Lake Superior Vacation Rentals

Best Vacation Guide for Minnesota’s North Shore

By Aliya Marxen

In a world where our desire to travel and explore new places must contend with balancing our budgets, we are all looking for new, exciting and affordable places to explore and spend vacation time with our families and friends. So, while our country is blessed with many opportunities to visit popular theme park attractions that come at considerable expense, many vacationers are turning to places where they can get away from the crowds, relax, explore at their own pace, and still have lots of fun within a reasonable budget. This is why many vacationers are discovering and exploring the immense forests, plentiful lakes and rivers, ancient mountains and coastal communities each with its own culture along Minnesota’s North Shore of Lake Superior. 

Does this sound like an experience you’d enjoy? Then what you want is a place that has it all:
  • Delicious food prepared in local restaurants.
  • A gorgeous golf course rated #1 in Minnesota.
  • Art, culture and theater.
  • Walking and hiking trails for everyone.
  • Home of the Lutsen 99er.
  • Incredible skiing.
  • Beautiful rivers with natural waterfalls.
  • Annual joke telling contest at Sven & Ole’s Pizza.
  • Fishing on a charter boat or your canoe.
  • Wildlife and lots of moose.
  • A four seasons destination.
  • Cozy and romantic accommodations.
  • at least 1,450 miles from Orlando.

While many places may meet these criteria, the place that meets it best is Minnesota's North Shore. Stretching from Duluth all the way up toward the Canadian border, the North Shore of Lake Superior has something to for everyone.     

Vacation Along the Beautiful North Shore Wilderness

A well known part of what draws people to the North Shore is the abundant and beautiful wilderness. The main highway itself cuts through rocky crags and runs just yards from the Lake Superior coast. Drifting through each and every north shore town, the drive itself is an experience, offering you a tour of the settlements that have served as local’s homes for generations. 

Hiking Trails

Once you’ve arrived, there’s even more to enjoy. Hiking trails such as the Split Pine Trails, Pincushion Mountain, or the Kimball Creek trails are well loved by locals.  “There’s a trail for literally any occasion,” says local Sue,  “If you want to take the kids out, hike on your own, or with a group of friends.” Of course there are also countless more options to explore yourself. Many trails double as cross country skiing trails in the winter, or mountain biking trails in the summer. Regardless of how you make your way down the dirt paths, you’re sure to get a first hand experience of what makes this Boreal Forest so unique.

Mountain Biking and the Lutsen 99er

Those of you who do enjoy mountain biking might already be keeping on eye on the famous Lutsen 99er. The fantastic course stretches throughout the mountainous North Shore, with amazing views of the Boreal Forest and vast Lake Superior. The 99er is of course, 99 miles long, with approximately 7,000 feet of climbing. For those to whom that may seem daunting, there is also the ‘39er’, a slightly shorter course that is no less beautiful. Whether it’s racing down the Sawbill Trail or riding into the warm rays of the sun on the Honeymoon Trail, you’re sure to get a real taste of the sweet North Woods air. 

Golf Courses Along the North Shore

Another sport well loved along the shore is golfing! The Gunflint Hills Golf Course is a gem that is much adored by the locals. Tucked in the woods of the Gunflint Trail, and surprisingly only four miles from Grand Marais, the course boasts 9 different holes with a par-36 layout. With over 3000 yards of rolling green grass and a blend of native grasses and wildflowers, you get the opportunity to enjoy the weather, and maybe even see some wildlife as you do. For the kids, there’s even Putt n Pets located in downtown Grand Marais – a 18 hole mini gulf course with exciting and varied runs, goats and chickens to feed and admire, and even ice cream treats to celebrate your victory!

Another extra special golf course happens to be the number one course in Minnesota. Come back again and again to this course for the scenery of a certified wildlife sanctuary. According to Golf Digest, Superior National Golf Course at Lutsen is the number one golf course in Minnesota. Carved within the ancient Sawtooth Mountain forest along the North Shore is 27 golf holes with fantastic coastal views and fresh northern air. The Superior national Golf Course winds into the mountains, and into the canyon, and the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness is just a few miles away, making Lutsen a fantastic destination for your next Minnesota golf vacation. While golfing, don't be surprised when you find yourself sharing the course with the local fox, whitetail deer, and meandering moose. 

