One of the loveliest resorts in all of Minnesota —and surely the most photographed— Burntside Lodge (2755 Burntside Lodge Rd., 218/365-3894, www.burntsidelodge.com , May–Sept., $150/night, $1,061/week one-bedroom), six miles northwest of Ely , got its start as a hunting camp in the early 1900s. Many of the ultra-cozy cabins overlooking island-studded Burntside Lake were built in the 1920s, and each is unique.
The National Park Service, noting both its age and architecture (“a remarkable architectural achievement in an outstanding state of preservation”), has added it to the National Register of Historic Places. Resort amenities include a marina renting everything from kayaks to pontoons (personal watercraft are prohibited), a pair of sandy beaches, a Finnish sauna, a cappuccino bar, and one of the area’s best restaurants.
Twenty miles east of Ely on the north shore of Lake One, right on the edge of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness , is Kawishiwi Lodge (3187 Fernberg Rd., 218/365-5487, www.elycanoerentals.com , May–Sept., $20/person bunkhouses, plus non-refundable $50 deposit, $625/week cabins), a paddle-only resort. Most of the 16 one- to four-bedroom housekeeping cabins have screened porches and their own dock; a few can only be reached by water. Each rental includes a canoe, and they offer full outfitting for overnight trips. There are also hiking trails nearby, and guests can unwind in the sauna after a busy day.
Seven miles east of Ely on Farm Lake, one of the area’s best fishing waters outside the BWCAW, is the friendly Timber Trail Lodge (629 Kawishiwi Trl., 218/365-4879 or 800/777-7348, www.timbertrail.com , $1,300/week two-bedroom cabin, $69/day room), an excellent choice for families. Guests have use of the sauna, there is a game room and fireplace in the small log lodge, and kids’ activities are scheduled during the summer. They also offer complete outfitting and have fishing guides who work right out of the resort. Timber Trail is one of the minority of Ely resorts to remain open year-round; off-season discounts are substantial, and cabins are available for daily rental outside the summer.
Back on the quieter end of Farm Lake is the funky and artsy Blue Heron Bed & Breakfast (827 Kawishiwi Trl., 218/365-4720, www.blueheronbnb.com , $135), where the north-facing lake views are phenomenal. Blue Heron is located on the edge of the BWCAW, so day-tripping right out the door, either by land or water, is wonderful. Guests have free use of canoes and snowshoes and can unwind in the wood-fired sauna. The five inviting guestrooms, all with private bath, usually require a two-night minimum stay most of the summer and fall.
Close to downtown and right on the lake is the Grand Ely Lodge (400 Pioneer Rd. N., 218/365-6565, www.grandelylodge.com , $119–279). The dramatic lodge is built so that all 61 rooms—furnished with a little Northwoods flair—have lake views.
Log Cabin Hideaways (1321 Hwy. 21 N., 218/365-6045, www.logcabinhideaways.com , $475/week) offers nine scattered and secluded cabins, most right on the edge of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness . Though they are rather plush in most other regards, the log cabins do not have electricity or indoor plumbing, and all but one is reached by paddling, hiking, or skiing. Only the cheapest lacks a wood-fired sauna. They can sleep anywhere from two to ten people. During the summer, you need to rent by the week, otherwise there is a three-month minimum stay.
Houseboats are available from a pair of companies on contorted Birch Lake, 15 miles south of Ely  by Babbitt: Kinsey Houseboats (2718 Birch River Rd., 218/827-3763 or 888/827-3763, www.kinseys.com , $700 three-day stay) and Timber Bay Houseboats (1 mile east of Babbit on County Rd. 70, 218/827-3682 or 800/846-6821, www.timberbay.com , $690 three-day stay).
The city’s best lodging value is in town at Adventure Inn (1145 Sheridan St. E., 218/365-3140, www.adventureinn-ely.com , $50 economy, $70 deluxe). The large “deluxe rooms,” individually decorated in a Northwoods theme, have four beds, and some have kitchenettes.
Also in town, the older Canoe on Inn (110 N. 2nd Ave. W., 218/365-4590, www.canoeoninn.com , $50) is a clean, no-frills motel with friendly hosts.
Paddle Inn (1314 Sheridan St. E., 218/365-6036 or 888/270-2245, www.paddleinnely.com , $80) is very similar, but also offers a sauna.
If you’re looking to save money but don’t want to camp, check with the chamber of commerce about bunkhouse availability. Many outfitters keep these simple hostel-like rooms available for groups heading to and returning from the BWCAW and will sometimes rent them to individuals. Expect to pay about $15 per bed.