Sault Ste. Marie is a city of approximately 73,000 people (2016), in Northern Ontario. It is the beginning and end point of the Agawa Canyon Tour Train. Directly across the St. Mary's River -- and the Canada/US border -- is its twin city, Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan.
The twin cities of Sault Ste Marie (Ontario) and Sault Ste Marie (Michigan) straddle the international border between Canada and the United States of America; they are connected by a bridge across the St. Mary's River.
The area boasts rugged shores, sandy beaches, untouched forests, winding rivers, and two Great Lakes.
- 1 Ontario Travel Information Centre, 261 Queen St W. Daily 8:30AM-4:30PM.
The history of the area involves an eclectic mix of cultures; once called "The Meeting Place", it drew inhabitants from all over Europe and from North American tribes.
The Ojibwe First Nation (Indigenoys) people called this area Baawitigong, meaning "place of the rapids." The rapids long represented an obstacle to voyagers heading westward to Lake Superior; since at least the era of the French coureurs du bois, traders needed to portage here. In the 1600s, Sault Ste. Marie was established as a fur trading post. From 1668 to 1817, Sault Ste. Marie was a single settlement on the St. Mary's River in North America's Great Lakes region from 1668-1817. Later, it was divided by the establishment of the Canada-US border to form the twin cities.
In the War of 1812, while the city was still a single settlement, it was a strategic point on the frontline due to its control over access to Lake Superior. Later in the 1800s, canal locks were constructed on both sides of the boundary to bypass the rapids. During the 1900s, Sault Ste. Marie was a site for steel making.
Today, Recreational craft and tour boats in the area use the Sault Ste. Marie Canal, on the Canadian side of the border. Large, ocean-going cargo vessels use the Soo Locks on the American side.
- 1 Sault Ste. Marie Airport (YAM IATA), 475 Airport Rd (take Second Line and turn south to Airport Road), ☏ +1 705-779-3031. Sault Ste. Marie Airport is 20 km from downtown on the western outskirts.
Flights to Sault Saint Marie from Sudbury (1.25 hours), Thunder Bay (50 minutes), and Toronto (1.25 hours)
Canadian airlines operating to Sault Saint Marie
- Air Canada, ☏ +1-514-393-3333, toll-free: +1-888-247-2262. Canada's largest airline with hubs in Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto, and Montreal. It operates across Canada and services international destinations.
- Bearskin Aviation, toll-free: +1-800-465-2327. Regional airline operating in Manitoba and in Northern Ontario. Is a brand of Perimeter Aviation.
- Porter Airlines, toll-free: +1-888-619-8622. Operates flights in Ontario, Quebec, Atlantic Canada, and some flights to the United States of America. For flights departing from or arriving in Toronto, the airline's turboprop plane flights land at Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport. The airline's jet plane flights and flights by all other airlines almost exclusively land at Toronto Pearson International Airport.
- Sunwing Airlines, toll-free: +1-877-786-9464. Low cost Canadian airline that operates some flights within Canada throughout the year and specializes in seasonal flights to warmer, southern international vacation destinations in the winter. Operates seasonal flights to Sault Saint Marie.
There is no bus service from the downtown area to the airport. Taxis and limos provide flat-rate service between the airport and anywhere in the city. Rides costs $45. Taxi: 7500 Taxi, +1 705-945-7500. Car rental is available from Avis and National.
Also airports on the Michigan side: Chippewa County (CIU IATA) and Sault Ste. Marie Municipal (Sanderson Field, SSM IATA).
Sault Sainte Marie has has Highway 17 (Trans-Canada Highway) passing through it. Highway 17 travels to Sault Sainte Marie from heading east from Thunder Bay and heading west from Sudbury.
The International Bridge crosses the St. Mary's River and connects with the beginning of the Interstate 75 freeway in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, USA continuing further south to Saginaw, Flint, Detroit, and eventually Miami, Florida, USA. A new limited access truck route known as Carmen's Way (after the late MP Carmen Provenzano) provides easy access to main roads and Hwy 17. Plans are under way to connect Second Line to a four-lane section of Hwy 17.
