Best Kayaking Spots on the North Shore MN

Top Five Kayaking Spots on the North Shore MN

The North Shore of Lake Superior has some of the best kayaking in Minnesota. This paddler’s paradise is chock full of sea caves, lighthouses, rugged shoreline, and more! In this post, I will share my top five kayaking spots on the North Shore MN. Most are on Lake Superior, and one is on the inland lakes of the Boundary Waters and Superior National Forest. Come explore the best kayaking spots on the North Shore MN!

kayaking Clearwater Lake on the Gunflint Trail MN

kayaking Clearwater Lake on the Gunflint Trail MN

Lake Superior Safety Note:

Paddling on Lake Superior can be a rewarding and beautiful experience! Lake Superior is functionally an inland sea. This lake creates its own weather patterns, is capable of producing waves greater than 30 feet, and can give hypothermia in minutes. The best way to kayak on Lake Superior is with a sea kayak and appropriate safety gear including a PFD (life jacket), bilge pump, paddle float, spare paddle, marine radio, several means of emergency communication, and a deep water self-rescue in conditions. If you are inexperienced or don’t have the necessary equipment, I recommend booking a guided tour. 

Kayaking Spots on the North Shore MN

Kayaking the Lake Superior State Water Trail


Extra adventurous and experienced sea kayakers may want to explore the Lake Superior State Water Trail. It’s one of the most premier places to kayak in Minnesota! The Water Trail runs the entire length of Minnesota’s North Shore of Lake Superior from Minnesota Point in Duluth to Pigeon Point in Grand Portage. This path will take you past waterfalls, sea cliffs, caves, and small towns. 

The Minnesota DNR has put together a wonderful Lake Superior Water Trail resource, including section descriptions, maps, water characteristics, important contact information, fish & wildlife, history, and more. Use this handy info to plan a day trip to sea kayak on Lake Superior or a multi-day excursion kayaking from campsite to campsite.

For multiple-day trips, there are camping opportunities along the water trail, including both state/municipal campgrounds and watercraft access only sites. Expect a challenging and very rewarding kayaking experience on the North Shore! Plan for long stretches of unlandable shoreline due to cliffs and private land. There are also sections where long mileage must be paddled between campsites. This could be the paddling adventure of a lifetime! 

Tettegouche State Park – Lake Superior

kayaking Tettegouche State Park, North Shore MN

Kayaking the caves in Tettegouche State Park

Tettegouche State Park is well known for having some of the best hiking and views along the North Shore of Lake Superior. You might be familiar with places like Shovel Point and Palisade Head. But did you know it offers incredible sea kayaking on the North Shore of Lake Superior?

Sea kayaking Lake Superior in Tettegouche State Park will take you under massive palisades and through hidden caves and arches. Weather along the cliffs can be especially dangerous, and many of the caves are difficult to reach and hard to find. Booking a guided tour will not only keep you safe, but your guide will know where to find those special spots and hidden caves!

Day Tripper of Duluth offers guided sea kayaking tours in Tettegouche State Park.

Kayaking in Grand Marais, Minnesota

Kayaking around Grand Marais, North Shore MN

Kayaking the clear waters around Grand Marais’ Artist Point.

Paddling near the Lake Superior shore in the Grand Marais Harbor can offer a safe and protected kayaking adventure. This ranks as one of the best kayaking spots on the North Shore MN because of the convenient, scenic, and in-town location.  Outfitters like Stone Harbor Wilderness Supply will take you around Artist’s Point, to the Lighthouse, and along the rugged shores of Lake Superior with crystal clear water. 

Kayaking in Isle Royale National Park

kayaking in Isle Royale National Park

kayaking in Isle Royale National Park

Isle Royale National Park (Michigan) is technically not part of the North Shore, however, this isolated island in Lake Superior can be reached from the North Shore of Minnesota. Get there by floatplane from Grand Marais, Minnesota, or by ferry from Grand Portage MN. The island is home to hundreds of miles of rugged backpacking trails, a resident population of wolves and moose, and some of the best sea kayaking in the United States. You can explore the harbors, shipwrecks, islands, and protected areas of this Lake Superior’s treasure.

There kayak rentals for beginner-level paddling at Windigo and Rock Harbors.  Alternatively, Stone Harbor Wilderness Supply in Grand Marais offers overnight sea kayaking trips on the island, but these need to be booked several months in advance. 

Clearwater Lake – Boundary Waters, Superior National Forest

kayaking on Clearwater Lake, Gunflint Trail Mn

Kayaking on Clearwater Lake in the BWCAW

Take the Gunflint Trail inland from Lake Superior to find hundreds of inland lakes within the Superior National Forest and the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW). The Gunflint Trail area is known for canoeing, but these inland lakes make for beautiful day trips for beginner-level kayakers! Hungry Jack Lake, Gunflint Lake, and Loon Lake are all good places for beginners, or anyone, to kayak on the North Shore MN. These lakes also have outfitters that can rent equipment or take you on a guided tour. See the post Things to do on the Gunflint Trail for more information about outfitters. 

And for something really special, bring your kayak for a day trip into the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW). Clearwater Lake is a great place to start. The lake has incredible palisades and islands and is a real treat to explore. To enter the BWCAW you will need to self-issue a permit which can be done at the entry point. 

Keep your eyes peeled! Any time you are in the remote waters of the Superior National Forest or the BWCAW, you’re likely to encounter wildlife – by air, water, or land! Moose, bear, deer, otter, beaver, and eagles are residents. 

Madeline Marquardt is a writer, photographer, and paddler currently based in Grand Marais, Minnesota. She has worked as a sea kayaking guide in the Apostle Islands, English teacher in Armenia, and paddled and hiked extensively throughout the Lake Superior region and state of Michigan. You can find her at, where she writes about the outdoors and adventure travel.

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One thought on “Best Kayaking Spots on the North Shore MN

  1. Jim Henning says:

    I am planning next summer to kayak via the Mississippi to New Orleans . I would like to travel with others. I have lots of Kayaking experience and lots of time. I am looking for company now. Please get my information to the right people. I was a member with the Inland Kayaking club years ago. Thanks

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