Travel aboard a tank: the Grand Marais is a delight to visit all year round

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Since I moved to Minnesota two years ago, I had heard that the north coast was described as the state’s Amalfi Coast for its scenic beauty and, on the 145 mile stretch from Duluth to Grand Portage, the small town of Grand Marais was the shining gem.

The comparison would rightly intrigue most foreigners as it is a bit difficult to comprehend the tastes of the Italian coast – with its towering cliffs, alluring beaches and stunning seaside towns – belonging anywhere near the landlocked Northwoods.

But, alas, I traveled along the coast of Lake Superior for the first time recently, landing in the Grand Marais for a four-day stay – and what I experienced has thrilled me endlessly, no matter what. be the season.

Much like most tourism-oriented communities, Grand Marais comes alive during the warmer months – its bustling arts and food scenes enveloping guests in a lively embrace – and during the magical display of colors that is the season of observation of the leaves.

As the gateway to the Gunflint Trail and the wilderness of the Boundary Waters Canoe Region, most visitors come to enjoy the area’s access to unparalleled and unspoiled nature and all the outdoor recreation. air it offers.

Yet when the November gales – or storm season – hit Lake Superior, Grand Marais once again becomes a sleepy little town for a well-deserved rest. The city’s trees are stripped of fall color, and some establishments are closing their doors or reducing their opening hours in anticipation of the winter cold to come.

But the city is not sleeping, it is only slowing down.


The small town of Grand Marais is located on the north coast of Minnesota, a 145-mile stretch along Lake Superior that runs from Duluth to Grand Portage.  Artists' Point is a popular tourist destination in the port of Grand Marais.  (Bria Barton / Bemidji Pioneer)

The small town of Grand Marais is located on the north coast of Minnesota, a 145-mile stretch along Lake Superior that runs from Duluth to Grand Portage. Artists’ Point is a popular tourist destination in the port of Grand Marais. (Bria Barton / Bemidji Pioneer)

Although the Grand Marais is a year round destination, these colder months are certainly its off-season time. This means that accommodation is cheaper and the city is not overflowing with people – all good things for me, as I was looking for a quiet and relatively inexpensive getaway.

A visit to the Grand Marais during its peak season is sure to provide a quintessential vacation experience for travelers; but, visiting in the off season, I found the sidewalks, pebble beaches, and nature trails to be mostly empty, a refreshing change of pace from the typical trips I have taken.

Of course, there are downsides to visiting during this time as there are fewer activities and slimmer choices for eating and shopping – which is why I suggest calling ahead to avoid hopes. wiped out (I’m always sad I missed out on the best donuts in the world).

Nonetheless, the advantages far outweigh the disadvantages of staying at the Grand Marais during its slower period. While I couldn’t do it all there, I’ve compiled some of my top recommendations for you to consider when visiting the city in the off-season.

Visits and outdoors

If there’s one thing you do in the Grand Marais, it’s – hands down – go to Artist point, a small rocky peninsula which forms the port of the city. A narrow pedestrian concrete path runs along it, leading to a lighthouse and a viewpoint over the harbor. It’s a fantastic place for artists to take inspiration – hence the name – and watch the sunset.


A narrow concrete pedestrian path runs along the Pointe des Artistes in the Grand Marais, leading to a lighthouse and a viewpoint over the port.  (Bria Barton / Bemidji Pioneer)

A narrow concrete pedestrian path runs along the Pointe des Artistes in the Grand Marais, leading to a lighthouse and a viewpoint over the port. (Bria Barton / Bemidji Pioneer)

Hiking is the ideal recreational activity when visiting the Grand Marais due to the city’s proximity to the Rock to Gun Trail. It’s accessible year-round and hikers can choose between easy day hikes or challenging multi-day hikes for overnight camping.

If you are a fan of rock hunting, especially the agate variety, Paradise beach is the perfect place. While agates can be found on most of the beaches around the Grand Marais, this public beach is a popular spot among rock hunters due to the spectacular yield of agate it produces.

There are many state parks nearby that offer a variety of hiking and sightseeing opportunities, with Cascades River and Judge CR Magney both 10 to 20 minutes by car from Grand Marais.

One place I couldn’t wait to see for myself was the devil’s kettle in Judge CR Magney State Park. The waterfall is a natural wonder which, until a few years ago, puzzled the scientific community. Here the Brule River splits in two, one branch flowing over a typical waterfall and the other branch disappearing into a hole at the bottom. For years, it was not known exactly where the water in the hole was going, but the Minnesota DNR concluded that the water was entering the river from underground.


Devil's Kettle, a natural wonder that until a few years ago puzzled the scientific community, is located in Judge CR Magney State Park.  (Bria Barton / Bemidji Pioneer)

Devil’s Kettle, a natural wonder that until a few years ago puzzled the scientific community, is located in Judge CR Magney State Park. (Bria Barton / Bemidji Pioneer)

To eat

The Angry trout coffee served my favorite meal of the trip, and I probably would have eaten there every night if it hadn’t been closed for wintering (this is the first year it’s open all year). The cafe menu is based on the bounty of Lake Superior and the surrounding region, including locally grown produce, hand-harvested wild rice, and fresh fish from Lake Superior.


Angry Trout Cafe's menu focuses on the bounties of Lake Superior and the surrounding region, including locally grown produce, hand-harvested wild rice, and fresh fish from Lake Superior.  (Bria Barton / Bemidji Pioneer)

Angry Trout Cafe’s menu focuses on the bounties of Lake Superior and the surrounding region, including locally grown produce, hand-harvested wild rice, and fresh fish from Lake Superior. (Bria Barton / Bemidji Pioneer)

The The fisherman’s daughter at the quayside fish market is a tasty place to stop for lunch or have a snack to go. Not only does the market sell fresh and smoked Lake Superior fish, there is also a daily supply of chowders, soups and fish and chips.

If you’re a fan of fried bread tacos – or even if you’ve never tried one – Hungry hippie tacos is the place to go for delicacies made from scratch. The store smokes its own brisket and offers daily specials like barbecued shrimp tacos.

And if you’re looking to taste something different, yet actually delicious, check out the goober burger at My sister’s place. It’s a beef burger with a big dollop of peanut butter and a dollop of mayo.

Purchases

The Lake Superior Trading Post is a fun place to explore because you can find everything your traveller’s heart desires, from survival and camping gear to North Shore memorabilia. It’s easy to spend an hour or two browsing the store, so be sure to set aside some time, then dive straight in.


At the other end of Artists' Point is a forest

At the other end of Artists’ Point is a wooded “island” that hikers can explore and admire the Grand Marais from a different perspective. (Bria Barton / Bemidji Pioneer)

While the Grand Marais is home to multiple art galleries, I finally landed on the Sivertson Gallery to buy works of art. A simple magnet or a t-shirt isn’t a satisfying enough memory when I fully appreciate a place, so I always look for works of art that perfectly capture the destination. So there you have it, a piece of Grand Marais is hanging on the wall in my living room.

Readers can contact Pioneer reporter Bria Barton at (218) 333-9798 or [email protected]


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