- Ontario Northland, toll-free: +1-800-461-8558. Operates primarily in Northern Ontario. Bus routes operating to Sault Saint Marie:
- Between Thunder Bay and Sault Sainte Marie including stops in Red Rock, Nipigon, Schreiber, Terrace Bay, Marathon, White River, and Wawa. Travel time to Sault Saint Marie from Thunder Bay is 9.75 hours, from Nipigon is 8 hours, From Marathon is 5.5 hours, from White River is 4 hours, from Wawa is 2.75 hours. Connecting service from Winnipeg is available in Thunder Bay.
- Between Sault Sainte Marie and Sudbury including stops in Blind River, Elliot Lake, and Espanola. Travel time to Sault Saint Marie from Elliot Lake is 1.25 hours, from Espanola is 3 hours, from Sudbury is 4.25 hours. from Connecting service from Ottawa and Toronto is available in Sudbury.
There are approximately 400 km of snowmobile trails in the Sault area and 1,000 km of trails in the Algoma district with connecting trails to Sudbury. Trails are maintained by the Sault Trailblazers Snowmobile club and the Ontario Federation of Snowmobile Clubs (OFSC) and they operate on a user-pay system that requires users to purchase a trail permit. Official staging area is on the north side of McNabb Street one block east of Black Road. Sault Trailblazers Snowmobile Club for more information.
Getting around is easy - you can walk, bike (if you don't mind getting clipped off by cars) or take the bus... it is a big town with a small town atmosphere. If you are driving, don't expect any traffic jams or road rage. This is a nice, relaxing place to be and it is very convenient to get around. Beaches, rugged outdoors and ski hills are less than 30 minutes away from the city centre.
Sault Ste. Marie Transit Services, ☏ +1 705-759-5438, firstname.lastname@example.org. Operates from a central transit terminal at 160 Queen Street East at Dennis St. There are 8 regular routes running 19 hours a day, 7 days a week except statutory holidays: New Year's Day, Good Friday, Victoria Day, Canada Day, Civic Holiday, Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, and Boxing Day. Cash fare is $2.85 for all riders (Dec 2018), and you must have exact fare as drivers do not provide change. Children 12 years of age and under ride free when accompanied by an adult; to qualify, children must be under 5 feet (150 cm) tall. You can also get a multi-ride pass with 20 rides for $45. Monthly adult, student, and senior passes are available upon advance purchase.
If paying fare by cash or multi-ride pass and you need to use more than one bus to complete your trip, ask the driver for a transfer after you pay the fare.
Request stop service, where the driver will let you off at a location along the route other than a bus stop, is available in the evenings -- either when the street lights turn on, or after 9PM, whichever is earlier. Speak to the driver a few blocks in advance, and they'll let you off as close as possible to your request, so long as they can stop safely. Exit via the front doors.
Parabus Service: Sault Transit also operates a Parabus service for passengers with disabilities. Trips on Tu-F are booked the day before; trips on Sa-M are booked by F 4PM. Same-day service is offered if scheduling permits. Call the Parabus office at +1 705-942-1404 to book a trip. Visitors are requested to call the Parabus office to make arrangements. Cash fare is $2.85; a 40-ride pass is also available for $79.
- 7500 Taxi +1 705-945-7500
- Checker Cab +1 705-942-3600
- Cruz Cab +1 705-450-2789
- Union Cab +1 705-946-1300
- Easy Cab +1 705-256-2222
- Soo Yellow Cab +1 705-942-0005
If the driver was helpful to you, it is customary to tip the driver about 10% and a dollar per bag that they carry for you (not just unload). At the very least, you should round fares up to the nearest dollar.
On your visit you can walk to boardwalk along the river or take a Sault Locks tour to cruise the first canoe lock, the original Ermatinger-Clergue Old Stone House, Bush Plane Museum, the Sault Ste. Marie Art Gallery and Museum, and the Sault Ste. Marie Canal.
