Shore weekend! I’d love to go again and spend more time in Two Harbors and the state parks around there like Gooseberry Falls and Tettegouche. Next time!