Exploring Duluth, Minnesota and Lake Superior’s North Shore.

Located in the Southwest corner of Lake Superior, Duluth is North America’s farthest open shipping point from the Atlantic Ocean. Massive freighters flow to and from Duluth, through the lower Great Lakes, up and down the Saint Lawrence Seaway and onward to the Ocean, a distance of over 2,300 miles. Watching the mammoth tankers flow in and out of the harbor is a very popular pastime in Duluth even for the locals.

At the terminus for US I-35 the great asphalt swath that bisects the nation running all the way to the Mexican border, Duluth is easily accessible from anywhere. And you couldn’t ask for a better city at the end of the line. As the gateway to the world’s largest freshwater lake, Duluth boasts miles of pristine beaches, hiking, and alpine skiing as well as more interior pursuits such as museums, restored Victorian and Edwardian mansions and shopping. Here are just a few of the many things to do in Duluth:

Watch the ships arrive and depart under the Aerial Lift Bridge at Canal Park

Canal Park is a lockless canal that was built to allow the Cargo ships passage into Duluth Harbor. Duluth has a massive inner harbor that is actually cut off from the lake by a barrier island ( the world’s largest freshwater barrier in fact). A channel was created to allow ships entry. The canal is wide enough to allow the freighters entry but is narrow enough to allow those on shore a good look.

A freighter enters Duluth harbor. The channel has twin lighthouses at the entry point to help guide the ships in.  
A view of the twin lighthouses. (though admittedly not identical twins)
The Aerial Lift bridge. By far, Duluth’s most famous landmark, the bridge lifts to allow ships passage into the harbor.  When not being lifted. The bridge connects highway traffic from Duluth to Superior Wisconsin. Canal Park is also a popular location for summer concerts and other outdoor events. Near the Park, abandoned warehouses have been converted to Resturants, shopping areas, and hotels. 

Visit the Maritime Visitor’s Center and see a ship’s soul

The maritime visitor’s center is a great place to go before or after you watch the ships moving to or from Lake Superior. The center has recreations of the cabins and uniforms of the merchant marines as well as the master schedule of when ships are due to depart and arrive. The museum offers a historical perspective of almost two hundred years of commercial shipping in the area. There’s also a recreation of the bridge on a ship including a wheel you can get behind and a collection of the ship’s bell from some of the ships that wrecked in the area. A ship’s bell is considered the soul of the ship in maritime mythology.

The museum does a great job of explaining the inner workings of the harbor. How ships are scheduled and about how much time it takes to load or unload cargo.


The bridge faces directly over the lake. Since it is on the second floor, you can’t see land below and it really makes it easy to imagine you are captaining a massive tanker. 

Aside from Canal Park, the city also has point Park a paved trail that runs along the lakeshore and is an excellent place for jogging or biking. But my favorite city park has to be Enger Park. Located in the Bluffs directly behind the harbor Enger Park offers some stunning views of the City and the North Shore beyond. It also has Enger Tower a 50ft tower that gets you above the treeline for some can’t miss photo opportunities. 


If you are wanting the picture to remember, Enger Tower at the Park of the same name is your go-to spot.

Clockwise:  Downtown Duluth,  A Ship moving through The Aerial Lift Bridge, and the inner harbor.


Enger Park also has a lovely Japanese Garden

If you haven’t been shutter bugged out from all the great shots at the tower, Duluth has many restored Victorian and Edwardian mansions. Iron Shipping was quite profitable for the upper echelon of society and Duluth has the mansions to prove it. Probably,  the most popular mansion is Glensheen on the lakeshore, but I’m partial to Fairlawn. 

If I lived there, I’d probably spend a lot of time on the porch-balcony thing at the top. 

A great way to see the mansions and the miles of pristine lakeshore beyond the city is by train. The North Shore Scenic Railway runs parallel to the lakeshore (the highway tends to veer off into a wooded in the bluffs above the lake) and offers an unsurpassed view. The trip lasts a couple hours and is well worth the 7.00 charge. In addition, the railway offers dinner and extended excursions as well.


Whether you choose to go by rail or car,  Minnesota’s scenic north shore drive is not to be missed. Running almost one hundred and fifty miles from Duluth to the Canadian border, the drive offers big waves, bluffs, endless waterfalls and a seemless marriage of deep blue and evergreen. Personally, this is one of the most cherished roadtrips I ever took. 

Come for a visit, I know in no time you’ll be singing the charms of Dulightful, Dulovely Duluth.

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