Blake Walsh

15 Best Things to Do in Grand Marais, MI

  • Published 2023/03/26

The village of Grand Marais, Michigan, on the shores of the mighty Lake Superior, is a quaint but fascinating place to explore.

It has a rich history, a vast natural area, and a grand view of Lake Superior.

This makes it an ideal vacation destination, especially for those who love long and scenic road trips.

Grand Marais is technically an unincorporated community in Alger County.

Most of Grand Marais’ area comprises forests and vast marshes.

Its name, “Grand Marais,” comes from the French term for Great Marsh.

Visitors expect plenty of outdoor recreational activities, mostly involving Lake Superior.

It has a long stretch of scenic beaches, pristine forests, and a picturesque view of Lake Superior.

Grand Marais is a favorite destination for outdoor enthusiasts as it offers top-notch swimming, kayaking, snowmobiling, snowshoeing, and hiking activities seasonally.

Read below to learn the best things to do in Grand Marais, Michigan.

Climb the Grand Marais Harbor of Refuge Inner and Outer Lights

Exterior of the Grand Marais Harbor of Refuge Inner and Outer Lights

Kenneth Keifer /

The Grand Marais Harbor of Refuge Inner and Outer Lights is a historic lighthouse on the shores of the Harbor of Refuge in Lake Superior.

This historical attraction is on the east side of Grand Marais on the edge of Canal Street.

This concrete lighthouse was constructed in 1895.

It stands 55 feet or 17 meters tall, serving as a beacon of light for water vessels sailing through Lake Superior.

This lighthouse is historically vital to locals as it witnessed their community’s changes through the centuries.

Many visitors love to visit this lighthouse to take photos of the vast Lake Superior as their background.

At the same time, they enjoy learning a history or two through guided and self-guided tours.

Strolling through the Grand Marais Harbor of Refuge Inner and Outer Lights is a fascinating way to get acquainted with the village’s history, making it a recommended attraction.

Travel Back in Time at the Lightkeeper’s House Museum

Lightkeeper’s House Museum is one of the most excellent places to dive deeper into Grand Marais’ rich history.

You can visit this quaint museum a few meters from the Grand Marais Harbor of Refuge Inner and Outer Lights along the Coast Guard Loop.

This 1900s lightkeeper’s house serves as the local museum for Grand Marais as it’s also where the Grand Marais Historical Society operates.

It’s originally the residence of the United States Lighthouse Service lightkeepers that operates the nearby lighthouse.

It also serves as a library that houses over 2,000 periodicals and books.

Touring the Light Keeper’s House Museum takes you back to the days when lightkeepers were crucial in operating lighthouses at the turn of the century.

You can see the original equipment, uniforms, and memorabilia of the past lighthouse keepers who lived in the house.

Find Your Best Spot at the South and North Gemini Lake State Forest Campgrounds

Grand Marais and its surrounding area have excellent campgrounds, especially the South and North Gemini Lake State Forest Campgrounds.

These two separate campgrounds are the best places to stay during your visit to the village.

The South Gemini Lake State Forest Campground is along County Road, while the North Gemini Lake State Forest Campground is along Twin Lakes Truck Trail.

Both campgrounds feature a rustic ambiance and a peaceful atmosphere, perfect for those who yearn to connect with nature.

Also, both campgrounds are hiking distances from most of Grand Marais and its neighboring towns’ attractions, making it a convenient place to stay.

For a few days, you can’t go wrong between the South and North Gemini Lake State Forest Campgrounds.

This both offers excellent amenities and experience.

Browse the Amazing Rock Collection of the Agatelady Rock Shop

The Agatelady Rock Shop is one of Grand Marais’ best places to buy unique souvenirs.

You can visit this shop at the former Gitchee Gumee Agate and History Museum along Brazel Street.

This newly opened shop features a vast collection of agate stones.

These are carved into various shapes and forms as unique souvenir gift items and jewelry pieces.

At the same time, you can also see traces of the old Gitchee Gumee Agate and History Museum, which has already closed down.

Besides browsing its gorgeous rock collections, you can also learn about geology and minerals, especially agate rocks unique to this region.

