Duluth, Minnesota

8 Beautiful Towns To Visit On Lake Superior

Touching multiple states, the greatest of the Great Lakes, Lake Superior, covers 31,700 square miles or 82,170 square kilometers. Known for scenic nature, including the Wabakimi Provincial Park and the Pictured Rocks National Seashore, its shores are also dotted with many towns, the most beautiful of which are below. 

Ashland, Wisconsin

Ashland, Wisconsin
A pasture in Ashland, Wisconsin.

Known as Lake Superior's hometown, Ashland is a small port city in the northern part of the state at the head of Chequamegon Bay. A paradise for fishers, it is also known for some of the most magnificent waterfalls in the state. There is ample bass-fishing both in the shallows and the lake's deep waters, while steelhead is most ample in the South Shore's rivers in late March. For enthusiasts of other outdoor pursuits, there's trekking to the three gorgeous falls on the Tyler Forks and Bad rivers in Copper Falls State Park. Home to many habitats with nearly 300 species, it is also an area for some of the best bird-watching in the Midwest. When hiking continues into wintertime and fishing turns into ice-fishing, other recreation opportunities include skiing, snowshoeing, sledding, and snowmobiling with over 200 miles of pristine trails. In-town, one will find a historical and colorful center with vibrant murals that have earned Ashland its moniker, Historic Mural Capital of Wisconsin. The town also provides a fantastic getaway into the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore's Instagram-worthy ice caves.

Bayfield, Wisconsin

Bayfield, Wisconsin
Bayfield, Wisconsin.

Set north-most in the state, Bayfield is a small lumbering and commercial fishing town-turned popular resort destination that also acts as the main getaway into the scenic Apostle Islands National Lakeshore. Comprising a stunning 21-island archipelago in Lake Superior, it is known for rocky hiking trails, lighthouses, and sea caves. During the warmer months, there's freshwater boating, kayaking, and sailing on Lake Superior along with the annual Race Week regatta during the 4th of July week. For more adventures, there is the brisk 25-minute ferry ride to the quintessential Madeline Island, the only Apostle Island that is not part of the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore. One will find over a dozen of fresh fruit orchards in the vicinity, while in-town offers plenty of eateries serving dishes with locally made products. There are also many baked goods shops to pick-up something for a scenic picnic at the Big Bay State Park, and implement its trails after that run along the lake's edge to burn-off the energy. For more entertainment, there is the annual Apple Fest first weekend in October, as well as concerts at the Big Top Chautauqua set as a 900-seater canvas tent on the lakeshore. 

Duluth, Minnesota

Duluth, Minnesota
Aerial View of the popular Canal Park Area of Duluth, Minnesota.

Set in a harbor, Duluth comes with unforgettable water vistas and an incredible list of sights and activities with many parks around. Its waterfront Canal Park offers atmospheric strolls and picnics with views of large sea-bound vessels passing through the canal. There are several shops and restaurants in the park, along with departing sightseeing or dinner cruises. The Maritime Visitor Center offers history on the Great Lakes shipping while crossing the picture-worthy landmark of the Aerial Lift Bridge takes one to the five-mile stretch of sandy beaches along Park Point. For the active, there is the Lakewalk that follows the lake's shoreline for over seven miles with recreational opportunities on the way, including the historic Fitger's Brewhouse, Duluth Rose Garden, and Brighton Beach. Families with kids love visiting the harbor-side Great Lakes Aquarium to see and learn about Lake Superior's fish and wildlife. There is also the Lake Superior Railroad Museum, Duluth Children's Museum, and Lake Superior Zoo. The Enger Park comes with a tower to climb for panoramic views, while the trendy Lincoln Park neighborhood is known for great dining and shopping. 

Grand Marais, Minnesota

Grand Marais, Minnesota on Lake Superior.
U.S. Coast Guard Station of North Superior at Grand Marais, Minnesota on Lake Superior.

Set on the southern shore of the lake just south of the Canadian border, Grand Marais is a remote and sleepy village scenically embraced by the Superior National Forest. The town acts as the eastern entrance into the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, while its pristine Lake Superior beaches offer solitude and serenity, with the Agate Beach north of the Main Street known for a conglomeration of semi-precious agates. Comprising some of the darkest night skies in the nation, the beaches are perfect for continuing lying into the night for stargazing or setting up a telescope on the sands. There are beer and wine tastings at North Shore wineries and breweries, while the former home of William Donahey and his wife Mary, known for the 1914 William Donahey's comic strip The Teenie Weenies, is now a quirky Pickle Barrel House Museum. Comprising a 16-feet tall two-story cabin that resembles two giant barrels, it is on the list of the National Register of Historic Places. Also on the list, the Inner and Outer Lights lighthouses set on the west pier at the entrance to the Grand Marais Harbor of Refuge are great to explore and photograph. Home to just 350 residents, the quaint and picturesque location on the hills of the lake comes with a variety of crowd-free outdoor pursuits, while the stunningly clear and ample with trout - Big Springs, Michigan's largest freshwater spring, is just over an hour away. 

