North America > Canada > Ontario > Northern Ontario > Sault Sainte Marie (Ontario)
The area boasts rugged shores, sandy beaches, untouched forests, winding rivers, and two Great Lakes.
The history of the area involves a fascinating eclectic mix of cultures. "The Meeting Place" as it was once called, drew inhabitants from all over Europe and North American tribes. Sault Ste. Marie was established in the 1600s as a fur trading post and later in the 1900s as a site for steel making.
Sault Ste. Marie Airport, (YAM IATA, is 20 km from downtown on the western outskirts. It is accessible by taking Second Line and turning south to Airport Road.
Airlines serving the airport include: Air Canada Express with frequent daily flights to Toronto-Pearson, Porter Airlines to Toronto Downtown Airport YTZ, Bearskin Airlines to Ottawa (via North Bay and Sudbury) and Thunder Bay, and Sunwing Airlines (seasonally) to Varadero, Cuba.
There is no bus service from the downtown area to the airport. Taxis and limos provide flat-rate service between the airport and anywhere in the city. Taxi: 7500 Taxi, +1 705-945-7500. Car rental is available from Avis and National.
Sault Ste. Marie is not linked to any other major city by passenger train.
As of 2015, Algoma Central Railway still provides passenger service north of the Sault to Hearst. This train makes all station stops and can drop off and pick up passengers at any point on the line, accommodating people heading to private camps, a wilderness lodge getaway, or to go fishing, hiking, snowmobiling, or ATVing. As there is no food service aboard the train, voyagers are encouraged to bring whatever food they will need for the journey.
There are no reliable connections with Via Rail; the ACR line crosses with the routes of the Canadian in Oba and the Lake Superior at Franz, but wait time to make the connection can be 24 hours or more. There is no station building or other shelter at either stop.
There is a bus connection in Hearst to Cochrane.
- Algoma Central Railway, 129 Bay Street (west of the Station Mall), ☎ , toll-free: . Train station with ample free parking for rail passengers. Trains operate three times a week on separate summer and winter schedules.
Local politicians and interest groups are lobbying the government to reinstate passenger rail service between the Sault and Sudbury; however, this seems unlikely to happen in the near future. Funding for the existing passenger service to Hearst was slated for termination in 2014, but that service was given a reprieve until 2018 and its operation contracted to a Canadian subsidiary of Railmark Holdings.
Highway 17, which is part of the Trans-Canada Highway system, connects the Sault with Thunder Bay to the northwest and Sudbury to the east. The International Bridge crosses the St. Mary's River and connects with the beginning of the Interstate 75 freeway in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, USA continuing further south to Saginaw, Flint, Detroit, and eventually Miami, FL, USA. A new limited access truck route known as Carmen's Way (after the late MP Carmen Provenzano) provides easy access to main roads and Hwy 17. Plans are currently under way to connect Second Line to a new four-lane section of Hwy 17 that recently opened.
Greyhound Canada provides daily bus service to and from the Sault. Eastbound busses head towards Sudbury, and from thence onwards towards Ottawa or Toronto. Westbound buses head north towards Wawa, Marathon, and Thunder Bay, and from thence westwards towards Winnipeg, Vancouver, and all other points west.
The Greyhound bus terminal is on the east side of town at the Howard Johnson (563 Trunk Road); it was relocated from its previous downtown location in 2012. The McNabb city bus route stops nearby.
There are approximately 400 km of snowmobile trails in the Sault area and 1,000 km of trails in the Algoma district with connecting trails to Sudbury. Trails are maintained by the Sault Trailblazers Snowmobile club and the Ontario Federation of Snowmobile Clubs (OFSC) and they operate on a user-pay system that requires users to purchase a trail permit. Official staging area is on the north side of McNabb Street one block east of Black Road. Sault Trailblazers Snowmobile Club for more information.
Getting around is easy - you can walk, bike (if you don't mind getting clipped off by cars) or take the bus...it is a big town with a small town atmosphere. If you are driving, don't expect any traffic jams or road rage. This is a nice, relaxing place to be and it is very convenient to get around. Beaches, rugged outdoors and ski hills are less than 30 minutes away from the city centre.
Sault Transit Services operates from a centrally-located transit terminal at 160 Queen Street East at Dennis St. There are 8 regular routes running 19 hours a day, 7 days a week except statutory holidays: New Year's Day, Good Friday, Victoria Day, Canada Day, Civic Holiday, Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, and Boxing Day. Cash fare is $2.50 for all riders and you must have exact fare as drivers do not provide change. Children 12 years of age and under ride free when accompanied by an adult; to qualify, children must be under 5 feet (150cm) tall. You can also get a multi-ride pass with 20 rides for $40. Monthly adult, student, and senior passes are available upon advance purchase.