- 1 Sault Ste. Marie Museum, 690 Queen St E, ☏ +1 705-759-7278. Tu-Sa 9:30AM-5PM. Museum of local history. Adults $8, students & seniors (55 & over) $6, children (5 & under) free, family (4 relatives) $20.
- 2 Canadian Bushplane Heritage Centre, 50 Pim St, ☏ +1 705-945-6242. Mid-May to mid-Oct: daily 10AM-6PM; mid-Oct to Mid-May: daily 10AM-4PM. Features 29 planes including the 1st Beaver float plane produced. See the movie Wildfires!, a fire fighting adventure in 3-D. Flight simulator, fire tower, and children's centre. Closed Good Friday, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Boxing Day and New Year's Day. Adult $13.50, senior $12.50, student $8, can $3.
- 3 Sault Ste. Marie Canal National Historic Site. Daily 9AM-9PM. This canal once had the longest lock in the world and was the first one powered by electricity. It was built to allow ships to bypass the rapids. Visitor Centre, gift shop, washrooms, parking, walking and biking trails. Fat Bikes available for hourly rental (from $10/hr). Full guided site tours available.
- Ermatinger-Clergue National Historic Site, 800 Bay St, ☏ +1 705-759-5443. Early Oct to mid-May: Tu-Sa 9:30AM-4:30PM; mid-May to early Oct: Th-M 9:30AM-4:30PM, Tu W 9:30AM-6PM. Many exhibits and interactive features in the Heritage Discovery Centre. The Ermatinger Old Stone House is restored to depict the domestic and professional life of Charles Oakes Ermatinger and other prominent residents and visitors of the House between 1808 and 1870. The Clergue Blockhouse, was relocated to the site in 1996, and served as the home of industrialist Francis Hector Clergue from 1894-1908. Adult $12.50, senior/child/student $11, children 5 & under free, family $30 (taxes included).
- Boardwalk along the St. Marys River with lovely views of the rapids and lake steamers. Well-lit.
- 4 Roberta Bondar Park, 65 Foster Drive. Named in honour of Canada's first female astronaut, Dr. Roberta Bondar. There is a statue of her. It is a waterfront event space for concerts and festivals.
- 5 Art Gallery of Algoma, 10 East Street (on the St. Mary's River), ☏ +1 705-949-9067. Tu-Sa 9AM-5PM. Featuring local, national, and international artists, it holds a collection of over 4,000 works of art. Adults $7, students and seniors $5, children (under 12) free.
- Soo Greyhounds, GFL Memorial Gardens at 269 Queen Street East. Ontario Hockey League/Canadian Hockey League major junior hockey team. Adult $21, senior/student $17.75, child $11.
Along the waterfront in the city centre are many historic sites and attractions.
- 1 Bon Soo Winter Carnival. early Feb. A ten-digit, diverse program of outdoor and indoor sports and activity events, and cultural activities including concerts, ice sculptures, and a polar bear swim.
- Skiing - Searchmont Resort, Buttermilk Alpine, Heyden
- XC - Hiawatha
- Golf - Crimson Ridge, Root River, Maplewood, Superior View, Queensgate Greens
- Hunting and fishing
- Mountain biking
- Hiking -- Voyageur Trail
- Swim -- beaches at Point Des Chenes, Harmony, others
- Essar Centre -- sports and entertainment complex downtown - concerts & events.
- Horseback riding
- Agawa Canyon Tour Train - One of the most popular and scenic one-day rail excursions that takes visitors on a fully narrated tour non-stop to Agawa Canyon Park, 114 railway miles north of the Sault. There is a three-hour stopover at the canyon where there are hiking trails, a canteen, railway museum, and children's play area. This tour runs from mid-June to Mid-October (adult $100, senior $92, 18 and under $55 in 2020). Most popular times are in September and October when the fall colours are at their peak (and all tickets are $125 in 2020). Train has dining cars and dome cars in addition to regular coach cars. The train cars have big windows, comfortable seating, flat screen monitors with front of locomotive camera, and GPS-guided narration in five languages (English, French, German, Japanese, and Mandarin).
