Exploring Northern Ontario To Sault Ste Marie

With Stops In Parry Sound And Sudbury For The Big Nickel

Exploring Northern Ontario To Sault Ste Marie Ontario.jpg

Exploring Northern Ontario To Sault Ste Marie In The Fall

We found such natural beauty when we explored Northern Ontario to Sault Ste Marie in the fall. We found waterfalls on our drive north to Sault Ste Marie. And then again when we drove around Lake Superior to Crystal Falls and Chippewa Falls. Everything was bathed in the colours of fall.

On our drive north, we continued our travel around the Great Lakes in Ontario with stops in communities along Lake Huron and Lake Superior. Port Perry was a lovely port town and Sudbury provided us with our first sight of the Big Nickel.

Sault Ste Marie offered us many things to see and do. But we left several things for a return visit.

Heading To Northern Ontario In The Fall

We had a great stay in Lake Rosseau. When the weather stayed great, we headed further in Northern Ontario to Sault Ste Marie. We enjoyed the peak of fall colours and checked out a few of the waterfalls in the area.

Since we often detoured on our road trips, travel always took two to three times longer than the estimated drive time. We planned a few stops along the way and stayed one night in Sudbury and saw the iconic Big Nickel.

Travel Map.jpg

As we drove north, we found the fall colours all around us. Trees clung stubbornly to the rock of the Canadian Shield.

Fall Colours.jpg

Fall Colours.jpg

But on the way home, we drove straight through for 8 hours to Toronto in torrential rain. So we were very glad we enjoyed the fall colours on our trip north. It reinforced our photography motto – “when you see a photo, take it”. Because it is often not the same on second viewing.

When we left Sault Ste Marie and headed back to Toronto, we were amused when the GPS offered us a shorter route through the U.S. The GPS certainly did not know the border was closed to essential traffic. And that route would not have been fast at all!

GPS Route Home.jpg

A Short Stop In Parry Sound

Our lunch stop on our trip north to Sault Ste Marie was in Parry Sound on Lake Huron. We followed the route to the waterfront. There were boat cruises and small float plane tours available from the pier. We walked towards the small lighthouse and saw the fall colours by the bridge.

Parry Sound Pier.jpg

Parry Sound Pier - Northern Ontario To Sault Ste Marie.jpg

Parry Sound Pier - Northern Ontario To Sault Ste Marie.jpg

It was not hard to know that Parry Sound was the birthplace of the famous hockey player Bobby Orr. By the waterfront we saw the Bobby Orr Hall of Fame. And street art that celebrated him.

Parry Sound Bobby Orr.jpg

Street art in the downtown area showed different train murals. And the war memorial by the pier was a tribute to Francis Pegahmagabow. He was the most highly decorated First Nations soldier in Canadian history.

Parry Sound Streetart Train.jpg

Parry Sound Statue Francis Pegahmagabow.jpg

We enjoyed our quick stop in Parry Sound as we headed north to Sault Ste Marie.

Overnight In Sudbury To See The Big Nickel

It was a long drive from our stay in Lake Rosseau when we headed north to explore Northern Ontario to Sault Ste Marie. So we broke up the drive with a stay in Sudbury. We were so disappointed with the hotel that on our way back we did the long drive straight to Toronto from Sault Ste Marie.

But our stay in Sudbury got us both sunset and sunrise views of Sudbury’s most famous tourist attraction. The Big Nickel was a tribute to the mining industry in this part of Northern Ontario. And to the fact that Sudbury was the nickel capital of the world.

Sudbury Nickel Copper Cliff.jpg

Sudbury Nickel - Northern Ontario To Sault Ste Marie.jpg

Sudbury Nickel - Northern Ontario To Sault Ste Marie.jpg

The Big Nickel was located at the Dynamic Earth Science Museum. When we visited the museum was closed due to Covid-19. But the outside was decorated with fun pumpkin art for Halloween.

Sudbury Nickel Building Pumpkins.jpg

Sudbury Nickel Building Pumpkins.jpg

We were glad we stopped in Sudbury and saw the Big Nickel on our trip to Northern Ontario.

The Landscapes For The Group Of Seven

As we travelled in Northern Ontario to Sault Ste Marie, we were reminded that we followed the “Group of Seven” route. The Group of Seven represented seven Canadian landscape painters. And the land we travelled in Northern Ontario was the inspiration for many of the great art works from this group.