If paying fare by cash or multi-ride pass and you need to use more than one bus to complete your trip, you will need a transfer. Ask the driver for a transfer after you pay the fare.
Request stop service, where the driver will let you off at a location along the route other than a bus stop, is available in the evenings -- either when the street lights turn on, or after 21:00, whichever is earlier. Speak to the driver a few blocks in advance, and they'll let you off as close as possible to your request, so long as they can stop safely. Exit via the front doors.
Sault Transit also operates a Parabus service for passengers who
- cannot walk 175m;
- cannot climb the three steps necessary to board a conventional bus;
- use a wheelchair; or
- are undergoing hemo-dialysis
as well as attendants or companions.
Trips on Tue-Fri are booked the day before; trips on Sat-Mon are booked by 4pm Fri. Same-day service is offered if scheduling permits. Call the Parabus office at +1 705-942-1404 to book a trip.
Residents need to submit an application form to use the Parabus, but visitors to the area are accommodated as well. Visitors are requested to call the Parabus office to make arrangements.
Cash fare is $2.50; a 40-ride pass is also available for $70.
- 7500 Taxi +1 705-945-7500
- Checker Cab +1 705-942-3600
- Cruz Cab +1 705 450-2789
- Union Cab +1 705-946-1300
- Easy Cab +1 705-256-2222
- Soo Yellow Cab +1 705-942-0005
If the driver was helpful to you, it is customary to tip the driver about 10% and a dollar per bag that they carry for you (not just unload). At the very least, you should round fares up to the nearest dollar.
On your visit you can walk to boardwalk along the river or take a Sault Locks tour to cruise the first original canoe lock, the original Ermatinger-Clergue Old Stone House, Bush Plane Museum, the Sault Ste. Marie Art Gallery and Museum and the Sault Ste. Marie Canal.
- Bushplane Museum -- 
- Old Stone House
- Boardwalk / Roberta Bondar
- Locks --  [dead link]
- Lock Tours -- 
- Soo Greyhounds --  [formerly dead link]
- Dinner Theatre --  [formerly dead link]
Along the waterfront in the city centre are many historic sites and attractions.
- Bon Soo
- Skiing - Searchmont Resort, Buttermilk Alpine, Heyden
- XC - Hiawatha
- Golf - Crimson Ridge, Root River, Maplewood, Superior View, Queensgate Greens
- Mountain biking
- Hiking -- Voyageur Trail
- Swim -- beaches at Point Des Chenes, Harmony, others...
- Essar Centre - New sports and entertainment complex downtown - concerts & events.
- Horseback Riding
- Agawa Canyon Tour Train - One of the most popular and scenic one-day rail excursions that takes visitors on a fully narrated tour non-stop to Agawa Canyon Park, located 114 railway miles north of the Sault. There is a three-hour stopover at the canyon where there are hiking trails, a canteen, railway museum, and children's play area. This tour runs from mid-June to Mid-October. Most popular times are in September and October when the fall colours are at their peak. Train has dining cars and dome cars in addition to regular coach cars. In 2011, the train cars have been upgraded to include: bigger windows, more comfortable seating, flat screen monitors with front of locomotive camera, and GPS-guided narration in five languages (English, French, German, Japanese, and Mandarin).
- Snow Train - As of 19 Nov 2013, the Snow Train has been cancelled due to low ridership.
- Tour of the Line - Travel to the end of the steel 296 miles north at Hearst and see more of the rugged country past the Agawa Canyon. Unlike the Agawa Canyon Tour Train, this tour is on the regular passenger train. Passengers must provide their own food for the journey and there is a microwave and mini-fridge on the train. Also, passengers can bring coolers on board. Alcohol consumption is prohibited and the train is smoke-free. Restaurants in the Sault and Hearst also provide box lunches for the journey. This tour has a specially-priced return ticket that requires an overnight stay in Hearst and return to the Sault the next morning. Hearst accommodations are the customer's responsibility and they must be booked prior to the purchase of train tickets.
- Canyon Combo - Check your luggage at the train station the day before you leave, which will be loaded into the baggage car of the regular passenger train. You will first board the Agawa Canyon Tour Train and you have two hours at Agawa Canyon Park before you board the northbound train to Hearst.
- Wilderness and snowmobile adventures
- Camp car and private car rentals
- [dead link]Casino Sault Ste. Marie, 30 Bay Street West (near International Bridge), ☎ , toll-free: . Slots 9AM-4AM (24hrs Thu-Sun), Tables 6PM-2AM (6PM-4AM Fri-Sat). Northern Ontario's first full-time casino features a 35,000 sq. ft. (3,252 sq. metre) gaming floor, 450 slot machines, 21 gaming tables and a 100-seat restaurant and bar. By law, you must be 19 years of age or older to enter.
