The Cook County Historical Museum (8 Broadway S., 218/387-2883, 11 a.m.–4 p.m. Tues.–Sat. June–Sept., by appt. rest of year, free admission) occupies an 1896 lighthouse keeper’s home. Most of the small but interesting collection of artifacts and photos relate to past industries, such as logging and farming, but there are some Native American and geological displays as well.
Just down the street is the Johnson Heritage Post Art Gallery (115 Wisconsin St. W., 218/387-2314, 10 a.m.–4 p.m. Wed.–Sat., 1–4 p.m. Sun. summer, 1–4 p.m. Thurs.–Sun. rest of year, free admission), with exhibitions by local and regional artists. Even if art isn’t your thing, stop by just to admire the hand-hewn log building, a replica of a 19th-century trading post that once stood here.
In 1907 a forest fire destroyed most of the community of Chippewa City, which overlooked Lake Superior a mile east of present-day Grand Marais. St. Francis Xavier Church (1–4 p.m. Sat. July–Aug., free admission), built as a mission for the local Ojibwe, survived the blaze and, after extensive restoration, is now open to visitors. Both the unique interior construction and the photographs of its congregation back in 1895 when it was constructed are worth a look. The church, known locally as the Chippewa City Church, is one mile north of Grand Marais on Highway 61.
The Cook County Historical Society, which maintains the above three properties, also has a small Commercial Fishing Museum (7136 Hwy. 61, 218/663-7804, 9 a.m.–5 p.m. daily, $3 adults) down by the campground.
A stroll along the breakwater to the Grand Marais Lighthouse (3 blocks south of the stoplights on Hwy. 61) and past the forested cliffs of Artist Point is an essential trip. While tiny in size, Artist Point’s beauty is immense—pack a picnic and you can easily spend half a day here. Unfortunately, everybody and her sister knows about it. You can often find solitude by walking out to Sweetheart’s Bluff across the bay. The short, easy trail starts at the far west end of the campground, behind the blue gate.
Anderson Aero (80 Skyport Ln., 218/387-1687, 8 a.m.–nightfall daily, weather permitting, starts at $60) offers sightseeing flights, including guaranteed moose-viewing rides.
For something a bit different, you can visit a sawmill. Tours of the Hedstrom Lumber Company (1504 Gunflint Trl., 218/387-2995, www.hedstromlumber.com, 12:30 p.m. Tues. Memorial Day–Labor Day, free), five miles up the Gunflint Trail, are offered once a week.
In 2010 the Gunflint Trail Historical Society plans to open the Chik-Wauk Museum and Nature Center (28 Moose Pond Rd., www.gunflinttrailhistoricalsociety.org) on Saganaga Lake. The 1930s stone cabin will house artifacts encompassing the area’s history—from the Native Americans to the voyageurs to the resort owners. The 50-acre grounds are laced with trails and teeming with wildlife.
© Tim Bewer from Moon Minnesota, 3rd Edition