Thunder Bay is one of the most amazing places to visit in Canada, a dynamic city surrounded by rugged wilderness. There are so many things to do in Thunder Bay, both in and around the city, especially if you love exploring the great outdoors.Posts may be sponsored. Post contains affiliate links. I may be compensated if you make a purchase using my link.Perched on the shores of Lake Superior, the world’s largest freshwater lake, the city of Thunder Bay is the gateway to some of Canada’s most epic landscapes. Northwestern Ontario is home to 150,000 lakes and an ancient Boreal forest with over 44 billion trees. Go paddling or venture across the vast Canadian Shield on foot.A bustling urban environment awaits in Thunder Bay itself. You’ll have the opportunity to learn more about the region’s history, traditions of Indigenous Peoples, and local arts and culture. There are fantastic restaurants and cafes in Thunder Bay, as well as independent boutiques and small businesses carrying an array of unique wares.In this Thunder Bay travel guide, I’m going to show you the best places to visit in and around the city. Many of these attractions and activities are located within Thunder Bay, though many are located just outside of the city, too. As exploring nature tends to be the focus in northern Ontario, you’ll need to leave the city for the full experience. This Thunder Bay itinerary includes:Where to stay in Thunder BayGetting to Thunder BayTop attractions and sightseeing in Thunder BayBest provincial parks and conservation areas to exploreBest restaurants and cafes in Thunder BayWhile many of the places within this travel guide are only accessible during the summer months (ie. Ouimet Canyon, Eagle Canyon, and the Thunder Bay Lookout), Thunder Bay is an all-seasons destination. I have a blog post all about visiting Thunder Bay in the winter, if you’re looking to travel at this time of year.Where to Stay in Thunder BayThe Courthouse HotelBest Western Plus Nor’wester HotelMore Places to Stay in Thunder BayGetting to Thunder BayThings to Do in Thunder Bay: Visit Downtown Thunder BayGoods & Co MarketThunder Bay Street ArtThunder Bay WaterfrontAnemki Wajiw / Mount McKaySailboat Harbour TourFort William Historical ParkCascades Conservation AreaTerry Fox MonumentSleeping Giant Provincial ParkTop of the Giant TrailSea Lion TrailThunder Bay LookoutSilver IsletOuimet Canyon Provincial ParkEagle Canyon AdventuresKakabeka Falls Provincial ParkQuetico Provincial ParkPigeon River Provincial ParkBest Restaurants in Thunder BayWant to see more photos of Thunder Bay?Best Coffee Shops and Cafes in Thunder BayWhere to Stay in Thunder BayI’ve had the pleasure in staying at two accommodations in Thunder Bay, both in different parts of town. The Courthouse Hotel is right in downtown Thunder Bay, which is the perfect location for walking around the downtown area and the waterfront. The Best Western Plus Nor’wester Hotel is situated on the outskirts of Thunder Bay, close to Fort William Historical Park, the Thunder Bay International Airport, and the Loch Lomond Ski Area.The Courthouse HotelThe Courthouse Hotel is a 40-room boutique hotel in Thunder Bay that’s located inside a historic building. However, it isn’t just any historic building, it’s the former Superior Court of Justice building, dating back to 1924. One of Thunder Bay’s oldest buildings is now a luxurious hotel where you can rest your head at night.It’s really interesting to walk through the lobby and the hallways because it becomes apparent that this was once, indeed, a courthouse. You’ll be greeted by tall ceilings, ornate chandeliers, and a grandiose central staircase.The elegant hotel rooms are completely renovated, retaining some of the original elements, like the expansive windows. Some views face towards Lake Superior and the Sleeping Giant itself. There are modern elements, like a flatscreen TV and high speed Wi-Fi.BOOK YOUR STAY | READ MORE REVIEWSBest Western Plus Nor’wester HotelThe Best Western Plus Nor’wester Hotel is a comfortable and cozy hotel offering breathtaking views of Mount McKay. From my room, I could enjoy an outdoor patio with beautiful mountain scenery. This hotel has many great amenities to savour in between your outdoor adventures.The guest rooms have complimentary Wi-Fi, a flatscreen TV, and a Keurig coffee maker. My bathroom