19 Best Things to Do in Grand Marais, MN

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Are you looking for the best things to do in Grand Marais, MN for your visit to the North Shore?

Grand Marais is one of the best places for either a day trip or a vacation in Minnesota, from lighthouses to viewpoints to good food to relaxing resorts.

It’s one of the best towns to visit on the North Shore with plenty to do and many of the best activities around.

I’m a Minnesota native, and Grand Marais is my favorite place on the entire North Shore and spend a lot of time there every summer. I usually spend at least a week or two in Grand Marais every year!

In this post, I’ll share with you all of the best activities in the town for year-round fun.

Planning Your Trip to Minnesota? Use My Favorite Resources!

🛌 Accommodations: I love using Booking.com for any hotels or short-term rentals.
🏡Vacation Rentals: If you want your own house, VRBO is the best platform.
✈️ Flights: For flights to get here, check out Expedia to save some money!
🚘 Car Rentals: To get around, I use Discover Cars!
📍Tours: I recommend Viator for fun experiences.

Things to Do in Grand Marais, MN

Here are 19 of the best activities in Grand Marais, all within just 45 minutes of the center of town to fill your visit with fun.

1. See the Grand Marais Lighthouse

Lighthouses are always such fun landmarks to visit, especially to learn the history behind why it’s there!

In Grand Marais, there’s a lighthouse located right in the harbor, near Artist Point and not too far from downtown.

A view of the breakwater that Grand Marais Lighthouse is located on.

Built in 1885, the lighthouse is open for visitors to walk up the breakwater to, but not into the actual tower.

You can also walk along Artist Point and see the beautiful viewpoints of Lake Superior from the shore.

One thing to note is that there are some really narrow parts on the breakwater to the lighthouse. I got nervous walking along it. So if you’re scared of water, this may not be for you.

I love visiting Artist Point and then walking right over to Sydney’s Frozen Custard for a great treat after seeing the views!

2. Visit Artist Point

If you’re in the mood for a truly breathtaking experience, head on over to Artist Point in Grand Marais, Minnesota.

This piece of land juts out into Lake Superior and provides incredible views all around.

Take a picnic lunch and just go sit on the shoreline of the lake, as you take in all of the views, sounds, and feelings.

A view of Lake Superior from Artist Point, one of the best things to do in Grand Marais.

Enjoy the cool breeze off of the lake and the heat of the sun beating down on you at the same time.

The spot is also known for its incredible sunsets. As the sun sets over the lake, the sky erupts in a blaze of color, painting the clouds in shades of pink, purple, and orange.

It’s an unforgettable sight that will definitely be a highlight of your visit.

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    3. Drive Up The Gunflint Trail

    If you have a bit of time during the day and are looking for a nice, scenic drive to experience more of northern Minnesota, check out the Gunflint Trail.

    Contrary to the name, this isn’t a trail at all, but rather a 57-mile paved road.

    Right past Grand Marais is the start of the road that winds through the forest, past lakes, and just beyond the Boundary Waters.

    An aerial view of fall foliage on a pull off along the Gunflint Trail.

    The road also almost touches Canada, and it’s really cool to be so close to the border!

    And at the end, the Chikwauk Museum and Nature Center will tell you the history of the Gunflint Trail and surrounding areas.

    You’ll find a few small restaurants and lodges along the trail, that you may be interested in stopping at during the trip.

    4. Hike Pincushion Mountain

    When visiting the North Shore, it’s always a good idea to head out for a hike, as there is some of the best hiking in the state.

    There are a lot of great Grand Marais hikes that are just within an hour’s drive or so of town to check out.

    The hike to Pincushion Mountain starts just outside of Grand Marais and is a 3.8-mile trek to the top.

    It isn’t too difficult of a hike, covering under 500 feet of elevation gain over the entire almost 4 miles.

    After the short distance through the woods, you’ll have made it to the overlook and will surely be happy that you made the trek.

    Once you’ve reached the summit, you’ll be rewarded with breathtaking panoramas of Lake Superior and the Sawtooth Mountains.

    5. Grab a Treat at World’s Best Donuts

    Looking for a delicious bite to eat while you’re taking a tour of Grand Marais? Then look no further than World’s Best Donuts.

