It's been years since we've visited the north shore of Lake Superior and enjoyed a drive along the scenic Minnesota's Highway 61. I loved reading Shana Schultz's account of her visit to Grand Marais (and our apparent mutual love for Ben Franklin stores) and remembering what we've been missing. Thanks, Shana, for sharing your story with Midwest Guest readers!
For many, the north shore of Lake Superior is the iconic image that comes to mind when they think of Minnesota (other than a snowy wasteland); rugged cliffs overlooking blue water surrounded by unending expanses of forest.
Grand Marais is an ideal place to experience Minnesota's beautiful natural wilderness and a huge heaping helping of the famous "Minnesota Nice".
If the weather is nice, a hike out on Artist's point will is a good place to start your explorations. Once you have finished the short hike around the point, you can walk out on the breakwater towards the lighthouse to get a different perspective and some great photos of the city.
Back in town, there are a number of essential stops and icons no new visitor to Grand Marais should miss.
The Lake Superior Trading post should be next on your Grand Marais bucket list. The trading post sells sporting equipment as well as a great selection of Minnesota made gifts. I have fond memories of the maple syrup candy from visiting as a child (and I still make sure to pick some up whenever I am in the area).
If you are keen to experience a nostalgic piece of history that has been in operation on the Grand Marais main drag for more than 70 years, head to the Grand Marais Ben Franklin. One could easily get lost perusing unending aisles of this and that.
There are a couple of can't miss food experiences to be had in Grand Marais. For those with a sweet tooth, a stop at World's Best Doughnut's will satisfy even the most pervasive of cravings! Fans claim their cake doughnuts are the best in the world, but you should also not miss their filled doughnuts.
Sven and Ole's Pizza is a kitschy, bumper sticker worthy destination right in the heart of Grand Marais (I have seen the iconic Sven and Ole's bumper stickers on the other side of the country and even the world!) The pizza is pretty good, too.
A great, casual choice for dining in Grand Marais is the Angry Trout Cafe, a great restaurant that focuses on locally sourced and organic food. This is a satisfying place to get locally caught lake trout as well as other yummy, homemade fare.
Bluefin Bay Resort is just down the road from Grand Marais. It offers a wide variety of room choices to accommodate any size of family (including suites) as well as children's activities, beach barbecues and bonfires on the beach complete with s'mores!
Grand Marais is an easy stop for a day or weekend trip, as everything in town is relatively close and easy to access (though you will still likely need a car to get in and to explore outside of town). Many of the sites that I have listed are within walking distance of each other.
Grand Marais is a 4 and a half hour drive north from the Twin Cities. The closest major airport to Grand Marais is in Duluth, MN. If you rent a car in Duluth, Grand Marais is a two hour drive up the North Shore.
The drive up the shore on Highway 61 is one of the most scenic stretches of road in the country and is a must-see. One could spend a pleasant day (or two!) just meandering up the shore, taking photos and enjoying the views.
A visit to Grand Marais offers a great mixture of outdoor scenery, recreational opportunities, kitschy shopping and dining and small town charm!
Shanna Schultz is the chief button pusher and muse at Midwest Travel Companion, a travel blog that gives you ideas for Midwest travel with a healthy dose of Minnesota Nice. She also offers travel suggestions for destinations worldwide at There and Back Again Travel.
She lives in Minnesota with two tornadoes (um, kids) and a husband and looks forward to upcoming travel adventures both around the block and around the world.
Text courtesy of, and copyright by, Shana Schultz. Photos courtesy of Visit Cook County Minnesota.