- Station Mall
- Cambrian Mall
- Golden Mile
- Farmer's Market
- Maple Syrup
- Ernie's Coffee Shop - a family tradition - inexpensive, great and the portions are very generous
- Mz. Vickiz Express - Sandwiches to go, etc.
- Taste of Scandia - Scandinavian cuisine: bakery and catering.
- Boston Pizza.
- Gino's Family Restaurant (Great Northern Road)- Good steakhouse.
- Swiss Chalet.
- Aurora's West Side - Italian.
- Bali Indonesian Restaurant - Sometimes hard to notice from the outside, this family run restaurant has a great atmosphere, friendly staff, and excellent food.
- China House.
- Dock's Riverfront Grill (89 Foster Dr, +1 705-256-6868) Waterfront restaurant serving American cuisine, along with pool and late night dancing
- Fratelli's Kitchen & Pizzeria , - A homestyle crust and pizza sauce topped with quality products.
- Gigi's Bistro & Pizzeria , - Refreshing Italian bistro on Great Northern Road, across from the Cambrian Mall.
- The Grand Gardens - all you can eat buffet. Reservations may be required.
- Hard Wok Cafe (formerly Purple Lantern).
- Mrs. B's - good pizza, secret recipe
- Muio's. Since 1961, Muio's has been home to family dining in the Soo.
- North 82 Steak & Beverage Co (82 Great Northern Rd, +1 705-759-8282) Specializes in steaks and prime rib.
- Service Grill & Sidetrack Lounge - Pizza and sports bar/lounge
- 2 Embers Grill & Smokehouse, 531 Albert St E, ☎ .
- Cesira's Italian Cuisine (133 Spring Street, +1 705-949-0600) Established in 1972, they serve over a dozen handmade pastas, including gluten-free options.
- Giovanni's- Southern Italian, with richly flavored sauces, homemade pastas, steaks, and BBQ back ribs.
- 3 Gliss Restaurant, 180 Bay Street, ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. Located inside the Quality Inn & Suites. Angus steaks, seafood, pasta.
- Bottoms Up Lounge - Across from the Steelback Centre and upstairs from Vincenzo's Restaurant, stocked with domestic & imported beers, premium liquors and large selection of martinis (99 and counting!). Open Tuesday through Saturday at 7PM. Often live music on the weekends of an eclectic variety.
- Canadian - Split into two sections, dance club downstairs, pub/lounge upstairs. Mixed clientele, with the downstairs bar catering to the younger crowd. Thursdays usually very busy.
- Docks - Large, sometimes very busy with a lineup. Three sections: Restaurant, billiards, and dance club. Billiards area has live music on weekends, while the restaurant section is closed early (10PM-ish). On the river a five minute walk from the Queen St core.
- Loplops - Art Gallery & Martini Lounge. Has live music most evenings, typically of the folk and eclectic variety. Crowd is mixed and 'upscale' in comparison to most places in town. Not easily noticed from Queen street, park in back. One of the 'Core Four' within two blocks of downtown Queen Street. Always mixing it up with artists, wine/beer tasting events, live music... not to mention great drinks.
- Smack Daddy's - Small sports bar. Busy after soccer, softball, hockey, etc games with teams coming in. Large covered & heated smoker's patio. Adjacent to the Canadian on Pim Street.
- Sportscenter - Sports Bar & Grill - See U Betcha, but smaller and more pub-ish. (Try to ignore the smell.)
- Steamy Bean Cafe (sometimes live music and lots of yummy goods), also sells fair trade organic whole bean and ground coffee
- Studio 10 - Adult entertainment.
- Top Hat - Billiards, darts, general game room. Large area. Mixed ages, often younger (under 30). One of the 'Core Four' within two blocks of downtown Queen Street.
- Reggie's - Country bar. Older clientele. Restaurant is open during the day. Known for its burgers.
- Rockstar (Algonquin Hotel), 864 Queen St East, ☎ . 11AM-2AM. Rock"n"roll attitude decorated with rock"n"roll memorabilia, live bands, DJs, large patio, mixed age, kitchen specializing in wings.
- The Rosie (Roosevelt Hotel) - Local watering hole in the West End stocked with domestic & imported beers. Well kept, cheap beer with a full kitchen available ten till ten. Live music every weekend.Karaoke tradition on Sunday night.
- The corner of Brock and Wellington has a Bed and Breakfast.
- Sault Ste. Marie, Algonquin Hotel, 864 Queen Street East, +1 705-253-2311,  firstname.lastname@example.org. Beds start at $39 per night.
