By Sault Tourism
Sault Ste. Marie is a true winter paradise with so many outdoor activities to choose from. We have one of the highest vertical downhill ski hills in Ontario, over 150km of incredible cross-country Skiing, an abundance of stunning snowshoe trails… Plus we have beautiful woodland skating trails, a new snowmobiling day loop, groomed fat biking trails and Sault Ste. Marie has some iconic, and awe-inspiring ice caves. This winter visit Sault Ste. Marie for your true winter experience
Big vertical, rugged terrain, Searchmont Resort has some of the best downhill skiing in Ontario. And… new snowmaking equipment has meant a November 24th opening day, the earliest start in recent times!
On top of the 703 feet of vertical, 26 runs, 100 acres of rolling mountain, terrain park, 4 lifts, snow school, Searchmont is also a fully equipped resort with a restaurant, bar, shop, ski and snowboard rentals and accommodations. Escape the crowds and the lift queues of jam-packed southern Ontario ski hills and get away to this stunning, adventure-packed mountain.
If you like your vertical off the beaten track, check out the incredible backcountry skiing at Bellevue Valley Lodge.
Sault Ste. Marie offers some of the best cross country skiing in North America. Stokely Creek Lodge has 100km of trails, groomed for both classic and
skate skiing and spread over 12,000 spectacular acres of the Algoma Highlands.
Breathtaking scenery including frozen lakes and waterfalls, endless forests, and amazing vistas like the one at the top of King Mountain, make Stokely a bucket-list destination for nordic skiers. Enjoy Scandinavian lodging and stay warm in one of the six warming huts along the way; it’s an experience that will bring you back year after year.
Situated just 10 minutes from downtown, Hiawatha Highlands offers more than 50km of beautiful skiing in towering Pine forests. Click here for a link to all trail and maps or read more about all that Hiawatha Highlands has to offer! Top-tip: enjoy a nighttime lantern ski, which happens a few times a season!
Snowshoeing is one of the best ways to experience winter in Sault Ste. Marie. We have well-marked and beautifully scenic trails all over the city, including at Hiawatha, Crimson Ridge and Stokely Creek.
We also have some expert tour guides who can not only show you the way, but can also provide information about the area and its cultural significance… you may even be treated to a cup of hot chocolate 😉
Check out our Tours & Guide page for all the info!
Sault Ste. Marie has a new day loop for riders! The Soo Highlands Loop starts in the city and goes north to Searchmont and the surrounding area. Sledders can explore the natural beauty of Algoma Highlands, and its rugged landscapes just north of Sault Ste. Marie, in this 169 km loop.
Sault Ste. Marie is on its way to becoming an epicentre for Fat Biking, one of the fastest growing winter sports.
The Soo has perfectly groomed trails to the north of the city at Hiawatha Highlands and Crimson Ridge. Enjoy some challenging elevation in the beautiful Hiawatha forests as well as the picturesque trails at Crimson Ridge.
Downtown, the Sault Ste. Marie Canal National Historic Site has easy fatbike trails for use on St. Marys and Whitefish islands, adjacent to the St. Marys Rapids. In addition, the St. Kateri Outdoor Learning Centre has around 3.5 km of fat biking trails.
Sault Ste. Marie has a number of some skating rinks and trails, all within a walk or drive of downtown. For a truly magical an unexpected experience check out Crimson Ridge’s stunning 1.1km lit trail winding through the forest.
Lake Superior’s phenomenal ice caves are a sight to behold. Enigmatic, unpredictable, subject to nature’s whims, but wholly worth it, these incredible structures will leave you speechless. They form in mid-winter when wavy conditions followed by a deep-freeze sculpts the rugged Lake Superior coastline into caves and chasms of blue ice.
Stokely Creek Lodge and Forest The Canoe offers guided day trips to the best ice caves, including transportation, crampon-equipped snowshoes and a snack. We do recommend you use a local guide with experience of the conditions as walking on ice can be dangerous.
After a day in the snow and ice you’ll want to refuel and recharge, and we have some great restaurants serving some fantastic food to warm you right up!
From Syrian Shawarma to spicy Indian, delicious Italian or sizzling steak, the Sault has so many great restaurants.
By Sault Tourism
The Sault Ste. Marie Museum, located in the heart of downtown, houses a fascinating collection of historical exhibits that helps visitors learn about the history of the city all the way back to its earliest days. Check out the Edmund Fitzgerald display in the Marine Gallery, which includes a replica scale model of the famous ship. View historic photographs to see what our waterfront and downtown used to look like, and enjoy some of local sport history including the Soo Greyhounds!
