Tips From The Great Lakes Cruising Club: Lake Superior

We asked our friends at the Great Lakes Cruising Club what their top picks were for things to see and do in their area. Here's what they recommended.

Photo of a lighthouse on Lake SuperiorPhoto: Wisconsin Division of Tourism

Duane R. Flynn, GLCC Rear Commodore Lake Superior Region:

I am responsible for the Lake Superior region so that covers a very large area. I don't think I can speak for all, but will give you what I'm familiar with. These are by no means all that is going on but a highlight of major happenings. My home port is Duluth Superior but I spend a fair amount of time in surrounding venues. Events in the "Head of the Lakes" are constant all year long. In the summer Duluth starts with a 4th Fest event at Bayfront Park. It includes a music venue as well as one of the largest fireworks display in the Midwest. Almost every community has some form of celebration including fireworks. Examples include a parade on Madeline Island, Apostle Islands.

While visiting the small community of Grand Marais, Michigan, I watched an annual flag burning ceremony sponsored by the local Veterans Association. This is the prescribed method of disposing of damaged or worn out US Flags and was quite inspiring, if you've never seen it before. Duluth's annual Bayfront Blues Festival is a multiday event, usually the first weekend in August. Multiple national superstars perform here every year to the joy of thousands of visitors.

In that same time period, mid-July, the Tall Ships are due to return to the Head of the Lakes with about 12 ships participating in this popular event this coming year. The GLCC summer Rally will be August 16–18 at the Silver Bay Marina. The following weekend, Superior, Wisconsin hosts their annual Dragon Boat Festival which last year involved 100 teams. It includes vendors and music for a festive weekend of fun for a good cause, Cancer research.

Things to see in Superior include the last Whaleback ship on Barker Island. In Duluth near Bayfront, you can see the Great Lakes Aquarium, a fresh water facility exploring our natural resources; and the Depot, with it's historical train museum, including the opportunity to ride on an original steam train. There is also a train ride to Two Harbors, Minnesota, along the beautiful shores of Lake Superior.

Two Harbors is a shipping port which receives large lake carriers on a regular schedule. One of the most visited sites in Minnesota is the Canal Park Shipping Museum located near the historical Lift Bridge and ship canal on Duluth's waterfront. A must see is the Minnesota State Park at Spit Rock on the shores of Lake Superior. This site gives you a window into a lighthouse keeper's life at the turn of the century. The tour of the houses and a restored lighthouse is a worthy use of your traveling time. Other events around the Lake include the annual Fishermans Picnic in Grand Marais, Minnesota, the first weekend in August. Further up the shore one can visit The Old Fort at Grand Portage, Minnesota. If you are in the area, Old Fort William in Thunder Bay, Ontario is always a fun visit with its time period actors to guide you around.

Bill Rohde, Great Lakes Cruising Club School Coordinator:

Duane covered a lot of ground in his note. I might add a couple of things near my home port of Bayfield, WI, gateway to the heart of Lake Superior Cruising ... the Apostle Islands.

No summer visit to the Bayfield area is complete without attending a concert at Big Top Chautauqua, an intimate 900-seat, all-canvas, state-of-the-art tent theater, producing and presenting a fifty-plus night summer season of concerts, plays, lectures, and a highly acclaimed professional local troupe which performs original multi-media musicals in the tent and on tour. Tent Show Radio, a weekly one hour program which showcases live performances from the Big Top stage, is aired on public radio stations throughout the country. Transportation to and from the Chautauqua grounds is available from all local marinas via free shuttle service). The Apostle Islands National Lakeshore is arguably one of the best cruising, hiking and kayaking areas around the Great Lakes. For more information about the park's 21 pristine islands and 12 miles of mainland shores

The Bayfield Chamber of Commerce and Madeline Island Chamber of Commerce are excellent sources for information on the area.

In addition, farther east on the Lake, the Keweenaw peninsula juts north out from Lake Superior's south shore toward the center of the lake. Cruisers shouldn't miss spectacular harbors like Copper Harbor near the tip of the peninsula, as well as Eagle Harbor and the Keweenaw waterway which cuts through the peninsula and the historic iron and copper mining communities of Houghton and Hancock. For more information go to

North of the Keweenaw, less than 20 mile from Superior's Canadian north shore, is Isle Royale National Park, part of the US NPS. No visit by boat to Lake Superior is complete without a several-day cruise among the 45-mile-long islands many wilderness anchorages and bays. Isle Royale National Park preserves 132,018 acres of land that was federally designated as wilderness on October 20, 1976. The park consists of one large island surrounded by over 450 smaller islands; it encompasses a total area of 850 square miles including submerged land, which extends 4 1/2 miles out into the largest fresh water lake in the world. Isle Royale's unique ecosystem led to it being designated an International Biosphere Reserve in 1980. On the island you'll find no roads, no towns, no phones, and no worries as you explore its miles of hiking trails and have a chance to spot moose, wolves, and other wildlife along the park's breathtaking trails. Go to for more information.

On the South Shore of Lake Superior, between Munising, MI, and Grand Marais, MI, lies the stunning Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. The Pictured Rocks cliffs stretch for 15 miles from near Sand Point to beyond Spray Falls where they give way to the white sands of Twelvemile Beach. The Pictured Rocks are best described as nature's artwork. Along the shoreline one will pas famous landmark points such as Mariners Castle, Lovers Leap, Indian Head, Grand Portal, Chapel Rock and many more natural and colorful formations. The Grand Sable Dunes further to the east rise high above the Lake Superior near Grand Marais.

Further to the east is Whitefish Point, demarcation from the main lake and Whitefish Bay. Not to be missed on Whitefish point is the Lake Superior Shipwreck Museum. The museum encompasses the entire historic lighthouse and associated grounds, as well as the extensive shipwreck museum itself, with considerable information, artifacts, and a film about the wreck of the 729' oar carrier Edmund Fitzgerald, which foundered NW of Whitefish Point on November 10, 1975, claiming 29 lives. For more information go to

And of course there are the twin communities of Sault St. Marie Ontario and Michigan on opposite shores of the St, Mary's River and Sault Locks between Lakes Superior and Lake Huron. Also check other attractions such as the outstanding Canadian Bushplane Heritage Center and the scenic Agawa Canyon Rail Trip — a beautifully scenic one-day train tour. Both attractions are a short walk from Sault St. Marie, Ontario's, Roberta Bondar Marina. 

— Published: April/May 2013

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