Along the US/Canadian border in the northeast corner of Minnesota, 1 million acres of wilderness including pristine lakes, rivers, and land make up the Boundary Waters Canoe Area (BWCA). The Boundary Waters offers many opportunities for relaxation and adventure. As part of the Superior National Forest, the BWCA welcomes more than 200,000 visitors each year.
From fishing and camping to canoe trips and exploring the small outfitting town of Ely, there is no shortage of outdoor activities for the experienced and inexperienced adventurer as well as those seeking quiet leisure.
With more than 1,000 lakes and rivers, the BWCA is ideal for fishing. It’s a perfect activity for families looking to spend quality time together or friends bonding on the water. Kids and adults alike can grab a pole and enjoy the simple act of reeling in their dinner or “catch and release” fishing.
Common species found in these waters include northern pike, walleye, lake trout, largemouth and smallmouth bass. Licenses can be purchased at most outfitters and many gas stations around the area, making it easy and convenient to partake in this relaxing pastime.
Lodging in the Wilderness
Whether you’re staying in a rustic cabin, at a resort on the lake, or camping out under the stars, there are many options for lodging in the Boundary Waters.
Two notable resorts within miles of Ely are Burntside Lodge and Anderson’s Resort, both located on Burntside Lake. They offer cabin lodging, access to the water for boating and swimming, and picturesque views.
If you enjoy adventure and prefer to immerse yourself in nature, you may choose to stay in a tent as you make your way through a section of the 1,200 miles of canoe routing that winds its way through the BWCA. There are numerous sites designated for camping along these routes. Any of the outfitters located in Ely can provide information and maps as well as supplies for your trip.
No matter where you stay, the haunting sound of loons soothes you to sleep and reminds you that you’re not in the city anymore. Spending time in the wilderness allows visitors to unplug and escape technology, at least for a little while. Nothing recharges your batteries quite like a dip in a cold lake or a hike through the woods.
With a relatively small population of about 4,000, Ely offers many activities and businesses for visitors to discover. Art galleries, outfitters, and restaurants line the main streets. The Chocolate Moose, Sir G’s, and the Ely Steak House are all delicious options for a meal out. There are also numerous gift shops where visitors can purchase unique art, clothing that proudly advertises the area, and cabin-inspired décor.
Aside from the usual fare offered on the streets of Ely, guests can visit the International Wolf Center or the North American Bear Center to learn more about these fascinating animals which are prevalent in the Northwoods. In both facilities, visitors can observe the animals in enclosed exhibits that mimic their natural habitats and get an up-close look at how they live. This is a great activity for kids and adults, rain or shine.
The Boundary Waters is truly an escape for those looking to take a break from their hectic lives. Small town charm, shopping, and outdoor activities including fishing, camping, and hiking await visitors in the BWCA. Grab a fishing pole and some trail mix and get ready to explore.
Favorite Minnesota Lake Vacation Spots
Minnesota is known as the “land of 10,000 lakes,” so it’s no surprise that a favorite Minnesota travel destination is one of the many vacation lakes in the state. But because there are so many lakes and resorts to choose from, picking one isn’t always easy.
Even so, each Minnesota lake vacation spot has its own unique features that distinguish it from the others. Here are some of the most popular travel destinations to Minnesota lakes and their resorts. Whether a fishing, boating, or other outdoor enthusiast, any one of these vacation lakes is sure to deliver.
Minnesota’s Lake Superior – The North Shore
The North Shore of Minnesota’s Lake Superior, which runs from Duluth to Grand Portage, is a choice Minnesota vacation spot no matter what time of year. The largest freshwater lake in the world, Lake Superior is the place to go for charter fishing, megaslot, kayaking, whale watching, or picnicking on the beach.
Some of the finest lake resorts in Minnesota can be found in towns along the shores of Lake Superior. Among the top-ranked North Shore activities are a hike to the Coast Guard Station in Grand Marais, a round of golf at Superior National Golf Course overlooking Lake Superior, and a scenic drive from Duluth to Two Harbors.
Gull Lake, Minnesota – Lake Vacation for Families
With five public access points, activities for all ages, and dozens of lake resorts in the area, Gull Lake is one of the most popular vacation spots for families in the state. Brainerd is the nearest city and home to many restaurants and shops.
There is plenty to do on Gull Lake in the summer, including boating, swimming, sunbathing, fishing, and water skiing. The action stays strong in winter, too, with activities like snowmobiling, skating, ice fishing, and cross country and downhill skiing.
Detroit Lakes, MN – Surrounded by Many Minnesota Lakes
Detroit Lakes, Minnesota, is located close to many Minnesota lakes—nearly 400 of them in a 25-mile radius. But `public beaches, marinas, and popular lake resorts and restaurants can all be found right on the shores of Detroit Lake, along with one of the best fireworks displays in the region on the Fourth of July.
A variety of annual festivals and events, including WE Fest, the Northwest Water Carnival, the Pine to Palm golf tournament, keep this area bustling in the summertime. Snowmobilers, cross country skiers, and ice fishers will find plenty to do here in the winter, too.
Lake Mille Lacs – One of Minnesota’s Top Fishing Lakes
Lake Mille Lacs is Minnesota’s second largest lake, measuring approximately 200 square miles. It is one of the top fishing lakes in Minnesota for both deepwater fishing and shoreline fishing. Many lake resorts on Lake Mille Lacs offer launch fishing from group fishing boats that hold up to 50 people.
Swimming, canoeing, and sailing are also popular summer activities on Lake Mille Lacs. Winter activities include snowmobiling, cross country skiing, and ice fishing. Fish houses run well over 5,000 per year on Lake Mille Lacs, which usually freezes over by mid-December.
Lake Vermilion, Minnesota – Lake Vacation with Year-Round Beauty
Lake Vermilion, which means “lake of the sunset glow,” is one of the most scenic lakes in the United States. Located in Minnesota’s Arrowhead region, Lake Vermilion measures nearly 40 miles long and includes 365 islands. In addition to water activities, there are numerous nearby hiking and biking trails, as well as forests full of berries for picking
The fall is an exceptional time to visit Lake Vermilion for fishing, golf, or simply taking in the beauty of the changing leaves. Many lake resorts are open year-round, making Lake Vermilion a popular winter Minnesota travel destination, too. Snowmobiling, cross country skiing, ice fishing, snowboarding, and dog sledding are all available during the colder months.
Other Popular Destinations for Travel in MN
In addition to the above Minnesota lake vacation spots, the following lakes are also popular destinations for Minnesota travel:
- Lake of the Woods – known for its trophy walleye, on the MN-Canadian border
- Lake Minnetonka – located in the Twin Cities, a popular boating and cruising lake
- Leech Lake –Minnesota’s third largest lake, with easy access to Chippewa National Forest
- Upper Red Lake – part of the Red Lake Indian Reservation, it boasts a world class fishery
Anyone looking for a fun vacation need look no further than the lakes of Minnesota. From Gull Lake to Lake Superior, Minnesota lakes offer fishing, boating, and a variety of other recreational activities to suit every taste. Just pick a spot and see. A Minnesota lake vacation may turn out to be an annual event.