Strategically situated beside St Mary's River, the tortuous link between lakes Superior and Huron, industrial SAULT STE MARIE – more popularly The Soo – sits opposite the Michigan town of the same name and sees constant two-way traffic, with two sets of tourists keen to see how the other lot lives. The Soo is northern Ontario's oldest community, originally settled by Ojibwa fishing parties. Its appeal now is as the starting point for a splendid wilderness train ride on the Algoma Central Railway (ACR), which was constructed in 1901 to link The Soo's timber plants with the forests of the interior. The train snakes through a wonderfully wild wilderness of deep ravines, secluded lakes and plunging gorges. To see it all, sit on the left-hand side – otherwise you'll end up looking at an awful lot of rock. Tours depart from the Algoma Central Railway Terminal, in downtown Soo at 129 Bay St and Dennis (Tel:705/946-7300 or 1-800/242-9287
Amongst the town's many chain motels and hotels, the Best Western Great Northern, 229 Great Northern Rd (Tel:705/942-2500 or 1-800/563-7262, Web: www.bestwesternsault.com ; Price: $101-125), stands out if only for its five-storey indoor water slide and bowling alley. More historic is Eastbourne Manor B&B, 1048 Queen St East (Tel:705/942-3648 or 1-888/431-5469, Web: www.bbcanada.com/3010.html ; Price: $61-80), one-time home of an Ontario premier and a grand Edwardian mansion with beautiful gardens and surround-sound video lounge. The town's cheapest accommodation is in the Algonquin HotelHI hostel, a stern-looking brick building at the east end of the centre at 864 Queen St East and Pim (Tel:705/253-2311 or 1-888/269-7728, Web: www.hihostels.ca ; $28 dorm beds, doubles Price: Up to $40).
If you ask any local to name The Soo's gastronomic speciality they'll tell you it's pizza – which is apparently quite unlike pizza anywhere else. The most popular place is Mrs. B's, 76 East St (Tel:705/942-9999), where large pizzas begin at $13. The finest downtown restaurant is A Thymely Manner, 531 Albert St at Brock (Tel:705/759-3262; Tues– Sun), which is well known for its local lamb – from nearby St Joseph's Island – and its great Caesar salad; reservations are a must. Along the Great Northern Rd, at no. 357, The Steamy Bean Café (Tel:705/253-9690) serves up coffee and cakes in a relaxed setting with sofas and Internet terminals.