Northern Michiganders, escape to the North’s new north, Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario.

After one idyllic Northern Michigan vacation or a childhood full of them, nearly all of us who’ve made this place our permanent home eventually face the same predicament: Now that we live and work where we once only leisured, where the heck do we go to get away?

Easy. Heed the call of your younger heart and head farther north. One straight shot up I-75, over the Mackinac Bridge and through the Upper Peninsula woods, your new northern escape awaits on the other side of the St. Marys River: Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario.

Flush with trees, trails and sandy beaches, and rife with history, culture and culinary traditions all its own, the Canadian side of “The Soo,” as locals call it, is a rest- and recreation-seeking Michigander’s dream. And there’s no better time to see it than summer.

Cross over to Canada by way of the Sault Ste. Marie International Bridge, and within seconds, you’ll see why. A tree-dappled city, almost entirely high-rise free, sits on the St. Marys’ waterfront, just east of the bridge’s north end.

Known for warm breezes, minimal humidity and a decidedly relaxed Canadian vibe, Sault Ste. Marie is a city made for vacationing. It’s peppered with diverse restaurants (many with outdoor decks and patios), stellar breweries, dozens of unique shops and boutiques, and cool historical and cultural sites aplenty.

Where to start? With the ultimate land, Locks and water views—all three best seen on a leisurely two-hour boat tour aboard the new Miss Marie. The narrated pleasure cruise, which launches each afternoon from the Waterfront Boardwalk, plies up to 100 passengers along the St. Marys River and into Lake Superior. It offers a full bar, two decks with covered and open-air viewing areas, and, by arrangement, private evening charters.

If gasp-while-you-relax tours are your thing, add the Agawa Canyon Tour Train to your list. Yes, it’s fabulous in fall, but autumn rides tend to sell out faster than the leaves drop. The long, languid days of summer, on the other hand, mean more opportunities for getting tickets and, if you ask anyone who’s been, just might be this trek’s best-kept secret. In a single day, the train rolls past sparkling lakes, sky-high granite formations and forests so dense with leafy trees, shrubs and conifer spires, the very air seems to glow green.

You don’t have to have an artist’s eye to appreciate the vast and pristine wilderness surrounding these rails—or the country’s famed Group of Seven, the 1920s-era painters who so distinctly captured Agawa and other Canadian landscapes that their work is considered an arts movement. The train compartments include flat-screen monitors and GPS-triggered narration that tells you what you’re seeing as you see it, plus shares the history and legends about the region and its people, including its first known inhabitants, the Ojibway.

Bonus: You can continue to blow your mind, as well as stretch your legs, during the tour’s 90-minute stop at Agawa Canyon Park, where an optional stair climb earns you a breathtaking view of Bridal Veil Falls.

Travelers who prefer to explore under their own power are hardly overlooked in—or around—The Soo. Case in point: The popular and paved 15-mile John Rowswell Hub Trail encircles the entire city and routes walkers and cyclists along the waterfront and through multiple natural areas, neighborhoods, commercial districts and more. What to brake for? In Heritage Square, a trifecta of only-in-Soo-Ontario stops.

One, the uber-fun-for-all-ages (but especially propeller heads), Canadian Bushplane Heritage Centre.

Two, the Sault Ste. Marie Museum with three floors of heritage-rich exhibits full of interactive elements, like on-site QR codes that let the curious dive even deeper into a downloadable podcast for pre- or post-vacation entertainment.

And three, the Ermatinger Clergue National Historic Site, where gorgeous gardens, the interactive Heritage Discovery Centre and two of the oldest stone houses north of Toronto vividly showcase the lives and lifestyles of the big shots who occupied the latter buildings between 1808 and 1908.

The Hub trail will also take you off the beaten path to the Fort Creek Conservation Area, aka the city’s “emerald jewel” (think: scenic bridges, lush forests and nature galore), and link up to other trails, such as one around historic Whitefish Island, which archeologists believe has hosted eight successive native cultures since 300 B.C.

Seeking hot-summer–in-the-city action? Yup, the Hub can get you there, too. Head to beautiful Bellevue Park for a playground and splash pad; the Waterfront Adventure Center for canoe, kayak and stand-up paddleboard rentals; the Canal District with its bustling train station, restaurants and outfitters in a wonderfully restored sandstone building; or Esposito Park, where a new asphalt pump track packed with twists, turns, rollers and berms lets kids and adults build their biking skills while they entertain onlookers.

(Hey, hardcore bikers—heftier hills can be found just 10 minutes from downtown at nearby Hiawatha Highlands, the forest home to nearly 25 miles of world-class mountain biking trails ranging from easy to expert. Extreme bikers, try Bellevue Valley Trail, about 15 miles northeast of The Soo. Only three heart-racing miles long but with a 750-feet elevation drop, this gnar-gnar more than earns its black diamond status—and, of course, eternal bragging rights for its riders.)

Should you find your pursuit of recreation compromising your plans for relaxation, a word of advice from our northern neighbors: Pump the brakes on the frenzied pace. You might be an American, but you are an American on vacation.

Sure, the city itself has a multitude of fun things to do, but it’s worth your limited while to remember it’s also a gateway to other getaways, a few favorites best experienced by doing nothing much at all.

An effortless one-hour drive from the city, for instance, brings you to the sandy beach and stunning woods of Lake Superior’s Pancake Bay, a place the voyageurs once paddled past, now a Provincial Park where you can sprawl out in the sun, swim until the sun goes down and camp overnight if you like.

Hug the coastline another hour up Highway 17, and you’ll arrive at Lake Superior Provincial Park, a sublime and seemingly infinite waterside wilderness no outdoors-loving Michigander should miss.

Finding both places is easy. Just like you did to get to Northern Michigan, and then to The Soo, Ontario—simply get in your car and head north.

When summer crowds arrive, escape to Up North’s Up North. Head to Tourism Sault Ste. Marie for more tools to plan your perfect getaway.