Get Out of Town to Northern Michigan

Visit the Upper Peninsula this summer

Champaign, IL - Sault Ste. Marie: Head to Michigan’s Oldest City

By Marcia Frost

Photos by Brittany Lambright


I’m working on an assignment that has me spending a lot of time in one of my favorite states this summer – Michigan. This state is filled with lakes, and some Great ones in the Upper Peninsula.


This trip was all about a destination that hadn’t previously been on my radar, Sault Ste. Marie. It’s an interesting town because it is actually located in two countries. I stayed on the U.S. side, but it’s just a bridge ride into Canada.


Sault Ste. Marie is the oldest city in Michigan. It’s celebrating it’s 350th anniversary this year and that means lots of special events and deals. You’ll find plenty to do there, and It’s also a good location to stay in and explore some other attractions nearby.


The city’s tourism board was fantastic in arranging everything for us. We stayed at Superior Place in a one-bedroom suite that was more of an apartment. It could comfortably sleep six and even had a kitchenette. It’s in the same parking lot as the Best Western and their fitness center and pool are available to Superior Place guests.


The star of Sault Ste. Marie is definitely the Soo Locks. There are two ways to get a good look at the boats coming through the locks and we did them both.


The first is on the Soo Locks Boat Tours and you get to see every detail as you go through the U.S. side and come back on through Canadian waters. It’s a unique perspective, plus you get to actually feel what it’s like when the boat drops into the lock.


Whether or not you go on the boat tour, you must go through the Soo Locks Visitors Center. It’s free to enter and walk around, where you’ll see a history of and detail explanation of the Soo Locks.


You can also walk out behind the building into the observation deck, where you can watch the freighters go through the locks. (There is no charge for the Soo Locks Visitors Center, but since it is a government site, make sure you bring your ID if you want to go in.)


Since there are so many lakes in the Sault Ste. Marie area, you’ll find plenty of places to go boating. We decided to kayak the St. Mary’s River. I did a short tour and spent some time chilling on Voyageur Island while Jamie and Brittany continued for another hour.


Among the historic sites that you must visit in Sault Ste. Marie are the Tower of History, where you can learn more about this area while taking in 360-degree views of the city in both countries, and Museum Ship Valley Camp, an museum inside an actual boat that the kids will especially love exploring,


Make sure you save time to walk around the downtown of Sault Ste. Marie. You’ll find a nice selection of shops to buy gifts, a quaint (and delicious) ice cream shop, lots of Michigan Fudge, and an assortment of restaurants, some of which we had a chance to try.


Oh, Crepe is a casual restaurant for any time of day. We did both sweet and savory crepes and they were really good. They are also folded if you want to take them for go and nibble while you walk.


The Palace Saloon offers fantastic Mexican food and fruity margaritas, creamy house made queso and fresh guacamole.


The sunset is spectacular from Karl’s Cuisine. You must get the Whitefish Dip and try some of their wine and beer. We really liked the White Cranberry Pinot Grigio.


The Antlers Restaurant gets its name from walls filled with the remnants of every animal that roamed this area. Fortunately, you won’t find them on the menu, and everything you will find is quite good. Brittany and Jamie raved about the Poutine, and sandwiches, and the apple strudel is a must.


Breakfast at Lock View Restaurant is a must for both the food and the view of the locks on both the American and Canadian sides.


Birds Eye Outfitters, the group that organized our kayaking, is also home to Superior Café, where we had great coffee with some amazing sandwiches. The pulled pork with shells and cheese and Cheetos was probably the most memorable.  


Tahquamenon Falls State Park is only about an hour from Sault Ste. Marie and well worth the trip. For the adventurous, you can hike or boat between the upper and lower falls.


We decided to take the Toonerville Trolley and Riverboat. This is an all-day trip by boat and tram, that allows you to see more of the river, it’s plants, birds, and wildlife (bears have been known to come out and visit).


The Riverboat does make a stop for just over an hour at the Upper Falls, where you can take a short hike to take it all in. While on the boat, you can purchase food and drinks. It’s a relaxing way to do it if you aren’t much of a hiker, or if you have small kids, but you do miss a lot of the scenery within the park.


After Tahquamenon Falls, we drove about a half hour north to Lake Superior at Whitefish Point. Try to leave at least a few hours, if not a full day. This is the home of the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum, which is actually an entire complex on the National Registry of Historic Places.


There is the museum itself, where you’ll find artifacts from many ships, including the Edmund Fitzgerald, the Weather Bureau Building, the Crews Quarters, the Whitefish Point Light Station (which you can climb for some amazing views), and the Museum Store. 


This location is also where the Whitefish Point Bird Observatory and a beautiful beach, which is the starting spot for underwater research.


Be sure to Like Midwest Travel with Marcia Frost on Facebook for more information on her trips, and read her stories on her Wine And Spirits Travel blog. You can also follow Marcia @Spiritstraveler on Twitter and Instagram.


More Stories

Latest News

Video Center