The Soo Locks – Sault Ste Marie, Michigan – Travel Guide
Just an hour drive straight up I 75 from the Mackinaw Bridge will bring you to Sault Ste Marie, home of the famous Soo Locks. There you will find a quaint little town with a small strip of touristy shops that have sprung up around this iconic site.
They have several restaurants and gift shops all within walking distance of the Locks. A bit further down the road you will find a retired freighter turned museum ship, the “Valley Camp”, an incredible looking hydro-electric plant, and several other museums and attractions to visit. Our visit, however, was strictly to come see the Soo Locks before heading off on the rest of our trip.
The Locks themselves are surrounded by a nice park area which is free to enter and has a viewing area platform as well as a visitor’s center. When there are no boats traveling through the Locks there isn’t much activity going on but you can take in the view and marvel at the engineering splendor of such a giant waterway. When planning a visit it is best to call their ship schedule hotline (906-253-9290) to better gauge an arrival time. You can also check out the visitor center which has a listing of all ships and times for the day as well as some history behind the locks.
We didn’t do much planning on this leg of the trip other than “show up and look at the Locks”. Originally we were going to take the boat tour but due to time constraints for the day we decided to skip it. When we arrived there were no ships in sight and no activity in the area what-so-ever so we wandered around the grounds for a bit and took in the view. From the visitor’s center we found out that there was a freighter due in roughly an hour so we thought we could squeeze in some lunch to pass the time. We had no idea how long it took a ship to pass through the Locks but assumed it was quite an ordeal and lasted a while. Unfortunately, when we got back to the viewing area only a few minutes late, the crowds were already on their way out and we got to see the ship sailing away in the distance. It’s ok, no one was heart broken. It would have been a cool sight to see but did not detract from our experience. We returned to the car and headed off to our next destination… but that is the topic of another post…
Betsy: This is the first time that I have viewed the Locks from the viewing deck. In the past, I have taken the boat tour which is a very fun experience to actually go through the Locks. Since this was a free activity this was certainly worth the stop despite not getting to see the freighter pass through.
Chris: I had never been to the Locks before and figured it was a Michigan attraction that I’d like to see at least once. The whole reason for this leg of our up north adventure was to knock that one off my bucket list. Because I’ve lived near Lake St Clair my entire life I’ve seen my fair share of freighters so not being able to see one rise up in the water a few feet was not a big deal. I’m not going to lie though, it would have been really cool to see it all happen and to photograph the crap out of it lol. If we ever pass this way again I will be sure to take the boat tour.