- Tour of the Line - Travel to the end of the steel 396 mi (637 km) north at Hearst and see more of the rugged country past the Agawa Canyon. Unlike the Agawa Canyon Tour Train, this tour is on the regular passenger train. Passengers must provide their own food for the journey and there is a microwave and mini-fridge on the train. Also, passengers can bring coolers on board. Alcohol consumption is prohibited and the train is smoke-free. Restaurants in the Sault and Hearst also provide box lunches for the journey. This tour has a specially-priced return ticket that requires an overnight stay in Hearst and return to the Sault the next morning. Hearst accommodations are the customer's responsibility and they must be booked prior to the purchase of train tickets.
- Canyon Combo - Check your luggage at the train station the day before you leave, which will be loaded into the baggage car of the regular passenger train. You will first board the Agawa Canyon Tour Train and you have two hours at Agawa Canyon Park before you board the northbound train to Hearst.
- Wilderness and snowmobile adventures
- Camp car and private car rentals
- 3 Casino Sault Ste. Marie, 30 Bay Street West (near International Bridge), ☏ +1 705-759-0100, toll-free: +1-800-826-8946. Slots M-W 9AM-4AM, Th-Su 24hr; tables Su-Th 6PM-2AM, F Sa (6PM-4AM. Northern Ontario's first full-time casino features a 35,000 sq ft (3,252 m²) gaming floor, 450 slot machines, 21 gaming tables and a 100-seat restaurant and bar. By law, you must be 19 years of age or older to enter.
The main shoppingbstreet, Queen Street, has many independent shops, cafés and restaurants.
- 1 Station Mall, 293 Bay St (two blocks south of Queen St). Movie theatres, liquor store, about 70 stores.
- 2 Cambrian Mall, 44 Great Northern Rd. M-F 9:30AM-9PM, Sa 9:30AM-5:30PM, Su noon-5PM. 25 stores including Canadian Tire.
- Mill Market (farmers market), 35 Canal Dr. W 11AM-4PM, Sa 8AM-2PM.
- 1 Ernie's Coffee Shop, 13 Queen St E, ☏ +1 705-253-9216. Tu 11:30AM-3:30PM & 5-8PM, W Th 11:30AM-3:30PM & 5-9PM, F Sa noon-3:30PM & 5-10PM. A family tradition - inexpensive, and the portions are very generous.
- Mz. Vickiz Panino Express, 1177 Great Northern Rd, ☏ +1 705-759-2424. Sandwiches to go, etc.
- Gino's Family Restaurant, 1076 Great Northern Rd, ☏ +1 705-759-8285. M-F 7AM-9PM, Sa 8AM-9PM, Su 9AM-9PM. Good steakhouse.
- Aurora's West Side, 760 Second Line East and 300 Second Line West, ☏ +1 705-949-3000. Second Line East: M–W 11AM–9PM, Th 11AM–10PM, F 11AM–11PM, Sa 11AM–10PM. Second Line West: M–Th 11AM–11PM, F Sa 11AM–midnight, Su 4PM–10PM. Italian, pizza.
- Fratelli's Kitchen and Pizzeria, 522 Great Northern Rd, ☏ +1 705-256-1313. M-Sa 11:30AM-11PM, Su 11:30AM-10PM.
- Mrs. B's, · 97 Great Northern Rd #3, ☏ +1 705-575-7522. M-Th 11AM–10PM, F Sa 11AM–11:30PM, Su 1–7PM. Good pizza, secret recipe. Burgers and wings, too.
- Muio's, 685 Queen Street East (on the corner of Queen and East Streets in the downtown hub), ☏ +1 705-254-7105. Daily 7AM-8PM. Since 1961, Muio's has been home to family dining in the Soo. Chicken on a Bun, pizza, burgers, and fish & chips.
