Welcome to the Weekend Route your guide to one-of-a-kind eats, locations, and featured routes.
This featured route is curated with the lush history of Mackinac Island in mind. Starting in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, the route traverses the border into Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, and leads to St Ignace, and Mackinaw City until inevitably reaching the illustrious Star Line Mackinac Island ferry terminal waiting to carry you to the famed Mackinac Island.
Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario
We begin the Mackinac Island Featured Route in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, one-half of the city of Sault Ste. Marie. Commonly referred to as “Baawitigong” (meaning, place of the rapids) by the population of Anishinaabe, Sault Ste. Marie is home to St. Mary’s Rapids.
“Are you a good witch or a bad witch?”. Our first stop is “The Soup Witch” a local grab-and-go cafe with over 60-70 different soups prepared each month. Founded in 2020 by longtime best friends Kat & Mana. This cafe is famous for its tasteful and filling sandwiches, rich coffee, and above all unique soups of the day. Some local favourites off their menu include; “I’m Melting Panini”, their “Witch Please sandwich”, and their “Witches Brew Coffee”.
Mill Market is a one-of-a-kind Farmer’s Market as it is non-for-profit. Mill Market prides itself on its ability to connect Northern Ontario farmers to local consumers in turn strengthening and forging a healthy community and a strong local food economy. The market is home to 37 local vendors ranging from art pieces to coffee shops, to Italian Charcuterie boards. When in Sault Ste. Marie, it is important that you pay a visit to Mill Market even if you typically aren’t a big fan of farmer’s markets as this market is unique in vendors and supporting a community is a way to learn more about the history of Sault Ste. Marie.
Have you ever wanted to fly a plane but perhaps were wary about losing control and plunging from the sky? The Canadian Bushplane Heritage Center is a museum dedicated to preserving the history of BushPlanes and was nominated as the number one attraction in Sault Ste. Marie, inevitably it ended up on our list. It is an interactive museum where you can participate in their plane flying simulator, see a working engine test, and climb a real fire tower. When in Sault Ste. Marie Ontario visit, The Canadian Bushplane Heritage Center or risk what may be your only chance to “fly” a plane.
Our last recommendation for places to visit in Sault Ste. Marie Ontario is “The Breakfast Pig”. This Sault Ste. Marie staple is called “The Pig” by its dedicated customers and it has been open since 2015. All the pork used in their tasty breakfast dishes is from one of the local farms, Sunnynook Farms. Their menu is crafted to bring a “badass” turn to breakfast foods while using ingredients that are as local as possible. With options on their menu like their “badass chicken and waffles”, “The Hangover” which consists of 3 eggs, ham, 2 bacon, 1 sausage and 2 mini waffles, and their “Mother Clucker” which is a chicken and waffle eggs benedict. We recommend that you pig out at “The Breakfast Pig”.
Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan
Our next stop on our journey to Mackinac Island in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan the other half of Sault Ste. Marie. In order to make it to this next destination, you have to cross the border. The border is located at the St. Mary’s river and the Sault Ste. Marie international bridge.
Our first stop in Sault Ste. Marie is the Point Iroquois Lighthouse which is at the entry to the St. Mary’s River and looks over Lake Superior. Visit the lighthouse and relish in the beautiful view of Canada from the top of the 65ft tall lighthouse. The lighthouse has been standing for 107 years and had been functional for many before it became simply a part of history. Visit the volunteers who run the museum portion of the lighthouse for an in-depth recount of the history behind the lighthouse.
Brace yourself for the name, our next location is called “Sugar Daddy Bakery Sault Ste. Marie”. Sugar Daddy bakery is a staple in Sault Ste. Marie and is known for its unique donut flavours, soups sandwiches, classic sweet treats, but above all, its many flavours of milkshakes. Their flavour of the month this October was “Butterbeer” and as a proud Slytherin and Harry Potter fan, I cannot think of a more mouthwatering milkshake flavour. This bakery is right on Portage avenue by Soo Locks, our next location on our sightseeing avenue.
