Why Visit Sault Ste. Marie?
Located where three Great Lakes touch: Lake Superior, Lake Michigan (the route to the Mississippi), and Lake Huron. Hence, its importance to the early French fur trade, and in the War of 1812. And today, the St Lawrence Seaway takes iron and other minerals from Ontario’s North and grain from the Prairies to the continent’s industrial heartland. The Algoma region to the north features dramatic scenery made famous by the Group of Seven. The North Channel on Lake Huron gives great views across to Manitoulin Island. And many hop over the bridge and for some American shopping (have your passport with you).
Sault Ste Marie (pronounced “sue saint marie”) is located between the two largest Great Lakes: Lake Huron and Lake Superior. The city overlooks the St Mary’s River with rapids that used to be portaged by the early fur traders, which now has a canal with locks for the Great Lakes freighters.
The city, called “the Sault” by its 85,000 Canadian residents, lies on the border with the United Sates (Sault Ste Marie, Michigan is on the other side, where locals call the city “the Soo“, with American simplified –and unilingual –spelling), and provides easy access to major American cities including Detroit. The city is home to major industries, including Algoma Steel, and is a major railway centre for northern Ontario.
Sault Ste Marie gives you all the excitement of the city with the adventure of the Canadian wilderness just minutes away! Head into the famous and picturesque Algoma Country aboard the Agawa Canyon Tour, where the Group of Seven painters drew many of their famous landscape paintings. Stroll along the St. Mary’s River Boardwalk, take a lock tour of the world’s busiest locks and enjoy a spectacular view of the city. The St. Mary’s River also has some of the best sport fishing in North America.
Whether it’s a visit to a park, an art gallery or the area’s history, Sault Ste. Marie offers its visitors and residents lots to do every day of the week. Here are maps showing the most popular “must-see” attractions in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario and Sault Ste Marie, Michigan.
East of Sault Ste Marie in the middle of the St Mary’s River are Sugar Island (on the MIchigan side) and St Joseph Island on the Ontario side, both are great places to watch Great Lakes Freighters navigate between Lake Superior and Lake Huron. Further east is Manitoulin Island, the largest Island on a lake in the world. Unless you have a boat, the only access to Manitoulin Island is at Espanola, about 2/3 the way to Sudbury.
To the north of Sault Ste Marie are the midpoint of the Trans-Canada and Chippewa Falls at Batchwana Bay, Lake Superior Provincial Park (south of Wawa) and the rugged and isolated Pukuskwa National Park just beyond
On the US side, Sault Ste Marie lies on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula (“the U.P.”) with several state parks and national forests just west of the city. Head south to St Ignace and see the the Mackinac Strait (which connects Lake Huron with Lake Michigan) and take a short ferry ride to car-free Mackinac Island, or you can cross the spectacular Mackinac Bridge(it’s a toll-bridge) to the lower peninsula of Michigan which is home to Grand Rapids and to Detroit, where you can cross into Windsor, Ontario (about a 5 hour drive) and get onto the 401 to points east (but daring to Toronto is an hour faster on the all-Canadian route through Sudbury, than via Sarnia).
In case you were wondering, from Sault Ste Marie to Kenora (and points west), the route along the Trans-Canada #17 along the north shore of Superior via Wawa, Nipigon, and Thunder Bay is about the same distance and duration (12-1/2 hours) as the US route via Duluth and International Falls/Fort Frances (And, in our humble opinion incredibly more scenic).
The Trans-Canada Highway has, in recent years, been rerouted to bypass the downtown and central business district. Most of the motels and hotels are along Great Northern, the main road north form downtown, which becomes Highway 17 north of Second Line Rd. There A are a number of malls and plazas along Great Northern heading north/west and along Trunk Road heading east (including the city’s largest mall). To the south and east of the city, the new bypass route circumvents the Garden River Reserve along the St Mary’s River which is the 17B (the originally Trans-Canada route into Sault Ste Marie)
Sault Ste Marie’s downtown core is quaint and has an old-time small town feel. The city has some interesting historical attractions, including the original canal and locks at this point in the Great Lakes. One of the best reasons to head into Sault Ste Marie is the International Bridge to Sault Ste Marie, Michigan. The US is best know for cheap booze (with duty-free limits!!), cheap eggs and milk, and whatever else you find in the superstores on the south side of the border. It’s just too bad most people don’t think of bringing along their Canadian passport for a cross-Canada trip, but you’ll need it to cross into the US.
Because Sault Ste Marie straddles the Canada-US border, you will want to
visit the attractions, museums and parks on the other side (of the bridge). DO BRING YOUR PASSPORT ON YOUR TRIP! We have some tips to
help you with crossing the Canada-US border.