Did you know that it takes freighters 18 hours to travel from the Mackinac Bridge to Marquette? From Sault Ste Marie, freighters can reach Casablanca, Morocco in a little under 14 days. That’s pretty impressive!
Founded in 1668, Sault Ste Marie (“The Soo”) is the oldest city in Michigan and third oldest city in America and the location of our latest #MittenTrip. It is home to the Soo Locks, where boats and freighters encounter a series of water locks in order to travel between Lake Superior and Lake Huron. These locks account for the 21-foot elevation difference between the lakes and allow cargo to travel all the way from the Atlantic Ocean to Minnesota.
The area is the perfect place for a weekend getaway, and no, I’m not just saying that. When you wave goodbye to the Soo lights on Sunday, you’ll be filled with the spoils of adventure, good memories, and a lot of tasty food. Be prepared!
Friday is normally a travel day for most weekend adventures, and Sault Ste Marie can be quite a hefty drive for much of the state. This means if you’re like me, when you arrive you’re probably going to be hungry and tired.
Before we even checked into our hotel, Budget Host Crestview Inn, we headed downtown to the Palace Saloon for some killer Mexican cuisine that may or may not have put me in a comfortable food coma. After a few hours on the road, it was the perfect, “I hate traffic and I’m really cranky,” remedy.
After dinner, we took a walk through downtown to scout out the Lockview Restaurant. Although much of the small town was closed later in the evening, and the streets were quiet – I thought it was perfect. We took time to window shop and enjoy the peace and quiet that only the Upper Peninsula can offer, it was this moment when it sunk in that we were far from the reality of our everyday lives.
We had a hankering for some pancakes the next morning, so we headed to the Lockview Restaurant that claimed to have some of the best in town. After hearing about this, I had to try them and they did not disappoint!
Across the street from the restaurant, we meandered to the Soo Locks Visitor Center where there is a viewing platform that is three-stories high and allows visitors to get personal with the massive freighters that make their way through the locks each day. Whenever a freighter enters the locks, information is provided about the ship, including its size, destination, origin, and ship name. Visitors are able to download an app that also allows them to track when freighters will be arriving in the locks along with all its information.
After that, we headed to the Tower of History on the east side of town. The tower stands 210 feet high and offers five viewing platforms. From the top, visitors can see between fifteen to twenty miles in every direction. There are two ways to the top: an elevator and a staircase consisting of 292 steps. My advice? Staircase all the way!
Once we finished with the Tower of History, our bellies were growling for some lunch. Just down the street for the Tower of History is The Antlers. It is the most famous restaurant in town, and if you attempt to go for dinner, you may be waiting 30-40 minutes for a table – we decided on lunch.
Across the street from The Antlers is the dock for the Soo Locks Boat Tours. We were so excited for this 2 hour adventure that took us into the locks and up close to freighters. It really is a once in a lifetime experience! We were sure to allow for extra time because the tour can last more than the two hours due to schedules in the locks. It turns out, freighters have their own prerogatives.
The Museum Ship Valley Camp is an old freighter that is located in the same parking lot as the Soo Locks Boat Tours. When the ship could no longer sail the lakes, it was converted into a museum. No guided tours are offered, which meant we were able to explore and experience life on a freighter all on our own. It is definitely worth a stop!
By now, the late afternoon was calling us downtown for some shopping and fudge. The adorable shops hold everything from clothing and toys, to hand burned wooden signs that read, “I love Sault Ste Marie.” How do you say no to that?
For us, Sunday needed to concentrate on nature as any good trip to the UP should. Getting up bright and early was essential to hit the road and head west toward all of the adventurous points of interest, and our journey took us the scenic route around winding bends, through thick woods, and down small town strips. We watched as the beaches turned from sandy to rocky in an instant and the views of Lake Superior with Canada’s horizon was to die for.
Point Iroquois Lighthouse is about a 40 minute drive from town, and provides stunning views with a beautiful lighthouse. The water is pure and clear, which allowed us to see the groups of colorful stones that lined the bottoms. The lighthouse tower is climbable, which comes highly recommended during the sunset hours (sadly, not when we were there).
We checked out Tahquamenon Falls State Park, which is one of Michigan’s most iconic landmarks. If the day is hot, you’re in luck! The Lower Falls are the ideal Upper Peninsula swimming hole. Kids and adults dot the river and falls for as far as the eye can see. Visitors can wade across the river, stand on the edge of a waterfall and cool off in the calming rapids. I was definitely happy to enjoy a little splashing around.
Now, we were looking for an adventure/hiking route, so there is a 4 mile trail that connects the Lower Falls with the Upper Falls. (The Upper Falls are also accessible by road, and are the main attraction to the state park.) We were in awe as the water gushed down 40 feet! I recommend the viewing platforms that brings you right next to the rushing water. Swimming isn’t an option at these falls, but the view was well worth the stop.
Once out of the park, we continued to the tip of Whitefish Point Light Station for sunset. Being able to spend the last hours of the day walking along the shoreline and enjoying the unfiltered view of Michigan’s beauty was something I truly valued on this #MittenTrip. We packed some Michigan brews and relaxed after a memorable weekend in the eastern parts of the U.P. As the sun will goes down, and you might almost forgot about the long drive home in the hours to come (maybe, just maybe).