A Superior Lake Life in Duluth…on a Budget

A kid plays in rocks on the lakeshore

Looking to head “up north” in Minnesota but don’t have a cabin or a resort reservation? Duluth can give you a taste of lake life within the city limits, and leave you feeling rested and refreshed, whether you’re here for a day, weekend or even longer.

Here are just a few lake-centered, budget-friendly ideas for getting the most out of your trip to Duluth and time around Lake Superior.

Sand in Your Toes

A kid does a cartwheel in the sand

Almost everyone heads to Canal Park when they’re in Duluth, but have you ever crossed over the iconic Aerial Lift Bridge to Park Point? Park Point happens to be the nation’s longest freshwater sandbar, which means plenty of sandy beach for you to enjoy. There’s just one main road leading from the Lift Bridge to the Sky Harbor Airport at the other end, and in between you’ll find many public access points to the beach. The first one is an easy walk from the bridge (just a few blocks), at what locals call “the S-curve.” The 12th Street Beach has a small parking lot, and it’s a great place to watch the sailboat races on Wednesday nights, build sandcastles or have a picnic. If you’re looking for more amenities, and more parking, check out the Park Point Beach House. There are BBQ grills, picnic tables and sand volleyball courts available, and yes, restrooms, too! If you’re up for a hike, find the Park Point Trail at the end of the road near the Sky Harbor airport, and follow it all the way to the end of the point. You’ll get great views of the lake, and both Minnesota and Wisconsin. Work up a sweat? Dip your toes into the Great Lake for a refreshing pick-me-up!

Paved and Pretty

A couple walks along the lake hand in hand

Memories are made on the Duluth Lakewalk, and there’s a reason for that – there’s just so much to see and do! The new and improved Lakewalk through Canal Park and beyond is a place for locals and visitors alike to get out and walk, bike or scooter. You can grab an ice cream cone from Grandma’s Boxcar or Love Creamery right in Canal Park, or near the Fitger’s complex check out PortLand Malt Shoppe or Crank and Dasher. If you’re hungry for a meal but can’t take your eyes off the lake, check out the lakeside dining on patios at Canal Park BreweryMexico Lindo or Va Bene. The Great Lakes AquariumWilliam A. Irvin and a ride along the North Shore Scenic Railroad also provide great views of Lake Superior.

Heading even further north, you’ll find Leif Erickson Park, the Rose Garden and plenty of spots to sit and enjoy the views.

Local Tip: For Lakewalk access away from the Canal Park area, exit 35N at 21st Avenue East, take a right, a left, and a right onto Water Street to find a parking area near the Beacon Pointe Resort. Or, exit 35N at 26th Avenue East and find parking behind the Holiday gas station. These sections of Lakewalk are great if you have kids (older than toddlers) with energy to burn. They’ll have a great time hopping from big rock to big rock along the shore and exploring all the nooks and crannies.

On the Rocks

Water covered rocks

Speaking of rocks, if you’re an agate hunter or a rock skipper, we’ve saved the best for last! Your spot to be on Lake Superior is Brighton Beach. This is where you’ll find a beach covered in stones of all shapes and sizes. The road to access the beach is closed right now, but it’s just a short walk or bike to the beach on a paved path from two main access points at either London Road or Scenic Highway 61. Bring your picnic basket filled with great local to go-options, like sandwiches from Northern Waters Smokehouse or Corktown Deli, and find one of the available tables, or spread out on one of the smooth basalt rocks right in the water. If you’re feeling adventurous, the northeast end would be a great spot to launch your kayak, canoe or paddleboard on a calm day.

Posted on August 11, 2022