Rivers and Lakes

More ambitious adventurers have much to do as well. Guided kayaking tours are popular, both through inland rivers and even out on Lake Superior. Canoeing is another often enjoyed sport by many, exploring on any of the countless lakes that are nestled deep in our quiet forests and rolling hills. Whether you’re wading in Devil’s Track, fishing on Hungry Jack, or looking for rocks on Lake Superior, you’re sure to find your own way to enjoy the unique and varied rivers and lakes of beautiful Northern Minnesota. You may even find the perfect vacation cabin resting right on the shore, just for you – Birch Hollow and Drake Bay cabins of Cascade Vacation Rentals allow either a southern or northern view of Devil’s Track. Of course, wildlife such as eagles, deer, and even river otters can all potentially make an appearance, so don’t forget your camera! Professional and amateur photographers always come away from visits to the North Shore with a bounty of beautiful pictures. While you are exploring the lakes and rivers, keep an eye out for the many splendid waterfalls along the North Shore

Charter Fishing in Tofte

This article would, of course, be remiss if it did not mention the incredible fishing opportunities available to you. Never tried it yourself? No worries! Tofte Charters offers guided fishing trips, allowing you to try your hand at fishing for the first time. Offering either Quarter Day, Half Day, or Full Day charters, Tofte Charters is happy to work with what is best for you. Supplying Shimano rods and reels, fishing tackle, free fish cleaning and packaging, and more amenities, your fishing trip truly could not be made any easier. Even if fishing isn’t what floats your boat, there’s still a trip for you – Tofte Charters host the Manitou Falls Cruise. Taking you along the shore, you may even get the chance to see the Amboy shipwreck, a schooner-barge that sank during the famed Mataafa Storm of 1905.

Biggest Ski Resort in the Mid-West

Even in the winter, there’s plenty to do while having fun in the snow. Why overspend on a crowded resort in the West, when you could enjoy impressive ski slopes for a fraction of the price? Lutsen Mountains Ski Resort is just a short drive from both the towns of Lutsen and Tofte, and boasts the title of the biggest ski resort in the Midwest. The resort itself was founded in the 1880’s by a pioneer from Sweden, but it didn’t become a ski hill until 1948. Olympic Ski Champion Cindy Nelson even trained at the Lutsen ski hills in the 70’s! With over 90 runs over multiple mountains, this is a must see for anyone who loves skiing, or has ever wanted to give it a try. Even if skiing isn’t your thing, there’s still dog sledding, snow shoeing, or winter camping – the possibilities are all but endless.

Inspiring Arts, Theater, Culture and Music

Exploring the outdoors isn’t the only way to enjoy the North Shore. For those of us who would rather explore the arts then go for a hike, there’s plenty that the area has to offer too. Grand Marais and the surrounding towns boast an impressive collection of local musicians, who have all found a way to pursue their passion right at home. From bluegrass, to rock, to country, to folk, there’s sure to be a show for everyone. “Music is my passion,” says Maria, “And being able to celebrate it with locals and visitors just adds to the experience.” More often then not, these performances take place in cozy local bars and restaurants, allowing you to enjoy a cold drink or a hot cup of soup while you soak up the woodsy sounds of musicians taking their inspiration from the shore they live on.

Theater is also a major passion, with several excellent theaters along the North Shore. Grand Marais Play House, founded in 1971, is well known for producing fun, dramatic, and delightful plays using local talent. From musicals to Shakespeare to comedy, there’s a play for every season – and three in the summer! The stage is also used for other events, such as dance recitals, musical performances, and even film festivals.  

