11 Best Things to Do in Two Harbors, Minnesota: Historic Sites and Trails

Things to do in Two Harbors MN

In this article I will list some of the things to do in Two Harbors MN. The Two Harbors are of the state has a lot to offer any traveler. The town and surrounding area is home to numerous historic sites and trails that visitors of all ages can enjoy and national parks so breathtakingly beautiful you will surely want to come back and visit.

Two Harbors boasts a rich history with many things that the public can explore, from the Split Rock Lighthouse (one of the most photographed lighthouses in America today), historical places and many state parks with hiking trails. All these activities are great for those who want an adventure!

The name ‘Two Harbors’ can be misleading in modern times as it is not at all a town with two different harbors but rather the name is derived from it’s two community areas in olden time. However, it is a close-knit community nestled in the southwest corner of the Lake Superior coastline and, with the historic lighthouse in between separating the two bays, Agate Bay and Burlington Bay and along the Lake Superior north shore.

Now, let’s dive right in and tell you all about what Two Harbors Minnesota has to offer. The are is truly a gem of a visitor destination.

Things To Do In Two Harbors Minnesota

I’ve grouped together first some of the excursions which will bring you north along the scenic north shore highway 61 or ‘The Highway’ as it is known locally. While there is a lot to do heading this direction you can group them into one or two-day excursions depending on how long you’re are staying in Two Harbors or Duluth further to the south.

1. Split Rock Lighthouse & State Park

If you think of the best things to do in Two Harbors then, immediately it’s iconic Split Rock Lighthouse & State Park springs to mind. The lighthouse sits on a 2,200 acre state park,along Lake Superior’s North Shore. It is located approximately 30 km north along the lake coast from Two Harbors.

Split Rock Lighthouse is the most photographed lighthouse in North America and stands on top of a cliff, towering over Lake Superior.

Aside from providing a beacon for mariners traveling the lakes, the lighthouse is now the most-photographed lighthouse in North America.

Plan on making a whole day of it if you’d like to visit the Split Rock lighthouse and the state park and the north shore area in general. There’s a visitors center just at the car park by the lighthouse

Visiting Split Rock Lighthouse is all about the spectacular view. There are some fantastic viewing points as you head north along the route MN-61, in particular the scenic viewing point just by Little Two Harbors and Pebble Beach. It’s worth stopping here and taking a few holiday photos before heading down to the stoney, Pebble Beach where there is plenty of parking. There is a perfect photo op from the beach closest to Elingson Island looking North towards the lighthouse.

The State Park also provides visitors with 14 miles of hiking trails, biking, cross-country skiing, and snowshoeing trails along the lake shore and into the northern forest. be sure to bring your dog sled in winter too. It also features a museum store showcasing maritime décor, Lighthouse souvenirs, north woods artwork, apparel, and locally crafted items from artisans. The state park is located in Two Harbors, Minnesota.

Further reading: Heard of the Grand Canyon of the East in Letchworth State Park in New York State?

2. Gooseberry Falls State Park

Gooseberry Falls State Park is located in Minnesota on the North Shore of Lake Superior, along scenic Highway 61. A visit to this area of the north shore area ranks among the top things to do in two harbors Minnesota and its surrounds.

This picturesque park is at the mouth of the Gooseberry River and offers several waterfalls of epic, natural beauty and scenic views. The sound of the cascades and nature is so therapeutic and, you can understand why this area of Two Harbors Minnesota is such a popular destination.

Gooseberry Falls Minnesota
Gooseberry Falls Minnesota

The Superior Hiking Trail (SHT) links up for a short while with the Gitchi-Gami State Trail as it winds through a newly paved 2.5-mile section ofthe park and offers bicyclists a great ride! The trail connects the lower picnic area to the rest of the Gitchi-Gami State Trail along Hwy 61 and so forms a continuous paved trail from Gooseberry to the area of Silver Bay in Two Harbors. Within the State park you will find Gooseberry Visitor Center, campground and the trail leads you right down to the shores of Lake Superior.

In Gooseberry Falls there is no shortage of outdoor activities and for families and it’s super kid friendly like all state parks. It deserves it’s place on this list of attractions in two harbors.

3. Hellacious Overlook, Two Harbors, Minnesota

Hellacious Overlook, or Palisade Head, is a North Shore landmark located off Highway 61, a good drive along the lake shore from Two Harbors, close to Silver Bay.

What’s in store for you at milepost 57 is a scenic place for photos atop a 350-foot tall bluff with great views out across Lake Superior. The sheer cliff face is really impressive, made from volcanic rock and like a scene from a Greek Island.

Getting there, while there is parking it’s quite tight at the stop. If you’re in an RV or other big vehicle just be aware that trying to maneuver may be hard, so have your hankie to hand to dry the sweat from your brow! 😀

We recommend a stop before or after breakfast if you’re coming from Two Harbors, because the parking lot at Hellacious Overlook can fill up quickly and it’s not wise to be blocking traffic for too long.

