The city of Two Harbors, Minnesota, sits along the shores of Lake Superior, and it owes its existence today to the discovery of iron ore nearby.
Without this iron ore, the Minnesota Iron Company wouldn’t have bought 17,000 acres of land to build a railroad.
The company had picked the present-day Two Harbors area because it was closer to the iron mine and its bay had a clear bottom, instead of clay.
Besides iron and trains, Two Harbors also had other historic industries operating in the city.
For instance, the global manufacturer 3M began in Two Harbors as the Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Company.
Five residents—J. Danley Budd, William McGonagle, John Dwan, Herman Cable, and Henry S. Bryan—started the business in the city until they moved to Duluth in 1905.
In 1907, they moved 3M to St. Paul, Minnesota.
Even then, the company still fostered deep ties with its Two Harbors origins.
Today, the city of Two Harbors offers visitors a heady mix of culture, nature, and history.
It rewards exploration, curiosity, and the willingness to go somewhere new.
Do you want to know more about Two Harbors, MN?
Here’s a list of the best things to do in the city:
Climb to the Top of Split Rock Lighthouse
This historic lighthouse has stood on the imposing 130-foot cliff overlooking Lake Superior since 1910.
Why are there so many lighthouses along Lake Superior?
Let’s hear from the 20th-century American novelist James Oliver Curwood, who said that the lake was “the most dangerous piece of water in the world.”
Lighthouses like Split Rock helped guide the ships plying the lake to safety.
During your visit, you’ll need to climb a 32-step spiral staircase to reach the lantern room.
This room contains the original French-made Fresnel lens, which still turns according to its old clockwork mechanism.
The city decommissioned the lighthouse in 1969, but it lights up again every November 10.
This ceremonial lighting is the Edmund Fitzgerald Beacon Lighting Ceremony.
Grab Some Grub at the Black Woods Grill & Bar
This family-owned bar and grill have served hungry customers since the early 90s, and they have thrived decades later because of their tasty food and wonderful service.
They pride themselves on treating all customers as if they were family.
Likewise, they contribute to the community by donating, starting fundraising programs, and getting involved with local organizations.
Besides community work, the Black Woods Grill & Bar also prides itself in using only fresh organic ingredients for its meals.
They also change their menu as the seasons change, assuring customers of a varied menu no matter when they arrive.
Learn City Origins at the Depot Museum
Without Two Harbors’ iron mine deposits, railroad companies would have ignored the area to build railroads elsewhere.
Without the railroads, then, Two Harbors would not exist.
One monument to the influence of railroads is the Depot Museum, formerly known as the Duluth and Iron Range Depot.
The company completed the two-story building in 1907, which became its headquarters and corporate office.
During its operation, the company helped the city prosper by supporting its iron ore industry.
It also transported cargo and passengers until 1961.
The Depot Museum is a monument to the industries that built Two Harbors: iron mining, trains, commercial fishing, and the timber industry.
You’ll find exhibits that showcase these industries’ contributions to the city’s development.
Sample Craft Beer at Castle Danger Brewery
Since 2011, Castle Danger Brewery has crafted delicious beer to satisfy the most exacting tastes.
They opened their Two Harbors branch in 2014, opening with new state-of-the-art equipment and machinery.
Likewise, they’ve built a taproom that overlooks Lake Superior.
These improvements have allowed the brewery to begin shipping beer statewide, growing from a mere 13 local tap lines.
The brewery creates its beers by building on a solid taste foundation or flavor profile.
Their willingness to expand on these profiles has earned them a good reputation among the draft beer community.
Likewise, they prefer traditional brewing methods to craft the most delicious and satisfying concoctions all the time.
Grab a Nice Cup of Joe at the Cedar Coffee Company
This family-owned coffee shop is an important Two Harbors stop.
After all, who doesn’t need coffee?
Located on the north shore of Lake Superior, Cedar Coffee’s espressos should perk you back up before heading to your next stop.