was super spacious with a second countertop and mirror for getting ready in the morning.This hotel also has the largest fitness centre in northwest Ontario, a heated indoor swimming pool, a hot tub, a sauna, and an airport shuttle. This is a fantastic hotel to rest after long days of outdoor adventures in and around Thunder Bay.BOOK YOUR STAY | READ MORE REVIEWSMore Places to Stay in Thunder BayLooking for more hotels and accommodations in Thunder Bay? You can browse them all using this handy map. Enter your travel dates for even more precise information. Click on each property to learn more.Getting to Thunder BayIt’s possible to drive to Thunder Bay, depending on where you are coming from. But, Thunder Bay is quite remote for many of us, so it might be easier to fly there. From the Toronto area, I flew to Thunder Bay so I could maximize my time in the area. Compare all flights to Thunder Bay to find the best deals.Once you get to Thunder Bay, it’s time to rent a car from the airport. You’ll need a car to get to all of the parks and natural spaces as they’re anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour from Thunder Bay. You can compare car rental prices here in order to find the best rates.Things to Do in Thunder Bay: Visit Downtown Thunder BayOne of the best things to do in Thunder Bay is visit the downtown area. It’s a great place to go for a wander, whether you’re exploring the city streets or the waterfront. There are so many excellent restaurants and cafes in downtown Thunder Bay. I’ll go into more detail about food and drink later in this Thunder Bay travel guide. For now, here are a few unmissable stops in downtown Thunder Bay.Goods & Co MarketGoods & Co Market is a unique public marketplace featuring 25 local and small businesses. This woman-owned business is located within the iconic former Eaton’s building in downtown Thunder Bay. The 20,000 square foot space is completely renovated and revitalized, and it’s absolutely beautiful. It is best described as a modern art deco market space.Walk up and down the aisles, ducking into an assortment of small storefronts along the way. There are small businesses with products for all tastes and interests, including clay pottery, art, clothing, bath and body products, candles, and more. Goods & Co Market is a food and community hub, art education facility, and business incubator.You’ll also find many food and drink vendors, such as a fresh produce grocery shop, a candy shop, a cafe with coffee and baked goods, restaurants and more. It’s a fantastic way to shop and support local, as well as enjoy the best products, food and drink to come out of Thunder Bay.Thunder Bay Street ArtThunder Bay has many bright and fascinating murals all over the downtown core. The best area to view street art is along Thunder Bay’s graffiti alley on Cooke Street. The Die Active Art Collective, comprised of young artists around the city, painted several works of art spanning each wall on Cooke Street.There are several other intriguing murals around town (on the public library, behind some businesses, and on the side of the local youth hostel, to name a few). Part of the fun is discovering a new mural around every turn. Go for a walk around downtown Thunder Bay to find lots of colourful street art.Thunder Bay WaterfrontThe Thunder Bay Waterfront is a lively place to visit in the city. There are parks, restaurants, shops, and all kinds of fun by the harbour. Watch sailboats and ocean-bound ships come and go. Gaze out towards Sleeping Giant and the Thunder Bay lighthouse. It’s a great spot to board a sailboat and take a harbour tour, more on that in a bit.Take a self-guided tour of public art at the waterfront. There are over a dozen intriguing sculptures around Prince Arthur’s Landing. These art installations embody the history, geography, spirit and culture of northwestern Ontario. Here is a map of the public art at the waterfront.In the summer, you can enjoy a free live concert series that happens every Wednesday night. For over 100 years, artists and touring acts have taken the stage. Live on the Waterfront takes place throughout July and August.Also, there’s a splash pad in the summer that transforms into a skating rink in the winter. During Winter Fundays, you can go skating, snowshoeing, and fat biking for free.The Alexander Henry