The Sault Ste. Marie Museum though is not just a space curated to tell the history of the local area, it also hosts many fun and unique events, publishes a weekly podcast series, contains a gift shop, and has a new interactive feature utilizing QR codes, which adds video and audio information to many of the displays. Come for a visit when you are in the Soo!
The Sault Ste. Marie Museum is a heritage building constructed originally as a post office between 1904-1906 after the city received $20,000 in funding from the Dominion Government. Like many buildings in Sault Ste. Marie it used sandstone excavated during the construction of the canal, with the iconic clock tower being added in 1912. At this point the Museum, then the Post Office was the largest and grandest building in the City and became a local landmark, being the first sight of the city for approaching travelers.
Today visitors can enjoy the typically Ontarian eclectic architecture combining several styles including uniquely cut stone walls, Romanesque arched windows, magnificent oak stair case and an exquisite three-storey skylight, and the 110 year old clock tower remains an iconic landmark of downtown Sault Ste. Marie.
The Skylight Gallery, on the second floor, is a walkthrough history and the story of Sault Ste. Marie from its early beginnings to the present day. Displays feature artifacts and information on the first people in the area with a full sized Wigwam and early canoe offering fascinating insight into historic life. Other displays feature information on the local fur trade, mining and the lumber trade, which as the displays tells, in 1810 became the main export from Canada.
Moving into the twentieth century the museum has exhibits on healthcare including nursing as well as policing and fire management. Additional information including archived video and audio is available via a series of QR codes, including the one below, which adds an interactive component to any visit of the Sault Museum.
The Discovery Gallery is a fun and interactive, hands-on learning children’s area. It contains artifacts and features nature species, photographs as well as a dress-up area. This space is also used to host workshops, activities and events, more of which is mentioned later in this article.
On the third floor is the Music Gallery, which showcases Sault Ste. Marie musicians and venues through the ages. Bands and musical groups originated at the turn of last century during the days of silent movies, and Sault Ste. Marie had its fair share of entertainers. Sounds from these bands would commonly be heard emerging from the Algoma Theatre, Grand Opera House and the St. Marys River Boat Club. During the 1950s and 1960s when smaller Rock & Roll bands became fashionable, musical acts would perform in local Sault Ste. Marie bars including the Victoria House, The Royal, Lock City Hotel and more.
The Music Gallery houses a collection memorabilia, artifacts and videos from these eras and also contains ‘The Sault Music Project’, a giant binder of past and present Soo musicians!
The Marine Gallery offers a pictorial display of early Great Lakes cruise ships, a brief history of the Locks and scale models of two of the more storied Great Lakes ships, the Edmund Fitzgerald and the Chicora.
The Chicora was a British blockade-runner for the Confederate Army during the American Civil War. Her role was primarily to transport guns and ammunition from Bermuda to Charleston. After the war, the ship was transformed into an overnight passenger and freight vessel, and carried mail and passengers from Collingwood to Sault Ste. Marie. In 1870, the Chicora was again involved in a dispute with America when she was refused entry to the American locks and was forced to unload its army destined for the Red River Rebellion. This particular incident, as well as a general tension between the two countries, spurred the building of a Canadian canal in Sault Ste. Marie.
The Edmund Fitzgerald is perhaps the most famous ship to be associated with the Great Lakes, having sunk in a November storm in 1975 killing the entire crew of twenty-nine. A scale model, as well as information about the ship’s fateful timeline, can be viewed in the Marine Gallery of The Sault Museum.
The Sports Hall of Fame gallery depicts local athleticism from the 1800s forward and features artifacts and photos showcasing the wide variety of sports that represent our city. Check out the Eliason Motor Toboggan, and a special commemorative display for the 1948 NOHA champions, the Soo Greyhounds!
A video presentation highlights various sports and the people involved. The gallery is dedicated to Russell H. Ramsay, local sportscaster, president & general manager of Hyland Radio & TV. He served as an Alderman on city council and served as the MPP for Sault Ste. Marie 1978-1985.
This gallery, on the first floor, is dedicated to Lt. Col. Walter Wallace, past commanding officer of the 49th Field Regiment RCA, past president of Royal Canadian Legion – Branch 25 – and past president of the Sault Ste. Marie & 49th Field Regiment RCA Historical Society. Walter was a big advocate for museum later serving as president of the board of directors. He helped oversee the move of the historical Society’s collection to the museum in 1983.
The museum’s wartime collection includes a selection of diaries from 1914 to 1918, military medals and badges, trench art, photographs, and uniforms among other items.
COMMEMORATIVE OLYMPIC METAL DATE: 1928
This bronze gold metal was awarded to Sault Ste. Marie local Olympian Boxer Ray Smillie in the 1928 Olympic Games in Amsterdam, Netherlands. The bronze disc has an image of a seated female figure; with the words stamped; “IX Olympiad Amsterdam, 1928”.