The coffee shop also uses only the freshest top-quality beans from farmers all over the world.
Likewise, their beans get roasted at the Duluth Coffee Company.
Besides coffee, you can order their signature breakfast and lunch menus.
Otherwise, fill your appetite with their full selection of baked goods, all baked in-house.
The coffee shop also offers beer and wine, if you’d rather unwind.
Moreover, the coffee shop shares a building with the Cedaero Bike Pack Manufacturing and Spokengear Bike Shop.
Grab all your coffee and bike needs in one place!
Spend a Romantic Evening at the Lighthouse Bed & Breakfast
Since 1892, the Two Harbors Lighthouse has guided ships and boats safely into shore.
This lighthouse stands on a rise between the Agate and Burlington Bays, and it lets people play lighthouse keepers for an evening.
If you’re planning a trip with your partner, then you might want to spice things up by visiting this lighthouse.
You’ll stay in the Keeper’s Quarters, on the lighthouse’s second floor.
It has three rooms, each of them with a queen-sized bed and differing views of Lake Superior.
You can explore the lighthouse tower if you have the key.
Otherwise, you can simply hang out in the living room with a book, drinks, or a board game.
The dining room also features the original Fourth-Order Fresnel Lens used in the lighthouse.
The Skiff House is on the lighthouse grounds, and you’ll want to visit it because of its private jacuzzi half-bath tub.
While enjoying your bath, you can admire the views of the breakwall and ore docks.
Explore Nature at Gooseberry Falls State Park
Another outdoor attraction that should top your list of Two Harbors destinations is the Gooseberry Falls State Park.
You’ll never forget checking out the park’s awe-inspiring waterfalls, gorgeous views, and informative visitor center.
Likewise, you can spend an entire afternoon fishing for trout in its waters.
You might want to get an interpretive program to learn additional background about the North Shore’s flora, fauna, geology, and history.
Then, you can pitch your tent at the park’s campground.
Spend the morning hiking along the 20-mile trails, skiing down its 12-mile cross-country slopes, or speeding along the two-mile snowmobile trails.
During your hike, you’ll enter groves of aspen, spruce, cedar, and pine trees.
Learn Business History at the 3M Museum
You might not believe it, but the global brand started as a mining company.
The five founders had discovered a supply of corundum, used to make sandpaper.
So, they built a quarry along the western shores of Lake Superior and tried to sell to the sandpaper industry.
Since the group of five did not include a geologist, they found out that they didn’t have a corundum mine when it was already too late.
Instead of corundum, their quarry yielded a mineral called anorthosite.
The founders decided to stick to it and find ways to make money from their quarry.
Eventually, they used the mineral to make new sandpaper called Wetordry, which helped them see profits by 1916.
You can learn all this and more at the 3M Museum in Two Harbors, featuring displays about the various stages of company history.
During your visit, you’ll find a recreation of Atty. John Dwan’s office; displays showing artifacts, photos, and documents; and hands-on interactive displays and applications.
The National Register of Historic Places has listed the restored original office building in its records.
Grab a Snack at Betty’s Pies
In 1956, Betty’s Pies came about because her father, Aleck, built a fish shack.
This shack stood along the Stewart River, and Betty had the great idea of stocking up snacks for the fishermen who visited.
She started baking donuts and making coffee, and soon Betty’s Pies was born.
Soon enough, Betty expanded her menu to burgers and hotdogs.
In 1958, Betty transformed the drab fish shack into “Betty’s Café,” then she added pies.
As her shop grew, she also added lunch items and seating.
Her pie menu also grew. Today, hundreds of visitors to the North Shore make it a point to stop by Betty’s for snacks and a cup of coffee.
Explore Nature at Iona’s Beach Scientific and Nature Area
If you want to explore the outdoors at Two Harbors, you won’t go wrong dropping by Iona’s Beach Scientific and Nature Area.
