Jul 17 2010
People who vacation in Duluth find their way to Canal Park, an area where a fine mesh of lodging, restaurants and boutiques complement the gleaming Lake Superior waterfront downtown.
The Duluth Lakewalk extends 4.2 miles, along shoreline and through parks, and Duluth’s iconic Aerial Lift Bridge looms near the southern end, at St. Louis River.
Free, easy-to-find copies of the Duluth Shipping News list arrival and departure times for ships, plus where they’re from and what they’re hauling. So crowds appear at passage times, to watch the monstrous bridge deck rise for vessels maneuvering in safe harbor.
The process might occur more than 40 times a day during summer. The lack of commercialism beyond the bridge gives visitors little reason to walk across, to the sandy isle of Park Point, but that’s where a peaceful and ecologically progressive all-suite bed and breakfast thrives.
Brian and Mary Grover since 2001 have operated Solglimt (Danish for “glistening sun”) Lakeshore B&B, but they have lived here more than 30 years, since their sleek and homey, five-suite inn was a humble two-room cabin. They say that’s when Park Point was a poor neighborhood, and stubborn winds would sweep so much sand onto roads that the city would have to remove it like snow.
Jamaica’s Negril has a seven-mile beach to roam, but so does Park Point, and some of it passes through a conservancy and century-old pine forest, part of St. Louis River Estuary. Park Point and adjacent Wisconsin Point (three miles long) form the world’s longest freshwater sandbar.
Solglimt accommodations overlook Lake Superior, and beach access requires little more than stepping out the back door. Room rates include a three-course breakfast of fresh, from-scratch, food – and the proprietors rarely serve a guest the same recipe twice, no matter how often she visits.
Consider this summertime example: lemon-apricot scones with lemon curd; a chilled soup of diced strawberries, vanilla yogurt, orange juice and honey; green eggs (thanks to a blanched spinach scramble) atop slices of organic ham (with Brian expertly shaping ribbons of tomato into rose-like garnishes).
MSG, other food preservatives, scents and chemicals in cleaning supplies were reduced or eliminated many years ago because of Brian’s severe allergic reactions. “I’d eat something with seasoned salt and be sick 16 hours,” he says. “Makes me wonder how many people don’t know they’re getting sick because of these things.”
Many of the innkeepers’ other business practices match the spirit of the neighborhood. The inn is designed to support a sod roof. Soap and shampoo are squirted from refillable dispensers.
Vermicomposting – using worms to turn table scraps into compost – enriches soil in the inn’s organic, award-winning garden. (“No bananas – they attract fruit flies” and “no flour – the bacteria growth makes a stink,” Brian offers, as composting tips.)
A patio path is sandstone and cobblestone, ripped up when local roadway became an interstate. Much of the inn’s décor – woodwork, hand railings, exterior stone – is salvaged material from a Park Point school that Brian attended. Other components emphasize sustainability (bamboo floors, dual-flush toilets) without relinquishing the luxury of jetted bathtubs, waterfront picture windows and in-room fireplaces.
“Staying here is not cheap, but we try to give our guests the best value possible,” Mary says. A bike path runs in front of their house, and the back yard makes prime seating for Lake Superior’s theatrics.
“The lake usually gives a good show,” Mary says, be it from ships approaching the Aerial Lift Bridge (less than two blocks away) or the drama of stormy weather.
For more about Solglimt, 828 Lake Ave. South: www.solglimt.com, 877-727-0596. Rates are $115 to $240.
Other ways to enjoy a vacation in the Duluth area:
See how the Amazon River’s ecosystem differs from ours at the Great Lakes Aquarium, 353 Harbor Dr., devoted to the display and stewardship of freshwater habitats. www.glaquarium.org, 218-740-FISH.
Order a smoked Cajun salmon by the pound or sandwich at Northern Waters Smokehaus, 394 Lake Ave. South, recently featured on the Food Network’s “Diners, Drive-ins and Dives” series. www.nwsmokehaus.com, 888-663-7800.
Stop and smell the roses that bloom from mid summer to fall on more than 3,000 bushes at Leif Erickson Park, on the lakeshore at the intersection of London Road and North 12th Avenue East.
Watch the waves while waiting in line to order big milk shakes from the cute little PortLand Malt Shoppe, 716 E. Superior St., a tidy box of brick and stone that was a gas station in the 1920s. www.portlandmaltshoppe.com.
Ask tour guides about the mysterious murders at Glensheen, 3300 London Rd., a 15-bedroom and 15-fireplace mansion on 7.6 acres of waterfront. Opera, big band performances and an art festival draw crowds at the estate’s gardens. www.glensheen.org, 888-454-GLEN.
Crank up your iPod with the music of prolific balladeer Bob Dylan (born in Duluth) and follow the 30 signs that mark the 1.8-mile Bob Dylan Way. Use a Dylan exhibit at Fitger’s, 600 E. Superior St., as your starting point. www.bobdylanway.com
Follow the Lake Superior shoreline about 25 miles north of Duluth, to order wedges of french blueberry cream, bumbleberry or a dozen other sweet indulgences at Betty’s Pies, 1633 Hwy. 61, Two Harbors. www.bettyspies.com, 877-269-7494.
Put up with annoying road construction on this highway to climb Split Rock Lighthouse or hike along the 277-mile Superior Hiking Trail. Transport is available (www.superiorhikingshuttle.com, 218-834-5511) to get hikers back to their vehicle. www.dnr.state.mn.us, 218-226-6377; www.shta.org.
On the return trip to Duluth, dine at the perfectly perched New Scenic Café, 5461 North Shore Scenic Dr., for seafood or sandwiches, served in a casual and flower-filled setting. www.sceniccafe.com, 218-525-6274.
Especially great times to visit the area: July 28 to Aug. 3, when the Great Lakes United Tall Ships race into harbor, www.sailtraining.org, 401-846-1775 (ships also head to Green Bay Aug. 12-15); and Aug. 27-28, for the colorful Lake Superior Dragon Boat Festival on Superior Bay, where hundreds of breast cancer survivors and others row to raise money for charity, www.lakesuperiordragons.com, 218-260-9850.
For more about planning a Duluth vacation: www.visitduluth.com, 800-4-DULUTH.
“Roads Traveled” is the result of anonymous travel, independent travel, press trips and travel journalism conferences. What we choose to cover is not contingent on subsidized or complimentary travel.