Group of Seven.jpg

All Canadian art galleries have large collections from the Group of Seven and the McMichael Gallery north of Toronto focuses exclusively on Canadian and Indigenous art. There was a small museum in Sault Ste Marie that we unfortunately did not have time to visit.

When we stopped in Parry Sound, we found the first Artist Station. It was an easel set up with a view of the landscape painted by Tom Thomson. On our visit to the Chippewa Falls, we found another station. This was the spot where A.Y. Jackson painted these falls. We found the third spot by the rail car for the Agawa Canyon Tour. This area was frequently painted by J.E.H. MacDonald.

Parry Sound Pier Lighthouse Group of Seven - Northern Ontario To Sault Ste Marie.jpg

Chippewa Falls Group of Seven.jpg

Agawa Canyon Train Group of Seven.jpg

Everywhere we travelled in Northern Ontario, we certainly understood why this landscape was such an inspiration. We may have headed to Sault Ste Marie for waterfalls but we found so much more natural beauty.

Waterfall Stops On Our Way To Sault Ste Marie

One of our planned stops on the way to Sault Ste Marie was at Chutes National Park. We enjoyed our view of the fall colours as we walked along the water. And we got a view of the waterfall from afar. There was much more to explore in this park for another visit.

Chutes Waterfall - Northern Ontario To Sault Ste Marie.jpg

Chutes Waterfall - Northern Ontario To Sault Ste Marie.jpg

We often pulled over when we saw something of interest on our road trips. When we entered the small town of Iron Bridge, we were on the lookout for the bridge. It was not hard to see the Veterans Bridge over the Mississagi River.

Iron Bridge Veterans Bridge - Northern Ontario To Sault Ste Marie.jpg

When we took the small road up along the river, we found the Red Rock Generating Station where water cascaded down the 100 foot spillway. Up river we found the reservoir dappled with colour.

Iron Bridge Red Rock Falls - Northern Ontario To Sault Ste Marie.jpg

Iron Bridge Red Rock Falls.jpg

On our travel in Northern Ontario to Sault Ste Marie, we stopped often and found some great spots.

A Base In Sault Ste Marie

We booked our stay at the Delta Sault Ste Marie Waterfront. With Marriott Ambassador Elite status, we got a great upgrade to the St. Mary’s Suite on the corner of the top floor. There were great 270° views out over the waterfront.

Delta Waterfront Sault Ste Marie - Northern Ontario To Sault Ste Marie.jpg

Delta Waterfront.jpg

Delta Waterfront View - Northern Ontario To Sault Ste Marie.jpg

The hotel restaurant was open but operating under Covid-19 restrictions. When we visited the outside patio was not open. But we enjoyed the specialties created by the chef for dinner.

Delta Waterfront Food.jpg

Delta Waterfront Food.jpg

The hotel location made it easy to enjoy the sights along the waterfront.

Enjoying The Waterfront In Sault Ste Marie

The St Mary’s River Waterfront Boardwalk ran right outside the hotel. In one direction we found the steel and glass Spirits Rising display. This display was meant to symbolize the unity of management, labour and community following the restructuring of Algoma Steel. Further along the walkway were the Sault Ste Marie Canal and high overhead the bridge between Canada and the U.S.

St Marys River Boardwalk - Northern Ontario To Sault Ste Marie.jpg

St Marys River Boardwalk Spirits Rising.jpg

In the other direction we found the Roberta Bondar Park and Tent Pavillion that we saw from our hotel window. In normal years, this outdoor space was available for a variety of special events. It was named for Canada’s first female astronaut. Otters welcomed us to this space.

Bondar Park Otter St Marys River Boardwalk.jpg

Along the shore we also found a trio of bear statues fishing from the dock. Of course we did not pass without posing.

Bear Statues St Marys River Boardwalk - Northern Ontario To Sault Ste Marie.jpg

Bear Statues St Marys River Boardwalk.jpg

We found much to see when we walked along the waterfront in Sault Ste Marie.

Visiting The Sault Ste Marie Canal

On our travels around the world we visited many of the big lock systems. We travelled through the Suez Canal. And also transited the Panama Canal twice. During our travels around the Great Lakes in Ontario, we visited many different lock systems. So when we explored Northern Ontario to Sault Ste Marie we stopped and saw the locks between Lake Huron and Lake Superior.