Museum Ship is a floating museum with over a dozen rooms to discover. It examines the transportation history of the region. You’ll find the Alexander Henry Museum Ship at the Pool 6 dock.Anemki Wajiw / Mount McKayIt’s impossible to picture Thunder Bay’s landscape without incorporating Anemki Wajiw, also known as Mount McKay. Traditionally known as “Thunder Mountain” (or Anemki Wajiw in Ojibwe), Mount McKay is the highest and most northern of the Nor’Wester Mountains.This beautiful mountain, and more specifically, a “mafic sill”, is situated on the lands of the Fort William First Nation. Thunder Bay is located on the traditional lands of the Anishinabek Nation and the traditional territory of Fort William First Nation.For many years, the Ojibwe have used the mountain for sacred ceremonies. It is currently used for Pow Wows and other events. To visit Mount McKay, you must drive up the side of the mountain, purchasing a daily permit at the booth (it was $10 when I visited).Then, drive to the main parking lot to enjoy scenery of the mountain itself and the panoramic views overlooking Thunder Bay. You can walk along the boardwalk at the edge of the cliff, looking out towards Sleeping Giant and Lake Superior. No matter if you choose to hike to the top or not, seeing Mount McKay up close is one of the best things to do in Thunder Bay.To hike to the very top of Mount McKay, make sure that you hang a left towards the first parking lot after driving through the toll booth. Follow the trail through the forest where you will eventually hike up a steep hill to the top. It will take about an hour to hike to the top and back. This AllTrails map appears to be the most accurate.Sailboat Harbour TourWhen you travel to Thunder Bay, you can’t miss the opportunity to get out on the water. Sail Superior allows you to witness Thunder Bay from aboard one of its vessels on a harbour tour. I went sailing aboard their sailboat, Frodo, to catch glimpses of Thunder Bay and Lake Superior at sunset.The friendly crew will tell you all about the history and current happenings around the area. Float along and observe the Thunder Bay Main Lighthouse, the islands surrounding Thunder Bay, Sleeping Giant from a distance, and other marine vessels in the harbour.You can book your own private small group sailings for an intimate gathering. Frodo is licensed, so you can even purchase wine and local craft beer on board. There are multiple sailings each day. Sail Superior also offers zodiac boat tours and catamaran sailings.Fort William Historical ParkFort William Historical Park is one of the most popular Thunder Bay attractions, and one of the best things to do in Thunder Bay for kids and adults alike. It’s a family-friendly place to visit, but travelling couples and groups of friends will enjoy spending at least a half day there, too.This is one of the largest living history sites in North America where you can travel back in time to the 1800s. Fort William was the inland headquarters of the North West Company, the world’s largest fur trading company.There are all kinds of characters wandering the premises, complete with historic attire and mannerisms. You may encounter artisans working on some sewing projects, canoe builders, fur trading post voyageurs, gardeners, and many more, all true to the time period and setting.There are daily demonstrations like firearm demos, bread baking (and tasting), song and dance, and firing of the cannons. To my surprise, they even let me fire a gun (only primed with gunpowder and not loaded, of course). Fort William Historical Park is a truly interactive experience that embraces and invites you into the 19th century.Cascades Conservation AreaIf you are looking for opportunities to go hiking right in Thunder Bay itself, Cascades Conservation Area awaits. Hiking and viewing the gently flowing cascades is one of the best things to do in Thunder Bay. These tiny waterfalls flow down a series of rocks into the Current River. To get up close, you’ll walk across the massive flat boulders of the Canadian Shield.While many visitors to Cascades Conservation Area walk directly to the cascades themselves via the yellow trail, there is a network of interconnected forest paths at the conservation area. You can extend your hike along several other scenic trails for a peaceful outing.Wear your bathing