This pinkish arc curves along the north shore of Lake Superior, stretching for more than 300 yards.
You’ll find a 30-foot cliff on the north side of the beach, made up of the felsite bedrock and pink rhyolite that comprise the beach.
You can visit this place no matter the season.
During your trip, you might find interesting birds and plants in this area.
For instance, you could spot various species of warblers, dogwood, currant, and mountain ash.
Dragonflies appear over the water, too, even in November.
Get Brunch at Louise’s Place
For over 20 years, Louise’s Place has fed Two Harbors residents and tourists with succulent desserts and excellent coffee.
The place started by selling baked products and coffee, expanding over the years to offer homemade bread and full breakfast and lunch menus.
They also began giving daily specials, preparing homemade soup, and even dabbling in catering.
Today, Louise’s Place also sells pantry provisions, in case you need stocking up on supplies like maple syrup, tomatoes, cheese, and many others.
Bring your family to Louise’s for a hearty breakfast, brunch, or lunch, and then buy what you need for your pantry before going home.
Enjoy Date Night at the Superior Shores Resort
Go all-out on a romantic evening or have a family-friendly stay at the Superior Shores Resort, a top-rated lodge in Two Harbors.
During your stay, you can enjoy their cozy rooms and relax further in their Jacuzzi or luxury suites.
Likewise, the resort also offers outdoor pools, hot tubs, and a long pebble beach.
If you want to eat, you can head down to the resort’s Kamloops Restaurant & Lounge where you can fill your belly with good grub.
The lodge is also close to many other attractions in Two Harbors, especially stores and restaurants.
Other Things to Do Nearby
Spend the Day at Tettegouche State Park
Drive 32 minutes away from Two Harbors to reach the nearby city of Silver Bay, Minnesota, where you’ll find the Tettegouche State Park.
You’ll find all the natural splendor of Lake Superior’s North Shore inside this park.
During your visit, you can hike along with the rough and windy Shovel Point or chill at the serene inland lakes.
The highest waterfall inside Minnesota borders is also inside Tettegouche—the High Falls on the Baptism River.
Besides these spots, you can enjoy 23 miles of hiking trails, 12 miles of snowmobile trails, and 12 miles of well-groomed ski trails.
You can also rent cabins on Mic Mac Lake. Otherwise, drive to the Illgen Falls Cabin for a room.
Visit the Unique Black Beach
White-sand beaches might be a crowded cliché now, so why not try going to a black beach?
You’ll find one in Silver Bay, aptly called Black Beach because of its dark, nearly black, sand.
The sand on his beach darkened because of the taconite tailings that gathered on the lakeside from the taconite plant nearby.
Today, the beach has opened to the public as a beguiling park filled with coves, swimming areas, kayaking and paddleboard spots, and picnic areas.
Enjoy Lake Superior the way you want to at Silver Bay’s Black Beach.
See the World from Palisade Head
One of the tallest cliffs around Lake Superior is in Silver Bay, called Palisade Head.
However, many people prefer to call it Hellacious Overlook, and you’ll see why when you go there.
The cliff itself stands 200 feet tall and offers you a sweeping panoramic view of the entire Lake Superior, along with its shoreline.
Likewise, the cliff plunges straight into the lake, so watch your step.
You can walk around the cliff to get better angles for your photos.
Then, you can even sit on the edge of the cliff and feel like you’re hanging over the world itself.
If you’re feeling adventurous, you can even do rock climbing on the cliff face to reach Palisade Head.
It’s a hit North Shore spot for rock climbing, so why not try it at least once?
Two Harbors is a perfect town for a historical and nature trip.
You can see where one of the world’s biggest manufacturers began; you can also check out lakeside environments.
Likewise, you can enjoy several dining and lodging options to enrich your stay.
The other cities on the shores of Lake Superior also give you a similar experience, so don’t hesitate to visit them, too.
Book your Two Harbors trip today!