This past summer Tyler and I took our annual camping trip on the North Shore. Wanting to do something new this year we decided to add Isle Royal and Thunder Bay, Ontario, to our itinerary. Being our third year camping in a tent on the North Shore we first looked at staying at Lamb’s Resort, the same camping facility we use every year. Unfortunately we must have tried booking a little too late, because it ended up being completely full, so instead we stayed at the Grand Marais Campground and Marina, which was beautiful. (We usually try booking at least two months ahead of time.) Although it was initially a longer drive from the Twin Cities, we actually enjoyed being further North than usual and were able to explore new places.
We began by leaving St. Paul around noon on Friday and began the drive to Grand Marais, which took about four and a half hours. We always try to arrive as early as possible so that we can set up our tent before it gets dark. After setting up we spent the rest of the evening exploring the campground and watching some fishermen come in (as well as trying not to get eaten alive by the mosquitos).
Knowing we would have to be up early to make our way to Grand Portage, about an hour drive from our campground, we decided to get up even earlier to catch the sunrise over the bay.
Once in Grand Portage we found the marina and caught the 8:00 ferry, named Voyageur II, towards Isle Royale. Having no clue what to expect, it took us about an hour and a half each way on the ferry, so we (along with our water bottles and packed lunches) arrived on the island around 9:30. During the ferry rides we stopped three times. On the way there we stopped at the Spirit Little Cedar Tree, a 400+ year old white cedar also known as the “Witch Tree,” and the underwater wreckage of the steam ship America. On the way back we stopped to view the Rock of Ages Lighthouse, which was stunning.
While on the island we hiked two different trails. One towards the Washington Creek Campground and back, which happened to be where we saw our only moose, and another towards the Grace Creek Overlook, which is just about three and a half miles roundtrip. Once we arrived at the overlook, we took out our lunches and refueled before hiking back towards Windigo. During our hikes I was very happy I wore tennis shoes and long pants because although it was hot, certain areas of the path were overgrown with some uneven terrain.
We then decided to drive one and a half hours towards Ontario, making a stop in Thunder Bay for some poutine at the marina before turning around. (Make sure you bring your passports!)
We packed up all our things early before going to breakfast at a shop called World’s Best Donuts in downtown Grand Marais. Feeling full, we explored the light house in the marina and walked around downtown, before having lunch at Sven and Ole’s, our favorite pizza place.
Afterwards we started making our way back home, stopping at Sugarloaf Cove, an area along the coast of the North Shore that requires a short downhill hike to a secluded bay and cove.
We also stopped at Palisade Head, one of our favorite stops and a very popular place for rock climbing, on our way back down to the cities. Most trips we also stop at Gooseberry Falls, but didn’t have quite enough time this trip.