    I mean, the name has to intrigue you, right?! Where could you possibly go wrong?

    The outside of World's Best Donuts in Grand Marais.

    With many, many years of experience, you’ll surely be served one of the best donuts you’ve ever had.

    My favorites are the cake donuts, which are so soft and fluffy on the inside and perfectly crisp on the outside. A North Shore must!

    Whether it be for breakfast, lunch, dessert, or a snack in between, making a stop at World’s Best Donuts is a definite thing to do in Grand Marais, MN.

    6. Visit the Grand Portage National Monument

    In northeastern Minnesota, near the Canadian border, lies the Grand Portage National Monument.

    This area is rich in history and natural beauty, and it is well worth a visit when you’re looking for what to do in Grand Marais.

    The monument commemorates the Grand Portage, a route that enabled European expansion and helped develop the border between the United States and Canada.

    An almost 9-mile portage trail was used by American Indians to pass over high waterfalls, gorges, and streams.

    The waterfall in Grand Portage, one of the best things to do near Grand Marais.

    This is a great place for hiking, picnicking, learning the history of the area, and simply enjoying the outdoor activities.

    Around the area, you’ll find interpretive signs that tell the story of this important historic site.

    Whether you’re a history buff or simply looking for a beautiful place to spend a day, the Grand Portage National Monument is sure to please.

    7. Marvel at the Devil’s Kettle

    The Devil’s Kettle used to be one of the biggest mysteries along Minnesota’s North Shore, as even scientists couldn’t figure it out.

    One side of this split waterfall drops and flows into the Brule River in Judge C. R. Magney State Park.

    While the rest of the water from this waterfall seemed to fall into a hole in the rock and disappeared, never to be seen again.

    Devil's Kettle is a mysterious waterfall on the North Shore near Grand Marais.

    But in recent years, hydrologists and the DNR have discovered that the water reenters the river from underground, solving the once mystery.

    Even so, a visit to Devil’s Kettle will have you wondering how such a simple waterfall could be so complex.

    Plus, the beauty of this hidden gem is surely worth a visit when in Grand Marais!

    8. Head Into the Wilderness of the Boundary Waters

    The popular Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness is one of the most serene and quiet places in all of Minnesota and the United States.

    With almost no cell phone service, extremely remote locations, and beautiful outdoors, people from all over come to spend time here.

    Tyler riding a kayak through a lake near the Boundary Waters.

    Most people portage with a canoe, as walking all the time isn’t quite possible if you are backpacking this trip.

    It’s quite a unique experience, and some of the Boundary Waters can be reached from areas near Grand Marais and the Gunflint Trail.

    An easier way to see the BWCAW is to day trip it, especially if you aren’t quite ready for a portaging and backpacking trip.

    9. Explore the Superior Hiking Trail

    The beautiful Superior Hiking Trail is a 310-mile-long trail that runs along the North Shore of Lake Superior in Minnesota.

    It starts on the Minnesota and Wisconsin border and runs all the way up to Grand Portage near Canada with many different sections.

    The trail offers stunning views of the lake and the surrounding forests, as well as a variety of hiking opportunities for all skill levels.

    A boardwalk that is placed on a hiking trail on the North Shore.

    Experienced hikers can challenge themselves with long-distance hikes, while those new to hiking can enjoy shorter sections.

    Near Grand Marais, you can hike sections to the south near Cascade River State Park and Caribou Falls or to the north near Judge C. R. Magney State Park.

    Hiking is definitely one of the best things to do in Grand Marais, and where better to do it than the Superior Hiking Trail?

    10. Eat Pizza at Sven and Oles

    There’s just something about a delicious slice of pizza, especially after a long day of exploring.

    A ‘Scandanavian Welcome’ is given to all customers as they walk into Sven and Oles in the Grand Marais area.

    Stop in and grab lunch, dinner, or a mid-day snack at Sven and Oles and you certainly won’t be left disappointed.

    11. Hike up to Oberg Mountain

    One of the best things to do in Grand Marais, MN in the fall months is to go for a hike on the North Shore.

