Since the weather has been unusually pleasant this late fall and early winter, you can definitely squeeze in one more jaunt up north and I know just the place. The Lake Superior North Shore runs from Duluth, MN past the Canadian border, but Duluth to Gooseberry Falls can be the perfect day trip. As you drive north along rocky cliffs and cobblestone beaches, you’ll pass through small, quaint towns offering beautiful views, hiking trails, local brews and mouth watering pies.
Duluth Coffee Company
Always, my first stop before any road trip is to grab coffee. If you are anything like me, stop in downtown Duluth at the local coffee shop — Duluth Coffee Company. Before immediately jumping back in your car and taking off, walk down Superior Street and maybe stop by Electric Fetus for an interesting souvenir or make your way to the beautifully paved lakewalk to fit a quick walk in before sitting in the car.
New Scenic Cafe
Once you are caffeinated and have gotten a glimpse of downtown Duluth, continue driving north out of town for about 30 minutes. Make sure to stay on 61 so you don’t miss the scenery and the New Scenic Cafe. You know you have made your way to the right place if you spot white adirondack chairs surrounding a bonfire on the cafe’s front patio. The cafe is small, long and narrow positioned parallel to the lake, so no matter where the hostess seats you you will have a perfect view. This is a pricier joint, but there are a few items that won’t break your budget. The sashimi tacos as an appetizer, so if they are listed on the menu they are a must! You could even order them as an entree and you wouldn’t leave hungry. The french onion soup is perfect on a chilly day, as well as delicious and actually quite filling. Forgo the dessert menu. Save your dessert cravings for pie on your drive back down the shore.
Castle Danger Brewery
After brunch continue driving for another 20 minutes until you reach the town of Two Harbors where Castle Danger Brewery is located. Oddly enough the brewery is not located in the town of Castle Danger, which is just a bit further north. Stop for a pint and try, my favorite, the Cream Ale, or a flight to try them all, while overlooking the lake. Maybe snag a growler of your favorite brew to take with you. If you decide not to stop in the afternoon and would rather stop on your drive back down the shore in the evening, remember brewery tours occur every Saturday at 5pm lasting 30 minutes for only three dollars. You can’t beat that!
As you drive north approximately 20 more minutes, you will eventually pass the town Castle Danger and shortly after you will reach Gooseberry Falls. Gooseberry Falls State Park is one of the most popular parks in Minnesota known for its beautiful waterfalls. Follow the exit directing you toward the state park and lodge. The lodge provides bathrooms, maps and a gift shop. Follow the maps directing you towards the upper falls, lower falls or lakeshore. I suggest following the signs towards the lower falls, then making your way along the path toward the lakeshore. On your way back cross the first bridge you come across so you can take the trail located on the other side of the creek all the way to the upper falls.
There are also two trails nearby if you are up for more hiking after viewing the falls. Nearby is the renowned Superior Hiking Trail that stretches from south of Duluth all the way to the Canadian border. Gitchi Gami State Trail is a leisurely trail that is paved stretching between Two Harbors and Grand Marais.
After hiking around Gooseberry Falls, I’m sure you’ll build up an appetite. As you head back to Duluth, make a last stop at The Rustic Inn Cafe for a slice of pie. Their extensive list will have you stunned and wanting to try every kind.
Lake Superior North Shore is a wonderful road trip, because you can make the trip as short or as long as you like. If you want to continue past Gooseberry Falls, Split Rock Lighthouse is a beautifully structured lighthouse that is worth visiting and Grand Marais is a popular tourist destination, especially in the summer since it’s so close to the Boundary Waters. Continue up passed the Canadian border to Thunday Bay, Ontario, Canada, if you prefer to make your adventure an international trip.
The North Shore is my favorite place I have ever visited. But then again I grew up on the shore four months out of the year until I was sixteen. It allowed me to live each day a little more slowly and appreciate our planet’s natural beauty. The summers are perfect 75 degree days with no humidity, and the off season becomes a winter wonderland. I believe if it didn’t get so cold it would be an even more popular vacation destination. But maybe I like that it deters people away, so I can have more of it to myself! Trust me, you will want to add Lake Superior North Shore to your bucket list.
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