Take a Road Trip on Superior’s North Shore
By Greg Breining
Start: Canal Park, Duluth. Spend your first night at South Pier Inn on the Canal, which bills itself as Duluth’s best “ship watching hotel.” Located next to the iconic aerial lift bridge, it provides a great view of the Twin Ports harbor. In the morning, grab breakfast at Amazing Grace Bakery Café (394 S. Lake Ave.), then take time to explore Canal Park: watch ships arrive and depart, walk along Park Point, visit the Great Lakes Aquarium, tour the ore boat S.S. William A. Irvin. Then, hop in the car and drive northeast.
Mile 18.3: Visit Tom’s Logging Camp on Scenic 61, the re-creation of an early 1900s logging camp and Northwest Fur Company trading post.
Mile 19.4: Buy smoked whitefish and trout to nibble on while driving at Russ Kendall’s Smoke House in Knife River.
Mile 28.0: Leave the highway to drive to the Two Harbors waterfront. Moored near the docks is the Edna G. tugboat. Built in 1896 and retired in 1982, Edna G. was the last coal-fired, steam-powered tug in operation on the Great Lakes. (Tours available through the Depot Museum.) Also be sure to check out the Yellowstone Mallet 229. Used to haul iron ore from mines to the lakeshore, it was one of the most massive and powerful steam locomotives ever built. Tour the Two Harbors Lighthouse, where the keepers quarters are now a bed and breakfast.
Mile 40.9: Stop at Gooseberry Falls State Park and browse the Joseph N. Alexander Visitor Center, where you’ll find state park information, interpretive displays, and the Nature Store. Then, hike some of the 20 miles of trails, including the spectacular route along the upper, middle, and lower falls of the Gooseberry River.
Mile 47.3: Continue up Highway 61 to Split Rock Lighthouse Historic Site. Perched on a cliff rising more than 100 feet above the water, Split Rock is one of the most beautiful and imposing of the many lights on the Superior shore. It’s open for tours every day into mid-October. If you need more North Shore scenery to get your fix, continue north 50 miles to Lutsen Mountains. There, ride the gondola to the top of Moose Mountain, where, 1,000 feet above Lake Superior and Poplar River, the best view of the drive awaits.
Mile 56.5: Heading back toward Duluth, eat dinner at the Rustic Inn Café in Castle Danger, an unpretentious place that got its start in the 1920s (but has since been rebuilt). Try the roast-beef dinner and a slice of five-layer chocolate pie.
Mile 73.5: Back near Two Harbors, check in at Larsmont Cottages on Lake Superior for a prime view of Lake Superior from 40 acres of woods and 1,300 feet of private lakeshore. Oh, and don’t forget about the indoor pool, all-season outdoor Jacuzzi, and wood-fired sauna.