To some living in Ontario, Sault Ste Marie seems like the end of the line – keep driving across the bridge and you’re in Michigan. Keep driving along the highway and you’re in Manitoba.
But if you stop in the Soo with the dog, as I did recently with my little cocker-cross Victor, you’ll spend a lot of time outside running your pup and meeting and greeting others doing the same.
Welcome to dogtrotting.net’s Pet-friendly Things to Do in Sault Ste Marie
Strathclair Leash-free Sault Ste Marie Dog Park
Early morning mid-week, I didn’t expect to see anyone else at the Strathclair dog park. I was right. If you need to run your pup leash free first thing in the morning (as I do every trip), the Strathclair dog park at 962 Second Line East beside the SPCA in Sault St Marie is where to go. You’ll have plenty of room and the place to yourself (maybe).
Dogs under 25 pounds on one side run among trees and benches. Big dogs get the rest of the 3.5 acres to run between trees, and they can go far – the back fence is hardly visible from the double gate entrance.
Parks Canada Lock Park and Superintendent’s Residence
Run by Parks Canada, the green space along the Sault Ste Marie Canal is entirely dog-friendly (on a leash) and connects to the city’s waterfront boardwalk (see #6) making for a long dog-walking adventure. However, the green space/former tennis court next to the historic Superintendent’s Residence (where you can have high tea select days in the summer) is isolated enough that our off-leash run went unnoticed.
Built in 1895 and once a major thoroughfare completing the connection between the Atlantic Ocean and the Great Lakes, the Sault Ste Marie Lock was the world’s largest and first to use electricity. Today, the original mechanics are still in use (without fail) and housed in a windowed covering so everyone can see them in action. Allow about 15-minutes to watch pleasure craft and tour boats rise and fall with the water.
Soo Lock Boat Tours offer two-hour tours including a trip through the canal. Only service dogs are allowed on the boat, but they do provide free outdoor kennels which is preferable to leaving Fido in the car.
Bachewana Whitefish Island
Adjacent to the Sault Ste. Marie Canal, Whitefish Island is accessible by a narrow, grated walking bridge (so you might have to carry the dog across like I did). But once there, Whitefish Island is one of the best places I’ve ever dog walked thanks to recently groomed gravel trails, clear signage designating direction and landmarks, and a mist-like calm.
Whitefish Island has a long history of appropriation and in 1981 was designated a National Historic Site of Canada. However, after a land claim was filed in 1982, the 22-acre island was eventually returned to the Bachewana First Nation of Ojibways in 1997. According to the current Chief, there are plans to continue the restoration – trails and signage were the first step – but funding issues and vandalism is slowing the process.
Regardless, an afternoon along the shores of a shallow rocky river leading to rapids popular with fishermen energizes my dog dealing with an ACL injury. Michigan means healing and the island is rich with medical plants and heritage. It’s almost cliché, but Whitefish Island was visibly therapeutic for my pup. Even with his leg brace, he was exuberant and bouncy.
Saturday Farmer’s Market and Mill Market
Every June, the Roberta Bondar Pavilion parking lot becomes the Sault Ste. Marie Farmer’s Market. Not a huge market, but interesting showcasing all local stuff including weaving, homemade jams and beeswax candles. You’re free to walk your dog along the isle (early spring, there was only one) and you’ll likely meet other pups.
Similarly, Mill Market operates Wednesdays and Saturdays (the busy day when all the vendors are there) and has its own red building along the waterfront boardwalk. Dogs can’t go into the building but, according to market manager Rebeka Verdone, “If there is a staff or volunteer in the front atrium that is willing, and if the dog is well behaved, we are often happy to dog sit for people while they shop at the Market. We’ve done that a lot in the past for people.” I took them up on the offer on a quiet Wednesday.
KOA Holiday Camp Ground
All KOA (Campgrounds of America) are independently-own so each adds its own flair. What’s in Sault St Marie KOA Holiday at 501 Fifth Line East? Dog agility. That’s right. Owners Joan and Bill Richard are big canine fans (Collies specifically), so they’ve added an agility field plus K9 Camp – a little dog leash-free park with small play obstacles – and a bigger one for big dog energy blasts.
Several KOA rustic cabins are dog-friendly, as are all RV and tent camping sites. The agility course, however, is only for trained dogs and rents daily to locals practicing for competitions, including four held annually here. Check out more details at Dog-friendly KOA Sault Ste. Marie.
Sault Ste. Marie Hotels: Delta Waterfront Hotel and Waterfront Boardwalk
What’s the one place you must take the dog? (Ok, in addition to White Fish Island). The Sault Ste. Marie waterfront boardwalk – and you won’t be the only one. Locals stroll with canines daily.
Park near the dog-friendly Delta Waterfront Hotel and start at the Roberta Bondar Pavilion then follow the boardwalk passed the statue of William Henry “Bill” Orazietti, a 19th century dog-sled racer, passed several observation decks where someone is likely fishing and walk all the way back to the historic locks. The 20- to 30-minute walk offers a view of tour boats travelling hourly through the locks and the occasional high-speed racer thrilling those who sign up for a ride.
The Delta Waterfront Hotel is proudly dog-friendly – evidenced by the selfie welcoming sign and dual doggie water bowls in the lobby. The waterfront hotel (the city’s only) offers comfortable boutique-style rooms with comforters and charging stations, and excellent view – especially if you happen to be there during National Aboriginal Day fireworks.