Thunder Bay

Destination Location

Thunder Bay
  • 48.371944, -89.321667:primary
  • 48.371898651123, -89.3238983154297:secondary

Overview

Located on the world's largest freshwater lake and surrounded by the boreal forests of the Canadian Shield, Thunder Bay has been dubbed the gateway to Canada's great outdoors. This large Northern Ontario city presents opportunities for nearly every conceivable wilderness diversion.

Here, you'll find the Sleeping Giant – a mountain shaped like a giant fast asleep on his back in Sleeping Giant Provincial Park. Nearby, Lake Superior National Marine Conservation Area and Quetico Provincial Park provide thousands of lakes for anglers to catch walleye, trout, steelhead and small bass.

Miles and miles of backcountry trails provide excellent hiking spots and spectacular views of the wildlife within. You'll also find stunning panoramic views and the Kakabeka Falls – one of the largest waterfalls in Ontario and a beautiful place for a picnic.

Before you go, visit the spot where Canadian icon Terry Fox was forced to end his inspiring Marathon of Hope. A memorial statue stands in Thunder Bay as a tribute to the spirit of this great Canadian.

Thunder Bay is a fantastic destination for:

  • outdoor adventure

Destination basics

Thunder Bay has short summers (typically less than 100 days) with moderate average highs in the low 20s C. Winter is the longest season here, on average lasting six months from November to May. Temperatures are cold and there is plenty of snow – perfect for skiing, snowboarding and snowmobiling. But remember, daylight during the winter months is limited here (around 8.5 hours a day), so take advantage of the outdoors early in the day. Spring and fall are also on the cooler side in Thunder Bay but the beautiful colours of the trees changing colour more than makes up for the temperature.

Average monthly temperature and average monthly rainfall diagrams for Thunder Bay

Thunder Bay offers a diverse culinary offer, with everything from contemporary fine dining and regional cuisine, to Finnish, Asian, and Italian Fare. While you’ll find dining options across the city, Thunder Bay’s best restaurants are centered around Intercity, and the historic downtown districts of Port Arthur and Fort William.

Intercity
Once a featureless section of the city that bridged the gap between the historic communities of Port Arthur and Fort William, the Intercity has since come to be a popular shopping district and home to some of the city’s top restaurants. Today, the neighborhood features a healthy mix of local eateries and popular chain restaurants. For fine dining, few restaurants can compare with the Caribou Restaurant & Wine Bar. This fabulous restaurant offers a seasonal menu, featuring modern North American cuisine fashioned from locally-grown ingredients. Paired with a wine list that consistently earns accolades from industry insiders and connoisseurs alike, Caribou promises an unforgettable dining experience in a relaxed, elegant setting. Another great choice for fine dining is Intercity’s Bistro One. Enjoy signature dishes like sea scallops in a maple syrup champagne sauce alongside fine wine off a daily menu of inspired international cuisine. The wine list itself is a thing of beauty, with over 100 labels to choose from, including a few exclusive varieties you won’t find anywhere else in the city. For a hearty breakfast and brunch, Tina’s is Thunder Bay’s most popular choice, with a menu of classic breakfast favorites served all day in an inviting ambiance. For a sweet treat, sample a fresh Persian - a cinnamon bun topped with raspberry icing - from the Persian Man with a steaming cup of coffee. Intercity is also home to numerous restaurant chains, including everything from fast food eateries like Subway and McDonald’s, to more refined eateries like the Keg Steakhouse and Applebee’s.

Waterfront District
The city’s Waterfront District lies at the heart of Thunder Bay’s culinary scene, and it is here that you will find some of the city’s trendiest and most beloved eateries. Start with a meal at the Sovereign Room. This popular gastropub serves up one of the city’s most extensive beer selections, alongside contemporary comfort food, stone-baked pizza, and live music. Next on the list is Tomlin. The restaurant offers an ever-changing menu of sharing plates, infused with global flavors and contemporary flair. For sumptuous, classic cuisine, try the signature prime ribs at the Prospector Steakhouse, a local staple for the city’s carnivores for over 25 years. For elegant fine dining, sample tapas at Lot 66, or savor contemporary Canadian cuisine at Bright, Thunder Bay’s only waterfront eatery. For regional Canadian cuisine, the Silver Birch is the neighborhood’s top choice, while the Polish Bistro serves up traditional Polish fare in a casual setting. Paired with numerous other restaurants, bars, and pubs, Thunder Bay’s Waterfront District celebrates the culinary arts in all its deliciousness.

