Everything You Can Fit in a 10-Hour Trip Up the North Shore

Updated: 07/30/2014 5:28 PM
Created: 07/29/2014 7:00 AM
By: Maarja Anderson

The Northland is full of popular attractions and hidden gems, making it a great place to hit the road and take a day trip.

Last week, Eyewitness News asked viewers at home for some of their favorite destinations. Day trips to Ely, Lake Vermilion, Hayward, and Jay Cooke State Park were all favorites.

An Eyewitness News crew decided to take the popular family favorite of going up the North Shore and put a twist on the road trip. They gave themselves the challenge of going up to Grand Marais and back to Duluth in just 10 hours, fitting everything they possibly can into their trip.

They left at 8:00 a.m. and with dinner plans calling them home in 10 hours, they needed to be home by 6:00 p.m..

They threw a few rocks into the lake at Brighton Beach and were off.

The crew started out on the Scenic Drive, lined with big evergreens and, of course, that beautiful big lake. They weren't on the road for long, however, before they got to their first stop just before Two Harbors. 

The first photo opportunity is with Pierre the Voyageur. He not only makes for a good photo but he's also full of history. He's been placed on the Smithsonian list of historic landmarks.

Pierre is a 20-foot tall statue. By just the push of a button, you can learn all about him.

"We always look forward to getting to our rendezvous point," Pierre says in the recording.

He's known to wear different accessories throughout the year, but he's also known to not wear something else - his pants.

Pierre is affectionately called Pierre the Pantsless Voyageur.

Only one stop down and they worked up an appetite for breakfast. Vanilla Bean Café is a Two Harbors favorite. Their tourist wrap, some Swedish pancakes, and coffee do the job. And now with a full stomach it's back on the road.

But they didn't leave Two Harbors right away, they headed out to the lighthouse to take in the view. They also got some advice from a fellow tourist.

"Split Rock Lighthouse is one of the most beautiful sights, a great place to just stand and observe," said Barbara Huppler from Madison.

So, that's where they headed.

Twenty miles north of Two Harbors, sits Split Rock Lighthouse. The crew was three hours into their trip and even on a week day, Split Rock was full.

Tour guide Sandor Pitek said Split Rock's history and unique design draws in on average 1,000 people a day.

"In the lighthouse we have the original lens...with the original mechanism and the original baring and it's still going," explained Pitek.

With admission, visitors can see a movie, take some great photos, and hop on a tour.

"Then they get to go in the lighthouse to the top and we have costumed guides in there to tell people how the light was run," he said.

Alex Helland is one of those costumed guides.

"It took two men three hours roughly every morning to clean this building with the amount of soot," said Helland.

Inside the lighthouse, he is full of interesting facts.

"This is where a 200 pound weight comes down."

Before the crew left the lighthouse grounds, they went down to the shore to get the obligatory shot of Split Rock from below, and then some last minute advice from Pitek about his favorite North Shore gem.

"Palisade Head, which is just up the shore from Silver Bay where I live."

The crew hopped back on Highway 61. Just north of Silver Bay, they turned right and drove up a very steep, very narrow road.

Palisade Head offers another great photo opportunity. It's a vista visitors say can't be beat. It's also a favorite for rock climbers.

It's a quick stop and the crew is back on the road on their way to where the slopes don't need to be covered in fresh powder to have some fun. The Alpine Slides at Lutsen Mountains offer a thrill for adrenaline junkies.

Eighteen miles north of Lutsen, they reach the turnaround point - Grand Marais. The little town offers yet another picturesque lighthouse, great rock skipping, and of course, the pizza place started by a couple of Scandinavians.

"It's tradition for a lot of people, they come up camping or staying at the cabin that kind of thing and they just have to come into Sven and Ole's," said owner, Sid Backlund.

For 33 years, Sven and Ole's has been the place to stop for families from all over. Backlund says it's the pizza and tradition that keeps them coming back.

The crew gets their cheesy fill and it's back in the car. At 3:30 p.m., their road trip is running behind schedule, so they head south toward Duluth.

With time for just one more stop, the crew has dessert on their mind and the decision is easy as pie.

"Last Saturday we made 400 pies."

Just north of Two Harbors, Betty's Pies has the history and tradition needed to make a true North Shore staple.

"They like the location, they like the name and, of course, they like the pie, too," said owner Carl Ehlenz.

With 45 types of pies, Ehlenz says there is something for everyone, and from everywhere.

"We had people from all over the world signing in our guest book, from Russia, China, and Japan, it was pretty amazing," he said.

Running out of time, they take their slice of bumbleberry pie on the road. It's the perfect, sweet ending to the 10-hour trip up the North Shore. They may have gotten back to Duluth just a little bit late, but considering everything they fit into their day, dinner can wait.

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