For lovers of other kinds of art, there are even more options for you. If you’re looking for something hands on, The Grand Marais Art Colony offers multiple workshops for a variety of prices. For example, book binding, watercolor, or even learning how to work with glass and clay are all options for workshops you could take. The North House Folk School broadens your options for classes, offering courses such as antler basketry, timber carving, or making sterling silver jewelry.

Food and Restaurants

Foodies will find much to love in this area as well. Locally owned, family restaurants are easy to find. Whether it’s family owned and staffed The Crooked Spoon café in downtown Grand Marais, boasting an extensive wine list and seasonally exciting menu, or the Naniboujou Lodge further north up the Lake Superior coast. Naniboujou in particular has a host of history connected to it, once an exclusive private club that included members such as Babe Ruth and Ring Lardner! The dining room includes the largest native rock fire place as well as a stunning 200 ton piece of art that shines with color. 

That’s just the tip of the iceberg for the good eats the North Shore has the offer. For the best burgers around you could hit up My Sister’s Place and admire walls covered with artifacts from the local history, or head up the Gunflint trail to see the Trail Center, an one time logging camp on Poplar Lake that is now a combination restaurant, gas station, gift shop, and grocery store! For more casual fare try Sydney’s, a small family run restaurant that offers wood fired pizzas, espresso, gyros, and what they do best – frozen custard! A comforting cup of coffee can be found at Java Moose, or great cocktails and beer at The Gunflint Tavern, Moguls Bar and Grill, and Papa Charlie’s at the Lutsen Mountain’s Ski Hill!

Eating isn’t the only experience these restaurants offer. Many boast life music opportunities and shows. The Birch Terrace bar offers the opportunity to try your hand at karaoke, and for a good round of humor try Sven and Ole’s Annual Joke Telling Contest. Sven and Ole’s also is host to the Pickled Herring Club Pub, which weekly triva nights, or a chance to earn prizes and food through their World Beer Tour.

Annual Celebrations and Festivals

The North Shore is an excellent place to celebrate as well. Something exciting is always going on, whether it’s a celebration of the Winter or Summer Solstice, a classic car show with cars from all over, or the Dragon Boat Festival in which teams race their dragon boats around the harbor, more fun is sure to be right around the corner. Great for kids and adults, the most looked forward to celebration is surely Fisherman’s Picnic, a weekend long festival that closes off downtown streets, and fills them instead with stands of art, wares, street food, and activities. “I look forward to Fisherman’s Picnic all year,” says high school local Erica, “The food, shopping, the art…it’s always a blast.”

Vacation Accommodations: Home, Cabin and Condominium Rentals

The best part is that no matter what you’re doing, you’ll always have cozy accommodations to return to at end-of-day. If you’re renting a vacation cabin, vacation home or vacation condo from Cascade Vacation Rentals, you get your pick of available accommodations, each unique and well loved in their own right. Whether you’re looking for a pet friendly vacation rental, a bigger vacation home for ten or more guests, or maybe a vacation rental with a swimming pool, there’s something for every want and need. There are vacation rentals close to each of the nearby towns, including several options in Grand Marais within walking distance of many of their great attractions. Or maybe you're looking for cozy accommodations more secluded, like a vacation cabin on the shores of a lake, or near one of our beautiful inland lakes including Devil Track Lake near Grand Marais, Caribou Lake near Lutsen and Poplar Lake near Gunflint Trail.

If you’re looking for something a little more secluded, try REAL seclusion with a vacation cabin along the Gunflint Trail Scenic Byway that are carved into the Sawtooth Mountains. Whether it’s a rustic cabin in the woods or a luxury laced condo on the shore, you’re sure to find the perfect vacation accommodations you’ll want to return to year after year.

The North Shore definitely has something to offer for everyone, whether you’re traveling with family and little ones, friends, or just in need of a break by yourself. Today, it’s more affordable then ever to plan your own vacation, and with all the opportunities to learn, grow, explore, and have fun, why not give it a shot? Who knows, you may just discover your next favorite vacation spot, and if you’re lucky… maybe you’ll even see a moose along the way.