- Motels up and down the Golden Mile (Great Northern Road)
- Sleep Inn
- Super 8
- Howard Johnson
- Delta Sault Ste. Marie Waterfront Hotel +1 888-713-8482 - Waterfront hotel featuring 195 modern rooms, full service View Restaurant+Bar, Bridgewater Health club with a large indoor pool and 13 meeting rooms totalling more that 10,000 square feet of conference space.
- Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott - continental breakfast, free Wi-Fi, salt water pool and 24h fitness centre.
- Great Northern Hotel and Conference Centre- Largest hotel in the city, largest conference facilities in Northern ON; full service hotel with continental breakfast included; outdoor pool and indoor pool with 5 1/2-story water slide, sauna, and fitness center, Bistro Lounge, free Wi-Fi.
- Water Tower Inn - indoor/outdoor hot tubs, wading pool with waterfall, pool, Casey's Grill Bar and The Pub.
- 1 Quality Inn & Suites Bay Front, 180 Bay St, ☎ . Opposite Station Mall and the ACR train station.
Mobile phone coverage
Mobile service from Sault Ste. Marie westward through Thunder Bay to the Manitoba border is operated not by the major Canadian cell providers, but by TBayTel. The rugged landscape of this area, combined with the significant gaps between towers, means that a signal is by no means guaranteed.
In Sault Ste. Marie, limited cellphone coverage can be expected outside the city centre, especially north (Fifth Line, Hiawatha Park) and west of town (Airport, Pointe des Chênes, Gros Cap). Coverage on Highway 17 north from Sault Ste Marie to Wawa is sporadic; huge areas have no coverage at all. Leave the beaten path (the Trans-Canada Highway or the few cities) and there's nothing. Much of the road to Wawa is parkland with few services of any kind.
Roaming is supported for clients of the three major Canadian '3G' networks (UMTS/WCDMA on 850/1900 MHz). There is no '2G' capability as TBayTel shut down all CDMA coverage on October 1, 2014. While TBayTel advertises something it calls `4G` in limited areas, this is HSPA+ (a faster version of the `3G` UMTS standard) and not LTE.
Unless your handset supports 3G/UMTS on the North American frequencies, you will get no service... not even to call 9-1-1 in an emergency.
Do not rely on having cellphone coverage on this route! Before heading out on this relatively remote section of highway, it is strongly recommended to carefully examine your cell provider's coverage maps and bring appropriate supplies for use if stranded by a breakdown.
Internet and Wi-Fi
- Branches of the Sault Ste. Marie public library offer free Wi-Fi access.
- Both Sault College and Algoma University provide free Wifi for guests on their campuses.
- Customers of Shaw Cable from anywhere in Canada can take advantage of the numerous Shaw Go Wifi hotspots present in the Sault. Look for a ShawOpen SSID; after connecting, log in with your Shaw email address and password.
- As a rule, the most pressing concern for travellers in Sault Ste. Marie is property crime. Violent crime is most prevalent between people who already know each other (eg organized crime; domestic violence); stranger-on-stranger violence is uncommon.
- Do not leave any kind of valuables in your car. Thieves may break into your vehicle for a trivial amount of goods, causing much more damage than the stolen items are worth. If such items need to be left in your car anyway, at least conceal them.
- Valuables to safeguard include not only cash, but also electronics (including cell phones and GPS systems), firearms, alcohol, tobacco, and medication. In particular, opioid pain medications are a common target for theft.
- Do not leave bicycles unattended -- they will likely be stolen.
Winters in Northern Ontario are often severe, making auto travel in winter an unpredictable venture. Whether travelling locally or on the highways, one must be prudent, allow extra travel time, and be prepared to be flexible with one's travel plans. See the Winter driving topic for a general backgrounder.
Highway 17 North from Sault Ste. Marie to Wawa sits in a snowbelt and receives heavy amounts of snow every year. The prevailing westerly winds pick up moisture as they blow across Lake Superior, which then gets visited on the shoreline as lake-effect snow and snow squalls. As such, this section of highway is frequently closed in winter, sometimes for days at a time. Closures may occur because of crashes, because of whiteouts that reduce visibility to near zero, or because snow is simply accumulating too quickly for the snowplow crews to keep up.
Highway 17 East is also occasionally closed by crashes or inclement weather, though considerably less often than the northern route. To the south, into the United States, US-2 is sometimes closed, as well as the Mackinac Bridge; I-75 is very rarely closed, though if surrounding roads are, travel on it may be inadvisable as well.
|Routes through Sault Sainte Marie|
|Thunder Bay ← Lake Superior Provincial Park ←||W E||→ Jct to St. Joseph Island → Blind River → Sudbury|
|END ←||N S||→ Sault Ste. Marie → Mackinaw City|