When planning a trip to the North Shore of Lake Superior, every guide book, web site and visitor’s center will point to one particular location: the Split Rock Lighthouse (pictured above). Yes, this historic landmark is an impressive piece of Lake Superior lore, but the most memorable experiences I've enjoyed in that State park are not at the lighthouse.
Instead of driving, biking, hiking up the hill, take a right and meander down to Pebble Beach. While you won’t find a championship golf course- you will find this unique cove of lake-polished flat stones.
Geology majors will most likely marvel at the array of rock types, and while this is not a prime agate-picking beach (that secret spot may come out in a later blog post) the smooth, flattened stones on this shoreline are world-renowned for their skip-ability. I’m talking hours and hours of honing your skipping skills with no effort made to find ideal rocks. If you’ve ever wanted to learn the finer points of this art form, Pebble Beach is the place.
Even on a cooler day, the island at the end of the point acts as a nice windbreak, keeping the bay both warm and calm. While other spots on the lake are fun to wave watch, in this cove you can truly appreciate the clear, blue waters of Lake Superior.
In the early 1900’s this protected bay was actually home to Little Two Harbors, a fishing village where predominantly Norwegian immigrants fished for herring. I read you could see the remains of this fishing village at Pebble Beach, and after hopping across the rocks and making my way to the island in the bay, I saw the submerged pier for the first time this past week! (can you see it?)
Back to the Split Rock Lighthouse- no doubt you’ve seen iconic photos of this Northern Minnesota landmark. Want to take your own? The beach below is the perfect spot to snap a picture of the lighthouse perched atop the rocky crag.
So pack a picnic lunch, and plan on spending the majority of your time at Split Rock Lighthouse State Park at the beach and on the marvelous hiking trails (don’t miss the Split Rock River Waterfalls on the Superior Hiking Trail). If you have time, sure, go pay the entrance fee to see the lighthouse up close, but the real adventure and the stunning views are from down below at the beach…and those require only your state park pass.