Minnesota : Safety by City
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- Two Harbors
“What should we name this town?”
I’m giggling as I think of the founding fathers who stared out at two bodies of water and exclaimed, “Two Harbors!”
Of course, that’s just a tiny part of what you get when you visit Two Harbors, Minnesota, on the North Shore of Lake Superior, just 30 minutes north of Duluth.
Two Harbors is also the birthplace of 3M, now a global company.
The town was built on the ore mined nearby and the railroad that brought it to the shipping port of Agate Bay, which still thrives today.
Even the railroad line, now a tourist attraction, runs from Duluth to Two Harbors on weekends in summer and fall.
Two big outdoor attractions are just up the North Shore Scenic Road at Gooseberry Falls State Park and Split Rock Lighthouse State Park (home to Little Two Harbors).
This region has stunning Lake Superior views but also hides horror beneath its waters.
You’ll learn why it was once called “the most dangerous piece of water in the world.”
Winter snow brings ski season to life, with the closest trail system just 30 minutes inland.
For summer days and nights, there are beaches along the shore, and Two Harbors has a lighthouse of its own.
Two Harbors is a four-season destination with plenty to see by itself, but a gem in the North Shore of Minnesota’s crown of communities, like Duluth, Grand Marais, and Grand Portage.
Warnings & Dangers in Two Harbors
OVERALL RISK : LOW
Two Harbors is a low-risk city with violent crime numbers you can count on (almost) one hand. For 2021, you can count violent crime, robbery, and theft on two hands. You have some great restaurants and shorelines to explore while learning the region's history. It's not a big city, with just 3,600 residents, but it has a big personality.
TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK : LOW
You'll need a vehicle to get in and out of Two Harbors, and to travel the roads between the cities. The small public transportation system here has faced staffing challenges throughout 2022 and into 2023, so check the schedule before you even consider relying on it. Taxis and rideshares will be available, but sparingly.
PICKPOCKETS RISK : LOW
This is low risk, with just three thefts in 2021 and no more than six a year going back to 2017. However, you should still follow standard safety protocols like locking your car when parking and limiting what you carry to the bare necessities.
NATURAL DISASTERS RISK : LOW
Winter brings heavy snow, blustery winds, and ice storms. While the residents are used to staying active in winter weather, the threats include power outages and impassible roads. Warm weather brings a severe thunderstorm risk. In May 2022, a lightning strike near the famous Split Rock Lighthouse caused damage to the visitor's center, so you can't take even a regular thunderstorm lightly here, but the risk can go up to a severe thunderstorm. Coastal flooding and erosion are other issues. The main highway between Duluth and Two Harbors had an emergency closure in October 2022 once it was noticed the ground beneath the road was slipping into the lake.
MUGGING RISK : LOW
There has been just one robbery in Two Harbors since 2000, which makes it another low-risk category. While you can't assume all cities will be that safe, it's good to know this is one of the safer parts of the shoreline.
TERRORISM RISK : LOW
While the port brings a particular risk, the Duluth/Superior port south of Two Harbors is a more prominent potential target. Both will get ample security for the crews and shipments. It would be best if you avoided the working harbor area to avoid seeming suspicious and report anything suspicious you see while you're there.
SCAMS RISK : LOW
The only scam potential here would be a rental home or condo. Confirm the landlord has a license to rent and ask for a virtual tour or a video conference call to meet them. If nothing else, that weeds out potential scammers listing a fake property and never wiring money to reserve a rental.
WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK : LOW
There's a low risk for women. The town has just enough shopping, dining, and shoreline to make it fun without too large of an area to bring dangerous crowds. It's wise never to go hiking or into the water alone, but if you are traveling solo, just let someone know where you are going and when you plan to return.
TAP WATER RISK : LOW
Two Harbors monitors the water supply for 100 regulated contaminants. In the 2021 Water Quality Report, all standards were met, and no violations were reported. In addition, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency regularly tests the water of Lake Superior, and you can read the results on its website.
Safest Places to Visit in Two Harbors
You can use the North Shore Visitor website to find attractions along the shoreline, with a special section on Two Harbors.
Use the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) website to learn about the nearby state parks.
Let’s start near the two harbors.
Burlington Bay is the northernmost (easternmost?).
For simplicity – it’s the one that isn’t the iron ore port.
Lakeview Park, Burlington Bay Beach, and campgrounds surround this bay, with Superior Shores Resort offering hotel rooms and condos on the northern edge.
Agate Bay is less recreational but still offers Agate Bay Beach and Paul Van Hoven Park for waterside activities and sensational freighter views.
Two Harbors Lighthouse and Museum are located here, with a pilot house open for tours.
The lighthouse home is also a bed & breakfast for a truly unique overnight option.
The historic tugboat Edna G. is also docked in the water here.
Highway 61/Voyager Highway turns into 7th Avenue through Two Harbors, with a charming downtown stretching to the lakefront.
The Duluth and Iron Range Depot Museum is located there, where you can learn about the mining and shipping history of the region.
14 miles up the highway, you’ll reach Gooseberry Falls State Park.
TLC must’ve written a song about this because you can go chasing waterfalls or stick to the rivers and the lakes that you’re used to.
Spring and summer bring hikers to the numerous waterfalls within the park or the lakefront camping.
Winter opens up cross-country skiing or snowshoe trails.
The Superior Hiking Trail runs through this park, which spans the length from Duluth to Grand Portage.
It’s a rugged, challenging trail, and you can learn more about that adventure at the Superior Hiking organization’s website.
Not to put any of the aforementioned items in the shadows, but Split Rock Lighthouse State Park is one of the main reasons people visit Two Harbors, and it’s just another six miles from Gooseberry Park.