- North 82 Steak & Beverage Co, 82 Great Northern Rd, ☏ +1 705-759-8282. Daily 11AM–11PM. Specializes in steaks, seafood and prime rib.
- Service Grill & Sidetrack Lounge, 319 Korah Rd. M-Th 11AM–11PM, F Sa 11AM–midnight, Su 4-11PM. Pizza and sports bar/lounge.
- 2 Arturo Ristorante, 515 Queen St E, ☏ +1 705-253-0002. Classic Italian fare in an elegant but cozy atmosphere.
- 3 Embers Grill & Smokehouse, 531 Albert St E, ☏ +1 705-575-3359.
- Giovanni's, 516 Great Northern Rd, ☏ +1 705-942-3050. M-Sa 11:30AM-11PM, Su 11:30AM-10PM. Southern Italian, with richly flavored sauces, homemade pastas, steaks, and BBQ back ribs.
- 4 Gliss Restaurant, 180 Bay Street, ☏ +1 705-759-0000, email@example.com. Located inside the Quality Inn & Suites. Angus steaks, seafood, pasta.
- 5 Solo's Trattoria, 250 Queen St E, ☏ +1 705-254-7656.
- Loplops, 651 Queen St E, ☏ +1 705-945-0754. W-Sa 5PM-2AM. Art gallery & martini lounge. Has live music most evenings, typically of the folk and eclectic variety. Crowd is mixed and 'upscale' in comparison to most places in town. Not easily noticed from Queen street, park in back. One of the 'Core Four' within two blocks of downtown Queen Street. Always mixing it up with artists, wine/beer tasting events, live music... not to mention great drinks.
- Sportscenter - Sports Bar & Grill, 624 Wellington St W. Th-Sa 11AM-1AM, Su 2-10PM, M-W 11AM-midnight. Smaller and pub-ish. (Try to ignore the smell.)
- Top Hat, 654 Queen St E. Daily 5PM-2AM. Billiards, darts, general game room. Large area. Mixed ages, often younger (under 30). One of the 'Core Four' within two blocks of downtown Queen Street.
- Reggie's West, 306 Korah Rd, ☏ +1 705-253-1411. Daily 11AM-2AM. Full menu available. Live music Thursday Friday and Saturday, Karaoke. Known for its wings and burgers.
- Rockstar (Algonquin Hotel), 864 Queen St East, ☏ +1 705-253-2311. 11AM-2AM. Rock & roll attitude decorated with rock & roll memorabilia, live bands, DJs, large patio, mixed age, kitchen specializing in wings.
- Algonquin Hotel, 864 Queen Street East, ☏ +1 705-253-2311, firstname.lastname@example.org. From $75.
- Sleep Inn, 727 Bay St, toll-free: +1-855-973-7216. From $89.
- 1 Super 8, 184 Great Northern Rd, Hwy 17 North, toll-free: +1-800-536-1211. From $82.
- 2 Northlander Motel, 243 Great Northern Rd, ☏ +1 705-254-6452. A fridge, coffee maker and cable TV are standard in all of the rooms. From $71.
- 3 Hotel Delta Sault Ste. Marie Waterfront Hotel, 208 St Mary's River Dr, toll-free: +1-855-821-4553. Waterfront hotel featuring 195 modern rooms, full service View Restaurant+Bar, Bridgewater Health club with a large indoor pool. From $127.
- Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott, 633 Great Northern Rd, toll-free: +1-855-821-4553. Continental breakfast, free Wi-Fi, salt water pool and 24-hr fitness centre.
- 4 Quattro Hotel and Conference Centre (Great Northern Hotel), 229 Great Northern Rd, toll-free: +1-855-973-7216. Largest hotel in the city, largest conference facilities in Northern Ontario; full service hotel with continental breakfast included; outdoor pool and indoor pool with 5½-storey water slide, sauna, and fitness centre, Bistro Lounge, free Wi-Fi. From $126.
