Camping, kayaking, mountain biking and more!

One of the perks of living in Ontario is that this beautiful province can be enjoyed all year round. With an abundance of natural beauty and opportunities for adventure, there’s one question every Ontarian has to face — where should my next staycation be?

That being said, current restrictions are keeping us from going farther afield, and anyone itching to escape their surroundings and step into nature is encouraged to stay as close to home as possible. But when we are allowed to freely travel again and explore all Ontario has to offer, you might want to consider looking north.

Sault Ste. Marie (affectionately nicknamed “the Soo”) is the place to go for unforgettable experiences right in your own backyard.

Nestled in between Lake Superior and Lake Huron, the Soo is just an hour by plane from the GTA (or a scenic seven-hour road trip) and has something to offer every adventurer.

From camping and fishing to kayaking, biking and much more, it can be hard to know where to start. Arriving with a convenient three-day itinerary like this one will help you make the most of the Soo for when it’s safe to go exploring once again.

Day 1: A Healthy Mix Of The Outdoors & City Life

Mountain Bike The Hiawatha Highlands

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By Tourism Sault Ste. Marie

here are three suggestions for your long weekend vacation in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario

The Anishinaabe peoples of the Great Lakes traditionally called this area ‘Bawating’, meaning ‘place of the rapids’. Surrounded by an abundance of natural resources, Indigenous communities have gathered here since time immemorial. Sault Ste. Marie has since grown into a city rich in historical significance. Exciting Indigenous Tourism options in Sault Ste. Marie provide many ways to experience and learn about Anishinaabe culture. 

No.1 Whitefish Island: The Original Meeting Place

The first stop on a cultural learning experience must be Whitefish Island, located on the shores of the historic St. Marys Rapids. 

A leisurely stroll on the well-marked trails will take you past various places of interest with information about the land. Be respectful and visit with reverence: This remains the traditional territory and meeting grounds of the Anishinaabe, including local Batchewana First Nation. 

Meet up with a local fishing guide and experience fly fishing in the legendary St. Marys River Rapids to experience the ancient fishery. A list of local guides can be found here.

The View Restaurant provides Sault Ste. Marie waterfront dining with views of the rapids and great whitefish entrées.

No.2 Downtown Sault Ste. Marie Indigenous Experiences

Paddle back in time in a big canoe with Canoes for Conservation on the St. Marys River. Drift along the ancient Anishinaabe community and learn of their deep-rooted connection with the river. 

The canoe ride ends near the Shingwauk Residential School Centre, an integral part of the Algoma University campus. Learn firsthand the important impacts of human perseverance and resilience from expert interpretive historians. 

A walking tour of Sault Ste. Marie’s downtown core reveals various Indigenous artist murals located on city buildings. 

A tasty dinner can be had at Chummy’s Grill; this family owned and operated Indigenous restaurant offers traditional meals. 

No.3 Lake Superior Coast, Indigenous Roots

Pack for the day and travel north on the Trans Canada Highway along the beautiful Lake Superior coastline to Lake Superior Provincial Park. 

Just north of Agawa Bay, park your car and hike a rocky trail to the Agawa Rock Pictographs—a collection of ancient paintings that remain important to the Anishinaabe. A sacred ceremonial site at Agawa Rock is still used by Batchewana First Nation today. 

Explore the Agawa Bay Visitor Centre and take a walk along the picturesque beach. 

On your return trip, stop in at Agawa Crafts and the Canadian Carver, a unique roadside attraction featuring handmade Indigenous crafts. The carvings, moccasins, art and pottery will inspire and are unique keepsakes.

Finally, enjoy authentic Métis cuisine like tourtiere or bannock at the Voyageurs Lodge and Cookhouse. This roadhouse style cookhouse offers hearty portions, friendly service, old log decor and a jovial atmosphere, with indoor and outdoor dining options and access to the amazing beaches of Batchewana Bay. 

By Lindsay Davies

Explore the rich culture and Indigenous history of Sault Ste. Marie with these insider tips

Known as Bawating (meaning rapids in Ojibway), the city of Sault Ste. Marie is an original meeting ground for the Indigenous Peoples of Canada. There is so much to experience and learn in this historic Northern Ontario city, so dive in with these incredible Indigenous experiences!

Walk Around Whitefish Island
A popular spot for a leisurely stroll or a beautiful sunset walk, Whitefish Island is the perfect spot to take in the beauty of the St Marys River. For thousands of years and to this day, this has been a place of importance for the Ojibway as they were put here to maintain the land and water while living in harmony with nature. Elders from Batchawana share that when the Creator told the crane to choose a homeland, he flew and flew in search of it, settling in Bawating as there was an abundance of fish to sustain himself and the First Nations people.

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By Sheri Minardi

Whitefish Island is a rich cultural site in downtown Sault Ste. Marie.

A very rich cultural island teaming with history, flora and fauna lies within Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario just below the International Bridge with the St. Mary’s rapids flowing through it. This island is Whitefish Island that is a short walk across the Sault Ste. Marie Locks. It is an historical site, formed more than 2,000 years ago as an Indigenous settlement. Trading was done on the island and was a major source of food due to the abundance of fish. In 1997, the island was returned to the Batchawana Band, who maintain the island today.

The Attikamek & Whitefish Island Trails are a wonderful area to explore. At the crossing to the island, you cross and large bridge that leads to the Batchewana Band’s sign welcoming you to the island.

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By Stephen Johnson

Trains, Trails, and Ancient Art

Driving cross-country and thinking of skipping Ontario? Here’s why you shouldn’t. This family found some fascinating roads into Canada’s past, and its rich natural beauty.

We recently took a family trip by car from Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan to our home in Ottawa. At first, I was nervous that the trip would be punctuated by continuous demands of “Are we there yet?” and hour after hour of uninspiring scenery.   

I could not have been more wrong. The scenery all along the route was quite beautiful. Things got jaw-droppingly gorgeous once we hit Rossport, Ontario. We were treated to kilometre after kilometre of landscapes that were straight out of a Group of Seven painting. Still more beauty awaited us in the Sault Ste. Marie area.

Our first stop of the day was at Aguasabon Falls and Gorge. We followed the trail and could hear the waterfalls before we saw them.
 
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By Adam Leith Gollner
 
Nestled in the landscapes that inspired the Group of Seven, there’s an even more monumental work of art—spanning centuries and inviting the deepest questions
 
I’m standing on a narrow ledge of rock overhanging Lake Superior.
 

A sheer 15-story-high cliff soars above me, its crystalline granite face adorned with the most important, and most mysterious, public work of art in Canada. The silhouette of a creature at eye level peers back out. It doesn’t have eyes, but it sees me. Its eternal head is cocked to the side in curiosity, as though trying to make out whatever it is that anyone gazing upon it is also trying to fathom. A red ochre chimera, it has large feline paws, quizzical bullhorns, and the body of a dragon, with sharp spines ridging its back and tail. 

Meet Mishipeshu: the Great Lynx, the Underwater Wildcat, the Fabulous Night Panther. This pictograph is an enigma that has stood here for eons. And Mishipeshu isn’t alone; there are over a hundred other images at Agawa Rock, a sacred lakeside site located in Lake Superior Provincial Park, around 150 km north of Sault Ste. Marie. 

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