SURVEYOR’S STAKE DATE: 1846
The stake was used by local surveyor Alexander Vidal. The large square wooden post, pointed at both ends of the stake, features carved lettering on all four sides to depict the direction from the stake in which each divided land plot would begin. It was used to dictate plots and streets based on Vidal’s surveying.
COMMEMORATIVE KEYS DATE: OCTOBER 28, 1954 & NOVEMBER 7, 1963
These two commemorative keys were presented to the Grey Sisters of the Immaculate Conception during two significant ceremonies in Sault Ste. Marie. The keys celebrated the grand opening of the General Hospital’s addition of the New Pavilion’s B Wing in 1954 and the Pavilion’s A and Y wing in 1963.
Located inside is also a great gift shop, the Clock Tower Gift Shop, which contains unique books about the area, local art works, craft works by local consigners and various locally made gifts and goodies!
Every Thursday, the Sault Museum publishes a podcast under the series titled ‘Stories of Northern Life’. This unique and fascinating series covers local history, tells important local stories, and from time to time has a Q&A with Museum experts and staff, where often-wondered questions like ‘Is the museum haunted?’ are discussed.
The Sault Ste. Marie Museum runs many unique and fun events and activities each week. Whether it’s a Prohibition Event with beer tasting and trivia, Murder Mystery nights, Scottish Highland dancing or one of the various paint nights including ‘Bad Art Club’ and ‘Star Wars Paint Night’. All the information about the various events can be found here!
For more information about this wonderful collection of local history, visit the Sault Ste. Marie Museum’s website.
And did you know that you can pick up a 4-Culture Attraction Pass on the Sault Tourism website? This Pass will give you 10% off admission to the Sault Ste. Marie Museum as well as the Canadian Bushplane Heritage Centre, the Ermatinger Clergue National Historic Site and the Art Gallery of Algoma. Click here and scroll down the page to learn more. Plan your cultural visit in Sault Ste. Marie today!
By Sault Tourism
Sault Ste Marie has a number of well known hiking and fall-colour viewing areas in or around the city, including Robertson Cliffs, Fort Creek and Bellevue Park, but not everyone will be aware of these four relatively hidden spots.
So keep reading to learn about four of the best ‘other’ places to explore and to enjoy the fall colours from.
The Odena lookout and Odena Loop at Hiawatha Highlands is part of the Voyageur Trail. The large ‘Loop’ trail is a 4.2km hike that starts at Sixth Line and weaves itself over to Connor Road. Alternatively if you just want to enjoy the incredible view, the Lookout hike is a short 400 metre trot uphill. Once you get to the top the view will take your breath away. Beautiful maple fall colours blended with vibrant coniferous greens make this lookout truly spectacular.
Wishart Park, just off Fourth Line East, is a cute little park, and a perfect place for a short hike to take fall fall photos in. Enjoy a walk through the woods or alongside the Root River as it winds its way south towards the city.
Root River and Root Cascade at the west side of Sixth Line is another pretty place to visit. Beautiful falls cascade into the Root River, and the surrounding maple trees create a vibrant and bright scene.
The lookout at Gros Cap Conversation area is another great spot just outside the city limits. While the tree species here don’t offer the vibrant red and oranges of Hiawatha, you can still enjoy fall tones with incredible views of the place where Lake Superior flows into the St Marys river, the Gros Cap lighthouse, and any Lake Superior ‘lakers’ that happen to be cruising past.
The lookout is part of the Saulteaux-Goulais section of the Voyageur Trail, which leads west and north towards Red Rock.
Canadian Cycling Magazine and Charlotte Batty from Minii Adventures spent a couple of days checking out our new trails, because we think that Sault Ste. Marie is the perfect place to spend a weekend mountain biking! So check out this awesome video above by Canadian Cycling Magazine, then continue reading below, and finally, start planning your awesome adventure here in the Soo!
Sault Ste. Marie has some of the best mountain bike trails in Ontario, and we’ll talk more about them in a second, but did you know that these trails are just ten minutes from downtown? So you can be riding hard one minute then relaxing at a microbrewery almost the next. This combination of awesome trails and close proximity to the city is what makes Sault Ste. Marie the perfect mountain biking destination.
We recommend you start your mountain biking adventure on the newly constructed Farmer Lake trail (trail forks map here). It’s a 7 km out and back trail through the stunning Canadian Shield that will eventually take you to the beautiful Farmer Lake. Before you get there you are going to have to navigate up the rocky Climb to Canyon section, a new modern flow XC trail that is a fun test of your technical skills. With your heart pumping hard from climbing the almost 50 m hill you’ll then be met by the many berms and hairpin turns of Farmer Lake trail. Finally, you’ll descend to reach the beautiful oasis that is lake the trail is named after.