    With all of the leaves changing from green to shades of red, orange, and yellow, you’ll have absolutely incredible views.

    Oberg Mountain is another of the best Grand Marais hikes, featuring a view of a lake in the distance, surrounded by colorful trees in the Superior National Forest.

    Myself standing at a viewpoint on the Oberg Mountain Trail, overlooking Oberg Lake.

    This short, 2.3 mile long hike is rated as moderate, as there is just over 500 feet of elevation in that short distance. It’s kind of tough, but I actually saw lots of kids and older folks on the trail too!

    But, all of those feet climbed will be so worth it once you get to the viewpoint at the top!

    Look out over Oberg Lake as you stand over 1,500 feet above sea level, viewing one of the best views on the shore!

    This truly has to be one of the best hikes on the North Shore, so you’ll definitely want to add it to your must-do list.

    12. Browse the Cook County Market

    If you’re looking for what to do in Grand Marais during summer, check out the Cook County Market.

    Starting in May and running through the end of October, the Cook County Market is set up for visitors to grab some fresh produce and local goods.

    This small market is the perfect place to support local businesses in the summer months.

    It’s typically open every Saturday and features goods from local vendors, residents, and farmers.

    You may see crafts, produce, clothing, honey, maple syrup, and more at the market.

    13. Enjoy a Drink at Voyageur Brewing

    Since 2015, Voyageur Brewing Company has been providing some of the best brews on the North Shore to its customers.

    Join them in their taproom for a tasty craft beer that was brewed with water directly from Lake Superior.

    The rooftop patio at Voyageurs Brewing in Grand Marais, MN.

    Take a seat on their rooftop patio and enjoy the views all around you, as you’re in one of the best towns in the state!

    Also serving delicious foods including tacos and flatbreads, you won’t leave hungry (or thirsty) from Voyageur’s Brewing Company.

    14. Explore Cascade River State Park

    Some of the best state parks in the state are found on the North Shore, and Cascade River State Park is no exception.

    Located in the North woods, the park is a haven for hiking, camping, and fishing.

    The Cascade River runs through the park, and there are plenty of hiking trails to explore during your visit.

    A view of a river along the North Shore of Minnesota.

    The most popular trail within the park leads you to Lookout Mountain, featuring views of the surrounding rolling hills.

    It’s a 3.2-mile trail with just over 600 feet in elevation, classifying it as moderately challenging.

    While on the trail, keep an eye out for wildlife because Cascade River State Park is home to a variety of animals, including deer, foxes, and bald eagles.

    15. Grab Dessert at Sydney’s Frozen Custard

    It’s always a good time for dessert, which is why Sydney’s Frozen Custard is a must-stop while visiting Grand Marais.

    This small shop is only open during the summer months, but features some of the best frozen dessert in town!

    A cup of frozen custard at Sydney's Frozen Custard in Grand Marais.

    My personal favorite is the ‘Savana Split’ which has hot fudge, bananas, strawberries, and whipped topping. Yum!

    On top of their delicious custard, you can also try their wood-fired pizzas and gyros. I know, a strange, yet tasty combination.

    16. Wander the Shops in Downtown Grand Marais

    If you’ve done plenty of exploring of the beautiful nature and views around Grand Marais, then it might be time for some shopping.

    There are plenty of shops in downtown that are perfect for spending an afternoon browsing, like the Lake Superior Trading Post.

    Upstate MN, The Big Lake, and Lake Superior Trading Company are all small, locally-owned gift shops.

    This also gives you the perfect opportunity to support local businesses!

    While you’re in downtown, stop at Sydney’s Frozen Custard, World’s Best Donuts, and Sven and Oles, for some delicious foods along the North Shore.

    Things to Do in Grand Marais in Winter

    Although many of the things on this list are best done in summer, there are still plenty of activities in Grand Marais in winter.

    Here are three of the top things to do in Grand Marais in winter, even when it’s cold outside.

    17. Go Snowshoeing or Cross Country Skiing

    There are hundreds of snowshoe and cross country ski trails in and around the Grand Marais area, that are perfect for getting out on in the winter.

