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Sault Ste. Marie to Detroit - The Long Way Home

Detroit, MI
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Sault Ste. Marie to Detroit - The Long Way Home

Looks like I will be in Mackinaw City. MI for the annual Labor Day bridge walk (September 2nd). Since I have the entire week off of work, I'm looking at taking the long way home to Detroit through Ontario. I'll probably be solo as all of my friends have to go back to work, nor do they believe in my drive 700 miles when you could do it in 300 routes.

Looks like Manitoulin Island is a must explore area. Is it a better to take the ferry south, or will I find more interesting things if I divert back north and east to Sudbury and/or North Bay? I've done Toronto and Niagara Falls, so I'm not interested in diverting that far southeast.

I figure since tourist season will be winding down so I won't have to worry much about reservations or crowds. I like to travel at the spur of the moment and just find a motel when I get tired of driving or find somewhere I want to spend a day or two. I'm not picky about accommodations - clean is really my only criteria. I'm actually thinking about throwing a tent in the back of the truck in case I want to just crash at a campground at some point.

I'm always looking for a good scenic drive. I just got a new 4x4 truck, so if there is some interesting nature spot that requires a trip into the woods down a two track I would be interested. I'm always looking for a good casino, brewpub or tavern. Otherwise, poking a bonfire with a stick is always a relaxing time.

Thanks for any advice on a route or stops.

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1. Re: Sault Ste. Marie to Detroit - The Long Way Home

Sounds like you're into nature, scenery and possibly camping. From that perspective, Manitoulin Island might not actually be the highlight of your trip. It's a nice rural area with some picturesque lakes and hiking spots, but there are far more impressive natural areas along whichever route you take, either the Chi-Chimaun ferry -> Highway 6 -> Highway 21 route or the Sudbury -> Highway 69/400 route. I'm not telling you to skip Manitoulin, just to ration your time accordingly when you get there.

Note that the route by ferry is significantly shorter, but has the added expense of taking your car on the ferry (and the added task of coordinating with the ferry schedule).

If you take the ferry, the scenic highlight of your trip would probably be the northern Bruce Peninsula, right around Tobermory where the ferry takes you. You can hike, swim, or kayak around the cliffs and rock formations on the Georgian Bay side of the peninsula, take boat tours to see Flowerpot Island and the shipwrecks in the Tobermory harbour, or check out the Singing Sands beaches on the Lake Huron side. (A much larger and more famous beach, Sauble, is at the south end of the peninsula.) There are various accommodations in and around Tobermory, and camping is available both in Bruce Peninsula National Park and at various private campgrounds in the area.

If you take the Hwy 69/400 route, until about Port Severn you'll be passing through the Canadian Shield landscape (rugged granite veins covered in forest and lakes), which creates a maze of inlets and islands as it meets Georgian Bay. The east shore of Georgian Bay is called the 30,000 Islands and there are lots of spots along the way that would be great for hiking, kayaking, canoeing or just sightseeing, including boat cruises in a few locations. Killarney Provincial Park on the north shore of Georgian Bay is probably the most stunning spot, with its clear lakes and white quartzite-capped hills; it's close to Manitoulin as the crow flies, but unfortunately is only accessible via a 1 hr + detour (each way) off Highway 69.

There's a casino in Sault Ste Marie, and one in both Windsor and Sarnia (the two cities you might re-enter the USA from, depending on your route).

No shortage of taverns in any of the cities or major towns you'll pass. Not sure about brew pubs specifically, you could google them for the cities you'll pass through, particularly in the southern part of the journey. Guelph, which you'll pass by if you take the long route, is a bit of a beer centre, so that might be a spot to check. I'm familiar with brew pubs in Toronto, which you are passing by if you take the long route, but it sounds like you're not planning to get off the highway there.

If you do take the long route, stay off the 407, it's an "electronic toll road" with quite high fares that you get billed for by mail. Locals who use it daily rent a transponder to pay lower tolls. Take the 401 from the 400 instead. The only exception would be if you get to that area in rush hour and you're running behind schedule -- the 407 would certainly be moving faster.

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2. Re: Sault Ste. Marie to Detroit - The Long Way Home

manitoulin and bruce penn. park are very cool! i think the cliffs at the park in tobermory are incredible. we were lucky enough to have really warm weather so the lake was warm and we put on flippers and life jackets and floated all around the shoreline one day.

there is some beautiful rugged scenery on lake superior, just an hour north-west of the soo. you can tent at pancake bay, saulttourism.com/the-sault/maps/listing.aspx…

or just poke around the dirt roads heading off the highway to the shore and stay on crown land. there are dozens of such places between pancake bay and alona bay (about 45 min) and the drive is spectacular. it is rural and rugged.

we have a casino in soo canada and there is a much bigger one in soo michigan and bay mills michigan. the scenery and history around bay mills, iriquois point, whitefish bay are all very interesting. you could do that on the same day you drive down from mackinac city - hit the casino and the shore drive. there is brimley state park on lake superior or monocle lake state campground on inland monocle lake (not as busy)

there are fishermen out here in the soo on the st. mary's river in the rapids and on the banks. there is a really nice nature walk around whitefish island and along the river.

3. Re: Sault Ste. Marie to Detroit - The Long Way Home

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