From meeting new people to experiencing new sights, sounds, and smells – is there anything more exciting or rejuvenating than a break from the day-to-day mundanity? Traveling is an excellent way to immerse yourself in a new culture, setting, or way-of-life, but the best part is this: you don’t have to venture far from home to enjoy what this world has to offer.
Whether your journey takes you across your own city, to an unexplored part of your state, or even to the other side of the world, there’s no doubt you will still learn a lot about your surroundings – and yourself – along the way.
While the culture an hour away from your home might not be drastically different from what you’re used to, you can still gain a deepened sense of appreciation for where you’ve laid your roots. Plus, traveling locally has a lot of benefits:
More cost-effective. Local travel is certainly a budget-friendly way to explore! Many activities and parks are free or have a low cost of entry. For day trips, you can also pack your own meals to save.
Eco-friendly way to travel. Travel is hard on the environment, but putzing around your area is more sustainable than air travel.
Quick trips. Getting out locally means you can do it more often! Long weekend trips are a lot easier to take when the destination is a short drive away.
Easy to plan. Preparing your itinerary for a local getaway will likely save you some time and stress.
More convenient. Especially if you have little ones, sticking close to home may be much more convenient than far-off destinations. If you forget something, have an emergency, or need to cut the trip short, being closeby definitely has its benefits.
If you go too much further than Sault Ste. Marie, well, you’ll wind up in Canada — seriously! This Michigan border town is a charming spot to call home base while you’re exploring the Upper Peninsula, or a great place to settle down and live long term. Here are our very favorite things to do and places to explore in Sault Ste. Marie, MI.
*Note: Some of the suggestions may not be doable due to coronavirus closures, but keep this list handy for when things start opening back up more! Be sure to check individual pages for specific operation details.
Because of its unique position at the eastern edge of Michigan’s famed Upper Peninsula, Sault Ste. Marie is lucky to be within a stone’s throw of several incredible outdoor recreation destinations. Here are just a few of the best state and national parks in and around Sault Ste. Marie, MI.
Located on the eastern shore of Lake Superior, just 11 short miles away from Sault Ste. Marie, Brimley State Park is a popular option amongst outdoor recreation lovers of all types — a small but mighty getaway encompassing just over 150 acres. Along with water-based activities like swimming, boating, and fishing, the park is also great for picnicking, hiking, and camping, with a developed campground offering more than 230 sites. It’s also home to a unique historic lighthouse — the perfect opportunity for some Instagram photos!
A spit of land between massive Lake Superior to the north and still-impressive namesake Muskallonge Lake to the south, Muskallonge Lake State Park offers more than 200 acres of beautiful Michigan countryside to meander, including miles of lakeshore in both directions. The park also has historical significance, too; once home to a Native American encampment and also serving as a station of the United States Life-Saving Service, this park’s legacy continues today.
Although it’s a bit of a drive — just shy of two hours — Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is a worthy getaway for anyone in Sault Ste. Marie and the surrounding areas. In fact, it often draws visitors from across the country and the world. Its dramatic and colorful cliff sides are a sight you won’t soon forget, especially with the backdrop of Lake Superior’s turquoise waters.
Located, as its name suggests, on the northern shore of the Straits of Mackinac, Straits State Park is the perfect place to sit back and enjoy a leisurely afternoon while your kids frolic in the waves. Offering a picnic area, playground, and stretch of waterfront with swimming access, this day-use facility also features an incredible view of the Mackinac Bridge.
One of the most scenic places in all of the UP, Tahquamenon Falls State Park is an easy hour-and-fifteen-minute drive from Sault Ste. Marie — and you’ll be so glad you made the effort. Along with its incredible namesake falls, this park is also home to more than 50,000 acres of preserved wilderness, which exist untouched, without roads, buildings, or power lines. Along with hiking in the summer, visitors come to this park in the wintertime for cross-country skiing and snowmobile rides. It also offers plenty of campground space, though be sure to reserve your spot ahead of time. They fill up quickly!
If you want to get outside, you’re in luck: just about everywhere you turn, there are some incredible trails to set your boots on in Sault Ste. Marie. Here are a few not to miss, no matter your fitness or interest level.
Running just over a mile altogether and located nearby to Sault Ste. Marie, Big Bear Trail is the perfect place for beginning hikers looking to get outside without taking a major trip — or those looking for a quick afternoon run. Seeing only about 20 feet in elevation change, this hike is flat enough that even the kids will be on board, and offers beautiful forest-covered pathways through the Michigan countryside.