The lighthouse sits atop a rocky cliff, with a dark and stormy past that led to its construction.
The lighthouse is open in the summer with a visitor’s center and other historic buildings connected to keeping ships safe on this rocky span of water.
Places to Avoid in Two Harbors
You won’t really need to go into the residential part of Two Harbors, but you won’t find a dangerous one if you do.
The town is small, with almost attractions on the shoreline or main highway.
If you are heading north on the Voyager Highway, there is a tunnel in case anyone gets freaked out about tunnels (just me?).
It is a two-lane tunnel through Silver Creek Cliff with plenty of space on each side, and you can see the light from the other end of the tunnel in each direction.
Let’s get some confusing or mistaken names out of the way.
Catalina Island, off the coast of Los Angeles, has a side of the island called Two Harbors.
Twin Harbors is a state park in Washington state.
Twin Ports is the nickname for Duluth and Superior, Wisconsin.
The way search algorithms work, it’s easy for a search engine to give you the wrong result.
Just confirm you’re looking at Two Harbors in Minnesota, and if it’s Little Two Harbors, that is 20 miles north near Split Rock.
Safety Tips for Traveling to Two Harbors
- The Two Harbors Police Department is in the same building as Lake County Law Enforcement at 611 3rd Avenue. The Facebook page is @twoharborspolicedepartment, but that page isn’t updated often – maybe once or twice a month.
- Sign up for Lake County Alerts through the county emergency management website. You’ll get advance notice of incoming weather watches, warnings, and coastal advisories. You can’t afford to miss these important alerts through email or text messages.
- Before heading to the beach, check out the Minnesota Lake Superior Beach Monitoring Program. You can maneuver through the interactive map or click on the Two Harbors header to get a list of nearby beaches. Beach dangers and water quality are monitored weekly between Memorial Day and Labor Day.
- 511 Minnesota is the app and website you should use to track road conditions throughout the state. The interactive map also has options for listing road roads, winter driving information, and special route alerts set by each user. You can also dial 511 on your mobile phone to get information. Voice commands will get you the exact information you need.
- You can use GPS tracking on your mobile phone even without service. Download the Avenza Maps app. Use the search term “MNDNR,” and you’ll get a list of maps from all Minnesota parks, including Gooseberry and Split Rock.
- If you plan on using firewood during a stay at a state park, you should purchase it at the park if possible. The state has strict regulations to avoid invasive species getting into the Minnesota forests. If you do purchase wood off-site, you’ll need the receipt and the bundle label to get it approved for use by park rangers.
- Fat Biking is a popular winter activity, with bicycles having wide “fat” tires to navigate the snowy trails. Gooseberry Falls does not allow fat biking in the winter, despite what some other websites or vendors might tell you. Check the park’s website for the dos and don’ts of trail use. Gooseberry Falls State Park also has a mobile app.
- Camping reservations at Minnesota state parks can be made up to four months in advance. Book your campsites as soon as you know your travel dates, as they can get to full capacity quickly.
- Anglers need a fishing license from the state DNR. Those can be purchased online or at location sporting goods stores.
So... How Safe Is Two Harbors Really?
The crime rates are low in Two Harbors, with just six crimes in both 2020 and 2021, but no more than two in any year going back to 2015 before that.
There has been one robbery since 2000, and theft rates have decreased substantially since 2017.
Where there used to be around 50 thefts annually, there have been less than 6 each in the past five years.
The greatest risks here are the weather, especially at the shoreline.
Lake Superior is a massive lake, capable of producing waves, storm surges, and riptides.
Major winter storms can cause treacherous roads, power outages, and supply shortages.
If you heed all the weather watches and advisories, you’ll be much safer whether you’re on the road or stuck inside.
It is important to check the difficulty rating of any trail you explore.
With the rocky and hilly terrain, there’s a trail for everyone.
Some easy hikes can take you to the edge of a rocky cliff, others might leave you scrambling over rocks.
If you don’t know what a crampon is, stick to easy winter hikes or snowshoeing.
Stay away from the water underneath and the top edges of waterfalls, as the rocks can be super slippery any time of year.
To really unwind after a day of adventures, you can’t beat the pies at the Rustic Inn Cafe or Betty’s Pies.
How Does Two Harbors Compare?
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- Visas - You'll need a U.S. Visa and passport to get through Customs at the airport or at the Canadian border. Keep your passport with you to use as your legal ID for alcoholic beverages and rental equipment.
- Currency - The U.S. Dollar is the only currency accepted here. Reserve as much as you can before the trip, like campsites or museum tickets. That helps ensure you have a spot and limits how often you need to pull out your wallet. If you are crossing into Canada during the trip, there's a duty-free shop right before the border in Grand Portage.
- Weather - Winter comes to life with frozen waterfalls and snow-covered wonderlands, but those are only exciting if you are dressed in the right gear. Wear layers of clothing with a waterproof outer layer and bring snow boots. You'll find plenty of local outfitters in and around Two Harbors for anything you forgot, with some of the best experts in Minnesota helping with your purchase. Summers will be warm and humid, with bug spray being an essential element. Don't forget sunscreen and lotion for windburn.
- Airports - Duluth International Airport is just 40 minute south of Two Harbors, and you won't find another commercial option until you hit Canada (if you're heading north). The Twin Cities have the largest airport in the state, which is about three hours south.
- Travel Insurance - You'll want travel insurance for your flight, rental car, and wilderness activities. You can get travel adventure insurance for specific activities, like camping and skiing, or buy a bundled package of coverage.
Two Harbors Weather Averages (Temperatures)
Average High/Low Temperature
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