Drop by the Agatelady Rock Shop to buy exciting souvenirs and learn relevant history before proceeding to your Grand Marais travel adventure.

Marvel at the Pickle Barrel

Entrance to the Pickle Barrel

ehrlif /

The Pickle Barrel is a two-story cabin that resembles a wooden barrel.

You can visit this unique attraction along Lake Avenue and Randolph Street.

This larger-than-life barrel-shaped house was based on cartoon characters who lived in the same structure under a rose bush.

For locals, this attraction is one of their treasured historical structures.

It has stood in the area since 1926.

Exterior of the Pickle Barrel

Notorious4life (talk) (Uploads), CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Pioneer Cooperage Company helped build it for cartoonist William Donahey whose characters and cartoons inspired the design.

The house was initially located in a neighboring town but was moved to Grand Marais in 1937.

Today, the Pickle Barrel remains one of the most popular and fascinating attractions you mustn’t miss visiting.

Posing a souvenir photo of the barrel-shaped house with yourself or your loved ones is the best way to make your visit there worthwhile.

Soak up the Sun at the Grand Marais Public Beach

Grand Marais Public Beach is the best place to achieve your tan lines and plunge into the pristine waters of Lake Superior.

You can find this beach just north of Grand Marais.

This beach on the southern shores of Lake Superior is renowned for its fine sandy shores, which stretch several miles throughout Grand Marais.

Many locals love to hang out at this beach, especially in summer.

It’s where they can cool down and enjoy plenty of outdoor activities.

At the same time, rock collectors, especially those who collect agate rocks, flock to this beach for its abundance of this type of rock.

Besides that, Grand Marais Public Beach has amenities from picnic grounds and showers.

It’s also a walking distance from the downtown area.

Unwind at the Bayshore Park

Bayshore Park is one of the numerous outdoor recreational areas throughout Grand Marais.

It’s on the right side of Grand Marais’ downtown area, across Greenspace.

This park boasts a scenic view of Lost Island and has a beautiful sunrise every morning.

It has a charming white sand beach, a volleyball court, a picnic area, and a children’s playground.

It’s where grand Marais’ Fourth of July celebration happens, as does Memorial Day and other important occasions.

If you’re searching for a nice spot within Grand Marais to relax or do outdoor activities, go to Bayshore Park.

It’s one of the best places to visit because of its amenities, gorgeous sceneries, and proximity to downtown.

Mingle with Locals at the Grand Marais Tavern

Grand Marais Tavern is a favorite watering hole and eatery for locals and visitors.

You can visit this place along Lake Avenue.

After opening in 2016, this tavern became one of the best places to enjoy a bottle of cold beer and delicious food in the company of jolly locals and visitors.

Its wholesome atmosphere makes it also an excellent place for your loved ones to enjoy a meal and hang out.

It has a mouthwatering menu from appetizers, pizzas, buffalo wings, burgers, sandwiches, and meat to kid’s meals.

On top of that, it has some of the best beers in town.

So, head to the Grand Marais Tavern for a mouthwatering experience.

Bask in the Wonderful View of the Log Slide Overlook

Daytime view of Log Slide Overlook

Craig Sterken /

Log Slide Overlook is a must-see stopover with a fantastic view of the Pictured Rocks.

This overlook is situated 11 kilometers west of Grand Marais.

Its name comes from a chute of logs that existed years ago.

View of the waters from Log Slide Overlook

Ralf Broskvar /

Today, remnants of the wooden chute are still seen in the overlook area.

This overlook lets you see a fantastic view of Lake Superior and its dunes on Picture Rocks’ eastern side.

Taking photos and appreciating the view of the Log Slide Overlook is the best way to make your experience visiting this attraction worthwhile.

Hike along the North Country Trail

The famous North Country Trail happens to pass through Grand Marais and the rest of Alger County.

This premier cross-country hiking trail spans 4,600 miles from eight northern states in North Dakota to Vermont.

Don’t get intimidated immediately by the distance because you can still enjoy a great hiking experience on this trail within Grand Marais and the neighboring area.

You can enter and start hiking anytime you want through this famous trail.

It takes you to various attractions, such as the Lake Superior State Forest, which spans about 17 miles.