Another easy option, Round Island Point Nature Preserve Trail requires a bit more drive time than Big Bear, but still chimes in at just over a mile and a half in length and seeing about 15 feet in elevation gain. This trail is known for its beautiful wildflowers and is also a great place to spot local birds and wildlife.
A moderately challenging trail tucked into Hiawatha National Forest, Mission Hill is a three-and-a-half-mile trek that sees just over 400 feet of elevation gain along the way, which translates into some gently undulating hills that will raise your heart rate as you make your way through this beautiful piece of Michigan countryside. Stunning lakeside views and sandy beaches complete this perfect hike, which is also a great place to spot changing fall foliage.
If you’re looking for a longer trail to linger on, Trout Pond to Maple Hill may be just the ticket. Running almost 11 miles out and back, but seeing only about 400 feet in elevation gain along the way, this trail is mostly flat — but lengthy enough to take up a whole afternoon (and thanks to the scenery, a memorable one!). Serene watersides, moss-covered cliff faces and ample tree cover await!
One of the most iconic hikes in the entire state, Upper and Lower Tahquamenon Falls will take you a lovely and lengthy afternoon — the trail winds about ten miles altogether and sees about 400 feet in elevation gain. Of course, along the way you’ll be treated not only to the falls themselves but also to the beautiful woods and the river the falls flow into. Portions of the trail are paved and thus wheelchair and stroller friendly!
There’s a whole lot to see and do in Sault Ste. Marie — which is exactly why you’ll need to stay fueled with delicious eats. Fortunately, there are plenty of incredible restaurants to dig into. Here are a few of the best places to grab a bite in town.
If you ask a lifetime local for their best restaurant recommendations, The Palace Mexican Saloon and Restaurant is likely to be at the top of their list — even if you don’t specify you’re looking for something spicy. Offering both classic south-of-the-border fare and inventive American dishes, this spot is also known for its mean margaritas.
Sometimes, nothing hits the spot quite like Italian fare — and if you’re in the mood for something Tuscan and satisfying, Arturo Restaurant is easily the best place to go in Sault Ste. Marie. Offering cooked-to-perfection steaks as well as classic pasta dishes and a range of authentic, signature pizzas, this place is a go-to for date night… or any night.
Located just a mile from the must-see Soo Locks, which we’ll get to later in the guide, The Wicked Sister is a beloved local spot for pub grub in a no-frills atmosphere. Along with its array of burgers, sandwiches and snacks, you can also enjoy a fresh local brew as well as some delicious desserts. Cookie egg rolls, anyone?
At once the best Asian restaurant in Sault Ste. Marie and the best spot for those looking for vegetarian and vegan fare, Indo-China Garden offers a wide array of eastern delights, including Chinese, sushi, Thai cuisine, and much more!
In the mood for something different? Zorba’s Greek American Restaurant offers everything from gyros to pizza in a casual, diner-style atmosphere, and is beloved by locals for its easy atmosphere and delicious, freshly-made fare.
Sault Ste. Marie is full of fun things to do for families, couples, and solo explorers alike! Here are some of our top picks for things to do in Sault Ste. Marie this weekend — or whenever.
Sault Ste. Marie is an exciting place to adventure with a family! Here are some all-ages-friendly opportunities to check out.
Want to get your kids fired up about history — in a way that the classroom setting just can’t? The Museum Ship Valley Camp is an authentic Great Lakes Freighter that hosts a 20,000 square foot museum in her massive cargo hold, and it’s filled with exhibits and attractions that will capture the minds of visitors of all ages. There are even aquariums on board… four 1,200-gallon aquariums, to be exact!
The first thing you’ll likely notice about the Tower of History is that, well, it’s a tower — one that looms 210 feet above the city below, in fact. A trip upstairs obviously results in stunning 360-degree views, but you’ve got plenty of fun and informative history to explore on the way up, too: the tower also hosts a museum that covers the history of the early Missionaries who came to this area, as well as Native American history and other local lore.
While there’s plenty to keep you occupied under Sault Ste. Marie’s bright daylight, figuring out what to do at night can feel a bit more like a challenge. Not to worry! There’s plenty to keep you occupied after nightfall, too!
Good news: you don’t have to book a flight to Napa to enjoy some delicious, freshly-vinted wines. Sault Ste. Marie’s own 1668 Winery and Soo Brewery serves up a wide array of finely curated wines made from grapes as well as a range of wines distilled from other fruits, like black cherry and white cranberry. They’re also brewing up some of the very best local beer in the city (which is saying something: Michigan is awash with breweries to check out!).