Location : 3206 Highway 61, Two Harbors, MN, Phone: 218-595-7100

4. Iona’s Beach Scientific and Natural Area

Iona’s Beach Scientific and Natural Area is a great destination for families on the Minnesota North Shore. It can be found between Split Rock Lighthouse State Park and Gooseberry Falls State Park. The largest and least disturbed Lake Superior beaches in Lake County can be found here.

It is a magical 300-yard, crescent-shaped pebbled beach with pink Felsite and Rhyolite pebbles that make a wonderful chiming sound as the waves roll in and out. It is truly unique to this area and, one of only three Scientific and Natural areas in Minnesota. Some say that, even on a quiet day at the shore, nature’s waves beat out a soulful tune as the waves drop the pebbles and the swell booms through underground caves nearby. Two Harbors is a quaint lakeside town but can rightfully boast with this as one of it’s highest rated attractions.

Although the area does not offer maintained trails, visitors are permitted to explore the wildflowers and native plants that grow in the region. Visitors may swim at Iona Beach but water shoes are recommended.

Like Gooseberry falls, Iona Beach is also on the Gitchi-Gami State Trail.

Location: Scientific and Natural Areas, DNR Northeast Region, 218-300-7871

Directions: From Gooseberry Falls State Park, 3.1 miles N on MN Hwy 61. Park in Twin Points water access on E. Hike northeast on Gitchi-Gami State Trail then follow signs to site.

Lat/Lon: 47.16668, -91.424798

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5. Two Harbors Lighthouse and Lake County Historical Society

One of the main attractions in the town proper is the Two Harbors Lighthouse museum, the oldest operating lighthouse in Minnesota which makes it a special part of this town’s history.

The recently restored red brick walled Lighthouse now welcomes tourists at all times. It’s surrounded by well-maintained amenities built with the purpose of accommodating visitors in the quaint Light house B&B, and an adjacent picnic area. It consists of a number of structures such as a fog signal building, and oil house, a pilot house, the lighthouse tower with attached keeper’s home, and an assistant keeper’s home.

A guided tour would be awesome but not always available. The Gift shop and tours are only available from Memorial Day through to mid-October. if you rock up at other times there won’t be anyone one there to give you information or answer you questions. Just you and the lighthouse ghost I’m afraid….just kidding!

To this day the Assistant keeper’s lodgings are open to the public. They have been preserved in the style of the 19th century era and the museum displays exhibits on the development of Agate Bay and Lake Superior shipwrecks.

The Lighthouse is privately owned and the Lake County Historical Society run and maintain it. You can read more here about the Two Harbors Lake County Historical Society and their good work maintaining four museums and historical places in the locality.

Location: 520 South Avenue, Two Harbors, MN, Phone: 218-834-4898

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6. Best North Shore FALL Color Tours

The autumn on the north shore is stunning and has to be seen to be believed. The world over, we hear of the Fall in the US where colors of winter’s approach burst forth. Europe doesn’t get the same Autumn colors like areas in the US. Minnesota has it all.

The temperature drops, making for crisp mornings and hot days. The latent hues – red, orange, burgundy, yellow, and gold – become more apparent as the days get shorter. Colors of the season are greatly influenced by weather; if trees have been stressed due to a lack of rainfall or colder summers then the Fall display is not as impressive as it can be.

By the end of September, maples along the ridgelines have begun to turn their autumnal colors and reach their peak vibrant color. The birch and poplar trees closer to Lake Superior start to turn to yellow around this time, signaling true Fall has begun

There is no wrong day to head on your fall color tour.

From misty days to sunny, bright blue days the colors are vibrant colors of rust orange, lemon yellow, and more shades of brown than you can possibly imagine.

One top tip for your tour is to keep the sun at your back on a bright day. Begin in the east and work your way west in the morning, then reverse directions in the afternoon.

Here are my suggestions for the finest fall color tours on Minnesota’s North Shore of Lake Superior’s North End.

  • Moose mountain
  • Two harbors to Beaver Bay Fall color drive
  • Wolf rock
  • Beaver bay to Illgen city
  • Tettegouche State Park
  • Section 13
  • Carlton peak

7. Castle Danger Brewery

Castle Danger Brewery, a local brewery in downtown Two Harbors, prides itself on sustainable sourcing of the best ingredients and materials.

What started as a home brewing hobby is now a fully fledged brewing company in Two Harbors. It is now a 10,000 square foot production facility with taproom  with 40-person private function room and 22 tap 22 lines capable of maintaining any rousing party atmosphere.

In 2021 it sold it’s 20,000 barrel of beer and continues to go from strength to strength within the community, state and beyond state lines.

If you’re interested in tasting the wares of Big Fall Brewery, visitors are welcomed to taste their beers on site at their taproom with attached outdoor seating area. 

