THE PERFECT HOME BASE
Sault Sainte Marie is the perfect home base for your Upper Peninsula vacation! With so many attractions in the area that appeal to any age, you can easily take a selfie with a waterfall, climb to the top of a lighthouse, and beach comb on a great lake before bringing it back to the Soo and spending your evening with a dancing fountain!
We begin at the Soo Locks Park, operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The park is home to an Information Center, hosting many exhibits detailing the history and heritage of the Soo Locks system. Make sure you visit the theater for a special film showing the history and construction of the locks system. Special outdoor viewing platforms allow you to get a bird’s eye view of freighters passing through the locks. A local favorite is a lighted fountain in the park. Flowers and towering maple trees compliment the Park, as does the “Torii” –a beautifully designed traditional Japanese archway. Michigan Governor, Chase S. Osborn (1911 – 1913), gave the archway to Sault Ste. Marie, a place he called home for a number of years. The Torii was brought from the town of Ryuo, our sister city in Japan. Refresh yourself directly across the street among the unique gift, fudge and ice cream shops on Portage Avenue.
Brady Park: To the East of Soo Locks Park is Brady Park. Situated on the grounds of the original Fort Brady, you’ll find a number of informative displays detailing the early years of Sault Ste. Marie.
Tower of History: Travel one block further east and visit the Tower of History. This 210-foot tall tower features an observation deck, which is easily accessible by an elevator, and presents an outstanding panoramic view of the surrounding area. Exhibits inside the tower chronicle the Jesuit missionaries and their influence in settling and establishing the area.
S.S. Valley Camp: Continuing east one block, you will come upon the museum ship S.S. Valley Camp. This retired ore freighter sits at a permanent dock and features numerous displays of the maritime heritage of Sault Ste. Marie. Be sure to visit both the huge fresh-water aquarium, as well as the Edmund Fitzgerald exhibit, one of the finest you’ll find anywhere. On display here are the only major artifacts ever recovered from the shipwreck: two of its lifeboats.
Soo Locks Boat Tour: Adjacent to the S.S. Valley Camp is the Soo Locks Boat Tour Dock #2 (Dock #1 is located about three-quarters of a mile further east.) While you are here, grab your camera and hop aboard a ‘locks boat’ for a two-hour, narrated tour that actually takes you through the Soo Locks. In the summer season, tour boats also schedule very popular evening dinner cruises and lighthouse tours.
Downtown Shopping: Looking for souvenirs, household goods, specialty or convenience items? Many businesses, especially tourist shops, are located on Portage Avenue across from the Soo Locks Park. Often called ‘Fudgie Row’ by locals, the Portage Avenue shops offer both mementos and our legendary homemade fudge.
Cloverland Electric Cooperative’s historic hydroelectric plant has been in operation for over 100 years and helps supply power to over 42,000 homes and businesses in the eastern Upper Peninsula. It is the longest horizontal shaft hydroelectric plant in the world and has been in operation since 1902.
Kewadin Casino: Are slots your specialty? Blackjack your best game? Ready for roulette? Keen on Keno? The Sault Ste. Marie area is home to three casino gaming facilities: Kewadin Casino, located in Sault Ste. Marie; Bay Mills Resort and Casino, located 20 minutes away in Brimley; and Kings Club Casino, also located in Brimley.
Hiawatha National Forest: This fascinating journey will take you through the beautiful Hiawatha National Forest. After the lumbering boom a century ago, the forests here were left barren. During the Great Depression, civilian workers planted much of what you will see today. This is indeed a land where fortunes were won and lost to the song of the saw blade and the swing of the axe.
To begin your adventure, head south on Mackinaw Trail to Six Mile Rd., (which eventually becomes the Curley Lewis Memorial Highway), turn right (west) for a short drive of 20 miles to Bay Mills. Here, take a break and enjoy casino gaming or fine dining on the waterfront at the Bay Mills Casino. If you packed your golf clubs, try out Wild Bluff, an 18-hole championship course. It’s here that you’ll meet the shores of Gitchee Gummee, also referred to as “Shining Big-Sea Waters” in Longfellow’s famous poem.
Continue driving west, and you’ll be winding along the Lake Superior shoreline. Along the way, you’ll have the chance to tour the Iroquois Point Lighthouse, explore wide, sandy beaches at any number of public access points, and visit the Pendills Creek Fish Hatchery. Turn north at M-123, and you’ll soon enter Paradise. Turn right at the traffic light and travel 10 miles to the tip of Whitefish Point.
Whitefish Point: Whitefish Point is the home of the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum. Located on the grounds of the first lighthouse on Lake Superior (which is still active), the museum, adjoining theater, and Lightener’s Quarters chronicle the hazards of the Great Lakes shipping industry. The cornerstone of this fascinating museum is the Edmund Fitzgerald exhibit.
The Whitefish Point Bird Observatory is also located here. This organization is involved with the study of migratory birds, which pass through the area by the tens of thousands each spring and fall. Whitefish Point is located just 11 miles from Paradise.
Tahquamenon Falls: When you’ve explored to your heart’s content, drive back south, and turn right on M-123. You’ll soon arrive at Tahquamenon Falls. The upper Tahquamenon Falls are the second largest falls east of the Mississippi River. They are located in a Michigan State Park, and a fee is required for entrance. You can purchase a seasonal sticker or a day pass. The lower Tahquamenon Falls are also located in the park, about five miles downriver. They are smaller than the upper falls, yet every bit as scenic and enjoyable. Rent a rowboat and explore a nearby island with hidden waterfalls found only from the island!