    Many of the state parks, including Cascade River State Park, allow snowshoeing anywhere within the park except on trails groomed for skiing.

    My feet in the snow wearing snowshoes during winter.

    Plenty of trails are groomed for skiing, making for an easy time finding these trails.

    If you need to rent snowshoes or skis, check with your hotel to see if they rent to guests.

    Otherwise, check with the state park that you’re visiting, as they sometimes offer rentals as well.

    18. Hit the Slopes at Lutsen Mountains

    Lutsen Mountains is one of the best and most beautiful ski resorts in Minnesota, just 25 minutes from Grand Marais.

    Head on over to the resort and throw on some skis or a snowboard to hit the slopes.

    A sign at Lutsen Mountains that leads to the ski resort.

    You’ll be able to see Lake Superior from the resort, making for some of the most beautiful views.

    There are 62 runs and 2 terrain parks to choose from, giving you plenty of options for an epic day on the mountain.

    Rentals of both ski and snowboard equipment are available.

    19. Go for a Snowmobile Ride

    Snowmobiling is one of the most fun ways to spend a day in the winter in Minnesota.

    On the North Shore, there are plenty of places to hit the trails and experience a fun way to enjoy the snow and cold that winter brings.

    Myself sitting on a snowmobile on a trail during the winter.

    There are hundreds of miles of trails along the North Shore, which you can see more of on this interactive map.

    If you don’t have your own snowmobile, it’s easy to rent one from Steve’s Spots & Auto, right in Grand Marais.

    Or, rent one from the Gunflint Lodge, where you can also take a snowmobile tour with an experienced guide.

    Where to Stay in Grand Marais

    After you’ve explored for the entire day, you’ll need somewhere to rest your head, so book a stay at one of these great places.

    East Bay Suites: Beautiful lodging located right on Lake Superior. Just minutes from all of the best things in downtown Grand Marais.

    The North Shore Fisherman’s Cabin: A favorite because of its unique style, beautiful views, and rustic feel. An actual restored fisherman’s home.

    What is Grand Marais Known For?

    Because of its proximity to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, Grand Marais has therefore become known as the gateway to this remote location.

    If you’re up for a once-in-a-lifetime adventure, then set out on a trip to the Boundary Waters and experience what it’s like to really live life unplugged.

    Grand Marais is also known for being one of the best places for recreation on the North Shore.

    Is Grand Marais Worth Visiting?

    In short, OF COURSE, Grand Marais is worth visiting! But here’s a little more context:

    Being located almost right in the middle of Minnesota’s North Shore, Grand Marais is a great place to make your home base for your adventures.

    There are great views, good food, fun activities in Grand Marais, and more to keep yourself busy. Grand Marais is my favorite place on the entire North Shore!

    And aside from everything that there is to do within Grand Marais itself, you can also venture out and hit up some of the small towns nearby.

    Lutsen, Two Harbors, Silver Bay, and Grand Portage are all other great cities on the shore to check out and find things to do in.


    What is Grand Marais Famous For?

    Grand Marais is famous for being one of the best harbor towns on Lake Superior. Here you’ll find great food, small shops, lots of great hiking and outdoor activities, and beautiful views!

    How Long Does it Take to Get From Two Harbors to Grand Marais?

    The drive from Two Harbors to Grand Marais is about 1.5 hours, or about 85 miles.

    Does Grand Marais Have a Beach?

    There are a few beaches near Grand Marais, but none of them are great for swimming. If you want to swim in Lake Superior, you’ll want to visit the beaches in Duluth.

    How Should I Spend a Day in Grand Marais?

    With just one day, start at Artist Point and see the lighthouse before heading to World’s Best Donuts. Then head out for a hike at Oberg Mountain. Check out the gondola or alpine slide at Lutsen Mountains, and end the day at Voyageurs Brewing Company.

    Conclusion: Things to Do in Grand Marais, MN

    Grand Marais is in the prime location on the North Shore to call home during your visit to the best place in Minnesota.

    My favorite things to do are hiking and eating at all of the great places to eat, but there are so many amazing activities!

    Whether you’re here for adventure or a relaxing weekend, you can surely find plenty of things to do in Grand Marais, MN.