Sometimes you want (or need) a vacation, but it isn't always easy to find time to leave town for more than a day. Here are the five best getaways from the Twin Ports to get out on the open road, crank up some tunes, and recharge your batteries while still being able to be back in your own bed that same night.

  • 5

    Ashland/Bayfield and the South Shore

    About 185 miles round trip - Moderate day trip

    Take in the beauty of Lake Superior's South Shore and the quaint towns and attractions along the way with a loop that takes you through forests, near Lake Superior, and through rolling farmland.

    Head south of Superior on US 2 to WI Highway 13 and enjoy what Lake Superior's South Shore has to offer. Port Wing, Herbster, and Cornucopia dot the map along the shoreline before getting to the Apostle Islands National Shoreline. Continuing along WI 13 will eventually bring you to Bayfield. Famous for their fall apple festival, this beautiful little town is fun to walk around any time of year.

    Depending on the time of day and how you space out your trip, either grab some lunch during your Bayfield stop, or wait until you get to Ashland after traveling down the Chequamegon Bay shoreline. One of my personal favorites for food is the Deep Water Grille at the South Shore Brewery in Downtown Ashland.

    After your time in Ashland as you head back toward the Twin Ports on US 2, don't forget to stop at the Northern Great Lakes Visitor Center just west of town. I stopped there out of curiosity one trip, and discovered there are a lot of cool things to check out.

    From there, your trip back along US 2 will bring you through a blend of farmland and forests before returning home.

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  • 4

    Border-Jumping Highway 23-35 Cruise

    About 160 miles round trip - Easy day trip

    This trip is more of a touring drive, with no real designated stopping places, but plenty you could stop to see or do along the way. Included on this route are four state parks, a natural area, a couple casinos, and plenty of small towns to stop in and check out.

    Head through Gary New Duluth toward Hinckley on MN Highway 23, where you will enjoy the gorgeous rolling terrain of the St. Louis River Valley and Pleasant Valley areas. You'll pass through the eastern edge of Jay Cooke State Park along the way. Before getting to Hinckley, you'll pass through Banning State Park.

    From the Sandstone-Hinckley area, you'll travel east on MN Highway 48, where you will pass by St. Croix State Park before hitting the Minnesota-Wisconsin border. After you're across the border, continue to follow Highway 77 to Danbury, where you'll begin your trip back north on Highway 35. Just north of Danbury, you'll pass through the Big Island State Natural Area.

    Continuing your journey back to the Twin Ports, you'll also pass through Pattison State Park, which is a personal favorite spot of mine along the route. After passing through Pattison, you're just a stone's throw from South Superior where you've almost completed your journey.

    Nick Cooper - TSM Duluth
  • 3

    Porcupine Mountains State Park

    About 300 miles round trip - Plan on a long day

    This one is pretty ambitious in the world of "day trips" from the Twin Ports, but I had a hard time leaving it off the list. I left early on a Sunday morning a couple summers ago and enjoyed plenty of what the park had to offer before making my journey back that night.

    Follow US 2 all the way east to Wakefield, MI, where you'll head north on Highway 519 into Porcupine Mountains State Park. The whole drive from Wakefield all the way into and around the park is incredible. Once you're in the park, there is a lot to see. The highlights that I'd recommend include checking out Lake of the Clouds, the Summit Peak Observation Tower, and some of the multitude of waterfalls in the park.

    One could easily spend a couple days in the park and not see everything, but if you're looking to really spice things up for a day trip, this one is certainly worth the drive - even if it is an ambitious trip. I'd recommend packing a lunch and some snacks for this one, as there aren't many dining options without traveling away from the park.

    **Do be aware that you will be crossing into the Eastern Time Zone, and cell phone service in the park is very spotty at best.

    Nick Cooper - TSM Duluth
  • 2

    Two Harbors-Silver Bay Strip

    About 120 miles round trip - Easy day trip

    Within an hour's drive north of the Twin Ports straight up MN Highway 61 are a couple of Minnesota's most popular state parks. In a 35 mile stretch between Two Harbors and (just outside of) Silver Bay, you'll find Gooseberry Falls State Park, Split Rock Lighthouse State Park, and Tettegouche State Park, along with a number of other amazing attractions.

    Each of these state parks has plenty to offer in themselves; but when you mix in attractions like the world-famous Betty's PiesPalisade Head, and the unique charm of Two Harbors, Beaver Bay, and Silver Bay, it would be easy to make several day trips (or one big trip) and not take it all in.

    This is one of the more "tourist-filled" road trip ideas on this list, but it is easy to bypass the crowds. At Gooseberry, head up the river past the paved trails. You'll escape the crowds and see more of the waterfalls the park has to offer. At Split Rock, head down to the point up the shore from Little Two Harbors Bay and enjoy some time on the shoreline looking up at the lighthouse and out at the lake. Food-wise, I recommend making a stop at the Northern Lights Roadhouse for North Shore-inspired food dishes for lunch or dinner out on the patio next to their beautiful gardens.

    Nick Cooper - TSM Duluth
  • 1

    Grand Marais Area

    About 220 miles round trip - Moderate day trip

    This is a little longer drive for a day trip, but anyone who's ever been there knows it is well worth it. Head up MN Highway 61 to Grand Marais; the perfect getaway town to enjoy the cool, fresh air along Lake Superior and either take in natural beauty or peruse the many shops for art or other fun goodies.

    The must-do items on this day trip include spending a little time out on the pier or Artist's Point, grabbing some homemade fudge, ice cream, or frozen custard from one of the many shops that offer the treats, and maybe grabbing a slice of pizza at the world famous Sven & Ole's. If that's too cliche, there are several delicious food options, that offer northwoods fare or fresh-caught fish.

    Some of the sometimes forgotten treasures of the Grand Marais area are the Gunflint Trail that heads northwest out of town and both the Cascade River State Park and Temperance River State Park that are south of town. The Gunflint Trail is a great fall drive if you have extra time to add on to your trip, but both Cascade and Temperance are easy-access parks right on MN 61 that offer beautiful scenery that includes waterfalls and Lake Superior shoreline.

    Nick Cooper - TSM Duluth