The North Shore of Lake Superior is a 150-mile stretch of beautiful, rugged, shoreline that often feels more coastal than Midwest, with lighthouses, rocky cliffs and outcrops, waterfalls, and tourist towns. And one thing that always delivers is the beaches. From Duluth to Grand Portage, there are countless beaches waiting to be explored, all unique in their own way. We got a chance to explore them a few weeks ago, and here are our Top 10:
10. Franklin Square Park Point Beach (Duluth) – Duluth marks the start of the scenic North Shore drive, and there is a beach to be found out on Park Point (now known as Minnesota Point), a long, narrow strip of land which extends past Canal Park towards Wisconsin. One finds the beach by driving over the iconic Aerial Lift Bridge, out onto the 6-mile-long spit of beach houses and several hotels, and locating parking area for Franklin Square beach on the left. Park Point Beach is a sand-dune beach, with a great view looking back towards the hillsides of Duluth.
9. Brighton Beach (Duluth) Brighton Beach is found on the outskirts of Duluth as you make your way up the shoreline. The beach is a wayside area, with picnic tables, a unique stone fireplace, and a rocky beach featuring smaller stones and lava flow formations perfect for climbing around on and exploring. Brighton Beach is easy to miss due to the many other things to see in the area, but it’s a great start to the North Shore journey.
8. Kelsey Beach (Two Harbors) Right across the road from the famed Betty’s Pies (worth a stop in itself), is a small little beach right off the highway called Kelsey Beach. The Stewart River flows under an concrete arch bridge out into the big lake, and the beach of cobblestone and granite is a fun little hidden gem to explore and relax.
7. Agate Beach at Gooseberry Falls – The crown jewel of the North Shore, Gooseberry Falls State Park is of course most famous for the eponymous waterfall formation, but there are many other things to see here. One is the “Agate Beach,” which is found where the river meets Lake Superior. A rock-picking haven, the beach meets up with a rocky lava flow formation with WPA-built stone picnic tables and stone fence posts.
6. Two-Fish House Beach (Grand Portage) – Two-Fish House Beach is along a stretch of Highway 61 pretty far up the road, between Grand Marais and Grand Portage. If you’ve made it this far, there likely won’t be many people at this one, as most tourist traffic dies off at Grand Marais. The beach has an old-school vibe to it, complete with driftwood, the remains of an old car in the woods, and abandoned fish houses dating back many decades.
5. Hollow Rock (Grand Portage) Hollow Rock Beach is actually located at the Hollow Rock Resort, owned and operated by the local band of Ojibwe. The beach at the resort looks out to the “Hollow Rock,” an arch formation just steps away from the beach. You may have to be a guest of the resort to enjoy the Hollow Rock to the fullest, but no one there seemed to mind when we popped in for a look.
4. Artist’s Point (Grand Marais) Artist’s Point in Grand Marais is a must-do when in town, an easy walk past the cement harbor walls out onto the flat rock formations where rock carvings can be found, many of which date back over a hundred years. This is a great place for a walk or some photography; its beautiful views of the lighthouses of the harbor, the Sawtooth Mountains, or of the coastal-like town are unforgettable.
3. Crystal Beach (Silver Bay) This one is very easy to miss. There is no sign for it, no real parking area, and not visible from the road. It is found just after crossing over Crystal Creek heading east. A steep, narrow hike down to the lake reveals a beautiful, hidden beach. There are sea caves here in the cliff face and the beach is a mix of different colored stones. The beach is majestic and secluded, and there likely won’t be anyone else there.
2. Iona’s Beach (Beaver Bay) This beach is much more accessible than others on this list, with a parking lot on what used to be Twin Points Resort. John and Iona Lind ran the resort for 50 years, who later gifted the land to the public as it stands today. A short walk from the parking lot leads to this beautiful pink beach, which is known for the unique sound you hear as the waves advance and retreat against the rock. Most refer to the sound as a “tinkling,” we found that it sounds more like pop rocks going off. It’s a beautiful beach, one of the best on the North Shore.
1. Black Beach (Silver Bay) The fascinating Black Beach, found in a secluded, non-marked area by Silver Bay is the only one of its kind, an otherwordly beach of fine black sand and rock. The black color here is due to the taconite mining present here, dating back to a time when for 25 years, unusable taconite waste was dumped into the lake. After local fishermen complained about the water quality, the local mining companies stopped, and the result was this gorgeous black sand beach.