On the way back advanced riders may want to test their skills with on the new Crazy Train trail; an adventurous and aptly named downhill trail which has enough vertical to keep any adrenalin junky interested.
Catch your breath after that, but not for long because the end of the Farmer Lake system is one of the jumping on points for the popular Crystal System (trail forks map here). The Crystal is what everyone is talking about up here in the Soo; we added 12 km of new machine built flow trails here last year bringing the total to over 20. You can ride alongside (and over) beautiful creeks, take in some spectacular lookouts, or simply enjoy the rollercoaster experience of new flow trails such as Berm Baby Berm.
The Crystal really has something for every ability, and with so many trails and combinations of trails, you can easily spent a day here alone.
The Farmer Lake and Crystal systems make up just over half of the trails at Hiawatha Highlands, with the Pinder and Red Pine System completing the list (trails forks link to Pinder and Red Pine). The Pinder has roughly 8 km of green rated single track, so it’s perfect for beginners or families with young riders. Then there’s the Red Pine system, which at 15 km long, is a bit tougher with more elevation, but still has a wide array of trails. The Red Pine is a combination of blue / black trails and great diversity of single track trails, transporting you from the historic beginning of MTB to new modern hand-built fun-flow trails like Stickman.
There’s only so many mountain bike trails a regular person can ride and after a day and a half at Hiawatha, you may feel like cranking the pace down a touch. If so, the Hub Trail could be the perfect ride for you. It’s a 22.5 km easy loop of the city where you can ride at your leisure and soak up the sights. You’ll pass some of the well-known tourist spots like Fort Creek, the famous locks between Lake Superior and Lake Huron and the beautiful St. Marys River waterfront.
The Fort Creek Conservation area is a beautiful spot with three bridges giving you incredible views of the creek and surrounding forests. Continue south through the city to the Canal District and Machine Shop area. This area has been restored from a previous industrial area to become one of the hottest parts in town for great food and drinks. Delicious pizzerias, cozy pubs or fine dining can all be found in one centralized area. The vibe of the Canal District is warm and inviting and perfect after a day of riding.
Take a side-trip along Whitefish Island’s boardwalks and trails where you will get a spectacular view of the international bridge as well as the famous Sault Ste. Marie rapids.
Back on the Hub Trail and riding along the waterfront you might notice some of the many pubs and restaurants in the area. Fluid Restaurant has great food as well as beautiful views of the rivers. At the Bondar Pavilion you can hop on a 2-hour river cruise of the newly launched Miss Marie Sault Locks boat. Or if you’d like to enjoy the waterfront a different way, visit the Waterfront Adventure Centre. The WAC rents canoe, kayaks and SUPs; great for exploring the waterfront.
By Sault Tourism
Sault Ste Marie is well-known for its breathtaking beauty during the fall season. Nothing can compare to the vivid colours of the leaves, the numerous trails that can be explored, along with views that will never be forgotten that capture Mother Nature’s true-beauty. From mid-September to mid-October you can find so many ways to enjoy the best of fall in our northern community. In the meantime we have narrowed it down to the top five ways that won’t disappoint!
Come to Sault Ste. Marie and experience Ontario’s awesome fall colours as you’ve never seen them before!
This attraction is a bucket-list adventure and a big tourist favourite when it comes to seeing the fall colours in its prime. Hop on this day-long journey that starts in our Canal District and travels 114km into the Agawa Canyon; along the way you will be immersed by wilderness and its array of oranges, reds and yellows. Once you reach the Canyon you will get to walk around and explore various trails that will take you to beautiful scenic lookouts and various waterfalls where the Group of Seven once painted some of their iconic paintings. This can’t miss experience will certainly be one for the books!
Take a day guided tour on the True North Adventure Bus and witness the fall colours you’ve seen on Instagram. Paddle on some of the most beautiful inland lakes in Ontario, and hike to one of best vistas for fall colours anywhere. The True North Adventure bus offers you these experiences. Experienced tour guides Forest The Canoe offer all day adventure tours to some of the most beautiful places in Ontario. Click here to read more.
To escape to this beautiful scenic lookout, you only need to travel about 20 minutes north of the City. This intermediate hike will not only get your blood flowing but will guide you through the colourful brush and trees. A helpful tip is to make sure you dress accordingly and be prepared to be in awe once you reach the top! When you have completed this 5km hike on Ila’s Trail, you will come upon the breathtaking fall scenery of the boreal forest. You will undoubtedly want to make sure you capture this view with a picture, as the vibrant colours will take your breath away!
Go guided with Thrive Tours who offer fall colour hikes, as well as and canoe and kayak tours throughout the Algoma region.
