The 154-mile North Shore Scenic Byway, which runs along the coastline between Duluth and Grand Portage, Minnesota, near the Canadian border, makes it easy to enjoy the breathtaking scenery. The U.S. Secretary of Transportation has even named the route an “All-American Road.”
On their journey, visitors meander along the shores of Lake Superior, where waves crash against jagged cliffs and waterfalls tumble into the great lake. The route passes through a total of eight state parks and several small lakeside villages known for their fresh fish and picturesque scenery. It’s also more tempting to get out of the car and take a hike through the Superior National Forest when it’s cool and autumnal outside.
What activities to do and see
We recommend starting your trip in Duluth, home to the largest freshwater estuary in North America, a 12,000-acre wetland currently being restored and great for kayaking and canoeing. The Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, possibly the North Shore’s biggest attraction, can be reached by turning north in Two Harbors, Minnesota.
However, if you want to continue on the beautiful Byway, drive through Two Harbors until you reach the pebble beaches of Kelsey Beach, where you can also eat a slice of Betty’s Pie. On the way to the beach, you’ll pass Split Rock Lighthouse State Park, home to the famous Split Rock Lighthouse, one of the state’s most popular tourist destinations, and Gooseberry State Park.
Where to stay
Although you can complete the ride in just a few hours, we recommend that you split it over several days so that you can fully experience the North Shore and this famous drive. A five-room and bed and breakfast with access to Lake Superior’s beach, Solglimt, or the Fitger’s Hotel on the city’s waterfront are both good places to stay in Duluth.
Campgrounds abound along the road as well. Some of the best RV spots are:
Tettegouche State Park
Burlington Bay Campground
Where to eat
Don’t skip a visit to Lake Superior Brewing in Duluth, which underwent a redesign in 2022 and now has a new location and a wider selection of drinks.
In Two Harbors. there are way too many good options. Here. we looked into Tripadvisor to make the best selection for you. Russ Kendall’s Smoke House, Vanilla Bean Restaurant, and Louise’s Place are the 3 most legendary local spots.
The New Scenic Café, a small restaurant with a garden and a view of the lake, is just off the scenic Byway, further down the road. North of Two Harbors, across the street from Kelsey’s Beach, is Betty’s Pies, a famous pie attraction that has been around since 1956.
When to go
The North Shore scenic byway is most enchanting during autumn, as the weather cools and vibrant fall hues emerge. The Sawtooth Mountains’ maple trees typically lead the transformation, reaching their pinnacle coloration from mid-September to early October. Along Lake Superior’s shoreline, where travelers will explore, the aspens and birch trees usually reach their peak splendor between late September and mid-October.