Staff Hidden Gem – Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario

Guest Blogger Angela Romano is a Travel Counsellor at the Sault Ste. Marie Ontario Travel Information Centre. This month she’s blogging about her favourite finds in her own backyard – from Eagle Canyon to Winne-the-Pooh. Find out her picks for a memorable summer vacation in Ontario.

Lately, I have been taking the adage to “experience what is in your own backyard” to heart and living in a city as beautiful as Sault Ste. Marie, it is no wonder why.  I have the luxury of walking our beautiful waterfront boardwalk every night if I want to and look at what I get to see!

The City of Sault Ste. Marie has adopted “Naturally Gifted” as a slogan and there is no wonder why.  When it comes to the beauty of nature, the “Soo” as we are fondly referred to, truly is naturally gifted.  In addition to the spectacular view from our riverfront boardwalk, there are numerous local haunts from which to enjoy nature’s beauty.  Some of these local hiking treasures include the Attikamek Trailon Whitefish Island at the Sault Canal National Historic Site as well as the numerous trails at Hiawatha Park.

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The City of Sault Ste. Marie is also home to the newly developed multi-use recreational John Rowswell Hub Trail.

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This trail can be accessed from nearly every corner of the city!

Of course, making use of the numerous trails is not the only thing “experiencing what is in my own backyard” has entailed.  Recently, I took the opportunity to revisit the Canadian Bushplane Heritage Centre and was greatly impressed with the variety of planes on display as well as the great use of multi-media to showcase the important work done by our M.N.R./forest fighting crews across this great province.  Three impressive film presentations (Wildfires, Wings Over the North, and Bush Angels) are included in the price of admission.  In particular, their newest film, a 3-D multi-media adventure called Wildfires! A Firefighting Adventure in 3-D is not to be missed.  Filmed during one of the largest wildfires in this province’s history, this interactive, 3D-film really captures the reality of how easily a forest fire can quickly grow out of control while showcasing the great work of the province’s firefighting crews.  Children and adults alike will learn so much from visiting this impressive centre and like me, are certain to gain a whole new respect for the work done by our forest fighting crews.

One of my favourite Ontario memories was taking the Agawa Canyon Tour Train with one of my older sisters.  All too often, we are “too busy” to spend quality time with our friends or family which is why I am happy to have created this Ontario memory.  It was a great day of bonding for the Romano sisters and we certainly got in some exercise exploring Agawa Park and taking in the breathtaking scenery.  Here’s a shot of me that my sister took at the top of one of the viewing platforms.

The Train Tour has since experienced a number of upgrades including bigger windows, digital cameras that have been locomotive mounted along with flat screen monitors and GPS triggered tour narration that is available in 5 languages.  If you have been waiting to take the Agawa Canyon Tour Train then all of these upgrades should convince you to book your tickets – you won’t regret it!  My sister and I had a memorable experience aboard the Agawa Canyon Tour Train and anyone looking to experience the scenery used to inspire several works by the Group of Seven should definitely book a train tour soon!

Bridal Veil Falls in Ontario's Agawa Canyon - 2000

Growing up Italian, there are certain things we do a lot of, namely cooking great food, making homemade Italian sausage and  tomato sauce, watching soccer, entertaining large groups for family dinners, and of course, attending weddings!  Many of the weddings I have attended have taken place in beautiful Thunder Bay which is where many of my relatives live.  The drive around Lake Superior to attend these weddings has always been something my family and I look forward to!  Who doesn’t like a road trip especially when it is one of the most scenic drives in the world?  I mean just look at these stunning images that I captured on one of these “wedding trips.”

Along the way, we have discovered so many hidden gems and it is my pleasure to let you all in on some of these treasures some hidden, some perhaps not so hidden any longer.  Depending on how much time you have as well as how adventurous you are, there is a wonderful attraction known as Treetop Adventures approximately 20 minutes north of Sault Ste. Marie. This attraction is open all year-round and offers team building activities, a treetop obstacle course, paintball, and of course, the ultimate fun with two zip lines including the Mega Zip which is the fastest zip line in Ontario!  Be sure to stop there soon to knock that one off your bucket list!

Of course, sometimes the family is looking for something a little less physically demanding and for that, we stop at Agawa Crafts & the Canadian Carver to pick up some of the great smoked fish they carry as well as to shop in their wonderful stores which are always chock full of interesting items.  Gerry and his staff there always provide the best customer service and truly exemplify “northern hospitality” at its best.  The ice cream is pretty good too if memory serves me correctly!

085 Ontario - Wawa - The Canadian Carver

Another stop we often make along the route is at the Voyageurs’ Lodge and Cookhouse which is a great place to both stay and eat as it overlooks beautiful Batchawana Bay.

Voyageurs Lodge

The casual, Voyageur-themed restaurant serves up great home cooked meals including some of my personal favourites their beer battered pickerel or their famous blueberry crisp while my sisters are partial to their cinnamon buns.  All of their homemade desserts are made fresh daily on the premises and for that reason, they go quickly so get there early!  If you there during the summer months on a weekend, you will often be lucky to enjoy some great live music in the band shell they have on site!