You don’t have to venture far to experience what Fall is all about in Sault Ste Marie. Located just north of the city you will find bridges and paths in Kinsmen Park that will take you through a network of trails, such as the Crystal Creek System, where you will see Fall in all its perfection. You can also explore and visit Crystal Falls at one end of the park and then follow the trails to Minnehaha Falls at the other end.
Another must-do fall experience, are the Hiawatha Highlands via the Pinder System or Red Pine System, these pristine trails, whether traveled by foot or on wheels, will be certain to take your breath away and will surely have you wanting to catch all of the fall colours on camera.
Enjoy fall in at its best right here in the heart of Sault Ste Marie! The John Roswell Hub Trail is a 22.5km trail that surrounds our beautiful city, with paved paths that you can walk or bike on. One of our favourite parts of the hub trail in the fall specifically, is the Fort Creek section. You can park at the Fort Creek Conservation Area and take the trail through the forest where you will come upon some incredible bridges that overlook the stunning ravine. This simple trail system is nice laid-back one hour walk from the Conversation Area to the Third Line section and back.
By Sault Tourism
Robertson Cliffs, just 30 minutes north of Sault Ste. Marie, is one of best lookout hikes in Ontario. These cliffs offer views from several incredible lookouts that stretch for miles across Bellevue Valley towards the Goulais River and as far as Lake Superior.
The cliffs are owned and cared for by Algoma Highlands Conservancy, a not for profit organization that is run by local volunteers. Clearly marked trails are maintained through donations and memberships. To support this organization click here.
AHC’s Robertson Cliffs are located about 30 minutes north of Sault Ste. Marie, just east of the trans-Canada highway, highway 17. Click here for a Google Maps link to directions to one of the car park areas.
There are three parking areas at the trail heads, these are shown in the below maps.
The route to the top can take between 45 minutes and 2 hours depending on which trail you take, and then the same on the way back. So allow yourself at least 2 hours as a minimum.
It’s described a ‘moderate’ difficulty because there is some scrambling over rocks, small streams and occasion trees. Click on the below images to see some maps of the area.
There are 3 routes that will get you to the top. The Blue route is a 300 metre route that links up with the white route. It begins at the western parking lot.
The White route is a 2km, 45 minute route which begins at one of the two eastern parking lots. Well marked trails lead through the Great Lakes St. Lawrence forest before meeting up with the blue trail. Once the blue and white trail meet the trail does get a little steeper as it ascends to the lookout points.
The yellow trail is a longer 2.5km trek that takes you along beautiful waterfalls. Allow 2 hours for this hike to the cliffs.
There are 3 main lookouts with several others you can find along the way too. The views… judge for yourself.
By Sault Tourism
What can you say about Lake Superior? It is wild, it is rugged, it is beautiful. It can be angry and violent, it can be calm with glassy water reflecting a perfectly clear blue sky. The sunsets can be some of most beautiful anywhere, and the maple forests that hug the coastline put on a fall colour display of bright reds, oranges and yellows so spectacular you’ll be telling your friends for years.
A drive along the coastline from Sault Ste. Marie will let you experience all of this. Get out of your car, RV or motorbike at any of the many stops along the way. Fill your camera up with countless shots of this beautiful coast. Visit in spring, summer, fall or winter for a different experience each season. Be inspired by the incredible Lake Superior coastal drive from Sault Ste. Marie.
Driving north on highway 17 from Sault Ste. Marie, your first close up view of Lake Superior will be at Haviland Bay. Haviland is a small community with a public beach and a great eatery, the Havilland Shores Kitchen and Bar. As you drive through Haviland you’ll pass over a causeway, which offers spectacular views of the lake on one side, and rugged, forested hills of the Canadian Shield on the other.
Continue driving north from Haviland and soon you’ll reach Chippewa Falls, the halfway point of Trans Canada Highway, highway 17. Chippewa Falls is also a significant spot on the Group of Seven driving tour, with the falls inspiring a number of famous paintings including “Streambed, Lake Superior Country”. and J.E.H. MacDonald’s ‘Batchewana Rapid‘.
The falls can be seen from the viewing bridge near the parking lot, or you can take a short hike alongside the waterfall. Please proceed with caution as trails can be challenging beside this fast moving water!
Batchawana Bay, in Batchawana Bay Provincial Park, is another beautiful stop along the Superior coast. The 4km long sandy beach is the star of the show, with some of the warmest water in Lake Superior making it a popular spot for swimmers and beach goers.
Stop by the Voyageur Lodge for some famous apple fritters, lunch, or a souvenir from the gift shop.