When the Sault Ste Marie Canal was built in 1895, it was the world’s longest lock and the first operated by electricity. It was also the last link in the seaway from the Atlantic to Lake Superior. The much larger Soo Locks were built on the U.S. side and commercial traffic takes that route. There are two locks on the U.S. side – the Poe Lock (1,200 feet) and the MacArthur Lock (800 feet). So today, the Sault Ste Marie Canal is used mostly for recreational traffic.

Parks Canada operated the Sault Ste Marie Canal. As we entered the parking lot, we saw the signs for Covid-19. The buildings were not open. But we wandered outside and explored the canal system with virtually nobody around. We started our walk below the lock and saw the big lock doors. Then we walked up the hill and around the various buildings. Signs were located everywhere that talked about this history and operation of this lock.

Sault Ste Marie Canal - Northern Ontario To Sault Ste Marie.jpg

Sault Ste Marie Canal - Northern Ontario To Sault Ste Marie.jpg

Canal.jpg

Canal.jpg

The Sault Ste Marie Canal Operations

We walked along both sides of the lock. When we looked up the lock channel, we saw the bridge between Canada and the U.S.

Sault Ste Marie Canal - Northern Ontario To Sault Ste Marie.jpg

At the far end of the canal was the Emergency Swing Bridge Dam. This was the safety dam that swung closed if there was a major failure in the main canal or when the main canal was under repair. The signs said this was the last Emergency Swing Dam in the world!

Emergency Lock Sault Ste Marie Canal - Northern Ontario To Sault Ste Marie.jpg

Canal Emergency Lock.jpg

We were glad we stopped in to visit the Sault Ste Marie Canal in Northern Ontario.

Travel North Along Lake Superior

When we researched the area around Sault Ste Marie we identified three waterfalls to visit. On this trip we only visited Crystal Falls and Chippewa Falls. We did not have time to visit the more distant series of three waterfalls on the Magpie River in Wawa.

But we were really sad we missed the train trip through the Agawa Canyon Wilderness Park. Black Beaver Falls & Bridal Veil Falls were also in the park. We saw the ticket office and the trains. But unfortunately, Agawa Canyon was closed this year due to Covid-19.

Agawa Canyon Train.jpg

Agawa Canyon Train.jpg
Image From Destination Ontario Image Ontario

The trip north along the shore of Lake Superior was amazing in the fall. The hills were painted in all shades of fall colours. We stopped many times and saw the beautiful views.

Lake Superior Fall Colours - Northern Ontario To Sault Ste Marie.jpg

Lake Superior Fall Colours - Northern Ontario To Sault Ste Marie.jpg

Even if we never saw waterfalls on our trip north, the drive along would have been worth a day trip.

Travel Lake Superior To Visit Crystal Falls And Chippewa Falls

Our first waterfall stop north of Sault Ste Marie was at Crystal Falls in Kinsmen Park in the heart of the Hiawatha Highlands Conservation Area. We walked the path up alongside the waterfall for great fall views.

Crystal Falls Lake Superior.jpg

Crystal Falls Lake Superior - Northern Ontario To Sault Ste Marie.jpg

We then drove north until we hit the Chippewa River. From the road we got our first view of the Chippewa Falls. We walked along the path and got a closer view from the rocks as the water tumbled over the rocks.

Chippeway Falls Lake Superior - Northern Ontario To Sault Ste Marie.jpg

Chippeway Falls Lake Superior - Northern Ontario To Sault Ste Marie.jpg

It was no wonder the Group of Seven created such masterpieces from this area.

A Busy Three Days Exploring Northern Ontario To Sault Ste Marie

Every local trip we made during the Covid-19 pandemic was done assessing the risks versus the rewards.  We were glad we had a fun trip as we explored Northern Ontario to Sault Ste Marie.  

The Delta Sault Ste Marie was a great base for exploring. There was much to see in the city but we left several things for a return visit. Even though the skies were grey for most of our visit, the sun peeked out for a lovely sunset and said goodbye!

Sunset Canada to US Bridge.jpg

We were delighted we headed north to Lake Superior and saw the waterfalls around Sault Ste Marie. The autumn was the most glorious time to visit with the fall colour show on display. We were sad we missed the opportunity to take the Agawa Canyon Train. But we know we will go back one day for that treat.

