Marine News from the Great Lakes

New Lake Superior Destination: Stillwater, Minnesota

Published: Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Stillwater, Minnesota, is located 30 minutes east of the Twin Cities, Minneapolis and St.Paul, on the border of Wisconsin and Minnesota along the National Scenic Riverway and Byway of the St. Croix River. The St. Croix River connects to the Mississippi River 25 miles south in Hastings, Minnesota… so, technically, you can travel by boat from Stillwater, Minnesota, all the way to the Gulf of Mexico!

Stillwater is the historic birthplace of the state of Minnesota. In 1848, the first convention to establish Minn. as a territory was held downtown at Myrtle and Main Street and, at the time, Stillwater was one of the largest settlements in the territory. It is one of Minnesota’s oldest towns, established in 1854.

The lumber industry made Stillwater famous. At the height of the log boom, Stillwater’s lumber mills turned out thousands of rail cars of timber of mostly white and Norway pines. Minnesota was one of the largest lumber markets in the world with Stillwater Lumber Company as one of the largest lumber mills in the country. Stillwater had all the ingredients for a lumbering town: river connections to the northern Minnesota and Wisconsin pine lands, still waters for assembling rafts, and water power. The Historic Lift Bridge, built in 1931, connecting Minn. and Wisc., is one of three still remaining in the country today. This past summer, the Lift Bridge ceased operation for automobile crossing as a new bridge was opened a mile south boasting vast valley views up high from the lookout perches of the St. Croix Crossing Bridge. The lift bridge is being renovated and will re-open in spring 2019 as part of a five mile loop trail connecting both the old and new bridges for pedestrian and bicycle traffic only. Currently, boaters can still enjoy watching the historic lift raise and lower for them to pass through.

Today, Stillwater’s rich and vibrant history is evident everywhere you look and is now mixed with modern amenities, restored historic mansions - many turned into bed and breakfast inns, over 100 owner-operated shops, restaurants, and pubs downtown along Historic Main Street, 20 outdoor dining patios/rooftops, 14 historic sites, wineries and breweries, paddlewheel cruises, antiques, art galleries, live music, and many festivals.

Stillwater is a popular destination for vacationers and a popular Minnesota romantic city for weddings and getaways. 


Stillwater is a year-round destination. Minnesota summers are nice and hot and excellent for being out on the water, the fall is beautiful and crisp with wineries, apple farms, and a harvest fest featuring a giant pumpkin regatta on the river. (We carve out Guinness World record breaking sized pumpkins, put a person in them, hand them a kayak paddle, and say, “Race!”) Winter is very pristine and romantic – enjoy live music, fine dining, and a warm fireplace suite in a historic inn or B&B. Stillwater is also located near three ski resorts within a 30 minute drive.

Book your lodging ahead of time as accommodations tend to fill up on the weekends!


The first thing most visitors will enjoy is the scenery of the river and the historic architecture of downtown Main Street, which is outlined by beautiful restored homes up on the bluffs. Riverboat cruises on the St. Croix, over 30 restaurants (Domacin - one of America’s top wine bars, Smalley’s Caribbean BBQ & Pirate Bar - as seen on “Diners, Drive-in’s and Dives”… even though it’s really none of those, and see if you can find the secret new speakeasy called The Velveteen), artisan cheese, olive oil, and spice shops, as well as a ‘Foodies on Foot’ walking tour and over 30 outdoor dining patios with live music all make Stillwater a big culinary destination. This is in addition to two wineries, two breweries, art galleries, antiques, and boutiques. There is much for outdoor enthusiasts as well including kayaking, skiing, boating, and five golf courses.

Where to Stay

There are distinct lodging choices for everyone: Two historic inns downtown, eight B&Bs, five contemporary hotels (most with pools), and many newly-opened loft or vacation home rentals are in town.


Winter: Ice Castles along the riverfront, free horse-drawn carriage rides for Valentine’s Day, romantic lodging
Spring: Girlfriend getaways – spas, fashion/home decor shopping & dining
Summer: 4th of July fireworks, ‘Summer Tuesdays’ nighttime music & movies by boat in the park, Vintage Car Shows, Lumberjack Days
Fall: Harvest Fest with Giant Pumpkin Weight-off/Regatta/Drop, apple picking, breweries/wineries, Rivertown Art Festival


Stillwater is located on the St. Croix River, a National Scenic Riverway, and home to the St. Croix State Recreation Area where there is so much to be explored beyond the shores of town. Enjoy swimming, fishing, and water craft of all kinds from canoes to kayaks, yachts to speed boats, or large chartered cruises aboard an authentic all-American paddlewheel ship. Use Stillwater as your overnight base when you explore the region by water with your own boat, or with a rental from one of the several nearby marinas. The sandbars, limestone cliffs, and forests are beautiful here! The City of Stillwater offers 14 FREE boat tie-up slips available downtown, including four overnight slips. They are located right behind where the large paddlewheel boats dock downtown… you can’t miss it!

Other nearby rivers/lakes offer great adventure as well! Find your favorite waterway to explore: MN Water Trails and WI Water Trails. The nearest lakes are Lake Elmo, Square Lake, or Big Marine.

And, talk about scenic! For those who simply enjoy looking at the water, view the river valley by car following the St. Croix Scenic Byway along highway 95 which goes right through historic Main Street.

Visit to plan your trip to one of America’s Most Picturesque Towns (USA Today) and the Birthplace of Minnesota! You’ll love the natural beauty, hip scene, and down-home hospitality!



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