There are certain places that hold a special place in our hearts, destinations that we return to not only for their breathtaking beauty but for the memories they hold. For me, one of those cherished places is Voyageurs National Park. The first time I visited, the hubs and I went the adventurous route and explored the park while staying on a houseboat with a big group of friends. Be sure to check out my article “A Step-By-Step Guide to Houseboating at Voyageurs National Park” which takes place on Rainy Lake. This time, we explored Lake Kabetogama with our 4-year-old, 2.5-year-old, the grandparents, and found a bit of relaxation, connection with nature, and plenty of fun while staying at Northern Lights Resort.

As summer is coming to a wrap, this marks our final family vacay to seal summer break and get our minds prepared for fall and back-to-school season. I am so glad we had our final hoorah at Voyageurs National Park and Northern Lights Resort.

A Gem by the Shores: Northern Lights Resort

First off, thank you to Northern Lights Resort for hosting our family. We knew that Voyageurs National Park was a place we wanted to return to with our family and it was awesome to visit Lake Kabetogama, one of four major lakes that make up Minnesota’s one true national park.

Nestled on the shores of Lake Kabetogama, Northern Lights Resort is more than just a place to stay – it’s a gateway to unforgettable experiences at VNP. The resort boasts a perfect blend of wilderness, convenience, and special touches that make it a destination of choice for families, couples, and solo travelers alike. From cozy cabins to spacious lodges, Northern Lights has a variety of lodging options.

We stayed at the Eagle’s Nest cabin – a secluded little haven with a view of the lake through the woods. The kids loved the “eagle’s nest” feature in the cabin which was a loft area with a twin bed and full bed. It comes complete with all the modern amenities plus a cute little patio, grill, and fire pit. And just a short walking distance away is the office which also has a store with fun trinkets, cabin essentials, ice cream, snacks, and DVDs to rent.

Harlan and Juniper loved playing at the playground and at the sand beach on-site. The adults relaxed on the adirondack chairs as the kids made sand castles, played with their construction vehicles, and it was just all around a fun and relaxing time.

On the second day of our stay, there was a big mayfly hatch and although they don’t bite or sting, they were a bit of nuisance and obviously not ideal for fishing. We still managed to do land some fish and enjoyed as much on-the-water time as we could. Do some research and call ahead to figure out when and what types of bugs are hatching. It’ll vary from year to year, but generally predictable. I will say we had pretty much zero issues with mosquitoes which was lovely!

Adventure on the Water: Exploring Lake Kabetogama

One of the defining features of Northern Lights Resort is its access to Lake Kabetogama, a sprawling body of water that’s a part of the iconic Voyageurs National Park. The resort offers pontoon and fishing boat rentals, allowing you to explore the lake at your own pace. Whether you’re an avid angler or a novice fisher person, fishing on Lake Kabetogama is a bucket list destination. The park is teeming with diverse fish species, making it a haven for fishing enthusiasts. We brought the whole family out on a pontoon and fished while enjoying the views of the national park. We caught some good eating-sized walleyes, northern pike and smallmouth bass which I think is the trifecta of fishing in the northwoods.

We visited Ellsworth Rock Gardens which was on our list of places to visit when we were at Voyageurs the first time. But we finally made it to the rock garden during this trip! This unique national park stop is a labor of love, created by Jack Ellsworth over a period of 20 years. The garden’s artistic arrangements of rocks and colorful flowers against the backdrop of the lake creates a surreal setting. It really felt like another world. Harlan loved running and jumping across the rocks and checking out the different rock sculptures. Juniper particularly appreciated the whale-shaped rock. There’s even a pavilion, picnic area and fire pits and I’m told Ellsworth is actually the number one picnic spot in Voyageurs National Park.

Paddling through Paradise: Kayaking and Canoeing

For families with kids or anyone just looking for a more peaceful adventure on the water, Northern Lights Resort offers an array of watercraft rentals, including kayaks, canoes, and standup paddle boards. It was fun to see the islands and get up close and personal with the loons. We not only went canoeing with the kids, but they got a chance to kayak by themselves on the kid-sized kayaks. Their first time! We kept them close to shore and our canoe nearby. I think by next year, they’ll get the hang of it.

Culinary Delights and Local Treasures

As the sun set over Lake Kabetogama one of the nights, we treated ourselves to a unique dining experience at Arrowhead Resort’s restaurant balcony. The food was delicious and the cocktails were even more delicious! The panoramic views of the lake and the surrounding wilderness created the perfect ambience. And for a taste of local charm and a chance to bring home a piece of the northwoods, we visited Pine Ridge Gift Shop in Kabetogama. This quaint shop not only offers delicious baked goods and coffee to start your day but also boasts a delightful selection of Voyageurs-themed gifts and rustic décor. The kids got old fashioned candy canes and we opted for iced coffee and chocolate chip cookies which were SO good.

Kabetogama Visitors Center: Where Knowledge Meets Wilderness

We also visited the Kabetogama Visitors Center – mostly for the kids. It’s a hub of information that serves as the gateway to Voyageurs National Park. As we walked through the doors, we were greeted by friendly park rangers who shared their deep knowledge of the park’s history, ecology, and recreational opportunities. They showed us a pair of painted turtles out in the back marina area and gave us some insight on the wildlife we might find at Voyageurs. The kids loved all of the hands-on activities and took home some junior ranger pamphlets and coloring books. I’m told they have some awesome kids programs at the visitors centers at VNP.

Other Activities Around Lake Kabetogama

  1. Echo Island Rope Swing: Located across the bay from Northern Lights Resort, Echo Island’s rope swing is a popular spot for good ol’ fashioned rope swinging. Unfortunately, it was a little too chilly for jumping into the water, but we are definitely adding it to the to-do list for our next visit.
  2. Woodenfrog Day-Use Area: The Woodenfrog Day-Use Area is a sandy swimming area on Lake Kabetogama and it’s a great spot for families to come and relax by the water and be on the water.
  3. Shoepak Beach on Lost Bay: Shoepak Beach is located on Lost Bay, which is part of Lake Kabetogama. It’s a popular swimming and picnicking area with sandy shores and clear water.
  4. Hiking at Blind Ash Trail: The Blind Ash Trail is a hiking trail within Voyageurs National Park. While most of the park is explored by water, this is a chance to explore the park’s interior on foot. The trail is known for its beautiful forested landscapes and can be a moderate hike, depending on the section you choose to explore.
  5. Cruiser Lake Trail: The Cruiser Lake Trail is another hiking option at VNP and it’s known for its scenic views and relatively remote atmosphere. The trail takes you through diverse landscapes, including forests and wetlands. Depending on the route you take, it can be a longer and more challenging hike.

Staying at Northern Lights Resort and exploring Voyageurs National Park was more than just a vacation – it’s an immersion into the beauty and tranquility of Minnesota’s one and only true national park. From the cozy comforts of our cabin to the thrill of fishing and paddling on the lake, every moment is an adventure to remember. So, if you’re longing for a retreat that offers a perfect blend of wilderness and relaxation, start planning your getaway to Voyageurs National Park and book your stay with Northern Lights Resort. Your next unforgettable experience awaits amidst the beauty of Minnesota’s Northwoods!

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