Just a few kilometers further along the highway from Batchawana you’ll reach Pancake Bay, Agawa Crafts and the Canadian Carver. Pancake Bay, also within a provincial park, is the perfect spot to get out, explore and stretch your legs if you wish. The beach is simply immaculate; 4km of perfect white sand and crystal clear water, great for swimming in and generally relaxing on. Then there is the Edmund Fitzgerald Lookout hike trail, a 2-3 hour round trip that takes you up to an incredible view of the Superior coast. You may even catch a glimpse of the resting place of the SS Edmund Fitzgerald, which tragically sunk during a November storm in 1975.
Agawa and Crafts and the Canadian Carver is an impressive stop, with some beautiful one-of-a-kind carvings, painting and other crafts offering the perfect souvenir for visitors.
Continuing past Pancake Bay, highway 17 turns north again, and the coast leaves the relative shelter of Whitefish Bay. Now, more exposed to the westerly winds and storms of Superior, the shoreline becomes more rugged, more rocky but just as beautiful as further south. Sawpit Bay and the roadside Wilson Lake are perfect examples of the Superior coast’s fascinating landscape.
Fifteen minutes north of Sawpit Bay lies Alona Bay, a beautifully rocky Lake Superior Beach. Alona Bay lies inside two of the additional, southerly parts of Lake Superior Provincial Park. A roadside rest-stop allows visitors to get out and enjoy the stunning scenic lookout across Alona Bay.
Lake Superior Provincial Park Visitor Centre is located at the south end of ‘the Park’, as locals call it, roughly 90 minutes north of Sault Ste. Marie and just north of the Montreal River. The visitor centre is a great stopping point on the Superior coast, with lots of information about the area, paths to the beautiful Agawa Bay beach, helpful staff and a giftshop. The centre itself is filled with interactive displays that highlights the “Power of Lake Superior” as well as the park’s cultural history and natural ecosystems. You’ll also find a display about the Group of Seven, a replica lighthouse and more here.
The Agawa Rock Pictographs is one of the most famous pictograph sites in Canada and is one of the most visited indigenous archaeological sites too. It is a sacred site where generations of Ojibwe have come to record dreams, visions and events. Please respect and preserve the pictographs by not touching the paintings.
The images visible today, include canoes and animals such as moose, deer, bear and caribou. The most recognizable painting consisting of a spined-horned animal said to be “Misshepezhieu”, or the Great Lynx, the spirit of the water. Read more about this important area here.
Sault Ste. Marie has expert tour guides who can provide interpretive tours of the coast. Forest The Canoe operate a True North Adventure Bus in August and the fall months, and they also offer year round tours that can be tailored to visitor’s needs. Thrive Tours also offer tours of the local area including the Superior Coast, visit our Tours & Guides page for more information.
The Lake Superior coast – something you have to explore.
Are you interested in going to a powwow but not sure about going on your own? Thrive Tours, an Indigenous-owned and operated guide company, offers Learn to Powwow Tours in the Sault Ste. Marie area. These tours introduce non-Indigenous tourists to powwows and will teach you everything you need to know.
Our family was able to join Brad and Amanda, owners of Thrive Tours, on a Learn to Powwow Tour and had an incredible experience together! Our tour group included Sault Ste. Marie locals, Ontario tourists and travelers from around the world. We came together as a group of all ages to learn to powwow and experience a celebration of Indigenous culture.
Our tour began with an introduction to powwow history, tradition and etiquette. Our guides taught us the cleansing practice of smudging and invited us to participate in this traditional ceremony. Along with our guides, we also had special guests from the Indigenous community come and speak to us.
When settlers came in, the local Indigenous people were no longer allowed to practice their culture. The sacred ceremonies and songs had to continue deep in the bush and underground. Despite this oppression, the tradition and the heartbeat of the drum carried on and continues today. Although often looked on as traditions of the past, Brad shared with us that they “are not people of the past, but people with a past. [We] have an amazing history and an amazing future!”
During our introduction we were also honoured to have Chief Dean Sayers of Batchewana First Nations come and speak with us. He shared some of the history of the Indigenous people of the Sault Ste Marie area, also referred to as Bawating, meaning ‘place of the rapids’. Chief Sayers welcomed us to come on in and celebrate!
Lucia, who has been dancing at powwows since she was a young girl, shared with us the dos and don’ts of the powwow. She told us that it is customary to stand at the beginning of the powwow, as a sign of honour, while the dancers enter the circle during the Grand Entry. Taking photos and videos during the Grand Entry is not allowed, but Lucia shared with us the proper way to take photos at other points during the powwow.
Our guides explained to us the different types of powwow dancing and the significance of the dancers’ attire, called regalia. Our guide Brad is a powwow singer and drummer who has been powwowing for about 15 years. He shared with us the history and significance of drumming and how the beat of the drums honors the heartbeat of Mother Earth.