Bay & Algoma Neighborhood
Home to the city’s thriving Finnish and Italian communities, this humble neighborhood boasts a culinary offer that is more than worthy of mention. Housed in the basement of the Finlandia Club, Hoito offers the city’s most authentic Finnish dining experience. The restaurant originated in 1918 as a dining hall for the city’s Finnish workers. Today, Hoito is best known for its Finnish Pancakes, served alongside other Scandinavian fare. Another popular choice for a delicious meal in the area is The Growing Season Juice Collective. This casual restaurant doles out an ever-changing menu of locally-inspired, made-from-scratch cuisine that is both healthy and delicious. Alongside their signature blended juices, the eatery also serves a selection of sandwiches, salads, wraps, and soups. For coffee and a light lunch, try Calico Coffee or the Bean Fiend, while Bar Italia and La Casa Nostra are the best options for an Italian meal. For dessert, sample cake at the Sweet Escape Cafe.

Downtown Fort William
Downtown Fort William’s dining offer is centered around the bustling Victoriaville Civic Centre. If you find yourself craving the smoky flavor of BBQ and a hearty meal, head to Man vs. Meat. This local restaurant serves up a simple menu of made-from-scratch sandwiches, burgers, and soups, packed with meaty goodness and fresh flavor. Nearby, the Kebab Village is a family-owned restaurant that serves authentic Lebanese and Mediterranean fare. Across from the courthouse, ExCuria is another local eatery, serving traditional pub grub in a lovingly restored historic building. For a taste of Asian spice, enjoy a casual meal at restaurants like Mandarin and Golden Wok, while Giorg is perfect for a refined Italian dinner of classic pasta dishes, alongside seafood, meat, and vegetarian mains. These and many more restaurants make up this historic neighborhood’s developing culinary offer.

The city of Thunder Bay came into being in 1970 through the amalgamation of the communities of Fort William, Port Arthur, Neebing, and Mcintyre. The city’s neighborhoods, as a result, still retain much of their original character, lending the city a layout with several commercial and cultural hubs, instead of a single downtown district. 

Intercity
Intercity forms the core of the Thunder Bay, lying at the point where the historic cities of Port Arthur and Fort William meet. The neighborhood has transformed from a dreary wasteland to a bustling commercial district with several clusters of restaurants and shops. You’ll find numerous big box outlets, alongside auto shops and strip malls in the Intercity. At the heart of it all is the city’s largest shopping center, the Intercity Shopping Centre, offering a mix of national brands and local boutiques selling a variety of wares. Here you will also find the Confederation College, the Thunder Bay Art Gallery, and popular eateries like the Caribou Restaurant and the Persian Man bakery.

Waterfront District
Thunder Bay’s spectacular Waterfront District is a scenic locale in the midst of the city sprawl. Home to top restaurants like Tomlin and the Sovereign Room, as well as specialty shops, art galleries, and waterfront venues, the neighborhood has come to be regarded as the city’s entertainment district. From live music at Crocks n Rolls and experimental artwork at Definitely Superior to gaming action at the OLG Casino and performance art at Baggage Building, the Waterfront District has much to offer for those of discerning tastes. All this and more can be found in the Waterfront District, alongside spectacular views across the lake of the majestic Sleeping Giant.

Bay & Algoma Neighborhood
This quaint neighborhood is home to the city’s Italian and Finnish communities, who lend the area a unique charm. Savor Finnish pancakes at Hoito, a popular Scandinavian restaurant hidden behind a historic facade, or tuck into an Italian meal at La Casa Nostra. Paired with quaint local shops and cultural events at the Italian Community Centre, the Bay & Algoma Neighborhood is a sweet sampling of the city’s diversity.

Waverley Park and Downtown Port Arthur
This historic neighborhood is centered around Waverly park and the commercial hub that was once the downtown district of the city of Port Arthur. Tour the neighborhood’s streets and find yourself face-to-face with the historic facades of local architectural gems like the Prince Arthur Hotel, the District Courthouse, the Masonic Hall, and the First Baptist Church. This historic neighborhood overlaps with the bustling Waterfront District.

