So many lakes, so little time! This tour highlights must-visit bodies of water in the fabled Land of 10,000 Lakes. Tow your own boat or rent watercraft for your visit. Make sure you allow plenty of time for these endless shores.
1. Lake City
Set on the banks of the 20-mile-long Lake Pepin and the Mississippi River, Lake City has been a magnet for watersports enthusiasts ever since Ralph Samuelson invented water skiing here in 1922. With almost seven miles of shoreline, two full-service marinas and four public boat launches, Lake City is an idyllic and accessible setting for paddle boarding, water skiing, boating, kayaking and canoeing. On land, Lake City offers superb opportunities for hiking and biking for all levels with a network of novice trails that skirt the river and traverse dense forests and valleys.
Drive 71 miles, 1 hour, 23 minutes
One of the nation’s most creative and progressive cities, Minneapolis is packed with world-class attractions and cultural pursuits for every persuasion. The city’s 22 lakes, 50 parks and 340 miles of hiking and biking trails beckon adventures on land and water, regardless of the season. Just 10 minutes from downtown, the Chain of Lakes revels in its jubilant lakeside culture with ample water sports of every ilk, ranging from flat-water paddling opportunities on the Mississippi River to scenic water trails.
Drive 98 miles, 1 hour, 39 minutes
Famed as one of Minnesota’s finest fishing lakes, the 132,500-acre Mille Lacs draws anglers to its buoyant stores of trophy-sized walleye, bass, muskie (some as big as 50 pounds) and excellent fishing launches. Mille Lac is also a popular destination for sailing, water skiing and swimming. On the lakeshore, Isle Lake View Park affords stunning views over Isle Bay and provides the area’s recreational hub with a family-friendly swimming beach, picnic tables and a fishing pier. From Mille Lacs, the Rum River charts its course for Anoka, almost 150 miles away, where it joins with the Mississippi River.
Drive 149 miles, 2 hours, 40 minutes
The first city on the Mississippi, Bemidji is known as the place where folk hero Paul Bunyan and his sidekick, Babe the Blue Ox, are immortalized in the city’s namesake Park. Standing sentry along Bemidji’s lakeshore, the iconic 18-foot-tall statue of the incredibly tall and strong lumberjack sets the tone for the town’s creative leanings. Befitting of its “First City of Arts” moniker, Bemidji is home to an “art walk,” antique stores and galleries which reveal a creative community that happily coheres with its picturesque lakeside setting.