Sault Ste. Marie is well situated as a started point for many Canadian excursions, the most popular one perhaps being the Agawa Canyon Tour Train, 129 Bay St. (tel. 800/242-9287, 705/946-7300; www.agawacanyontourtrain.com) on the Algoma Central Railway. This one-of-a-kind train ride is a day trip well suited to rail fans and nature lovers. The nine-hour excursion that runs 114 miles north from Sault Ste. Marie through northern lakes, rivers, granite rock formations and forests, four different waterfalls. The trips are run from late May through Mid-October and then again from late December through mid-March -- they call the latter the "Snow Train." The train makes stops, including one in the canyon for an easy walk along gravel trails, four waterfalls and a 300-step climb to Lookout platform, which takes you 250 feet above the train tracks. The canyon tour train departs right from downtown about twice a day; reservations are recommended. If the weather is right, ask to sit in the dome cab, which affords the best views of the passing scenery. Fares are higher in the fall ($68 for adults; $42 for children 5-18) than in the summertime ($52 adults, $19 children 5-18). Prices listed are in U.S. dollars.
Because it's a waterfront destination, Sault Ste. Marie is close to several islands, including St. Joseph Island (www.stjosephisland.net), southeast of the city, about 45 minutes away, in the North Channel. The island is easily accessible via a toll-free bridge from highway 17 and its three major communities are Richard's Landing (north shore), Hilton Beach (northeast), and Kentvale (southwest.) The island is home to Ontario's largest maple sugar producer and is known for its large deposits of jasper conglomerate, or pudding stone. Artisans and fishermen have found a welcome home here for years, and the island attracts visitors with its shops, plentiful fish, hiking and swimming. For a brief introduction to this quaint, 15 mile-long island, check out the St. Joseph Island Museum, RR 2, Richards Landing (tel. 705/246-2672, with over 2,000 artifacts tracing the island's 200-plus years of history as a military encampment, pioneer settlement and finally, private island. The log cabin, stone church, and log school are charming reminders in the village on museum grounds of the island's former inhabitants. Nature lovers will want to visit Adcocks' Woodland Gardens, 4757 5th Side Rd, Hilton Beach, (tel. 705/246-2579; www.adcockswoodlandgardens.com). Owned by Russell and Eleanor Adcock, the beautifully maintained grounds are full of mature hardwood forests and picturesque acres of gardens. Open from mid-May to September 30; admission is free or by donation. Fort St. Joseph National Historic Site, 100 Saint Louis St., Richards Landing (tel. 705/246-2664), was constructed in 1796 and at one point was Britain's most remote base in North America. A film presentation greets you at the Visitors center, where there are also rotating exhibits. From there, pick one of three self-guided nature trails and a bird sanctuary. Open June 1 through Thanksgiving. Admission: $5 adults; $2 children age 6-16.