Top 10 North Shore Picnic Areas
Top 10 Picnic Areas, North Shore MN
Looking for a picnic area on the North Shore of Lake Superior? This list of North Shore picnic areas are among my favorite spots to enjoy take out from a local restaurant, or a picnic brought from home.
All of these have picnic tables, walking and/or sightseeing areas, and awesome views of Lake Superior. Some have trash cans, restrooms, and other facilities. Accessibility is also highlighted.
Please note that picnic areas at State Parks are not listed here. They all have picnic areas, and a MN State Park pass is required. This list includes areas that are easy to access and do not require a pass.
Here are my 10 favorite picnic areas on the North Shore, going from southwest to northeast as you travel along Highway 61.
Two Harbors Waterfront
There are three picnic areas on the Two Harbors Waterfront. Highlights include great views of iron ore docks, the breakwater and light station, hiking and biking trails, and nearby historical attractions.
Paul Van Hoven Park – Two Harbors
Mile Marker 26+
This is a small park located on the west side of Agate Bay. It is right in front of the tall ore docks and the historic Edna G Tugboat. If an iron ore tanker is loading up, this is a great place to watch!
It has a small grassy area with two stone picnic tables that seat 4, with wheelchair accessibility. There are also park benches, a gazebo, trash can, and a large parking area.
From here you can hike or bike on the Sonju Trail around the waterfront. It is also close to downtown businesses and attractions such as the Castle Danger Brewery, and the Two Harbors Historic Depot.
Agate Bay Beach – Two Harbors
Mile Marker 26+
This is what you might consider the “main” section of the Two Harbors Waterfront. Walking along the breakwater to the light station, watching iron ore tankers, and skipping rocks on the beach are popular here.
Take some time to walk around and explore the waterfront! Adjacent to the picnic area is the entrance to the Two Harbors Lighthouse Museum and B&B. For a minimal fee, you can take a self-guided tour of the historic lighthouse.
There are four picnic tables situated around the waterfront. Two are near the entrance to the light station, with an accessible ramp. The other two on the lawn across from the ore docks. The area has trash cans, porta-potties, a boat launch, and a large parking area. This waterfront area, managed by the Minnesota DNR is ADA accessible.
Lakeview Park – Two Harbors
Mile Marker 26.8
Lakeview Park is located on the east side of the Waterfront District – along Burlington Bay. Find streetside parking on Park Rd. (1st St.). On the lakeside there are picnic tables and grills on the lawn facing the lake. The paved Sonju Trail and the Lake Superior ledgerock shoreline are the main attractions here. On a hot day, take a dip at nearby Burlington Bay Beach.
Lakeview Park extends to the other side of Park Road where there is a large pavilion, restroom facilities, and a playground set among the tall white pine trees.
Silver Bay Bayside Park (Silver Bay Marina)
Mile Marker 53.7
One of the least obvious, but most abundant North Shore picnic areas is the Silver Bay Bayside Park, adjacent to the Silver Bay Marina. Turn lakeside on Marina Drive.
Whether you’re looking for a wooded/forested area or a grassy lakeside area, you’re sure to find the perfect picnic spot to pop-a-squat. Choose from about a dozen picnic areas. There are even two pavilions with multiple tables and grills, perfect for a family, group, or party.
Bayside Park’s facilities include picnic tables, firepits, pavilions, trash cans, vaulted toilets, and a boat launch. Parts of the park are accessible.
Hike around the paved roads and wooded trails, and along the marina walkway. Among the scenic overlooks are the Marina Overlook on the southwest side of the park, and the iron ore tanker viewing pavilion on the northeast side of the marina. This is the best spot on the North Shore to watch iron ore tankers come and go from the nearby taconite plant!
Black Beach – Silver Bay
Mile Marker 54.2
Another hidden gem of a North Shore picnic area is at Black Beach in Silver Bay. Although Black Beach is not visible from Highway 61, it has become increasingly popular with tourists since it opened in 2015. Check it out, and you will see why! Turn lakeside on Mensing Drive, at the newly developed Black Beach Campground. Follow the signs to Black Beach, there are two areas.
Black Beach Park
The first parking area takes you to Black Beach Park. This is not the actual Black Beach. But it has a couple of picnic tables on a grassy area with a great Lake Superior view. The picnic tables are accessible and there is a vaulted toilet.
To get to the water you have to climb down a fairly treacherous, but easily manageable ledgerock hillside. Black Beach Park may be less crowded than Black Beach itself.
Continue down the road to get to the main Black Beach area. The small, possibly overflowing parking lot greets you with a trail to the beach and a vaulted toilet facility.
The wooded trail opens up to an expansive black sand beach with two bays. It is a stunningly beautiful spot! A good reason for it to be so popular.
This is one of the few North Shore beaches where it’s comfortable to walk barefoot. That’s because it is more sandy than rocky. The black sand is actually taconite waste rock that was dumped into Lake Superior years ago. It’s what makes it so unique!
On the beach, there are a number of picnic tables and firepits. You could spend the afternoon relaxing and walking on the beach, fishing, taking pictures, and wading or swimming in the protected cove.
Mile Marker 83.0
Hidden down Tofte Park Road, not visible from Highway 61, is this lovely Lake Superior township park. It’s a great location for exploring the ledgerock shoreline, wave watching, watching fishing boats, a game of catch, or letting kids running free. Bring your boat or kayak and launch from the small safe harbor. You may also know it as the location of the annual Tofte 4th of July celebration (not taking place in 2020 due to Coronavirus).
Find picnic tables and a pavilion on the lawn near the Lake Superior. Stroll over the historic/restored cobblestone bridges and wishing well, which were originally built in 1922 from local red, white, and blue rocks from Lake Superior.
Most of Tofte park, including the picnic tables, are accessible.
Lutsen Grandview Park
Mile Marker 93.6
This lovely little park is easy to miss. Look for it across from the Issak Hanson hardware store.
Drive down the hill to get to the large, accessible, party-size pavilion where there are picnic tables and grills. The enormous lawn is perfect for kids to run around and play games, there is also a sand volleyball court. Kids will love the playground which has some nice features for smaller children. A vaulted toilet facility is available.
If you continue down the hill you’ll get to the Lake Superior ledgerock shoreline which is ideal for exploring with the dog and wave watching.
Grand Marais Harbor
Mile Marker 109.6
In the age of Coronavirus, the city of Grand Marais has provided extra outdoor picnic tables and trash cans to accommodate the dining needs of visitors. There are plenty of local restaurants, but they are only allowing limited seating inside; or NO seating inside.
The beautiful, iconic Grand Marais Harbor is the centerpiece of this artistic northern village. This popular North Shore picnic area is famous for its view of the Grand Marais lighthouse and its expansive cobblestone beach. It’s the gathering place for people and families strolling from shop to shop, skipping rocks, and playing on the beach.
There are picnic tables and park benches spread around Bear Tree Park, which is the “main” harbor area. The park is accessible with smooth trails around the lakefront and landscaped areas.
North Shore Picnic Area Tips
- FYI – Most of these areas have waterless vaulted toilets or porta-potties. Hand sanitizer is usually available, but it is a good practice to carry some in your vehicle.
- Be prepared for windy and/or cooler conditions near Lake Superior.
- Watch out for seagulls and other wildlife. Do not feed them.
- Public trash cans can get overwhelmed with the increased amount of take-out trash. Pack out your trash if possible, and certainly if the can is full. Wildlife such as seagulls and bears will get into uncontained garbage and make a mess. Plus, it’s rude.
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