Located in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, Sault Ste. Marie is a lovely Midwestern community near the Canadian border.
With a population of about 15,000 people, this beautiful American town has a warm and generous spirit. Its sister city of Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, is just across the famous St. Marys River, forging a friendly relationship between the two cities. Visiting the oldest city in Michigan is well worth the short drive – it’s an easy day trip just across the border.
River Cruises: Fantastic Tour of the St. Marys River
There’s nothing like spending a morning on the water. I headed out on a river boat cruise along the St. Marys River to see the world’s largest locking system. The river has historically been a major waterway, and in 1855, the locks were built to allow ships to navigate around powerful rapids. Every year, about 10,000 ships pass through this impressive system, which connects Lake Superior and Lake Huron. During the cruise, the friendly crew explained the whole locking process, and I was even fortunate enough to meet the ship’s captain and take the wheel for a few minutes.
As you pass through, you can wave across to fellow Canadians, and no passports are required since you stay on board. It made me understand how the two Sault Ste. Marie communities share much of the same history, names and culture. Until each section was claimed by a country, they were a single place, historically referred to as “The Gathering Place” by the Ojibway Nation. A perfect family activity, the Soo Locks River Cruise can be experienced during the day or as a dinner cruise.
Soo Locks River Cruise in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan
Northern Cuisine and Microbrews
After the cruise, it was time for lunch. We were looking for fresh fish, and Goetz’s Lock View Restaurant, established in 1945, was the perfect choice. It has a fantastic preparation of whitefish, a local favorite. The restaurant has a casual hometown feel and excellent service – my meal was a real treat.
After lunch, I continued my exploration of the downtown area with a visit to the Soo Brewing Company. It’s a fun, quirky venue with church pews for seats, a lovely wooden bar, a knowledgeable staff and an excellent array of local brews to choose from.
The Antlers Restaurant is another great choice for traditional Northern Cuisine. Specializing in wild game, buffalo burgers and whitefish, this historic restaurant was a venue for liquor sales during Prohibition, disguised as an ice cream parlor. Rumored to be haunted, it is a family-friendly venue to absolutely check out. Make sure to bring your appetite!
The Antlers Restaurant in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan
The area is rich in interesting history, and the Museum Ship Valley Camp is a great place to start. It houses a 20,000-square-foot museum with more than 100 exhibits in a circa-1917 Great Lakes freighter. Be sure to check out the 1,200-gallon aquariums that house many fish from the Great Lakes. Nearby, the Tower of History Museum offers sweeping views of the Soo Locks, the St. Marys River and the Canadian wilderness beyond.
I was really touched by the spirit of this place – the people were genuine, kind and willing to share stories about the area’s history, venues and local treats. Plan your family road trip to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, and be sure to spend some time in the lovely city of Sault Ste. Marie.
The Museum Ship Valley Camp in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan