Meandering Lake Vermilion is rimmed with thick forest; most of the miles of shoreline are undeveloped, giving the place a wilderness character. The lake sprawls across 37 miles, and is studded with 365 pine-topped islands. One of the best ways to experience the lake is to stay in a cabin at one of about two dozen resorts along the shore; campgrounds are available, too. Hire a fishing guide to help you track the walleye that lurk in the lake.
Another option is the resort hotel or RV park at Fortune Bay Resort Casino. Operated by the Bois Forte band of Ojibwe, the resort not only offers gaming and evening entertainment, but also has an award-winning museum, the Bois Forte Heritage Center. The well-done exhibits tell the story of this band, whose French name means "strong wood." Fortune Bay is also home to one of the top golf courses in the state. The Wilderness has earned kudos from several golf magazines, and combines great scenery with great golf.
For a different kind of golf experience, there's nearby Pier 77, a cleverly designed mini-golf course tucked into a grove of pine and birch on the shore of Lake Vermilion. The holes are all themed to reflect this corner of the north woods, from moose to mining. After a round of golf, stop in at the Pier 77 ice cream shop for a Root Bear Bobber or Vermilion Sunrise.
Lake Vermilion - Soudan Underground Mine State Park, along the south shore of the lake, takes an up-close look at a key part of this area's history. Guided, 1.5-hour tours let visitors follow in the footsteps of the miners who dug out this rock in search of iron ore from 1892 to 1962. Don a hard hat, take an elevator "cage" a half-mile below ground, then a train ride deeper into the mine, and visit the cavern that was the last area mined here. The historical portion of the park has recently been expanded further along the lakeshore. This new part of the park, while still under development, provides public access to one of the largest and most beautiful lakes in the state.
Even if you don't fish, rent a boat from one of the resorts to get out on Vermilion to enjoy the scenery and watch for wildlife. There's a good chance of seeing bald eagles, osprey, and maybe a black bear trundling along the shore. A fall highlight is the colorful foliage, from about mid-September through early October.
For more info:
Lake Vermilion Resort Association