MidwestWeekends.com — Your Travel Guide to the Upper Midwest

Stampede to the North Shore

If you're planning to join the annual fall pilgrimage, nail down lodgings now.

Fern Creek cabin at Koeneke's Resort.

© Beth Gauper

At Koeneke's Shoredge resort near Lutsen, Fern Creek has privacy and a great location.

This time of year, everyone in Minnesota starts thinking about going to the North Shore, and everyone wants that perfect place to stay.

I first went to the North Shore in August 1981, without a reservation (you can’t do that anymore), and lucked into Fern Creek cabin (pictured) at Koeneke’s Shoredge resort, just beyond Lutsen.

It had hand-sewn curtains, a tiny kitchen and tiny bedrooms with walls that didn’t quite go up to the ceiling. But it was surrounded by poplars and had a picture window facing the lake, a swing out front and a rocky shoreline perfect for bonfires.

That's my idea of a perfect place to stay, though I know it's not everyone's. I stopped by recently and caught Karen Bergly of Plymouth, Minn., whose mother’s family has been running the summer-only resort since 1953.

“There’s no TV and no Internet; this is your rustic getaway place,’’ she said. “You commune with the lake.’’

The resort still fills, but small, family-run resorts like Koeneke’s are disappearing fast.

“It’s a labor of love, not a moneymaker,’’ Bergly said. “ We give, we don’t get. There aren’t many of us left. But how do you tell people after 50 years?’’

I’ve stayed at many other North Shore cabins, resorts and inns. Every time I go, I try to check out a few more.

This year, I found two potential new favorites, one with cabins facing a waterfall and a quiet place with a big pebble beach. I checked out two of the new corporate-owned townhouse resorts, which people will find either sterile or gorgeous, depending on viewpoint.

I tracked down great campsites and found what has to be the most scenic — and hardest to get — site in Minnesota.

For the expanded guide to best places to stay, see Where to stay on Minnesota's North Shore.

This year, the Education Minnesota school break is late, Oct. 20-23. That means it won't be as hard to find places the weekend of Oct. 14-16.