When you’re planning a Minnesota day trip, where do you even start? To the south, small towns nestled in rolling hills and towering bluffs are perfect for exploring. North, the Boundary Waters are the ideal place to get away from it all. And in between, there are too many activities to list. So what do you choose? Here’s one idea: spend the day taking a lighthouse tour of the North Shore. The choppy waves of Lake Superior will relax you, and the lighthouses will offer the picturesque beauty you’re looking for.
The trip officially starts in Duluth's Canal Park.
The Duluth North Pier Light has been guiding ships since it was first lit over 100 years ago. It's located on a pier that juts out over 1,000 feet from the shore.
The Duluth South Breakwater Light is the next lighthouse to put on your list. This is the second of three lighthouses located in Canal Park.
Also over 100 years old, the South Breakwater Light may look a little less like a traditional lighthouse, but it has been an important structure in guiding ships into Duluth. The lighthouse was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2016.
Last but not least - in Duluth, that is - is the Duluth South Breakwater Inner Light.
You don't have to venture too far to check out the Inner Light - it's located at the edge of the pier leading to the outer light. The Inner Light forms a range with the other two lights to guide ships. Though it was sold at auction in 2008, it remains in service in Canal Park.
If you're lucky, you'll be standing in just the right spot when a ship comes in.
The lighthouse piers become quite busy when a ship comes into the harbor. A crowd forms to welcome the often huge ships, and the Lift Bridge rises to welcome them in. Really, you could spend the entire day watching ships come in. It's an unforgettable experience that never gets old. Luckily, you can plan your trip around ship arrivals and departures. Check out the schedule
When you're able to tear yourself away from Canal Park, it's time to head north on Highway 61.
Two Harbors is the next stop of the day. It's about 30 miles north of Duluth. In town, you'll find plenty of shopping and dining options. And just a little ways outside of downtown, Lake Superior. Two massive ore docks are immediately visible, with a little tugboat named
Edna G nearby.
You'll also find a massive 2-8-8-4 steam locomotive.
Two Harbors rose to importance because of a railroad built to transport iron ore mined nearby. Today, you can still visit one of the remnants of the early days of Two Harbors. The train, called Yellowstone, once ran on the Duluth, Missabe and Iron Range Railway.
But of course, the real draw is the lighthouse. Luckily, there are more than one.
The first lighthouse to visit in Two Harbors is a small breakwater light. Though not quite as impressive as others, this thing is a pretty long walk from shore. With the waves crashing on either side of you, it'll feel like you're miles from land.
Not far from the breakwater is the Two Harbors Light Station.
This distinctive brick lighthouse has been around since 1892, making it the oldest working lighthouse in Minnesota. It's just under 50 feet tall, with the highest point rising 78 feet over Lake Superior. These days, the lighthouse and its historic outbuildings are home to a
charming bed and breakfast
. If you want to turn your day trip into an overnight adventure, this is the way to do it.
When you're done at the Two Harbors Light Station, it's time for the main attraction of the day.
Split Rock Lighthouse is about 20 miles north of Two Harbors on Highway 61. This gorgeous lighthouse is actually a state park. Here, you'll learn all about the lighthouse's history. And since it was completed in 1910, there is a lot of it.
Visitors can take a tour of the lighthouse and grounds.
The tour includes the opportunity to climb the spiral staircase to the top of the tower.
As you can imagine, the view is breathtaking.
The tower itself is 54 feet high, but the cliff it sits on rises 130 feet above Lake Superior.
Of course, you don't experience the full beauty of Split Rock when you're standing inside of it.
The lighthouse is best seen from afar. There are a few beautiful vantage points where you can park to view the lighthouse from the road. It is an absolute
must. Split Rock is one of the most gorgeous places in Minnesota, and may be one of the prettiest lighthouses in the United States. Savor it.
Have you been to these North Shore lighthouses? Let us know your experience! For more North Shore fun, check out the
Ultimate Minnesota Waterfalls Road Trip.
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