suit if you decide to dip your toes in the water of the river or lay out on the rocks to enjoy the sunshine. Admire the river rapids and cascades, as well as the geologic formations on the ege of the Current River. There’s a lot to love about Cascades Conservation Area if you’re into nature, hiking, and waterfalls.Terry Fox MonumentJust on the outskirts of town, be sure to stop at the Terry Fox Monument and Lookout to remember the legendary Canadian icon, Terry Fox. He was a cancer researcher and activist, and the Terry Fox Memorial is located in Thunder Bay.Terry Fox had one leg amputated due to cancer, but he still attempted to run across Canada in his Marathon of Hope for cancer research. Sadly, he was forced to end his run at a point that is close to this memorial.There’s a memorial to Terry Fox and a statue at this site. The statue is nine feet high, and made out of bronze with a local amethyst base. You can also admire the views of Nanabijou from this location up high on the hill.Sleeping Giant Provincial ParkSleeping Giant Provincial Park is one of the best parks near Thunder Bay, and it’s considered to be one of the seven wonders of Canada. Located on the Sibley Peninsula, Sleeping Giant Provincial Park amasses 244 square kilometers (94 square miles) of wilderness, lakes and trails. There are over 100km of hiking trails (the Kabeyun Trail is 40km long), peaceful lakes, and sweeping, panoramic scenery.The Sleeping Giant itself is a gigantic rock formation that resembles a giant lying its back when you view it across Lake Superior from Thunder Bay. An Ojibway legend names the Sleeping Giant as Nanabijou (Spirit of the Deep Water) who turned to stone when the location of a rich silver mine (Silver Islet) was disclosed to white men.Top of the Giant TrailCredit: Ontario ParksThe Top of the Giant Trail is the iconic hike of Northwestern Ontario, and the most famous hike at Sleeping Giant Provincial Park. It’s one of those quintessential hikes of Ontario that you should experience at least once in your lifetime, and one of the best hikes near Thunder Bay.You’ll need to devote nearly a full day to hiking the Top of the Giant Trail. It’s a 22km hike round trip and it’s rated as difficult. The trek can take anywhere between six and ten hours, depending on your abilities.Many people bring bicycles and bike the first several kilometres before the incline portion of the trail begins. This helps save some time as the first five kilometres of the trail are relatively flat. There are still lots of tree roots and small inclines and declines to navigate, however. You can also rent a bicycle at the Silver Islet General Store.Sea Lion TrailThe Sea Lion Trail is a very rewarding hike with spectacular scenery for very little effort. Aside from hiking Sleeping Giant itself, this is one of the most popular hikes in the park. You will walk on a portion of the Kabeyun Trail to reach the Sea Lion Trail.Start at the southern Kabeyun trailhead and hike until you reach the big sign that says “Sea Lion” with an arrow. You can’t miss it. Also, the hiking trails at Sleeping Giant Provincial Park are incredibly well marked with directions and distances.The Sea Lion rock formation is a natural arch that formed over a billion years of erosion, glaciation, and weathering. Before the 1900s, the rock resembled a sea lion before its head fell off. As the powerful waters of Lake Superior continue to sculpt the archway, it will also eventually collapse, leaving a stack. Take the time to enjoy the brilliant views of the Sea Lion, the lake, and your surroundings.Thunder Bay LookoutThe Thunder Bay Lookout near Pass Lake offers a great reward for very little effort. Well, the drive to the Thunder Bay Lookout is a slow and bumpy one, but it’s well worth it. Drive down a narrow, rocky road until you reach a dead end with a small area to park your car.The Thunder Bay Lookout is a small platform with magnificent views of Lake Superior and Thunder Bay off in the distance. Admire the azure waters from high above, flanked by rocky cliffs and trees on both peripherals. If you can’t hike to the Top of the Giant, this is a somewhat similar view that you can enjoy without a full day of hiking.Silver IsletAfter hiking around the Sea Lion, you can take a drive around the sleepy community of Silver Islet. The story of Silver Islet