Home to some spectacular natural wonders and rich in history, Ontario’s Thunder Bay sits on the shores of Lake Superior, the largest freshwater lake in the world. From hiking through the scenic landscapes to cruising around the lake, skiing on Loch Lomond to exploring the variety of shops and restaurants or uncovering the area’s interesting history, there is something for everyone on holiday here in this friendly waterfront city.
Thunder Bay weather often sees a long, cold winter, making it a perfect holiday destination for those who enjoy winter sports such as skiing, tubing or snowshoeing. Loch Lomond and Mount Baldy ski hills are nearby, both offering a range of different runs, a café and a laid-back family-friendly atmosphere. There are also cosy sleigh rides, thrilling dog sledding trips and snowmobile adventures and many beautiful cross-country ski areas.
In the warm summer months the mountains provide endless scenic cycling and hiking trails as well as the opportunity to head out on horseback, while the Thunder Bay Recreational Trail’s network of paths around the city is a great way to explore the area. Sleeping Giant Provincial Park is a popular tourist spot with over 100km of beautiful hikes of varying difficulty, from strolls along the rugged shores of the lake and around the serene lakes and waterfalls, to more strenuous hikes with breath taking views from the cliff tops.
Downtown Thunder Bay has a good mix of shopping centres, mainstream shops and quirky local boutiques, many great restaurants and a handful of galleries and museums. The Thunder Bay Museum is housed in a beautiful building, once the city’s police station and courthouse, and offers an interesting look into the history of the area with regular visiting exhibits. The busy Waterfront District offers some of the city’s best entertainment with regular live music in its pubs and bars, as well as a great calendar of events in the lovely Marina Park.
Along the Kaministiquia River lies the fascinating Fort William Historical Park which is one of the largest attractions of its type in the country. With costumed interpreters, heritage buildings and regular events and festivals, you cannot fail to be drawn into life in the early 1800s to experience the height of the Canadian Fur trade. For a dose more history head to Chippewa Park, a traditional amusement park built in the 1920s. It still retains its charm with an original dance pavilion and small wildlife park as well as great views from the beach of the Sleeping Giant across the bay.
The rocks of Thunder Bay are rich with the semi-precious stone, amethyst, and there are several local mines you can visit for a great hands-on experience. Learn about the industry and dig for your own pretty purple stones to take home. Out of town, the Terry Fox monument commemorates the remarkable achievements of the famous Canadian who was forced to cease his planned cross-country marathon here after five months when his cancer grew too debilitating. Having run over 3300 miles, he is an inspiration to the country and the city is proud to have been part of his journey.
Thunder Bay welcomes holiday visitors from around the world, and with its beautiful natural landscapes, wealth of outdoor activities and busy downtown, you can see why.
Things to do
Top tips for visiting Thunder Bay
Top Tip 1
• Kakabeka Falls is the second largest waterfall in Canada and is a truly spectacular sight, particularly when viewed from the platforms and trails along the gorge. For a hidden gem head to Upper Wolf River Falls, close to the small town of Dorion. It is a tricky hike down the ridge to the river and can be hard to find, but with a 30 foot high waterfall that you can actually walk underneath in the summer months, it is well worth the adventure.
Top Tip 2
• Sleeping Giant Provincial Park has many beautiful hikes through forests, lowlands and rugged peaks. To slip away from the crowds, take the easy hike to secluded Middlebrun Bay and explore the often deserted sandy beach.
Top Tip 3
• Thunder Bay has a strong Finnish ancestry and a popular local tradition is breakfast at Hoito Restaurant. Their authentic Finn pancakes are a local institution!
Top Tip 4
• Another must-see is Eagle Canyon, where you can walk the 600 foot long suspension bridge which towers 150 feet above the canyon floor. The bridge is the longest of its kind in the country and boasts some lovely panoramic views.
Top Tip 5
• Fort William Historical Park’s many beautifully restored buildings and excellent costumed guides give a fantastic feeling of the 1800s, and the events, shows and workshops leave you with a real understanding of the fur trade society. Don’t miss the park’s observatory which has an amazingly powerful telescope and offers some great lectures and events such as the popular Star Walk.
Top Tip 6
• Thunder Oak Cheese Farm, just a short drive from town, is the only farm in Ontario that produces Gouda cheese. Here you can watch it being made, sample some different cheeses including cheese curd and pick up some Scandinavian food imports such as Hagelslag - or flavoured sprinkles for bread.
Top Tip 7
• Mount McKay across the river has a great lookout point with lovely views across the whole of the city, the bay and Sleeping Giant. Take the hiking trail from the lookout to the summit for a breath taking birds-eye view of the area.
Top Tip 8
• During the winter months there are several outdoor ice rinks including one at the waterfront park. Prince Arthur’s Landing is also host to Winter Fundays with a variety of outdoor activities from snow carving to fire and ice shows.