Grand Marais and it’s rugged beauty.
As I drove into town on my solo trip to Grand Marais, Minnesota it reminded me of a sleepy fishing village that had long been forgotten.
With its houses lined up next to the harbor that had been turned into small cafes, selling fish and chips and a harbor full of fishing and sail boats.
I’m sure that my first impression is exactly what Grand Marais used to be back in the day but it has now turned into a small tourist town that people of all ages enjoy. Especially if you are an outdoorsy person.
As I drove through the small town, there were a few things that caught my eye.
I’m not just talking about the massive lake to my right but the abundant amount of people standing outside a couple of the restaurants.
As I drove by, I wondered how great of a restaurant that must be in order for there to be a line that long.
Keep reading to find out why.
Grand Marais, far up Minnesota’s north shore of Lake Superior, is often referred to as the gateway to the Gunflint Trail and Boundary Waters Canoe Area.
It’s hard to fathom this enormous freshwater lake based off of statistics alone. The lake itself is mesmerizing, as if it were its own ocean.
I’m a huge people watcher so grabbing a bench to watch everything pass me by was one of my favorite things to do in the park.
As I sat there watching the sailboats come in and out, I thought to myself that there is nothing better than this. The gorgeous views of the Bay, the lighthouse, and Artists Point.
On the shoreline, the kids were playing the ultimate past time of skipping rocks into Lake Superior and an older couple playing bocce ball back and forth in one little section of the park.
On the sidewalks there are many bicyclers peddling around and a band that started playing some old favorite tunes.
Artists Point and the Lighthouse
Beyond the Coast Guard Station there is a peninsula that looks like a big ‘T’. Going to the right it will take you to the old lighthouse and to the left, Artist Point.
My first stop was to the lighthouse, to feel the wind and gaze into the clear water.
The Grand Marais lighthouse project was initiated in 1879. Native Americans called the place “double bay” for the two bays formed by the T-shaped point that projects into Lake Superior.
I knew that I had always wanted to see Artist’s Point but never did the research to see how far one had to hike to get there. Don’t get me wrong, I love to hike and a little work wasn’t going to stop me from seeing it one day. However, I thought it was a little further from downtown. But it’s not.
It’s smack dab in the middle of town.
Walk out onto Artist Point, which is amazing. The beauty of it is so breathtaking that you will forget where you are for a moment.
Artist’s Point in Grand Marais is something you don’t want to miss. Following the concrete path, you’ll find tide pools and rocky shores that take your breath away.
Listening to the seagulls and watching the kids jump from rock to rock. It’s mystifying on how something this breathtaking can be so close to civilization.
Make sure you have sturdy, comfortable shoes and a good hand on your kids because this is all at your own risk.
It is a favorite for sunsets, storms and great shoreline photographs. The point was formed from eruptions 1.1 billion years ago. It’s a fantastic view of the Grand Marais harbor, and looking back on land to the Sawtooth Mountains.
Don’t just walk out and back. Take your time; watch the waves roll in and watch the sail boats come in and out of the harbor. Artist’s Point is a great way to end your day with amazing sunsets.
The trail is only 0.3 mile out and back with easy/intermediate trails.
Where to Eat
No, Java Moose is not a place to have a full sit-down meal. But if you are a coffee and breakfast scone or sandwich lover then this is the place for you.
Located right as you come into the downtown district, grab a bite to eat, some tea, or caffeine for the energy you are about to need. Or you could just grab a seat on their small patio and enjoy the view of the harbor.
Voyageur Brewing Company
What’s not to love, than a cold and tasty craft beer brewed with water straight from Lake Superior.
Also, at Voyageur Brewing you can get a seat on their rooftop patio or deck and have amazing views of the Grand Marais Harbor.
They also have some delicious food options, such as sliders, tacos, flatbreads, cheese curds and more to keep your taste buds curious.
Looking to check out some more of Minnesota’s breweries, check them out here.
Sven and Ole’s
How would you describe your favorite pizza? Well, that’s probably how I would describe Sven and Ole’s. I live in a town where there are multiple pizza places but this place beats all of them.
Now I know why there were multiple people standing outside waiting, even in the rain, just to see how good this pizza really was. It did not disappoint.
The crust had a flavor in itself that was delicious. I’m not one to finish a whole pizza, even if it’s a single 7” pizza. I might have half of it but in no time this pizza was gone. And I was still wanting more.
Their reputation for great pizza is famous throughout northern Minnesota and I would attest to that.
Sydney’s Frozen Custard
Grand Marais doesn’t get much better than eating frozen custard and looking over Lake Superior. This place even has wood fire pizza!
Make sure to head upstairs to the rooftop to get the best views of the lake while enjoying your food.
World’s Best Donuts
If there is going to be a line anywhere in this small town, it’s going to be here, in the small, red and white shop in Grand Marais, Minnesota.
The donuts here aren’t elaborate, but they do the basics so well.
They are closed every Tuesday and Wednesday and open their doors at 6:30am until the donuts are gone. Yep, they sell until they are all gone.
Cake donuts are one of 30 recipes and are the staple of the family business.
I tried the glazed cake donut and the maple bacon long john and they were both delicious.
Around the Area
The Gunflint Trail
The Gunflint Trail Scenic Byway is accessed from highway 61 in Grand Marais.
It is a paved road that heads inland through the rolling hills of Superior National Forest. There are no towns along the route, but side roads lead to resorts, campgrounds, canoe outfitters, and boat ramps.
The information center is located downtown Grand Marais and open daily.
So, head on out on this scenic byway and check out the wildlife, such as deer, moose, bear, a wide variety of birds, and wolves.
Need to stretch your legs? Go for a hike and hike over some of the oldest exposed rock on Earth.
Devil’s Kettle at Judge C. R. Magney State Park
Not one but two waterfalls. One half of the river flows up to the edge of the falls and tumbles over, but the other half slips into a hole at the top of the falls and disappears.
A giant pothole, the Devil’s Kettle swallows half of the Brule River and, until recently no one had any idea where it goes.
If you tossed a stick there and watched it go into the hole hoping to see it bob out of the water somewhere when the river flattens, out, you’d be disappointed.
Scientists think they now have it figured out, that the water is simply disappearing into a hole briefly before coming out the other side to rejoin the other water.
The hike isn’t too long, about 2 miles there and back. However, it isn’t the easiest of hikes and has about 175 stairs going down to the falls.
So, if you’re not an average hiker, you may be working up a good sweat. But the view is well worth it.
I would definitely recommend this stop into any Northern Minnesota road trip. Looking to take your next road trip? Check out this master list to help you prepare. And bring the kids because there is so much for them to enjoy outdoors. Or you can simply take the trip solo, like I did.
Minnesota’s northern region is full of deep lakes and streams, rocky ridges, and thick forests. If there is any place to go in Minnesota, it would be the north, in and around Grand Marais.
Explore unspoiled back country, or “rough it” in comfort at a lakeside lodge.
However, if you are in the southern part of the state, check out Rochester. Known for the famous Mayo Clinic.
After reading this, do you want to travel more but not sure how with your full time job? Read HERE.