Of course, it is good thing that we have the return trip to make as well because another favourite stop for lunch or dinner is the Lake Shore Salzburger Hof Resort also found in beautiful Batchawana Bay.  The hospitality of the Elsigan family is second to none and whether it is for accommodations or a simple meal, you will always be treated like you are a member of their family.  The Salzburger Hof Restaurant serves up delicious authentic Austrian cuisine such as veal or pork schnitzel, rouladen, Hungarian goulash with dumplings and spaetzle, not to mention their infamous Black Forest Cake to finish your meal.  On a Friday evening, many of us “Sooites” like to combine a great scenic drive with their fabulous Friday All You Can Eat Buffet featuring fresh locally caught trout and whitefish among a smorgasbord of other buffet items.  Reservations are advised for their two seatings!  As you can tell, I’m a typical Italian and food is definitely a big part of what makes a great vacation!

In White River, we often need to stop and stretch our legs especially after all of that delicious food so here is a shot of me and my niece doing so at the Winnie the Pooh statue.

Many people may not realize that White River is the hometown of Winnie the Pooh.  In fact, the bear cub that inspired the famous children’s books came from White River and Winnie’s name originated from the hometown (Winnipeg) of the soldier who purchased him in White River and took him overseas to England.  Eventually this bear was donated to the London Zoo where he became a popular attraction for many years especially for young Christopher Robin, son of author A.A. Milne.  Milne later would go on to write the series of books about Winnie the Pooh and his son Christopher Robin.  If you are ever in White River, be sure to shop at the gift shop next to A&W which offers a wide variety of Winnie inspired merchandise for obvious reasons!

Closer to Thunder Bay, another great place to stop and stretch your legs is at Eagle Canyonlocated in Dorion which is home to Canada’s longest foot suspension bridge at 600 feet across the canyon.  I had the pleasure of walking this bridge several years ago and wow, the view is amazing!

Since I’ve been there, a zip line has been added so I may have to pay them a return visit!

Travelling with my niece often means making frequent restroom breaks and a great place to stop is at the Terry Fox Scenic Lookout/Information Centre.  The detail shown on the Memorial Statue located there in Terry’s honour never fails to move me.  The artist did a wonderful job capturing Terry’s courageous spirit.

Kakabeka Falls is another great place to stop for some photos and there is a reason why it is nicknamed the Niagara of the North.  Here’s a shot I took of the Falls.

Hmm, it’s been a while since I’ve mentioned food and well, that’s just not like this Italian!  One thing Italians are known for is the fact that we like to do road trips with coolers and when I say coolers, I am not talking your little cooler bag!  We are talking the full-size, “going to camp” Coleman type cooler.  You never know when you are going to find a great food “find!”  On one of our Thunder Bay wedding trips, we found such a place and being a cheese lover, what a find it was!  Thunder Oak Cheese Farm located in Thunder Bay is the only farm in Ontario that makes Gouda cheese on site.

thunder oak cheese farm

The Schep family makes cheese that is free from preservatives and colouring.  Their cheese is really delicious and you can sample the numerous varieties they make and trust me, you will wish you had brought a cooler too!  My personal favourites from the approximately 18 flavours they carry are jalapeno, garlic, and smoked.  Here’s a tip for you readers, if you want to see how they actually make cheese, stop there on a Monday or Friday morning around 10:30 am which is when they make cheese.

If you like breakfast as much as I do, may I suggest the Hoito restaurant?

Hoito

This casual/diner style restaurant has been serving up some great Finnish food for years and their Finnish pancakes are excellent.  My cousins will often take us here to give the “Moms” a break from having to figure out what to serve us for breakfast.

Finally, I will end my blog with sharing one more “culinary” gem known mainly only by people living in the Thunder Bay area – “The Persian!”  Okay, I said the same thing that you may be thinking, what is a “Persian?”  Well, it can be described as a sweet, cinnamon hole less donut (bun) that is topped with a delicious pink (strawberry), creamy frosting which is best enjoyed fresh because the dough is soft and perfect!   To get one of these Thunder Bay treats, visit “The Persian Man” bakery in Thunder Bay.

After all this talk of food, I am getting hungry so I am off to raid the snack cupboard but in closing, plan a trip around Lake Superior, you won’t regret it!  Be sure to pack your vehicle like a Romano and include a nice big cooler, you will need one for the Gouda, the Persians, the smoked fish, the cinnamon buns, perhaps even some Black Forest Cake?  Happy Travels!

5 Comments Add yours

  1. Anita Mac says:

    Kakabeka Falls is lovely! When I cycled across Canada, I stayed with some friends at the Provincial Park. Great spot for camping.

  2. I grew up just outside of the Soo but haven’t been back in quite some time. Would love to take my kids on the Agawa Canyon train!

  3. Triesta Del Monte says:

    amazing……thanks for sharing….

  4. Donna says:

    Makes me miss home and all the great memories I had there, but always up for a road trip :0) See you soon Sault Ste. Marie Thanks Angie for reminding me of all the beauty I am missing great job on the blog

  5. Joy Erickson says:

    Can you tell me where the 1st waterfall picture is at? We are heading that way this next weekend. I would love to see that waterfall!

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