Just Over the Line: US-Canada Border Towns That Make Quirky Vacation Destinations
Currently, about 80 percent of Canadian residents live within 80 kilometres of the U.S. border so vacationing in another country is almost literally, a hop, skip and a jump away. Canadians can easily find travel hotel deals and step their toes over the line to enjoy a quirky vacation in a U.S.-Canada border town.
Travelling into the U.S. over land requires a passport, NEXUS/FAST card, enhanced driver’s license or Secure Certificate of Indian Status. Most experts recommend that travellers give themselves 30 minutes to cross the border and additional time if they have children. Once you’re in the states, three great border towns to visit include Derby Line, Vermont, Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, and Eureka, Montana.
Derby Line, Vermont
Derby Line nestles near the Quebec border directly over the line from Stanstead in Canada. In fact, Derby Line and Stanstead share a number of streets. For example, Canusa Avenue is in Canada, but the houses to the south of the street are in the U.S. On Canusa Avenue, people who pull out of their driveways on the south side have left the U.S. and must report to a border post.
The Haskell Free Library and Opera House, a historic building that opened in 1904, straddles the U.S./Canada border. In fact, a thick black line crosses the library’s hardwood floor, marking the strictly enforced border that separates the two countries. Library patrons from either side of the border can use the building without going through security.
Visitors who want to travel further into the U.S. can find many things to do in Northern Vermont. Burlington, Vt., is less than 160 kilometres from Montreal, and visitors can enjoy the Echo Aquarium, dine in a restaurant on Lake Champlain or milk a cow at Shelburne Farms. Vermont also has a number of elegant wineries including Shelburne Vineyards and the Grand View Winery, which is in Waterbury. Near St. Johnsbury, visitors can enjoy skiing at Burke Mountain in the winter. For kids or kids at heart, a quick trip across the border to Jefferson, New Hampshire, leads to Santa’s Village, a theme park that celebrates Christmas year-round.
Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan
The St. Mary’s River divides Michigan’s Sault Ste. Marie from its sister city of the same name across the border in Ontario. Both cities are near Lake Superior, so travellers can put on their swim shoes and wade across the smooth round stones in the lake’s shallow waters. Visitors can also watch large ships pass through the Soo Locks while standing in the Tower of History, or they can enjoy fishing in one of many waterways.
If you’re fascinated with the story of the Edmund Fitzgerald, a large freighter that sank in Lake Superior in 1975 following a large storm, then you can see two lifeboats from the ship at the Museum Ship Valley Camp. Additionally, visit the Point Iroquois Lighthouse, which marks the spot where the waters of Lake Superior rush into the St. Mary’s River. Travel further south along the Upper Peninsula of Michigan to St. Ignace, the second oldest city in Michigan, and take the ferry to Mackinac Island. You should also explore the beautiful lakeside towns of Traverse City and Petoskey.
Eureka is about nine miles south of the border that divides Montana from British Columbia when you drive along U.S. 93. The Pacific Northwest Trail, which links the Continental Divide in Montana to the Pacific coast of Washington’s Olympic Peninsula, runs through Eureka and offers outstanding hiking. The Ten Lakes Scenic Area offers striking views of forests and pristine lakes along with abundant fishing. Skiers will love the Whitefish Mountain Resort.
Eureka is only 90 minutes away from Glacier National Park. Take the Going-to-the-Sun Road to see Logan Pass and Lake McDonald Valley. If you have several days to spend at the park, then go backpacking and camping, or take a tour of the park via boat or horseback ride. You can bring your own boat and access the glacial lakes in the park.
About the Author: Melanie Hartwell is a dual citizen of Canada and the United States. She is gradually exploring the U.S.-Canada border one town at a time.