After our time of learning we went as a group to the powwow. On our way to the circle we passed by the sacred fire. This fire is lit before the powwow starts and burns until the end. Fire keepers sit around the fire to make sure it continues burning. We honored them and the fire by putting tobacco in the fire and saying ‘Miigwetch’, which means ‘thank you’.
The powwow we attended, Gathering at the Rapids at Algoma University, was an indoor Competition Powwow (differing from a Traditional Powwow). There were a number of drum groups and dancers of all ages competing in different categories. As we entered the building, the Grand Entry was underway. We could feel the heartbeat of the drums resonate within us and stood as the dancers entered the circle. The intricate designs of the dancers’ regalia was amazing to see – bright colours, feathers, tassels, beading and jingling cones. After representatives carried in flags and veterans were honoured, the competition began.
We listened and watched as different drum groups took turns singing and drumming while the dancers made their way around the circle. We saw different categories of dances – traditional, jingle, grass, fancy – and watched as each age category took their turn, from the tiny tots to the golden age dancers. Our guides were available throughout the powwow to answer any questions we had and shared more information with us about the different dances.
One unique experience that we had not been expecting, was the opportunity to join in on the dancing! Throughout the powwow there are inter tribal dances, where everyone from every background is invited to come into the circle and dance. Our children have been learning about Indigenous culture and powwows in school and to actually be there and take part was a very special experience.
In addition to the drumming and dancing, there were also Indigenous vendors set up at the powwow. We admired the handmade goods, enjoyed some lemonade and ate delicious food!
As a non-Indigenous person, I’ve been hesitant about attending a powwow in the past. I didn’t know what the proper etiquette was and didn’t want to be disrespectful in any way. It was so great having our guides from Thrive Tours to show us around and answer all of our questions! The whole powwow environment was one of total inclusivity, positive energy and people coming together to celebrate!
There are several Powwows during spring and summer in and around Sault Ste. Marie, and if you are interested in going you’ll definitely want to check out Thrive Tours’ Learn to Powwow Tours. Learn about the history, people, food and traditions; dancers, drums, singers and teachings. Half or full day experiences are available. Contact Thrive Tours for more info.
Sault Ste. Marie is the perfect place to spend some time together as a family. Also referred to as Bawating, meaning “place of the rapids”, the area is rich in Indigenous culture and history. From the whir of excitement at a local powwow to the somber history of the residential school system, there is so much for you to learn and experience together in Sault Ste. Marie.
Here are 7 ways you can experience Indigenous culture in the Soo:
Whether you’ve been to a powwow before or want to experience one for the first time, you will love the Learn to Powwow Tour with Thrive Tours. Your tour guides will start you off with an introduction, covering powwow history and etiquette, and explain how you can engage in the celebration as a non-Indigenous person. You will also learn the significance of the music and about the different kinds of dances. After your powwow intro, you will join your guides for the spectacular Grand Entry where you’ll watch the dancers enter the circle in their regalia and listen as the drummers echo the heartbeat of Mother Earth. To complete your experience, make sure to try some food, explore the vendors and maybe even join in during an intertribal dance!
As you make your way through the buildings and streets of Sault Ste. Marie, you will notice the many large murals painted throughout the city. Many of the murals you’ll find here have been painted by local Indigenous artists. This display of artwork adds a splash of color and vibrancy to the city that everyone in the family will enjoy! Each June, during the Summer Moon Festival, you can watch new murals being painted around the Soo and experience many other Indigenous arts & culture workshops, exhibits and performances.
Grab your bikes or walking shoes and spend some time exploring the Indigenous history of Whitefish Island. Whitefish Island is a territory of the Batchewana First Nation and a National Historic Site of Canada. Plaques located around the island provide information about the history and significance of the area, dating back hundreds of years. Once home to many, Whitefish Island was a significant site for fishing and trading throughout history. Now, the island is a popular birding location and the well-maintained trails and boardwalks allow visitors to easily access and enjoy nature.
Get out on the river in a kayak or canoe with Thrive Tours. Your adventure begins with acknowledging the history of the land and showing respect to the water by saying “Miigwetch”, which means “thank you”. Next, you will receive instruction on paddling and water safety before getting in your boat and setting off on the river. Boats, paddles and life jackets are available for both adults and children. While on the water, you will learn about the history of the area and you may even be treated to a traditional song sung by your tour guide.
Canoes for Conservation also offer interpretive tours of the St Marys river in their popular ‘big canoe’. Dip your paddle into the famous Whitefish Rapids at Bawating, one of the most significant cultural gathering places of the Anishinaabe People since time immemorial. These tours are popular with groups and families and expert guides provide a rich description of the area.
