When thinking about fun winter activities with physical distancing in mind, Sault Ste. Marie is the perfect place. Nestled right along St. Marys River, and bordering both Lake Superior and Lake Huron, this charming Northern Ontario town is chock-full of fun things to do to get more in touch with your outdoorsy side year-round.
And in the wintertime, its natural adventures do not disappoint. Not only are there frosty views you won't find anywhere else (Lake Superior’s breathtaking ice caves are unique to this region), but Sault Ste. Marie also boasts an abundance of activities as well.
You can expect everything from winter surfing to backcountry skiing, and of course, you’ll also find cozy cafes and delicious restaurants to warm up in and satisfy your cravings (just make sure to respect all social distancing recommendations).
So, if you’re looking to discover something adventurous and out of the ordinary this winter, here are some of the many incredible activities that you can try in the Sault!
Get Your Adrenaline Going By Trying Fat Biking
Price: Day pass $8
Why You Need To Go: The Sault is serious about their winter activities — that includes biking. Take a fat bike out to Crimson Ridge where you can ride through 20 kilometres of snow in the beautiful highlands of Algoma.
If Crimson Ridge isn’t enough, head up the road to Hiawatha Highlands where a new loop of over 20 kilometres is being groomed this year. After your ride, be sure to check out one of the local breweries in town, like Outspoken.
Regular biking will feel so boring after you experience winter biking in the Sault!
Surf The Largest Lake In The World — In Sault Style
Address: Check here for more information.
Why You Need To Go: Lake Superior, referred to locally as the “Fresh Coast” is known for its rugged coast and icy water. This inland sea breeds a special type of person. The most rugged of Saulites brave the icy waters of Superior in November and December for some of the best surfing between Halifax and Tofino.
Most people don't know this, but some of the greatest waves actually come with snow and ice. Lake Superior has a polar vortex that causes massive waves to form uniquely in this area, and uniquely during this time of the year.
Meaning that, sure, if you come to visit the Sault during any other time of the year, you’ll still have a great time. But if you want to experience surfing the largest lake in the world in a completely different and extremely fun way? Well, winter surfing is your answer!
For more information on winter surfing, you can call or visit the Superior East Board Shop.
Try Ontario’s Only Guided Backcountry Skiing Paradise
Price: Chalet rental for $300 per night or $75 per night per person for the B&B
Address: R.R. #1 Goulais River, ON P0S 1E0
Why You Need To Go: Located just 25 minutes from Sault Ste. Marie is a charming bed and breakfast, the Bellevue Valley Lodge. Here, you can enjoy backcountry telemark or Nordic skiing right in their backyard. Their 2,000 acres of land with 30 maintained runs have earned them the title of the best backcountry skiing in Ontario.
Some of the runs include:
- The Undertaker
- The Overtaker
- Vortex of Pain
- The Pyramid
Go see what skiing in the Sault is all about! If you're around from February 21 to 23, you can hit up their winter festival, the Snowflea Telefest.
Head Out For Some Snowmobiling Fun
Address: Sault Ste. Marie, ON
Why You Need To Go: There's a reason why Sault Ste. Marie is known as a snowmobile destination. It's got tons of snowfall and lake effect weather that make trails ideal for snowmobiling.
With over 2,000 kilometres of trails to enjoy and plenty of lodging and restaurants that are snowmobile friendly, the Sault makes it easy for you to get around during the winter.
The Sault Highlands Loop, the newest Snow Tour offering, provides riders with a one-day 150-kilometre riding experience in Northern Ontario’s wilderness. Catch a glimpse of the expansive waters of Lake Superior and ride along the ridgeline of the Canadian Shield all while being within hours of the urban amenities of the Sault.
A permit is required for trail system use. There are easy, moderate, and difficult trail systems available.
Stargaze On Lake Superior & Check Out The Dark Sky Preserve
Address: Multiple locations, somewhere untouched by light pollution
Why You Need To Go: Sault Ste. Marie’s unique northern location makes it the perfect area to admire the Northern Lights.
The areas surrounding the Soo are well-known for their stunning views of the night sky, but by far the best place to stargaze is the Dark Sky Preserve in Lake Superior Provincial Park. In fact, it's one of the darkest of all Dark Sky Preserves on Earth.
