Spend the Weekend at this 1920s Social Club on Lake Superior
Despite my status as a lifelong visitor to the North Shore of Lake Superior, the first time I saw the Naniboujou Lodge was just a couple of years ago. And yet it’s not all that hard to find—if you happen to be 20 miles south of the Canadian border in Minnesota’s remote boreal forest. There it sits, just off Highway 61, often enveloped in a delicate mist coming of the water.
What must be one of the last family owned lodges on the shore, the Naniboujou reflects what I’m assuming are some of the personal preferences of its owners: no alcohol, no dogs, and no wi-fi (there’s no signal this far north, either). In my world, going without these three things is not considered fun. But if it’s just for a few days, the Naniboujou does have other charms to distract—including its fascinating history.
The building itself was built in the late 1920s as an exclusive club that counted Babe Ruth as one of its founding members. Despite some unfortunate remodeling in the 1980s, much has been preserved on both the interior and exterior from original architectural details like the stunning fireplace built by a local Swedish stonemason from 200 tons of native rocks to the 20-foot domed ceiling painted with Cree Indian designs by a French artist named Antoine Goufee. I even spied what had to be an original file cabinet still in use in the office.
If you think fireplaces and waves crashing outside the window go well with a glass of something nummy, bring your own booze (it’s a dry establishment).
There might not be a bar, but everything I ate at the restaurant was delicious. Because this is truly a family-run business, the owners could be seen moving easily between roles at breakfast as they took food orders, helped out in the kitchen, and chatted with neighbors who’d stopped in for a cup of coffee and stayed for a bite to eat.
Visit the town of Grand Marais (pop. 1500), a scenic 20 minute drive down the shore. There’s no shortage of things to do there including good food, shopping at a vintage drug store, kayaking lessons, sail boat charters, or drinking coffee at the harbor.
Hike the Superior Hiking Trail.