- 5 Water Tower Inn - BW Premier, 360 Great Northern Rd, ☏ +1 705-949-8111, toll-free: +1-888-461-7077. indoor/outdoor hot tubs, wading pool with waterfall, pool, Casey's Grill Bar and The Pub. From $115.
- 6 Quality Inn & Suites Bay Front, 180 Bay St, ☏ +1 705-945-9264, toll-free: +1 800-567-4421, email@example.com. Opposite Station Mall and the ACR train station. From $98.
Mobile phone coverageEdit
Mobile service from Sault Ste. Marie westward through Thunder Bay to the Manitoba border is operated by TBayTel. The rugged landscape of this area, combined with the significant gaps between towers, means that a signal is by no means guaranteed.
In Sault Ste. Marie, limited cellphone coverage can be expected outside the city centre, especially north (Fifth Line, Hiawatha Park) and west of town (Airport, Pointe des Chênes, Gros Cap). Coverage on Highway 17 north from Sault Ste Marie to Wawa is sporadic; huge areas have no coverage at all. Leave the beaten path (the Trans-Canada Highway or the few cities) and there's nothing. Much of the road to Wawa is parkland with few services of any kind.
Roaming is supported for clients of the three major Canadian 3G networks (UMTS/WCDMA on 850/1900 MHz). There is no 2G capability. While TBayTel advertises something it calls `4G` in limited areas, this is HSPA+ (a faster version of the 3G UMTS standard) and not LTE.
Unless your handset supports 3G/UMTS on the North American frequencies, you will get no service... not even to call 9-1-1 in an emergency.
Do not rely on having cellphone coverage on this route! Before heading out on this relatively remote section of highway, it is strongly recommended to carefully examine your cell provider's coverage maps and bring appropriate supplies for use if stranded by a breakdown.
Internet and Wi-FiEdit
- Branches of the Sault Ste. Marie public library offer free Wi-Fi access.
- Sault College and Algoma University provide free Wifi for guests on their campuses.
- Customers of Shaw Cable from anywhere in Canada can take advantage of the numerous Shaw Go Wifi hotspots present in the Sault. Look for a ShawOpen SSID; after connecting, log in with your Shaw email address and password.
- As a rule, the most pressing concern for travellers in Sault Ste. Marie is property crime. Violent crime is most prevalent between people who already know each other (e.g. organized crime; domestic violence); stranger-on-stranger violence is uncommon.
- Do not leave any kind of valuables in your car. Thieves may break into your vehicle for a trivial amount of goods, causing much more damage than the stolen items are worth. If such items need to be left in your car anyway, at least conceal them.
- Valuables to safeguard include not only cash, but also electronics (including cell phones and GPS systems), firearms, alcohol, tobacco, and medication. In particular, opioid pain medications are a common target for theft.
- Do not leave bicycles unattended -- they will likely be stolen.
Winters in Northern Ontario are often severe, making auto travel in winter an unpredictable venture. Whether travelling locally or on the highways, one must be prudent, allow extra travel time, and be prepared to be flexible with one's travel plans. See the Winter driving topic for a general backgrounder.
Highway 17 North from Sault Ste. Marie to Wawa sits in a snowbelt and receives heavy amounts of snow every year. The prevailing westerly winds pick up moisture as they blow across Lake Superior, which then gets visited on the shoreline as lake-effect snow and snow squalls. As such, this section of highway is frequently closed in winter, sometimes for days at a time. Closures may occur because of crashes, because of whiteouts that reduce visibility to near zero, or because snow is simply accumulating too quickly for the snowplow crews to keep up.
Highway 17 East is also occasionally closed by crashes or inclement weather, though considerably less often than the northern route. To the south, into the United States, US-2 is sometimes closed, as is the Mackinac Bridge; I-75 is very rarely closed, though if surrounding roads are, travel on it may be inadvisable as well.
|Routes through Sault Sainte Marie|
|Thunder Bay ← Lake Superior Provincial Park ←||W E||→ Jct S → Blind River → Sudbury|
|END ←||N S||→ → Sault Ste. Marie, MI → Mackinaw City|