The Shingwauk Residential School in Sault Ste. Marie was operational from 1875 until 1970. Join Thrive Tours to see the residential school grounds and buildings, now part of the Algoma University campus, and learn about the residential school system. You will hear about the devastation the system had on the Indigenous people in the not-so-distant past and the inter-generational trauma affecting communities and families today. If you are touring with kids, information is shared in a truthful yet age-appropriate way. Learn about what is being done for healing and restoration and what you can do in this process as an ally.
Take a beautiful drive along the Trans Canada Highway to see the Agawa Rock Pictographs in Lake Superior Provincial Park. Located about 1 hour North of Sault Ste. Marie, this 0.5km loop trail will take you right along the shore of Lake Superior to the Indigenous archaeological site where you can see sacred Ojibwe paintings dating back to the 17th and 18th centuries. The hike is rated as moderate, but some scrambling over rocks is required. To see the pictographs, you’ll need to walk out on a sloped rock shelf beside the lake. The views are definitely worth it, but please take caution as the rocks can be slippery!
After working up an appetite during your Sault Ste. Marie adventures, stop by Chummy’s Grill for a delicious meal. This local Indigenous-owned and operated family restaurant has a wide variety of delicious food available. The restaurant has a great kids menu and even has all-day breakfast (except Friday 4-8pm). While here, make sure you spend some time admiring the wood carvings located throughout the restaurant.
Now it’s time to get your family and come explore Bawating! With so many different ways to experience Indigenous culture in the Soo, you’ll want to keep coming back for more.
And read our blog post from summer 2021 about spending a day with the family in Sault Ste. Marie here!
We are crossing Canada this summer and we had to include Sault Ste. Marie in our itinerary. We were impressed with the city when we visited Northern Ontario last year (see details here). But this time we decided to do something different: we explored the beaches around the city. Sault Ste. Marie is a super green city and full of parks and beautiful beaches around it, so this time we decided to visit some of these places and in this post. I will bring a list of 3 beaches that we visited in the region and that we recommend for everyone.
I think it’s important to highlight that not all the beaches you visit here in Canada are the way we are used to in Brazil: with sand, shallow water and easy access. Some beaches have rocks instead of sand (i.e. it is very difficult to walk), others have very rough water and some have difficult access… Some of those beaches are not suitable for families with children. The 3 beaches we visited in Sault Ste. Marie are family friendly, so it’s worth highlighting this here before writing about them below.
Harmony Beach is located in the Haviland Bay, and is the first beach you will come across when traveling north from Sault Ste. Marie via the Trans Canada Highway along the shore of Lake Superior. This public beach is the favorite of people that live in the region (and was crowded when visited). The place is just a half hour drive from Sault Ste. Marie, so if you’re in town and want to get a taste of Lake Superior beaches this might be an option. The beach has 3.2 km of sand and is considered a great place for swimming.
This provincial park is a day use park only, which means it does not have camping sites and you cannot spend the night there (click here for more details). Even so, it is VERY worth the visit, being only 50 minutes north of Sault Ste Marie. The park has several picnic tables on the beach and also restrooms, so I liked the fact that it had this structure (which helps a lot when visiting with children) but looks very remote. The sandy beach is 5km long and the water in this bay is shallow, which makes it warmer.
This provincial park is just 1 hour north of Sault Ste Marie and 10 minutes from Batchawana Bay Provincial Park (the drive is beautiful so you won’t even notice that 1 hour go by). This park is super popular with its 3km beach, a beautiful 3.5km trail (Edmund Fitzgerald Lookout hiking trail where you can have a panoramic view of the entire region), the super blue Caribbean style water and 476 campsites. By the way, the camping sites are close to the beach so if you camp this would be a very special place to spend the weekend. Click here to learn more about the location.
The beaches are just one stop of many on the beautiful Lake Superior coastal drive.
The Edmund Fitzgerald Lookout Trail in Pancake Bay Provincial Park offers a beautiful view across a luscious maple forest all the way to the big lake. You may also see the final resting place of the Edmund Fitzgerald ship.
A little further north of Pancake Bay is the Lake Superior Provincial Park, which includes the Agawa Bay visitor centre. Read all about this area here!
Beautiful souvenirs and ice-cream treats are available at Agawa Crafts and the Canadian Carver further south and The Voyageur Lodge also has some great souvenirs and food options. Chippewa Falls, the famed halfway point on the trans-Canada highway is a great spot for a break. The falls are right beside parking lot, just off the highway. Check out another Group of Seven art easel while you are there.
I hope you enjoyed this post and if you can, visit this region of Ontario: beautiful and relatively close to Toronto. For more information about Sault Ste Marie visit the Sault Ste. Marie Tourism website.