This Michigan bucket list item is brought to you by Famous Soo Locks Boat Tours.
If you want to visit the Upper Peninsula of Michigan this summer, make it memorable by touring the Soo Locks in Sault Ste. Marie. Located nearly one hour north of Mackinac Bridge, this engineering marvel manages various ships as they traverse St. Marys River between Lake Superior and Lake Huron. It dates back to the mid-1800s and allows freighters more than 1,000 feet long to move along the route, which stretches from Duluth, Minnesota, to the Atlantic Ocean.
While about 7,000 vessels travel through the Soo Locks every year — making it the busiest inland shipping channel in the world — around 500,000 people go to watch and take the journey themselves. You can do that too on the lighthouse cruise with Famous Soo Locks Boat Tours. The company loves providing fun yet educational adventures in this historic area.
The Famous Lighthouse Cruise
The Great Lakes have unpredictable waters and have been the scene of numerous shipwrecks for hundreds of years. That’s why there are so many lighthouses around Michigan’s borders. Several of them along the shores of Lake Superior have interesting stories that you’ll hear on The Famous Lighthouse Cruise.
This 4.5-hour tour will visit Bay Mills Point, Birch Point, Round Island, and beyond, giving you a sailor’s view of the lake’s historic lighthouses. Included is a maritime adventure into Canadian waters for a panoramic, close-up of Gros Cap Reef Lighthouse, which is completely surrounded by water. It’s the only way to see the tower.
Throughout the journey, the Famous Soo Locks Boat Tours guide will narrate an in-depth history of each lighthouse and other navigational aids. You’ll even learn about the freighter traffic that cruises past and their importance to the region.
The Journey Through the Soo Locks
Before getting to the lighthouses, your blue and yellow tour boat will go through the Soo Locks. Along with barges, freighters, tugboats, and more, the boat will be lifted the 21-foot difference between Lake Huron to Lake Superior. This is called the “upbound” route.
The huge freighters are reason alone for many people to visit the channel, but there’s so much more to see. For instance, you’ll get a wonderful view of the Tower of History. This 210-foot tower soars over Sault Ste. Marie and the Soo Locks. There’s an observation deck at the top where visitors can get fantastic photos of the entire city, St. Marys River, and the Canadian wilderness on the opposite side of the water.
Below the tower are many historic houses and the Museum Ship Valley Camp, which has a massive 20,000-square-foot museum in its cargo holds. There are more than 100 exhibits, including aquariums, the crews’ quarters, and an Edmund Fitzgerald memorial.
If you plan to view the sites and lighthouses from the upper deck of the tour boat, we recommend wearing an extra layer of clothes to stay warm. After the tour, you’ll return to the Soo Locks and be lowered 21 feet on the water, which is called the “downbound” route.
Buy Your Tickets Online
Famous Soo Locks Boat Tours of area lighthouses are incredibly engaging and unique. At 4.5 hours long, they’re certainly worth the money as well. Tickets are $58 for adults and just $1 for kids ages 4 and younger. You should purchase tickets online as soon as possible because the lighthouse tours are only available on Saturdays and fill up fast.
There’s an option to preorder a boxed lunch when you call Famous Soo Locks Boat Tours. However, the LeVoyager and Nokomis tour boats have onboard snack bars with beer, wine, and hard seltzers. There are also climate-controlled restrooms, and the docks and boats are handicap accessible.
About Famous Soo Locks Boat Tours
This awesome tour boat company has been pleasing Sault Ste. Marie locals and visitors for many years. It was founded by nine businessmen in 1958 and started offering tours the following year. This makes 2021 the 62nd season that the family-run business will educate and thrill all ages with its Soo Locks boat tours and lighthouse cruises.
In 1981, Rich Brawley, the son-in-law of an original founder, took the assistant manager position to Jerry Peters, who was the city’s mayor at one point. The next year, he was promoted to general manager and is still at the helm today because he loves people and boats. Carol, his wife, has been part of the behind-the-scenes operations at the company for years too.
Other Famous Soo Locks Boat Tours
If you’re unable to book the lighthouse cruise, Famous Soo Locks Boat Tours offers a 90-minute Famous Lock Tour Experience. It’s a great way to see a lot of things in the area without visiting each one individually. The cruise is completely narrated with an in-depth history of the Soo Locks and shoreline sites. You can get tickets here.
The company also offers The Famous Fireworks Tour, which is only available on July 1 & 4, 2021. The lower harbor cruise of St. Marys River allows you to experience Independence Day fireworks from the water. Tickets are available here.
Additionally, Famous Soo Locks Boat Tours offers charter tours for conventions, family reunions, wedding receptions, and more. A fully licensed bar is available for these 2-hour cruises, which can be extended in 30-minute increments based on your needs.
Excellent Places to Eat in Sault Ste. Marie
Before you hop on The Famous Lighthouse Cruise, grab some crepes and coffee at Oh Crêpe and Coffee. The founders, Zak & Korina McClellan, wanted to offer versatile dishes that are quick and easy to eat as patrons walked downtown. We think they’ve nailed it!
To experience outstanding cuisine, wine, and beer in one place, go to Karl’s Cuisine, Winery and Brewery. The owner recommends beer and wine pairings with every meal and incorporates the beverages into his dishes. All of the food is made from scratch.
A relatively new spot in downtown Sault Ste. Marie, The Wicked Sister is a popular joint for tasty food and drinks. The menu includes burgers, salads, sandwiches, and gluten-free items.
For dessert or a treat to take home, you have to try Fudge Du Locke. This shop is the brainchild of Zak McClellan’s father. Every batch is crafted in Northern Michigan, and you can watch it all happen before you buy.
Restful Lodging Near Famous Soo Locks Boat Tours
After such a thrilling day in Sault Ste. Marie, you can lay your head in one of many vacation rentals or hotels. If you’re traveling in a group, this 5-bedroom historic home is located in the heart of downtown and within walking distance of the Soo Locks attractions. Also downtown is this charming 2-bedroom apartment, which is ideal for small families and couples who are traveling together.
On the other hand, you could stay at the distinctive Plaza Motor Motel, which is kind of a hybrid of lodging. It has 21 guest rooms that are more like what you would find in a bed and breakfast than a traditional motel. Unlike a bed and breakfast, though, you have easy access to your room from the parking lot. The motel has beautiful gardens with a gazebo as well.
For more traditional accommodations, the Hampton Inn Sault Ste Marie is located in the historic business district rather than downtown. Despite that, the waterfront and many other attractions are a short drive away. It takes less than 10 minutes to get to Famous Soo Locks Boat Tours!