Of course, you can hike longer distances at the North Country Trail if you’re a hardcore hiker.

Remember to pack your hiking gear when visiting Grand Marais for a great hiking experience on this trail.

Chug a Beer at the Dunes Saloon Lake Superior Brewing Co.

The Dunes Saloon Lake Superior Brewing Co. is the best place to take a break after an entire day of outdoor activities.

You can visit this place along Lake Avenue.

It’s the only place in Grand Marais with a fully operational brewery that regularly manufactures local craft beer for everyone.

You can taste its locally crafted beer on a bottle or tap at its saloon.

Besides its craft beer, the saloon also offers a full menu of homecooked meals which are perfect beer matches.

While enjoying your beer and food, you’ll also appreciate the saloon’s location, which offers you a gorgeous view of Lake Superior.

Take a break from exploring Grand Marais and spend happy hour at the Dunes Saloon Lake Superior Brewing Co.

Other Things to Do Nearby

Alger County is full of surprises.

Don’t go home immediately after visiting Grand Marais’ attractions.

Its neighboring towns are filled with attractions equally gorgeous as Grand Marais’.

So, here are some of Grand Marais’ nearby recommended attractions you can check out.

See the Majestic Grand Sable Dunes

Trail at Grand Sable Dunes

Richard345 /

The Grand Sable Dunes is a vast desert landscape in the middle of Alger County near the shores of Lake Superior.

You can visit these dunes in Burt Township, Michigan, ten minutes southwest of Grand Marais.

The vast dunes are remnants of prehistoric glacial activity, which span around five square miles atop the 300-foot Grand Sable Banks.

Details of Grand Sable Dunes

Richard345 /

Visiting the dunes is fascinating.

Meanwhile, from a distance is the gorgeous view of Lake Superior.

Various overlooks surround the Grand Sable Dunes, giving you the best chance to see this unique natural attraction.

Test Your Skills at the Superior Pines Disc Golf Course

The Superior Pines Disc Golf Course is a challenging but fun course that locals love to play.

You can visit this disc golf course in Newberry, Michigan, ten minutes from Grand Marais.

It features an 18-hole course that runs through a densely wooded area, making it a technical course.

It has winding rivers on several holes, adding technicality to the course.

Nonetheless, playing disc golf at this course is a satisfying experience, especially if you’re a nature lover.

Head to the Superior Pines Disc Golf Course for some one-of-a-kind disc golf experience.

Get Wet at the Sable Falls

Scenic view of the Sable Falls

Gerald Bernard /

Sable Falls is a scenic waterfall within the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.

You can visit this waterfall in Burt Township, four minutes west of Grand Marais.

The fall spans 23 meters tall, a wonderful natural attraction to visit.

Side view of the Sable Falls

Gerald Bernard /

It has cascading waters from the Sable Creek that serve as a Grand Sable Lake tributary.

You’re guaranteed to have fun dipping your feet in the cold waters of this waterfall and taking photos.

If you’re searching for more outdoor activity, a short hike from Sable Falls takes you to the shores of Lake Superior, where its waters end up.

Appreciate the Fantastic View at the Au Sable Light Station

Exterior of the Au Sable Light Station

Sanbao /

Au Sable Light Station is a historic lighthouse within the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.

It’s in Burt Township, 21 minutes or 11.3 miles west of Grand Marais.

This historic lighthouse has operated to this day since its construction in 1874.

Also called the “Big Sable Light,” this lighthouse holds a historical value to the area, especially to the locals of Burt Township.

Aerial view of the Au Sable Light Station

Kenneth Keifer /

The lighthouse stands 23 feet and guides water vessels navigating the shores of Lake Superior.

Visiting this lighthouse is a great way to learn more about the area’s history and enjoy its scenic view simultaneously.

You can also stroll through the surrounding area of Au Sable Light Station to see more sceneries to complete your visit there.

Final Thoughts

Grand Marais is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts because of its wide array of activities that likely make you spend an entire day outside.

This charming village in Alger County has so much to offer to those who want to visit this place.

Of course, Grand Marais has plenty of hidden gems which you must find during your visit there.

Start planning your trip with this list of the best things to do in Grand Marais, Michigan.

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