The Hwy 61 North Shore Drive begins just outside of Duluth. As you are heading north, take a right turn on the scenic drive shortly after London Rd. turns from a 2 lane to 4 lane road (about a 1/2 mile north of the Lester River bridge and the tourism and EPA buildings. There are several restaurants on this section of highway up to Two Harbors that have great food. About halfway to Two Harbors is the very small town of Knife River that has a small marina on Lake Superior. When you arrive in two Harbors, take a right turn at the stop sign and this puts you back on the main Hwy 61 scenic drive.
Two Harbors has a light house and a park on the lake, which is in the downtown area. Turn right (east) at the Dairy Queen and this will bring you into the downtown and harbor area. The harbor is active and you can watch ships in close proximity (within a couple hundred feet) while they maneuver in the harbor. Leaving Two Harbors and about three miles north on the left hand side of the road is Betty's Pies (restaurant). This is a popular stop. Leaving Betty's you will next encounter two tunnels and thereafter in about 10 miles is Gooseberry Falls. This is free, with ample parking and a nice visitor center with a gift shop. There are multiple trails to access different levels of the falls and you can walk the trails down to Lake Superior.
The Split Rock Lighthouse is your next destination after Gooseberry Falls. There is a fee to enter this park, but the scenic beauty is well worth the admission price. A right turn on the road after entering the park will bring you to a lower parking area where you can view the lighthouse from the lake level. This is a great area for a picnic, skipping rocks and looking for agates. The main visitor center building is operated by the Minnesota Historical Society and this is the access point to tour the lighthouse. There is an additional fee to access the lighthouse campus, and money well spent for the wonderful scenic view, as well as the opportunity to explore these unique and historic buildings. After you leave the lighthouse and head north again, you will encounter many additional waterfalls, countless trails to walk, rock climbing, berry picking, skiing and many other outdoor activities.
If you are headed up to or near the Canadian border and need gasoline, fuel in Beaver Bay is generally less expensive than purchasing fuel further north. Supplies can be purchase here as well, but Duluth, Two Harbors, and Grand Marias will provide more options.
Schroeder, Tofte and Lutsen are the next towns you will encounter prior to Grand Marais. Each town is small, but worth exploring. After leaving Grand Marias your next small town is Grand Portage and then the international border. The Grand Portage Casino offers dining and lodging.
There are many lodging opportunities along the way. Last minute lodging may be difficult to ascertain during prime tourism season, and in the small towns, many cafes and restaurants close fairly early in the evening.
Please note that if the wind is coming from an easterly direction, you may need to wear a light jacket, even in the summer time. The air coming off Lake Superior can be very chilling.
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