K.C. was a featured writer for Yahoo! Travel before joining trips to discover in 2013. She is the author of Best Travel Guide for First Time Visitors to Ireland, an Amazon bestseller every year between 2013 and 2016. She has been a featured expert on Newsweek, Travel + Leisure, Travelocity, among others.
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Looking for a getaway on Lake Superior? There are some fantastic towns to choose from in Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota. Whether you prefer a small town or a larger city, you’ll find something on this list that’s sure to make for a memorable stay and plenty of fun both on and off the water.
Munising lies at the west end of the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, a gateway to some of the most spectacular beauty on the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Tucked in the heart of national forest, it’s filled with beautiful beaches, lighthouses, picturesque hiking trails, waterfalls, and abundant opportunities for exploring by kayak. Munising Bay Shipwreck Tours will allow you to view a lighthouse from the water and look down through glass viewing wells to see shipwrecks. While the population is only a little over 2,500, you’ll enjoy small town charm with many restaurants serving fish fresh from Lake Superior like whitefish, trout, and salmon. Homemade pasties are on just about every menu too.
Nestled along Minnesota’s northeastern tip on Lake Superior, Grand Marais offers the usual wide range of water sports, including outstanding fishing and boating along with countless hiking trails. It also has a thriving arts community and fun festivals throughout the year. The annual Fisherman’s Picnic celebrates its long fishing and logging trades with a feast along the shore featuring lake-caught herring while the annual Dragon Boat Festival features dragon-shaped boasts that race across the lake. You’ll find plenty of outdoor cafes like the Angry Trout Cafe for dining too.
Marquette is the largest town in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, but its population is just under 21,000, providing the perfect mix of shopping and dining. Explore historic lighthouses, museums, and galleries, along with the endless scenic beauty. One of the highlights is Presque Isle Park, a forested 323-acre park with breathtaking Lake Superior views offering abundant wildlife, hiking, and biking opportunities. From Sunset Point, you can watch the sun go down over the lake.
If you’re looking for a stay in a larger Lake Superior city, Duluth may be ideal. It has a population of just under 86,000 as the state’s fourth-largest city, with all the usual city amenities but the outdoors is what draws many. Duluth Rose Garden offers a tranquil place for a beautiful stroll and there are many parks. Lester Park at the city’s east end offers more than nine miles of trails for hiking and biking. It also hosts the Lester Park Rendezvous festival in September featuring all sorts of crafts, food, and entertainment. Canal Park is home to the city’s emblematic early-1900s Aerial Lift Bridge, while the Great Lakes Aquarium offers a popular otter exhibit and much more. The DeWitt-Seitz Marketplace, a converted warehouse district, offers eateries, gift shops, brewpubs, and galleries.
Located at the very north end of Wisconsin, Bayfield is a small town with a long history of commercial fishing and logging, but today it’s a popular destination among tourists. It serves as a gateway to the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, a 21-island archipelago in Lake Superior known for its hiking trails, lighthouses and sea caves, along with ice caves in the winter. Enjoy opportunities for paddling, boating, sailing, and more. A number of fun annual events are hosted too, like the annual Race Week regatta over Independence Day week, and on the first weekend of October, the annual Apple Fest.
Superior is often referred to as Duluth’s twin in Wisconsin. It has a population of just over 27,000 and sits at the west end of Lake Superior in the northwest section of the state. The Osaugie Trail offers 5.2 miles of paved walking trails along the lake and bays, while Pattison State Park on the Black River is home to both Big Manitou Falls, the highest waterfall in the state at 165 feet, and Little Manitou Falls. There are factory outlets and boutiques for shopping, art studios and galleries, and plenty of restaurants in town too.
Located along the scenic North Shore of Lake Superior north of Duluth, Silver Bay was originally built by Reserve Mining Company for its employees who worked in the taconite processing plant. Outdoor activities abound as it sits in the middle of three state parks: Split Rock State Park, Tettegouche State Park, and Crosby-Manitou State Park. Enjoy the friendly small town feel while being close to the Lake Superior shoreline, cliffs for spectacular hikes, beaches where you can hunt for agates, and ATV trails too.
Well off the beaten path, Copper Harbor isn’t well-known but it offers an unforgettable escape that some have described as a mix of British Columbia, Sedona, Telluride, Isle Royale, Moab, and even Key West all in one. A secluded and wild paradise, it sits at the base of rocky Brockway Mountain as the northern-most community in Michigan. By driving to the top of the mountain you can take in jaw-dropping views of Lake Superior and walk picturesque trails. From the harbor, ferries depart to Isle Royale National Park, an uninhabited wonderland, and at Fort Wilkins, you can explore fascinating history. There are lots of fun shops to browse, a number of outstanding eateries, and the not-to-be-missed thimbleberry doughnut at Jamsen’s Fish Market & Bakery.
Surrounded by water on the Keweenaw Peninsula, there’s a wealth of things to do in Houghton, from all manner of water sports to world-class hiking and biking at nearby McLain State Park. Winter brings the chance to hit snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, and snowmobile trails. There’s a ton for history buffs too, as Houghton is known for its copper mining past, with the Quincy Mine offering a popular tour that goes underground. Every day you can look forward to a breathtaking sunset over Lake Superior.
This Minnesota town on Lake Superior is an ideal base for hiking with its Superior Hiking Trail winding all the way to the Canadian border. It offers a ton of family-friendly activities from kayak tours to ATV rides while Gooseberry Falls State Park just northeast offers even more, with cascading falls and easy treks for those with little ones. Be sure to try the Norwegian crepes with blueberries and raspberries at the Vanilla Bean Cafe and stop in for a slice at legendary Betty’s Pie.
A port town on Lake Superior near the head of Chequamegon Bay known for its world-class smallmouth bass fishing as well as both deep-water and near-shore angling, Ashland is especially popular for the late-March steelhead run in the South Shore’s rivers. Some of the most magnificent waterfalls in Wisconsin can be found in this area, including three gorgeous falls on the Tyler Forks and Bad rivers in Copper Falls State Park. This is also one of the best birdwatching spots in the entire Midwest, with a wide variety of habitats home to nearly 300 species.
On the Canadian side of the lake, one can get out on the water in a sailboat, paddle in a canoe or paddle board, take advantage of some of the best fishing you’ll find anywhere, or cool off under the hot summer sun with a swim. Thunder Bay also offers a rich history, originally established by Europeans as a French fur trading outpost on the shores of the Kaministiquia River. Explore Fort Williams Historical Park, a museum ship at Prince Arthur’s Landing, and delve into a vibrant food scene. Local farm tours are available to sample some of the ingredients that make those delicious dishes.