As we headed back down Hwy 69 to Toronto, we passed the signs for Lake Rosseau. We waved as we planned our return visit to Muskoka. But before we headed north again, we headed along Lake Ontario to Kingston and explored the Thousand Islands area. We still had several stops left on our travels around the Great Lakes in Ontario.

Have you explored Northern Ontario to Sault Ste Marie? Did you head further north and see more of the national parks and waterfalls?

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About TravelAtWill 634 Articles
Travel blogger and photographer! Scuba diving, luxury cruising, chocoholic, sea and sunshine addicts, camera attached and just generally curious! Join us on our adventures!

60 Comments

  1. I love the “Group of Seven” trail inspiration. I would want to pick up a paint brush myself and give it a try! I also did not know that the Big Nickel existed, what a cool landmark!

  2. It’s great that you have attached a map with the most important points on the route and waterfalls on it. This is very helpful when planning a trip. Fall seems to be the perfect time of year for a road trip like this. The scenery is beautiful. Sault Ste Marie is definitely worth to visit. Waterfront in Sault Ste Marie is great with these funny statues.

  3. This part of Ontario I haven’t explored yet and hope to check it out when I can travel over the pond again (as I recently discovered I have family in that area…so it be great to combine the two). I am a total sucker for nature and really would love to check it out during the fall, the waterfalls look stunning with the leafs changing colour. It looks like this could be a great area to do some (easiest) hiking for a few days besides the lake. And that Big Nickel! What is it with Canadian towns and having the ‘biggest’….things there (I seen a big tepee, moose, a shovel…)? 😀

    • Danik, I hope you do get to travel around Northern Ontario when you are free to travel again. So much great outdoors to discover and hiking everywhere. Who knows, you may find one more “biggest” thing! Linda

  4. That food was making me hungry! I love the photos. I have only been to the Canadian side of Niagara Falls, but I can’t wait to explore Canada further.

  5. Wonderful post with great detail so I’m keeping for future reference. We did not have the time needed when we were there to do it justice. I’d love to return and leisurely explore.

  6. I don’t know this part of Canada at all well, but it looks wonderful, especially in the fall. So many interesting things to check out too. Love that Big Nickel! What a shame that so many of the interesting places were closed because of Covid. I would love to see the Sault Ste Marie Canal in particular, perhaps take a trip through those locks!

  7. I always take twice as long on road trips too. There are just so many enticing stops. How lucky to have those beautiful fall leaves too. We took a road trip from Rhode Island to Wisconsin this summer too and the GPS kept trying to route us though Canada even though the border is closed.

    • I did laugh when I saw the your GPS tried to route you through Canada. I guess with border crossings being empty it makes the time even better! One day we may do the U.S. detour. Linda

  8. Canada is perhaps one of the most beautiful countries and the more I see the more I fall in love. I have been following your journeys and get a feel now which are the places I would not love to miss out. The map with the most important points on the route and waterfalls provides a very good idea here. Fall looks like would be the perfect time of year for a trip like this. The scenery in Sault Ste Marie is so beautiful. Love the waterfront and the statues.

  9. What a wonderful road trip! Too bad some of the places were closed due to Covid. But I think I’d still stop by even if I only get to see them from the outside. Like the Big Nickel, for example. That looks really cool. I thought it was the moon at first glance.

    • Ummi, It is funny that you said that the area around the Big Nickel looks like the moon. There were parts of the rock face that were volcanic and it did indeed look like the moon. Linda

  10. Too bad the Dynamic Earth Science Musuem was closed but I am glad you were able to see the Big Nickle. I remember was so happy when he saw it and kept saying it was “big money”

    Thank you for sharing your wonderful adventure. Love reading your posts as always.

  11. Road trips are absolutely the best. Especially when they are full of scenic views along the way. Yours certainly looks like a great one. Wonderful pics.

  12. This looks like such a fun road trip. I would love to take a road trip to see all those waterfalls and check out the canals and boardwalks. I love the bear statues to, it would make a great photo op. The fall colors are stunning, I’m hoping by next fall I will be able to make it to Ontario to explore!

