March–April 2023

Bucket List

Do the Beach at Zippel Bay State Park

With fine white sand and an ocean-like lake, this is a unique setting in landlocked Minnesota.

Verónica Jaralambides

Picture your favorite seaside beach. Now take away the crowds and add jack pines, birch trees, and aspens to bring you shade on a hot summer day, and boom! You’ve got Zippel Bay State Park. With fine white sand and an ocean-like lake, this is a unique setting in landlocked Minnesota that is reminiscent of seaside vacations in my native Buenos Aires.

When I learned about Zippel Bay, I thought it would be a great relatively close-to-home destination for my kids to get a taste of my childhood summers and to enjoy the kind of solitude typically found only when you’re willing to travel to the end of the map. The park did not disappoint.

There were periods of both whitecaps and still water on Lake of the Woods during our long-weekend visit, a perfect combination for frolicking in the water. I could have relaxed for hours on the soft sand with my book, listening to the splashing waves and my kids boogie boarding. But I love kayaking, and the waves were calling. After lunch, I traded spots with my oldest daughter, also an avid reader, and went paddling with my youngest. We had the lake to ourselves and there was more space to paddle than we had energy.

In between relaxing and water sports, we were able to fit in a couple of hikes, along the beach and through the woods, to forage for wild berries and spot birds. We heard sandhill cranes and saw a great blue heron, a white pelican, and gulls galore.

At the end of the day, we drove back to our large, secluded campsite to eat dinner. Afterward, we returned to the beach for one last outing on the lake. I on my kayak and my daughter on her stand-up paddleboard paddled out until nothing blocked the view to witness a spectacular sunset over the vast Lake of the Woods horizon while the water gently rocked us and waved us goodbye.

Plan Your Trip

  • Zippel Bay State Park is a 22-minute drive northwest of Baudette on the south shore of Lake of the Woods. 
  • Lake of the Woods, at nearly a million acres, is one of the world’s largest lakes and can challenge even skilled paddlers. Stay close to shore or venture out, but always wear a life jacket, carry a whistle, and be aware of your limits. Display a light at dawn or dusk. 
  • Zippel Bay State Park has 57 drive-in, nonelectric campsites, a group camp, a marina, a fishing pier, a swimming beach, and accessible shower facilities. Reserve your campsite at
  • Keen foragers can delight in an abundance of fresh berries and edible mushrooms in the height of summer. Harvesting edible fruits and mushrooms in Minnesota state parks is allowed only for personal consumption. 
  • Lake of the Woods is a prime fishing destination where you can catch walleye, sauger,  northern pike, smallmouth bass, perch, muskie, and lake sturgeon. In winter, the lake is dotted with fish houses. 
  • Motorboaters can travel the 23 miles separating Zippel Bay from the northernmost unit in the Minnesota state park system, Garden Island State Recreation Area.