In Castle Danger Brewing Company Brewery tours are also offered on Friday and Saturday evenings, they last about thirty minutes, and include a complimentary beer.

Some of the their beers are seasonal so it’s worth checking out their website but some of the firm favorite beers are:

Castle Cream Ale, North Shore Lager, 17-7 Pale Ale and Lake Mist to name but a few.

You cannot get hot food served here at the brewery taproom however, you can buy popcorn and pretzels. Not really enough to soak up a length of beer, so feel free to bring your own food or ring in your phone order with some of the local takeaways and have them deliver to you in the taproom.

Location: 17-7th Street, Two Harbors, MN, Phone: 218-834-5800

8. Hiking Trails

Namely the Superior Hiking Trail (SHT), Two Harbors, MN is the best of the hiking trails in the Two Harbors region.

The 310-mile SHT is a well-marked path that runs along the rugged Lake Superior coastline.

There are over 50 access points from Jay Cooke State Park to the Lake Superior border of Canada.

The hiking trail winds through forests of pine, aspen, birch, cedar, and fir en route to various waterfalls and rivers.

Hikers will get to enjoy spectacular views of the Sawtooth Mountains and boreal forests and all that Minnesota’s finest natural assets have to offer.

Along with beautiful hiking trails, for those taking on some long distance trails in this neck of the woods, there are back country campsites every 8-10 miles, 93 in total. So if you’re also interested in fishing, kayaking, and bird watching you have to take on the Superior Hiking Trail and amble through several state parks and the area of Grand Marais.

9. John Beargrease and Two Harbors Sled Dog Marathon

The John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon Event takes place in January under normal, non COVID, circumstances.

The name John Beargrease is synonymous with Two Harbors and lends his name to the annual sled dog marathon. It’s an epic 300 mile sled race which attracts some of the lead mushers in the world every year.

Though John Beargrease and brothers, trappers and mail men, would have been totally ignorant to their long term role in the development of the North Shore, they were instrumental in aiding communities to gain a foothold over the past century. His successful mail delivery made the population and economy stable, and permanent towns formed a lasting mark on the landscape.

Of course the main feat here was that Beagrease and dogs pulled loads weighing as much as 700 lbs.The journey was made once a week, which is an incredible feat for one man to accomplish. The range and rough terrain along the coast is quite remarkable.

The marathon lends a festival atmosphere to the whole area from Two Harbors and along the shoreline. It’s hard not to get caught up in all the talk and lore of the marathon. Be sure to visit if close to the area in winter time.

10. North Shore Architectural Antiques

What an absolutely gem this antique store is and worth a visit to this 10,000-square-foot antique shop. You can never know what unique piece you will find here as they cater for professional renovators to DIY hobbyist.

Furniture and materials found here generally date from the mid 19th century right through to the mid 20th century anc cover such evocative period as the Victorian and art deco periods.

Location: 224 7th Street, Two Harbors, MN, Phone: 218-834-0018

11. Best Restaurants In Two Harbors

You gotta eat while your visiting the town.

For day time breakfasts and lunches I would recommend keeping it simple and wholesome by going to Betty’s Pies. You can get your standard fair burgers and BLTs but Betty’s is best known for her sinful pies.

If you’re looking for your evening meal, I’d recommend going to the Black Woods Bar and Grill or McQuaid’s Pub and Grill. Good food and good prices.

Conclusion

In this post, you’ve learned about some of the historic sites and trails in Two Harbors Minnesota. You can also find out where to eat! All that is left to do now is visit Two Harbors for yourself as a lover of history and nature, or just because it has great restaurants.

Two Harbors is an ideal small town to visit if you want a feel of what it’s like in Northern Minnesota. It has some great attractions, including historic sites and trails for the outdoor lovers out there, as well as plenty of places to eat that will satisfy any palate. Whether you’re visiting for business or pleasure, this quaint little city on Lake Superior can’t be missed!

FAQ Two Harbors Minnesota

How Far Is It From Duluth To Two Harbors?

The distance between the two towns of Duluth and Two Harbors is 26.6 miles. A marathon and a little bit for good measure.

How Far Is Two Harbors From Twin Cities?

It is 183.1 miles from Two Harbors to Twin Cities and takes 2 hours 45 minutes by car along I-35N

Do you have to pay to see Split Rock Lighthouse?

Yes, you do. There are two alternatives for gaining entry to the lighthouse
General Admission Ticket priced at $12 for Adults and $8 for students
Keeper’s Tour – Priced at $25 for Adults and Free for children 4 and under

How much does it cost to go to Gooseberry Falls?

There is no entrance fee to visit to Gooseberry State Park visitor center and falls.
However, if you plan on spending the day and doing some walks, you can purchase a one day vehicle permit for $7.00.

What is the Population of Two Harbors, MN

As of 2019 the population is 3,509

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