  13. I was looking forward for this post after reading your Sault Ste Marie waterfalls post. Good to know this is the birthplace of Bobby Orr. As a street-art enthusiast, the wall dedicated to him would top my list of places to visit. Delta Sault Ste Marie Waterfront hotel with 270 deg view looks impeccable. The food looks yummy too! Too bad outside seating area was closed. But then, in the midst of pandemic, they’re doing their best.

    • Bhushavali, I am glad to give you more insight into the area around Sault Ste Marie in Northern Ontario. We loved the different sights we found along the way and when we explored the area. Linda

  14. Driving on the Group of Seven route sounds like an interesting road trip by itself. The views in those area do look pretty though. And i fall in love with that bear statues. They are super cute!

  15. Driving along the ‘Group of Seven’ route sounds like a great plan! So lucky that you got to experience the lovely fall colors, I’m yet to come across such vivid fall landscapes and colors and Northern Ontario sounds like one amazing place to see those. Waterfalls, lakes, hiking routes, what more can one ask for?

  16. I have never been to Ontario and have always had on my list. The northern Ontario is really pretty in the fall and I think I will plan my trip around the fall to see such beautiful colours. I did not know about Sault Ste Marie and would love to add it to my list.

  17. I love the street art. I love to see murals painted on the side of buildings. You really captured the creativity of the area.

  18. I had never really thought of Canada as a place that inspired me to travel, but as my best friend passed away, and it was on his bucketlist – that I am took over, I am going to Canada someday 🙂

  19. I love your posts on Northern Ontario for wonderful naturescapes, lakes and fall colors. Never knew about these unique places before. Your trip Sault Ste Marie in the fall looks beautiful as the whole area is covered with fall colors. Good you found waterfalls too on your drive north to Sault Ste Marie. Chippewa falls look amazing as it is surrounded by all shades of red and orange.

  20. This looks like such a beautiful area, especially in fall. Love those colors! I’ve never been in Ontario, we tend to visit British Columbia and Alberta when we go to Canada, but one of these days I feel we need to go farther east… Very detailed post, and great photos!

  21. Reading the names of the lakes took me back to my geography lessons at school! I totally agree with you about taking a photo when you see it. I’ve learnt that over the years too – either the light will be totally different or someone will have parked a truck right where you don’t want it. The autumn colours are stunning in your shots – definitely a road trip for the bucketlist!

  22. Wow – are they any shades of green, red, and yellow NOT coloring the leaves in Ontario? It must be mesmerizing to see these colors in person. Then, after I thought it cannot get any better, you’ve introduced this food – and I thought, who cares about the color of leaves? Let’s inspire the other senses. All in all, it looks like the perfect trip – hope you guys enjoyed it to the max!

  23. Another interesting part of the world you have introduced me too. It looks like the autumn is definitely the perfect time to visit – the colours of the trees are spectacular. Love the idea that it’s not just the natural beauty but also celebrating the artists who made the views famous & the historic lock.

  24. I’ve never been to Canada, but when I thought about this country, I always imagined everything in fall colors like in your photos. I would love to visit Chutes National Park and Lake Superior, these places look magical!

        • We found Sault Ste Marie to be quite quiet in October. We were even there for a weekend. Still with great fall colours but before the snow was flying. A road trip to NB, Quebec and Ontario will be great. I would go in September or October if you want less crowds. Crowds heat up after the May 24 weekend. Linda

  25. You had me at natural beauty and waterfalls. I really want to visit Canada but right now that’s not possible. The drive looks lovely with leaves changing color. That big nickel was funny. I wonder if it was made from nickel? The charred salmon looked delicious. Your photos came out stunning. Hopefully I can do this trip next fall.

    • Debra, I sure hope that by the fall we are all able to travel more. And I hope you make it to Northern Ontario. We were certainly happy we got the opportunity to see as much as we did for the short period things were safe and open. Linda

  26. Like the vibe of Parry Sound with those float planes and jetskis and boats… right up my alley. You Canadians sure do like your hockey players. Good on you.

    Those waterfalls on your way to Sault Ste Marie rock and for a long time I’ve been convinced that no one does autumn like Canada and New England. Beautiful mix of colours.

    • Stefan, We were delighted that we made it to the Sault Ste Marie area this fall – for the first time. Such a great road trip in the autumn. It was a colourful one this year. Linda

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