You don’t have to spend oodles of money to get familiar with, and have an enjoyable time in, Sault Ste. Marie! Here are some of our favorite low-cost options to discover.
Need a pick-me-up? Serving their very own freshly-roasted brews, Superior Coffee Shop is a beloved go-to among locals searching for a caffeine hit, and also offers a range of delicious, freshly-made treats to boot. (We’re talkin’ homemade whoopie pies, just in case you need some motivation!)
Although Michigan’s serious winters render it impossible, during the summer months, meandering the Sault Ste. Marie Farmers’ Market is an incredible way to spend a weekend afternoon. Along with freshly farmed produce, you’ll also encounter prepared goods, local arts and crafts, and a generally festive atmosphere… and none of it breaks the bank!
Don’t want to have to grab your wallet at all? No worries! Here are some totally free activities to try in Sault Ste. Marie
Perhaps the most obvious tourist destination in town, the Soo Locks are definitely worth seeing: an engineering feat dating back, amazingly, to the mid-1800s, these locks make it possible for boats to travel from Lake Superior to Lake Huron. (They can also continue all the way along the St. Marys River to the Atlantic Ocean, or Duluth, Minnesota the other way.) The Locks are free to visit and observe, and offer a great chance to get an up-close look at Great Lake freighters, too. A must-see!
Directly adjacent to the U.S.-Canadian border, Water Street Historic Block is a unique neighborhood whose homes were built by the early settlers of Sault Ste. Marie. Bronze plaques dot the area and offer historical information, but it’s also simply a nice walk, with its historic structures and riverside views.
Need some pampering? We all do from time to time. Here are the very best day spas and salons in Sault Ste. Marie for those moments when you just need something a little indulgent.
It’s true: nothing makes your day quite as easily and quickly as a restorative spa trip! At Daymakers Salon & Spa, you’ll benefit not only from skilled massage therapists and aestheticians who offer healing touch in a wide range of modalities, but also aestheticians who can provide facials, waxing, manicures, pedicures, and more — they even offer eyelash extensions!
As its name suggests, you’re certain to leave The Babe Cave feeling like, well, a total babe — whether it’s a new haircut, some highlights, or some fresh color on your skin that you’re after. Specializing in popular treatments like balayage, the friendly professionals here will listen carefully to your desires and then help you achieve them.
Staying in shape is about so much more than what your body looks like: it’s about what you feel like in your body. Here are the best gyms and yoga studios in Sault Ste. Marie for those in need of a sweat sesh.
Combining both movement and diet to help you create an overall healthy lifestyle, UP North Nutrition and Gym is considered by many to be the best fitness center in Sault Ste. Marie, and certainly offers all the equipment you need to meet your goals. From cardio equipment to free weights to strength training machines and a range of group classes, this spot offers the community and support that can help motivate you to find your power.
Small but mighty, Northern Life Yoga is an intimate studio that offers nine weekly classes with four talented and empathetic teachers, each of whom is passionate about helping you find the practice that’s right for your body on the mat. Classes range from relaxing flows to more challenging vinyasas, and 101 classes are also available for total yoga beginners.
While there’s no shortage of things to keep you busy in Sault Ste. Marie itself, it’s also true that this town is within a stone’s throw of some incredible day trips! Here are our favorite places to get away from it all for an afternoon — or a weekend.
A step back in time located just an hour from Sault Ste. Marie, Mackinac Island is a totally unique place to get away from it all — for real. With no cars allowed on the island, visitors must take to their feet (or hop on a horse-drawn carriage) to enjoy its bevy of quaint shops, fun restaurants, and beautiful sights.
Further south into Michigan’s mitten, visitors will find Traverse City — which is home to its own array of fun cultural attractions and outdoor pursuits to take on. The city is also known for its status as host of the annual National Cherry Festival, which draws thousands of visitors each year!
If you’ve got your passport handy, head north of the border to explore one of Canada’s biggest and most bustling cities — which is also home to the tallest freestanding structure in the western hemisphere, the CN Tower. Meander a museum or enjoy one of its famous veal sandwiches, and find yourself back in the U.S.A in time for dinner!
As a final reminder, some of these activities may need to wait until businesses fully reopen from coronavirus closures. However, there is still much to see and experience in Sault Ste. Marie that you can enjoy today! What are your favorite spots in Sault Ste. Marie? Send them our way to [email protected] or by tagging us on Instagram @rvshare and using the hashtag #rvsharelocal.