Take an evening walk or snowshoe into the park to see the stars as you've never seen them before. Don't forget your camera! Your Instagram followers will love these photos.
Discover Local Restaurants & Cafes With Mouthwatering Flavours
Price: Varies by business
Why You Need To Go: In the Sault, there are a variety of restaurants and cafes to enjoy. From breakfast, pizza to ethnic cuisine, there’s an entire world of flavours to discover.
Enjoy breakfast from The Breakfast Pig, which has been voted the best breakfast for six years in a row! Get a cup of caffeinated brew and a sweet treat from Scott Coffee Co. Finally, head to Vibe Eatery for a delicious, local plant-based meal. Yum!
Explore The Lake Superior Ice Caves & Ice Formations For An Unforgettable Experience
Address: Various locations close to city limits and within the Algoma region
Why You Need To Go: To admire the true beauty of Lake Superior in the winter, the ice caves and ice formations are where it's at. With their stunning blue hues, these frozen grounds are well-known for creating picturesque backdrops. The caves are formed by the waves on Lake Superior freezing over, meaning every year there's a new sight to see.
The best time to check out the ice caves is between January and February. You can contact Red Pine Tours for guided tours. There are many locations to choose from, including the Gros Cap, Saw Pit Bay, Coppermine Points, and Alona Bay.
Please note that, if you plan to venture to the ice caves without a guide, it's important to check ice conditions, ice safety, and weather prior to going.
Catch A Breath Of Fresh Air On A Cross-Country Ski & Snowshoe Trails
Price: $17 for an Adult Day Pass or $5 for the snowshoe day pass; $20 to rent skis, boots and poles, and $10 to rent snowshoes
Address: 780 Landslide Road, Sault Ste. Marie, ON P6A 6J8
Why You Need To Go: Hiawatha Highlands/Kinsmen Park is a place unlike any other. Sure, it’s got absolutely gorgeous natural attractions like forests, creeks, and frozen waterfalls. It's a real-life winter paradise — but the thing that makes it really stand out amongst the rest is all of its trails.
With over 50 kilometres of nature trails to explore, you can really spread out and have a fun time. This is a family-friendly activity with easy, moderate, and difficult trails available. Here, you can rent skis, poles, boots or snowshoes and hit the machine-groomed trails to enjoy an epic outdoor adventure!
Bundle Up & Try Your Hand At Fly Or Ice Fishing
Price: Contact Tourism Sault Ste. Marie for pricing
Address: 99 Foster Drive, Sault Ste. Marie, ON P6A 5X6
Why You Need To Go: In the Soo, you can learn how to do winter fly fishing with a guide (if the weather permits). The best time to do this is between November and December.
You can also head to Lake Superior for guided ice fishing. The best time for this is the end of January to March. If ice fishing is new for you, the guided events are a great option. You can get full gear and set up provided by your guides, which include rods, ice huts, and heaters.
Some of the species you can catch are trout, panfish, walleye, and northern pike.
Cozy Up With Local Artisanal Treats
Price: Free to enter and prices vary by vendor
Where: 35 Canal Drive, Sault Ste. Marie, ON P6A 5P9
Why You Need To Go: After an exciting day of letting loose outdoors, there's nothing as comforting as indulging in tasty treats from the Sault's local farmers and artisans.
Located just off the Hub Trail and St. Mary's River waterfront, the Mill Market offers a variety of locally grown, raised, or crafted goods. It's open on Wednesdays (noon to 4 p.m.) and Saturdays (9 a.m. to 2 p.m.).
Did someone say butter tarts and homemade maple syrup? You're bound to find a scrumptious treat or two... or three.
Take In The Views & Unwind While Strolling The Boardwalk
Address: 5V4, Hub Trail, Sault Ste. Marie, ON
Why You Need To Go: Just off the St. Mary's River is the boardwalk, boasting excellent views of the river, sandstone buildings, City Hall, sculptures, the Mill Market, and more.
With a bicycle path along the boardwalk, you can stroll or bike (weather permitting) around as you take in the winter beauty of your surroundings and watch fishermen reel in trout.
Don't feel like biking or walking? Check out Clergue Park Ice Trail. It runs along the boardwalk, as well. After your stroll, check out the boutiques on Queen Street for unique Christmas gifts.