Soo Locks is an engineering marvel most cannot begin to fathom. Soo Locks connects Lake Superior and Huron and provides the mechanism allowing freighters over 1000ft to travel across the St. Mary’s river. These freighters are responsible for the trade of products between those surrounding the great lakes. A freighter must travel through the locks to travel through the great lakes, the transition takes 9 hours total. Once a ship has been attached to the locks, water passes through the locks, if water is entering the locks it raises the freighter up into Lake Superior, when water is released the ship is lowered into Lake Huron. The first freighter that passes through annually reckons a large crowd and a ceremony is typically held. There is a viewing platform stationed by the locks so those interested can watch the freighters pass through, Sault. St. Marie even has a list that tells you when each freighter passes through so you can watch out for your favourites.
Our next stop on the Mackinac Island route is not family-friendly nor for the faint of heart. This bar crawl to end all bar crawls is named “The BARmuda Triangle”, the triangle encompasses 13 of Michigan’s most esteemed bars strategically placed in the shape of a triangle. Discovered by a father/ son duo conducting research on the best bars in the Upper Penninsula, this “supernatural phenomenon” is one you must check out. The 13 locations have something for everyone; enjoy pizza and wine at 1668 Winery & Lockside Brewery or taste test 100 different flavours of margaritas at The Palace Mexican Restaurant and Saloon.
This curated route’s next stop is St. Ignace, with a population of just over 2000 this small town is home to plenty of local hidden gems. An 11-minute drive from the heart of St. Ignace is the Castle Rock trailhead. Castle Rock is a large lookout point in St. Ignace known as Pontiac’s Lookout by the local Indigenous Ojibwa Tribe. The lookout is 195 ft tall and only requires a 500-metre trek to the top. From the top of the lookout, you can see the final destination, Mackinac Island and downtown St. Ignace in all of its glory. After climbing the peak visit the Castle Rock Souvenir Barn and purchase a t-shirt broadcasting your successful climb.
Fun for the whole family is provided at our next location in St. Ignace, Mystery Spot. Named Michigan’s #1 most unusual attraction for its seemingly defying gravity attraction. Discover the mystery through a series of ziplines, mazes, and mini-golf. There is a mystery tour provided where you can feel the different gravity loss sensations. Can you figure out why these phenomena are occurring throughout the tour of the park?
The Gangplank; Grub and Pub is the perfect place to grab a bite to eat before we continue into Mackinaw City. This restaurant is located right on the water and provides unbeatable views whether you are sitting indoors or outdoors. They are known for their Whitefish Tacos and Yooper Ribs but have a wide assortment of meals on their menu. For children visiting the restaurant, they provide a “Little Matie” lunch and dinner menu. On their drinks menu, they serve locally crafted beers as well as cult classics. From the patio of this restaurant, you are privileged to a direct view of Mackinac Island.
Our last stop before reaching the final destination of our route is Mackinaw City. Although the attractions within the city are exciting in themselves, the real treat of this trip is taking your car onto the bridge between St. Ignace and Mackinaw City. The Mackinac Bridge is the largest suspension bridge between two anchor points. If you are nervous about crossing the bridge or suffer from anxiety concerning suspension bridges, officials on-site can drive your car over for you. This bridge was open to the public in the late 1950s and is one of the largest suspension anchor to anchor bridges in the world; this makes it larger than the famous Golden Gate Bridge.
Dixie Saloon is a unique bar and restaurant located in Mackinaw City, most would call it a staple stop when visiting. This restaurant was established in the late 1800s as a rest stop after travellers reached the end of the old Dixie highway now known as route 75, the saloon was then known as the tavern. This saloon spans two stories and has large wooden beams supporting the roof and wrap-around second-floor deck. Enjoy a hearty meal of steak and potatoes, or pulled pork on top of white cheddar mac & cheese, the feast fit for someone who has almost completed the Mackinac Island Route.
