Grand Marais, Minnesota is so much more than a quaint harbor town butting up against Lake Superior. Once named the “Coolest Small Town In America,” it is also a hub for days and days of recreation along the Lake Superior shore. There is so much to do and see in and around Grand Marais. This post includes all of the things you can’t miss during your first trip!
Camp near the water
The place to camp in Grand Marais is the Grand Marais Municipal Campground. It is a packed though friendly and well-kept campground right near the water. If you are feeling extra adventurous, you can drag your sleeping bag down to the beach and sleep under the stars. The beach is rocky, though, so while it might not be the most comfortable Kenon still swears it is one of the best experiences of his life. Amenities at the campground include full hook-ups for RVs, bathrooms, and showers.
The campground fills up fast, though – definitely make reservations months in advance! Find out about rates and reservations here.
Or get an AirBNB
When we visited Grand Marais with Kenon’s parents, they reserved an adorable little Airbnb that sits up above the town, overlooking just about everything. There are so many vacation rental opportunities, ranging from little cabins to condos to entire homes. If you do not like camping, definitely take advantage of these lovely options.
Visit the Marina
The marina is the main attraction in Grand Marais, offering access to Lake Superior along with views of sailboats and lighthouses. The marina shore is covered in smooth pebbles, many of them perfect for skipping rocks. Visit at sunrise with a coffee in hand, lunchtime for a picnic, or really any old time to enjoy all the marina has to offer.
Paddling and Sailing
As you drive into Grand Marais, it is immediately apparent that sailing is a major part of the area culture. Sailboats dot the marina at all times of the day. We do not have a sailboat but we do have an inflatable paddle board. We had so much fun exploring the marina from this new angle. And since the marina is protected, the waters stay much calmer than the greater Lake Superior.
Walk to the Lighthouse
The walk to the lighthouse is an adventure in itself. Starting out on smooth rock formations, the trail soon becomes a breaker wall with the marina on one side and the vast, open waters of Lake Superior on the other. The water is so clear and blue! The lighthouse is a fun place to climb around and take pictures. During the hot summer months, when the water is calm, the breaker wall is a fun place to jump into the frigid waters of the lake.
Emily and I explored the lighthouse from a new angle on this trip!
Caffeinate at Java Moose
Java Moose has all of your coffee needs, fully stocked in your favorites. It also has Up North originals like the real maple syrup latte! It has two locations: a walk-up window near the water and a full-service shop where you can sit and relax on the main road in town.
Eat donuts at World’s Best Donut
These donuts really are SO GOOD. The doors officially open at 6 am and stay open until they run out of donuts (which, as they say, can happen at 10 am or 5 pm). These donuts land in our “top 5 donuts we have ever eaten.” Get a classic like the cinnamon sugar cake or the Skizzle. Or go with a “Chet’s Best” marble raised. Honestly, though, you can’t choose wrong at World’s Best.
Eat lunch at Hungry Hippy Tacos
This is a newer addition to Grand Marais. We grabbed some tacos for lunch and took them down to the shore for a picnic. They had our group talking for days about how amazingly delicious they are. The tacos shell is unique crispy fry bread. They also have dessert tacos!
Grab dinner at Harbor House
From a distance, Harbor House looks like a single-family home. When approached, patio seating comes into view. You can choose to sit indoors or outdoors at Harbor House, with outdoors being the obvious winner of the options. The patio provides a view of Lake Superior and thick blankets are provided for cooler evenings. The fish and chips platter is the item to order, with more than one person proclaiming it, “The best fish and chips I have ever eaten!” (Only one of those persons is myself). The fish is lightly crusted and pan-fried, offering a lighter side to the traditional sea-side dish. Harbor House also boasts local wines and craft cocktails.
Get some brews on the patio of Gunflint Tavern or Voyageurs Brewing
Both of these breweries have local brews on tap and an upper deck for viewing the entire town of Grand Marais. Gunflint is closer to the shore, bringing Lake Superior into your line of sight. It also has a variety of local breweries on the menu, instead of just Gunflint brews. There is no food served on the deck, though. Voyageurs is very lively and serves all of its own brews. It also serves small plates and bar food. It is a super fun, kid-friendly atmosphere!
Don’t forget to stop by Sven & Ole’s
Sven & Ole’s is a Grand Marais staple. Home of good brews and great pizza this restaurant celebrates the Nordic heritage of Grand Marais. It is often crowded, so go between lunch and supper or be ready to wait in line – both to order and to wait for a table to open up. Or, order your pizza to go and eat it at the lakeshore.
Begin exploring the greater Lake Superior area.
Grand Marais’s biggest draw is it’s centrality to vast recreation opportunities. There is so much to do within 45 minutes drive on either side of Grand Marais. Read about it in next week’s blog!