By Conor Mihell
There’s a good reason the Agawa Canyon Tour Train is one of Ontario’s top outdoor vacations. This all-day, wilderness-by-rail adventure north of Sault Ste. Marie takes you deep into one of Canada’s most spectacular landscapes – the river canyons, jewel-like lakes, jagged cliffs and wispy pine immortalized by The Group of Seven. This is a bucket-list experience not to be missed. But while you’re here, there are many other more intimate and adventurous ways to experience the world’s largest freshwater lake, cascading rivers, verdant forests and some of Ontario’s tallest hills. “The Soo” is a hub of adventure.
Lake Superior Day Trip
It’s easy to be blown away by the stunning scenery along the 230-kilometre stretch of Trans-Canada Highway between Sault Ste. Marie and Wawa. This incredible road trip also boasts an overwhelming array of lookouts, hikes and Lake Superior beaches along the way, making it worthy of repeat visits. Keep it simple with three stops: fuel up for the day at Voyageurs’ Lodge and Cookhouse in Batchawana Bay (about 70 kilometres north of Sault Ste. Marie), which features a menu inspired by the Canadian fur trade, famous apple fritters and access to a stunning sand beach on Lake Superior; have your camera ready for the roadside lookout across Alona Bay’s crystalline waters and rock shore (100 kilometres north of Sault Ste. Marie); and lace up your boots for the two-kilometre (round-trip) hike to witness the timeless Indigenous pictographs at Agawa Rock in Lake Superior Provincial Park (140 kilometres north of Sault Ste. Marie).
Sault Ste. Marie Waterfront
The St. Mary’s River in downtown Sault Ste. Marie was a focal point of Indigenous culture, exploration and the fur trade, and ultimately the city’s development. Get a taste of the waterfront with a paddling tour. You can rent canoes, sea kayaks or stand-up paddleboards at the Sault College Waterfront Adventure Centre or sign up for a guided big canoe tour with the Lake Superior Watershed Conservancy. Meanwhile, the Sault Ste. Marie Canal National Historic Site provides an in-depth glimpse of a historic lock as well as easy footpaths on South St. Mary’s Island, bike rentals and access to the St. Mary’s Rapids, a popular destination for anglers. In fact, legendary author and angler Ernest Hemingway once wrote, “The best rainbow trout fishing in the world is in the rapids of the Canadian Soo.”
Bike and Hike Trails
Sault Ste. Marie’s Hiawatha Highlands has emerged as one of the best mountain biking destinations in Ontario. The ever-expanding 31-kilometre network of single-track includes something for all levels of riders, set in a stunning forest of old-growth pine and Canadian Shield outcrops. Rent a bike and get trail recommendations at Velorution. If you prefer hiking, the Highlands are home to several backcountry day hikes on the Voyageur Trail. Read more about outdoor adventure in the Soo here.
Arts, Entertainment and Culture
Outspoken Breweries and Northern Superior both feature downtown brewpubs and patios. New this year, Northern Breweries is partnering with the Canadian Bushplane Heritage Centre and Entomica Insectarium for Beers, Bugs and (water) Bombers, a unique way to experience popular northern Ontario attractions. When it’s time to eat, Sault Ste. Marie is famous for its Italian food. Check out Aurora’s or Giovanni’s for authentic Old World cuisine. A visit to the Art Gallery of Algoma will put your trip to Sault Ste. Marie in perspective, as will a tour of the Anishinaabek Discovery Centre at Algoma University’s Shingwauk Kinoomaage Gamig Anishinaabe Institute. This brand-new facility was recently recognized as Best Cultural Organization at the Leading Culture Destinations Awards in Berlin.
This article was sponsored by Sault Ste. Marie