The Historic Mill Creek Discovery Park is one of Michigan’s State Parks. In this park, you can learn how timber is cut into lumber through the walkthrough of the reconstructed sawmill tour. As well as the sawmill tour it also provides an adventure tour where you can take a zipline through the trees of the park. You can find a movie theatre on-site that plays a fifteen-minute short film called “The Power of Water” which depicts Mill Creek’s history. Like any other park, there are also many hiking trails to explore, each with different difficulty levels so all ages can enjoy the exercise and nature.
Our final stop in Mackinaw City is the Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse. The surrounding waters of the Lighthouse are known for their many shipwrecks, the lighthouse acted as a guiding beacon for ships traversing the Straights of Mackinac. The lighthouse has now been restored to full functionality and provides many tours throughout the day to visitors. The second story depicts the family history of the first lighthouse. Every two hours there is a fog horn demonstration done by a historically costumed interpreter. Not only will adults enjoy the lush history surrounding the lighthouse but children will jump with excitement at the fog horn demonstration.
Star Line Mackinac Island Ferry is the ferry that you will take to Mackinac Island. The Mackinac Island Ferry is the longest-running ferry service to the island. Depending on the length of your trip you can choose to board the Star Line ferries at one of three locations; Mackinaw City location, or one of two ports in St. Ignace. The St. Ignace ports are in direct view of the Dixie Saloon, the restaurant recommended in Mackinaw City, less than 500m from the end of the Mackinac Bridge. The Star Line has expanded its number of ferries, there are 12 of which are available for service. The Ottawa is one of the fleets first ships, and while it is used for typical ferry work, it doubles as a classic cruise. With the old-timey nature of Mackinac Island, this 500-seat timeless ferry is one you want to be on. If you are with children or simply enjoy staying in touch with your inner child opt to take the Pirate ferry also provided by the Star Line Mackinac Island Ferry. The Pirate Ship offers a boozy night cruise for adults as well as a kid friendly cruise; kids 4 and under ride free!
Once finished with the ferry ride to Mackinac Island, you will take your car and park it in the complimentary parking on the island. Cars or motor vehicles are not permitted for use on the island, transportation is done by horse-drawn carriage rides and bicycles. There are taxis on the island, Mackinac Island Taxi; horse-drawn taxis with fares under ten dollars depending on your destination. You can also rent a horse for 50$ an hour to ride around the island from Jack and Cindy’s Riding Stable. As cars are prohibited, there are plenty of options for bike rentals on the island. Mackinac Bike Barn has two locations on the island and is sure to have a bike suitable for your size to rent. If you have no luck at Mackinac Bike barn you can venture to Mackinac wheels, Ryba’s bike rental, or Island House Bikes.
Catch a coffee and lunch at the Watercolour Cafe, located behind the Bay View Bed and Breakfast. It is in the name, during the day coffee and lunch is served and at night time the cafe is turned into a creative space where children can take art classes and local artists provide creative workshops. The building is bright yellow, right on the water, and its many windows provide many views and natural light. For lunch indulge in avocado toast, pesto grilled cheese, the sunny day salad, or one of their many flavours of smoothies.
Mackinac Island is home to many museums and historical reenactments for viewing. We recommend visiting the newest installment in the historical culture of the island, the Richard & Jane Manoogian Art Museum.
The museum focuses on Indigenous art throughout history. The museum is in a classic pillared white inn where you can spend the night, take an art class, or simply study the art pieces.
Movie lovers swarm the island to view the gazebo and hotel where the movie “Somewhere in Time” starring Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour was made. The movie surrounds time travel and finding one’s soulmate even if they were young during another decade. The movie was filmed at The Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island and the famous gazebo has since been moved behind Fort Mackinac open to viewing. The Grand Hotel is unique as it bears the look of an old-fashioned hotel, it is colourful and carpeted and not in any way modernized. The grand hotel is classy, luxurious, and serves old-world timelessness unlike any other. Visit for their various activities offered, their famous movie appearance, or simply live out a gilded glamour fantasy in this historic hotel.