Marquette, Michigan

Marquette, Michigan
Marquette, Michigan is a port city on the shores of Lake Superior.

The largest city on Michigan's Upper Peninsula of some 21,000, Marquette is a major port for the shipping of iron and ore and is home to Northern Michigan University. It comprises the region's scene for shopping and dining, while the university-attached DeVos Art Museum has a permanent collection of over 1,500 items of art from local and regional artists, along with Japanese art and artifacts. During summer, one can join the fun 90-minute Historic Marquette Walking Tour with a historical interpretation of local sites by characters dressed in period wear. For more history and culture, Marquette Regional History Center's permanent collection showcases artifacts from prehistoric copper culture to contemporary times, along with a series of special exhibits. Surrounded by seemingly-endless beauty, there are historic lighthouses, as well as the Presque Isle Park comprising a 323-acre forested area overlooking Lake Superior. Featuring wildlife viewings, hiking, and biking within breathtaking water views, one must set the base for the evening at the vantage Sunset Point which is renowned for marvelous sunsets over the lake. There are also Little Icebergs at Presque Isle Park, while the extreme-seekers can cliff-dive from the Blackrocks' 10- to 15-foot jump into the Lake Superior.

Munising, Michigan

Munising, Michigan
Aerial view of Munising city is the major four season tourist destination city in the Michigan Upper Peninsula. Editorial credit: SNEHIT PHOTO / Shutterstock.com

Set in the heart of the national forest at the west end of the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Munising acts as the gateway to some of the most spectacular beauty on the Upper Peninsula. The dramatic sandstone cliffs streaked by minerals sit stark against the bare sand dunes that are juxtaposed by waterfalls and inviting beaches along the forested shoreline. Stretching for over 40 miles in Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore to Grand Marais, it is perfect for exploring via kayaking, with beautiful beaches, lighthouses, picturesque hiking trails, and waterfalls on the way. Comprising a population of 2,500-some residents, the quaint small-town charm is enriched by a restaurant scene serving fresh fish from the lake and cute bakeries selling drool-worthy goods prepared in small batches, such as the Muldoon's Pasties with a porch and picnic tables.

Paradise, Michigan

Placed on Whitefish Bay, 11 miles south of Whitefish Point, Paradise is known for its wildlife and waterfalls that make it a hallmark of Michigan's Upper Peninsula. Many flee to the area for the Tahquamenon Falls State's falls, whose 200 feet-wide Upper Falls features a drop of almost 50 feet, as the most magnificent falls east of the Mississippi. The stunning Lower Falls cascades in a string of five around an island, with waters taking on a root beer color as they foam. After fully absorbing the scenic spectacle in the town truly standing behind its name, the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum and excellent bird-watching opportunities of the migration corridor for birds in the area, Whitefish Point, is just a short drive away to the north. 

Whitefish Point, Michigan

White point
Commercial fishing boats docked at Whitefish Point State Harbor on the coast of Lake Superior. Editorial credit: ehrlif / Shutterstock.com

Marking the entry point to Whitefish Bay, the town juts out into Lake Superior with unmatched vistas over the lake. Known most for its Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum, one must see the bell on display from the ship S.S. Edmond Fitzgerald, commemorated by Gordon Lightfoot's song, The Wreck of the Edmond Fitzgerald. There, one will also get acquainted with the shipwreck history in the area, learn about the life-saving devices, and see the oldest operating lighthouse on Lake Superior. Acting as a migration corridor for birds, the area is a globally Important Bird Area designee, where one can bird-watch and photograph some of the over 340 recorded species of birds from the Whitefish Point Bird Observatory. Moreover, the town is located near one of the best waterfalls east of the Mississippi, the Tahquamenon Falls, just 20 miles southwest of Whitefish Point near Paradise.

These scenic towns set on the shores of Lake Superior are home to beautiful harbors, historic ports, and vibrant centers. A must-visit during summer, one is guaranteed to have a recharging getaway inclusive of endless water fun and sports, along with hiking opportunities inland. 

  1. Home
  2. Places
  3. Cities
  4. 8 Beautiful Towns To Visit On Lake Superior

More in Places