Leaving the falls area, continue on M-123 towards Newberry. Here, you’ll enjoy visiting the Newberry Logging Museum. Look back in time to where lumber was king. The museum is located about three miles north of Newberry on M-123. In Newberry, connect with M-28 East, which will lead you over rivers and through woods to I-75 North. Then, it’s just a quick drive back to Sault Ste. Marie and at the end of this 170-mile round trip, you’ll agree it’s well worth a day of your vacation!
Toonerville Trolley: If you’d like to see Tahquamenon Falls in comfort and style, consider the Toonerville Trolley. Located less than an hour west of Sault Ste. Marie on M-28, this narrow-gauge railroad offers a day-long train and boat tour to the Falls, first traveling through thick forests, then transferring to a 21-mile riverboat cruise downriver to the upper falls. Pressed for time? The Trolley also offers a shorter wilderness train ride through dense woods and marshlands, home to many species of wildlife.
You’ve probably noticed the many islands that dot the waters from Sault Ste. Marie downriver to DeTour Village, and then west to St. Ignace. Of these, Mackinac is certainly the most well-known island; but we’ll begin our tour by exploring some of the other islands in the Sault Ste. Marie area.
Sugar Island: On the east end of Sault Ste. Marie, take Portage Avenue to Riverside Drive, where you’ll find the Sugar Island Ferry dock just past Aune Osborn Campground. The ferry runs 24 hours a day. The island was named for the massive stands of sugar maples that the Native Americans and early settlers used to make their sugar and syrup.
In many respects, Sugar Island is a wilderness area. While there are numerous year-round residents here, the island is cloaked by deep forests. In the southern portion of the island, it’s not unusual to find moose browsing the young aspens or wading through the marshes. Wolves inhabit the island too, and it’s a special treat to hear their howls in the early hours of darkness. Bird watchers –look hard and you’ll find a heron rookery!
Drummond Island: Another island to enjoy is Drummond Island, often called ‘the gem of Lake Huron.’ Drummond Island is the home of The Rock at Drummond Island Resort –one of Michigan’s finest golf courses. It’s also home to one of the best Alvar Plain regions in the country. This area hosts a variety of rare plants, butterflies, and birds. Deer are very common on the island, and black bears are occasionally spotted, too.
To visit, travel south on M-129 through Pickford to East M-48 –a distance of about 30 miles. Take M-48 east until the road T’s at M-134. Turn left on M-134 and travel 10 miles to DeTour Village and the Drummond Island Ferry Dock. Like the Sugar Island ferry, it also operates around-the-clock.
Les Cheneaux Islands: The waterways are a boaters paradise, with numerous islands and bays to explore. Kayak these fascinating inlets and stop for a beachside picnic. The Cedarville/Hessel has numerous other attractions, too, including museums, shops, restaurants and a casino. Once you return to DeTour Village, get back on M-134 and head west. Northern Lake Huron will be off your left shoulder all the way to the Cedarville/Hessel area, commonly known as the Les Cheneaux Islands Area.
Fort Mackinac: Take your walking shoes and an appetite for fudge! Less than an hour south on I-75, you’ll enter St. Ignace, gateway to the Upper Peninsula.
North of the bridge, you can climb Castle Rock, enjoy the scenic turn-outs, and travel west a bit to the famous “Mystery Spot.” Then south of the Mackinac Bridge, visit historic Fort Michilimackinac and it’s living history exhibits, and many other attractions around Mackinaw City.
The Mackinac Bridge itself is an important landmark to see and appreciate. The 4th longest suspension bridge in the world is best viewed from a number of parks and vantage points – each with a unique and beautiful perspective. Read 5 Things You Might Not Know About the Mackinac Bridge HERE.
Three ferry lines leaving from both St. Ignace and Mackinaw City provide frequent service to Mackinac Island. If this is your first visit, be prepared to step back in time; there are no motorized vehicles allowed on the Island, so you’ll travel by foot, bicycle or horse-drawn carriage to tour the sites. The magnificent Grand Hotel is a must-see for every visitor. Historic Fort Mackinac stands high above the Island and is the site of Michigan’s oldest building. Explore the 14 buildings that stand as part of Fort Mackinac.
Major attractions on Mackinac Island include Arch Rock, Surrey Hill, John Jacob Astor’s American Fur Company buildings, Skull Cave and historic Market Street. Maps available everywhere will guide you to points of interest, and there are ample bike rental shops, restaurants, and gift shops.
Agawa Canyon Train Tour: Your journey begins by crossing the International Bridge into Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, Canada. Customs is relatively easy but, be sure to check our section on international travel HERE.
An outstanding attraction, this all-day, 230-mile train excursion departs from Station Mall, one mile from the International Bridge in our sister city Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario. You’ll travel deep into the Laurentian wilderness of Ontario along the way to Agawa Canyon Park, where you can wander, rest and explore in good weather. Bring your picnic lunch, or enjoy the train’s full-service dining car. In the winter months, the Snow Train provides spectacular views of snow-covered forests, mountains, and waterways. For more information call toll-free: 1-800-242-9287.
Whichever adventure you decide, be sure to share your experience with us on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter, and use #ilovethesoo.