Lake Superior's greatest hits
With this nine-day itinerary, take in the highlights of the magnificent Circle Tour.
The Circle Tour of Lake Superior is one of the world's most scenic drives, 1,300 miles of non-stop scenery and attractions.
There's a staggering number of things to do and see around Lake Superior. But if you have only a week's vacation, you can see the highlights on this nine-day, eight-night Circle Tour.
Drive clockwise or counterclockwise, depending on what festivals or events you want to catch. For more, see Planning a Circle Tour.
For an overview of what you'll see, go to Circling Lake Superior.
Duluth to Thunder Bay, 189 miles
Every year, readers of Lake Superior magazine vote Minnesota's North Shore their No. 1 favorite attraction on the big lake.
With Lake Superior rarely out of sight, it's everyone's favorite drive. Get an early start from Duluth's Canal Park; if you're lucky, you can watch a boat arriving or departing.
In Two Harbors, see the lighthouse and ore docks and walk the lovely Sonju Trail around the front of the lighthouse.
Between mile markers 40 and 60, you can see Gooseberry Falls, visit Split Rock Lighthouse, enjoy the view from Palisade Head and walk the half-mile trail to Shovel Point at Tettegouche State Park.
Just short of the Canadian border in Grand Portage State Park, hike half a mile to 120-foot High Falls on the Pigeon River. For closer views, including from the top of the waterfall, hike from the Ontario visitors center just across the border.
Ontario is on Eastern time, so you'll lose an hour. In Thunder Bay, the largest town on Lake Superior, the best-located hotels are the Delta Hotel by Marriott and the 1911 Prince Arthur near Marina Park. The nearby Courthouse Hotel also has lovely views.
Multicultural Thunder Bay is a great place to eat. And if you're there on a Wednesday afternoon or Saturday morning, stop at the indoor Country Market to stock up on pierogies, cheese and pies.
Thunder Bay to Rossport, 116 miles
Rossport to Wawa, 178 miles
Spend the morning kayaking the Rossport Islands, whose three tiers protect paddlers from the big lake.
In White River, see the statue of Winnie-the-Pooh, who was inspired by a real-life bear from the town. For more, see Giants of Lake Superior.
Another option for lodgings is Rock Island Lodge, on Lake Superior at the mouth of the Michipicoten River.
Wawa to Paradise, 210 miles
Twenty minutes south of Wawa, stop on the beach of Old Woman Bay on the north end of Lake Superior Provincial Park and then, on the south end of the park, see the pictographs at Agawa Rock.
In Sault Ste. Marie, watch the boats go through the Soo Locks and take a Soo Locks cruise on the St. Marys River.
Otherwise, head west around Whitefish Bay, stopping at Point Iroquois Lighthouse on the way to Paradise and on to Whitefish Point, the Graveyard of the Great Lakes.
Paradise to Munising, 99 miles
Tour the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum at Whitefish Point, if you haven't already.
Or continue on Michigan 28 to Munising and the west end of Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.
If possible, hike the stunning, 10-mile Chapel Loop, which includes the only trail section where the cliffs can be seen from land. If you don't have time, there are many shorter hikes.
In Munising, stay at the Sunset Motel, facing on the bay. It's friendly and quiet and has places for children to play. There are other options, and Munising now has a couple of good restaurants and also craft breweries.
Munising to Copper Harbor, 190 miles
Or take a kayaking tour along the multicolored cliffs, with transportation there and back by cruise boat.
In the college town Marquette, stop to shop, have lunch and see beautiful Presque Isle Park, a peninsula just north of downtown.
At Ahmeek, get off U.S. 41 and take 5 Mile Point Road toward the lake and into Eagle River. Continue on the picturesque lake drive, stopping at the Jampot to buy baked goods from the monks of the Society of St. John.
In Eagle Harbor, see the 1871 lighthouse and, if it's warm, take a swim in the protected harbor. East of town, turn onto Brockway Mountain Drive and take it into Copper Harbor.
In the hills above Copper Harbor, stay at the Keweenaw Mountain Lodge, which rents motel rooms and log cabins, many with wood-burning fireplaces but no kitchens.
Eat at the lodge restaurant or in town at the Harbor Haus, which also has B&B rooms.
Copper Harbor to Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park, 115 miles
Between the harbor and Lake Fanny Hooe, visit Fort Wilkins Historic State Park, a former frontier post staffed by costumed interpreters.
Drive back to Houghton on the east side of the peninsula between Lac La Belle and Gay, using pullouts to explore the beaches and pick blueberries from late July to early August (bear sightings are likely).
Drive to Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park and spend the rest of the day hiking the Escarpment Trail high above Lake of the Clouds. The park has camping as well as four yurts, 19 rustic cabins and a lodge.
Or, stay just outside the park at Mountain View Lodges, well-equipped cabins right on the lake.
Porcupines to Bayfield, 125 miles
Drive the park's South Boundary Road to the Presque Isle River to see the waterfalls, and rejoin U.S. 2 in Wakefield, where you'll get your hour back.
If you have time, head north from Bessemer, Mich., to see the five waterfalls of the Black River and/or ride to the top of the Copper Peak ski-flying hill for a panoramic view. It's 32 miles round-trip.
In Ashland, stop for lunch and to see the downtown murals. Just west of town, stop at the Northern Great Lakes Visitor Center to see the exhibits, including a cool relief map of Lake Superior.
There are many good places to stay, such as the Seagull Bay Motel, which includes rooms, a cottage and a guest house.
Bayfield to Duluth, 80 miles
Explore Bayfield. Continue west through Cornucopia and buy picnic goods at Ehlers General Store.
Just before Wisconsin 13 rejoins U.S. 2 east of Superior, take County Road U to Amnicon Falls State Park and have a picnic among the rapids.
If you're spending the night in Duluth, reserve far in advance. It's very popular in summer, especially the Canal Park area.
If you have more time
Spend more time exploring Minnesota's North Shore.
Sightsee around Thunder Bay and stay in Sleeping Giant Provincial Park, a 40-mile round-trip detour from the highway but a highlight for many travelers.
The Trans-Canada Highway heads inland around Pukaskwa National Park, beloved by kayakers for its coves and backpackers for the 60-kilometer Coastal Trail. You can get a taste of the park by making the 20-mile round-trip detour to Hattie Cove Campground, just east of Marathon.
Stay at one of the five yurts in Pancake Bay Provincial Park, on Lake Superior just north of Sault Ste. Marie.
Stay overnight on Mackinac Island on Lake Michigan. It's only an hour from Sault Ste. Marie to St. Ignace, from which ferries go to the island. You can see the sights by bike on the no-vehicles highway that circles the island.
Visit Isle Royale National Park by ferry from Copper Harbor or Houghton on the Keweenaw (or Grand Portage in Minnesota, the shortest trip if you're heading for the Windigo side of the island).
If you'd like to stay overnight at those lighthouses and the ones in the Apostles, you can sign up to be a volunteer keeper for a week or more.