Downtown Fort William
Downtown Fort William forms the core of what was once the city of Fort William. Here you will find a number of historic buildings centered around City Hall. Of these, Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, the Royal Edward Arms, and the Blake Funeral Chapel are a few of the most attractive options. Side by side, you will also find popular cultural attractions like the Thunder Bay Museum and the Thunder Bay Sports Hall of Fame. The neighborhood is not only the cultural hub of the Thunder Bay South, but is also a popular shopping district, with vendors selling everything from amethyst jewelry, antiques, and original artwork, to outdoors gear and trendy clothing. The neighborhood’s shops are paired with an equally delightful mix of dining options, like Giorg, the Blue Door Bistro, and Mandarin. At the heart of it all lies the Victoriaville Civic Centre, a shopping and community center that attracts quite a following. 

Westfort Village
This historic neighborhood was once the core of a thriving community made up of the families of those who worked the local grain elevators. The community came together and formed their own downtown complete with restaurants, shops, and other amenities. Today, the neighborhood is a popular shopping district, best known amongst local antique hunters and collectors for its unique shops and specialty stores.

Vickers Park
Vickers Park is another of Fort William’s historic neighborhoods. The charming residential neighborhood is centered around the historic Vickers Park. Opened in 1902, this park is Fort William’s oldest and was donated by Catherine Mary Vickers. Tour the park and neighborhood for a closer look at the quaint homes that line Ridgeway Street.

When it comes to entertainment, Thunder Bay has much to offer the outdoors enthusiasts, with an extensive network of trails, scenic waterways, and a varied landscape just waiting to be explored. Side by side, you’ll find cultural attractions like the Thunder Bay Art Gallery and Magnus Theatre, a casino, and varied shopping districts to keep you busy.

Museums and Galleries
Thunder Bay’s museums offer an insight into the region’s history, heritage, and culture through an intriguing array of exhibits that shed light on the many facets of the city’s past and present. At the Thunder Bay Museum peruse permanent and touring exhibits that chronicle various aspects of the region’s history inside a historic building that was once a police station and courthouse. Experience life as it was at various points through the region’s history at the Founders’ Museum & Pioneer Village, and the Fort William Historical Park, where history is brought to life in authentic historic environs. For sports fans, a visit to the Northwestern Ontario Sports Hall of Fame is an experience that should not be missed.

Thunder Bay caters to the whims of art lovers as well, with a vibrant arts scene helmed by the fabulous Thunder Bay Art Gallery. At the core of this gallery’s offer is an extensive collection of contemporary Canadian Aboriginal art. Those with a penchant for more experimental forms of art should visit the Definitely Superior Gallery. From Cuban artwork at the Habana Gallery to representations of the Ahnisnabae culture at the Ahnisnabae Art Gallery, the city’s artist offer celebrates diversity. Other top choices for the visual arts include Gallery 33, Chenier Fine Arts, and the Kleewyk Stained Glass Studio.

Performing Arts
Experience the unmatched thrill of live performances at Thunder Bay’s theaters and auditoriums. While the Magnus Theatre showcases live theater with a special focus on new Canadian plays, the Thunder Bay Community Auditorium presents a heady mix of the performing arts, with everything from musicals, dance, and comedy to classical and contemporary concerts. The Paramount Theatre is another of the city’s top performance venues, featuring live theater alongside film screenings, attracting an eclectic crowd. In Thunder Bay, delve into the magical world of live theater, or lose yourself to the melodious strains of classical music at a performance by the Thunder Bay Symphony Orchestra.

Outdoors
With a seemingly endless array of outdoors activities to enjoy in and around the city, Thunder Bay is truly Canada’s Greatest Outdoor City. In summer, go out and relish a breath of fresh air as you traverse the numerous hiking trails that surround the city, or experience the thrill of mountain biking instead. Mount McKay is home to some of the city’s most scenic hiking and biking trails, attracting outdoors enthusiasts of every caliber. You can also spend your day fishing or kayak across the pristine waters of the region’s lakes. More adventurous options like ice and rock climbing are also close at hand. Thunder Bay is the gateway to the Sleeping Giant Provincial Park, as well as the Silver Falls Provincial Park and the Pigeon River Provincial Park, each home to scenic trails, lush boreal forests, and a plethora of native wildlife. Try your hand at sports like curling, or spend a day on the green at the Strathcona and Chapples golf courses. Snowshoeing, skiing, and ice racing are winter sports that are also quite popular here.

