You may feel out of place in Ely if you don't have a 16-foot, scratched-to-hell Old Town canoe strapped to your roof rack. Unless you're a fisherman, that is. Ely (pop. 3,724) is located 35 miles from the Ontario border and 112 miles northeast of Duluth at the gateway to the legendary Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, a million-acre maze of lakes and boreal forest with 1,500 miles of canoe trails and endless runs of smallmouth bass, walleye, and pike. There are no fewer than 22 outfitters here, so setting up a multi-day wilderness paddling trip is a breeze. The people are – this being Minnesota – quiet but friendly.
What to Do for Fun: Canadian Border Outfitters will take you deep into moose territory for up to 14 days — and hook you up with your very own loaner canoe. Timber Trail Lodge has lakeside campsites ($24), log cabins (from $795 per week), and a new six-bedroom house with a stone fireplace and a deck.