3 Day Getaways / Explore America

Where to Sleep and Eat in Orr, an Undiscovered Northern Minnesota Lake Town

This is the Minnesota lake town you likely don’t know about. Orr was founded in 1905 with a thriving timber industry. Nestled along the shoreline of Pelican Lake, the lumberjack town has a rustic charm. In the late 1800s, entrepreneur and lumberman William Orr built a hotel, general store, and other permanent structures of the would be lake and lumber town. The drive from Minneapolis is a little under four hours. Orr is less than 30 minutes to 2 of the visitor centers in Voyageurs National Park. Orr is home of the Giant Bluegill fish found in Pelican Lake.

My friend Lisa and I drove 3.5 hours from Grand Portage to Orr. I stumbled upon the lake town while searching for somewhere to stay near Voyageurs. I didn’t want to drive all the way to International Falls and got lucky with this gem. We got to Cabin O’ Pines on Pelican Lake a little after 8p.m. It was just enough time to check in for lakefront Trail’s End cabin and head out on the dock by the cabin to catch a stellar sunset.

We were pretty exhausted from a full day of exploring Isle Royal National Park, Grand Portage National Monument, and the 3.5 hour drive so we crashed shortly after arriving at our two-bedroom cabin. I was up early the next morning. With coffee in hand, I enjoyed the peacefulness on the deck of our cabin. From the wooded shoreline, I watched some ducks, a pelican, and the sun rise over the lake. Before leaving, I wandered out on the dock and wished we had a few more days at this picturesque lake with 54 miles of shoreline and over 50 islands. It’s known as one of Minnesota’s premier fishing lakes.

On Saturday mornings during the summer, check out is 8a.m. so the resort staff has time to turn the cabins. We headed into Orr in search of breakfast before heading to Voyageurs National Park. We decided on T. Pattenn Cafe. As soon as we walked in I could easily tell the family-owned and operated restaurant is popular with locals and tourists. It was already packed a little after 8a.m. T. Pattenn has been home of the big donut since 1935 so we ordered one to split one and headed outside to one of the cafe’s tables out back. The big donuts are the size of your face so one was more than enough for us to split.

We spent the morning and early afternoon exploring Voyageurs and returned to Orr about 2p.m. for a late lunch before heading to our next destination. We decided on The Dam Supper Club and Bar. The Dam is very popular for dinner, but mid-afternoon we had no problem getting a table. The Dam started as Glendale Inn built in 1939 when the area was known as Glendale and it was a railroad stop. The inn sold groceries and served food and refreshments to tourists and locals. Residents of the Orr and Boise Forte Reservation Areas sold furs, wild rice, and other wares here. The Glendale Inn was renamed The Dam in 1979. It’s named after the dam on the Pelican River right behind it. Since Pelican Lake is known as one of Minnesota’s top fishing destinations, I ordered the Walleye Caesar Salad. It was delicious and great send-off from Orr as we continued on our Great Lakes road trip.

Author Jennifer Broome has traveled extensively to National Park Service sites. Voyageurs National Park was her 39th national park. She loves finding quaint small towns across America.