Shopping
Shop to your heart’s content at Thunder Bay’s specialty shops, fashion boutiques, and shopping centers. The city’s shopping districts are complemented by a number of excellent malls that feature top retail brands and local shops side by side for a diverse offer with something to suit every taste. The Bay & Algoma neighborhood is home to the city’s thriving Finnish and Italian communities, with numerous local shops selling unique wares and ethnic restaurants to choose from. On the other hand, the Intercity neighborhood is the place to go to for national chain outlets and top retail brands. Anchored by the sprawling Intercity Shopping Centre, this district offers a vibrant array for shoppers. For unique gifts, art, crafts, jewelry, and trendy fashions, the shops at the city’s Waterfront District and Westfort Village won’t leave you wanting. Nestled in the heart of the amethyst country, Thunder Bay is also a great place to shop for jewelry made using locally mined gems. Stop by the Amethyst Gift Centre, and Purple Haze Amethyst to shop for jewelry and other amethyst items. With such a diverse offer to choose from, you are sure to find everything you need and so much more as you explore the city of Thunder Bay.

Casino
The OLG Casino at Thunder Bay promises a fun-filled day of gaming. Choose from over 450 slot machines, with everything from classic reels to the latest themed video slots. As for table games, the casino’s offer runs the full gamut with roulette, poker, and blackjack to name a few. Paired with casual dining and gaming events, the OLG Casino is a great place to spend a thrilling day indoors.

Thunder Bay

Province: Ontario

Country: Canada

Thunder Bay by the Numbers
Population: 107,909 (City); 121,621 (Metropolitan)
Elevation: 199 meters / 653 feet
Average Annual Precipitation: 68.37 centimeters / 26.92 inches
Average Annual Snowfall: 162.9 centimeters / 64.13 inches
Average January Temperature: -14.3°C / 6.3°F 
Average July Temperature: 17.7°C / 63.9°F

Quick Facts
Electricity: 120 volts, 60Hz, AC

Time Zone: GMT-5 (GMT-4 Daylight Saving Time); Eastern Standard Time (EST)

Country Dialing Code: +1

Area Code: 807

Did You Know?
Hugh LeCaine, known as the pioneer of the musical genre, musique concrete, was born and raised in Thunder Bay. He is renown as the creator of the very first multi-track tape player and music synthesizer, without which electronic music may never have come into being. His most famous composition, Dripsody, is composed of manipulations of the sound of a single drop of water, made possible by his brilliant inventions.

Orientation
Thunder Bay is located in Northwestern Ontario, 489 kilometers (303.85 miles) to the east of Kenora and just 71.5 kilometers (44.5 miles) to the north of Grand Portage, MN, across the border. Ontario’s capital city, Toronto, is located 1399 kilometers (869.3 miles) to the southeast of Thunder Bay. Also to the southeast, Sault Ste. Marie lies close to 700 kilometers (345 miles) away from Thunder Bay.

From its stint as a fur trading post to its brush with the mining industry, Thunder Bay has enjoyed a long and eventful history, born of the rivalry between the two neighboring communities of Port Arthur and Fort William. 

Long before European settlers arrived, the north shore of Lake Superior was the home of the paleo-Indians, and later the Ojibway people who traversed the region’s lakes and rivers aboard Birch Bark Canoes. In 1678, the French established a trading post at the point where Kaministiquia River meets Lake Superior, making this the first European settlement in the history of Thunder Bay. At this time the site was known as “Animikie”, a word that means “Thunder” in the native language of the Ojibway people, while the French named the region “Baie de Tonnaire” or the "Bay of Thunder". In 1717 another outpost was established at the site and later abandoned, only to be replaced by an outpost of the Northwest Company in 1803, named Fort William. Today, Thunder Bay’s colorful history as a trading post is on display at the Fort William Historical Park and is one of the city’s most popular attractions.

By the middle of the 19th Century, the city’s fur trade had given way to mining for copper, silver, and gold, marking a new dawn in the history of Thunder Bay. In 1867, the newly formed nation of Canada sought to wrest control of Rupert’s land from the Hudson Bay Company.  Simon Dawson was sent to identify a start point for a road that would link the region with Fort Garry to the west. Although Fort William was a well-established community by this time, Dawson chose the “Depot” instead, a site nearby that had served as a halting point for ships since 1805. In 1870, the site was renamed Prince Arthur’s Landing, by Colonel Wolseley who passed through here on his way to the Riel Rebellion. This site came to be where the town of Port Arthur would bloom from. Over the years that followed, the neighboring communities of Port Arthur and Fort William competed with one another as industrial and transport hubs, until they were eventually amalgamated, along with the townships of Neebing and McIntryre, to form the City of Thunder Bay in 1970. Over the years since, the establishment of universities, colleges, and tourist attractions have spurred greater interest in the city.

Points of interest in Thunder Bay

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