is an intriguing one, where workers were drawn to the Silver Islet Mine, the world’s richest silver mine. The work was extremely dangerous, especially in such a remote location.The Silver Islet Mine closed over 100 years ago, but there’s a small display in the visitor’s center to learn more. There are rows of cottages and homes looking out to Sibley Cove, and it’s quite pretty. The Silver Islet General Store is a bustling little shop and cafe, and it’s also possible to rent bikes there.Ouimet Canyon Provincial ParkOuimet Canyon Provincial Park is about an hour’s drive northeast of Thunder Bay. You can combine a trip to Ouimet Canyon and Eagle Canyon in the same day as they’re relatively close to one another. Sleeping Giant Provincial Park isn’t too far from either park, so it might be a good idea to combine all three in one day (spending another day at Sleeping Giant if you’d like to hike the Top of the Giant Trail).Ouimet Canyon is a 150 metre wide gorge with rugged 100 metre tall cliffs that dramatically drop straight down to the earth below. The canyon floor provides a unique microclimate where arctic plants flourish, which are usually only observed 1000km north of Thunder Bay.The hiking trail at Ouimet Canyon is a loop path that’s only 1km long. Along the way, there are two lookout platforms offering two views of the canyon and beyond. Take a hike through the forest to visit both platforms to fully appreciate this spectacular natural phenomenon. Please note that Ouimet Canyon is open from the May long weekend until the start of October (and closed for the winter).Eagle Canyon AdventuresFrom Ouimet Canyon, make Eagle Canyon Adventures your next stop. You’ll experience two thrilling suspension bridges that hang over Eagle Canyon. One of these is Canada’s longest suspension bridge! This was one of my favourite things to do in Thunder Bay, hands down.You’ll embark on a loop hike that’s about 2.5km long. The first suspension bridge is the shorter of the two, but that doesn’t make it any less exciting (or scary, depending on your perspective). While I am not usually too scared of suspension bridges, this one did make me feel a little weak in the knees. As you can imagine, the next suspension bridge, the longest in Canada, made me feel a similar way.The scenery from high in the air overlooking Eagle Canyon is breathtakingly beautiful. You’ll look across the treetops in one direction while admiring the canyon and river while looking the other way. After you walk across both bridges, you have the option to hike down to the canyon floor. Descend down a staircase to gain new perspectives of the suspension bridges and your surroundings.Eagle Canyon Adventures is open from May 1st to October 15th, seven days a week. This is another attraction in Thunder Bay that isn’t open in the winter, so you’ll need to come to Thunder Bay in the late spring, summer, or early fall to experience it.Kakabeka Falls Provincial ParkKakabeka Falls Provincial Park is where you will find one of the prettiest waterfalls in Ontario. “Niagara of the North” is the second highest waterfall in the province at 40 metres high, and you can visit all year long. Kakabeka Falls Provincial Park is 30 minutes west of Thunder Bay, so I suggest visiting Kakabeka Falls on your way out to Quetico Provincial Park.You can view Kakabeka Falls from one of two viewing platforms on either side of the Kaministiquia River. Also, many visitors do not realize that there is a second waterfall near Kakabeka Falls called Little Falls. You can hike to this much smaller (yet very pretty) waterfall on the Mountain Portage Trail and Little Falls Trail from Kakabeka Falls. It is about a 3.5km round trip hike that should take you around an hour.Kakabeka Falls is also a significant natural site as there are 1.6 million year old fossils at the base of the waterfall. Furthermore, it was located on the historic route of the Voyageurs. A trip to this provincial park combines nature and history. It’s also a very accessible waterfall as you don’t need to hike at all to see Kakabeka Falls. It’s practically at the edge of the main parking lot.Quetico Provincial ParkQuetico Provincial Park is the most faraway attraction from the city that I’ve added to this Thunder Bay itinerary. It’s about two hours from Thunder Bay, though it is the closest city to the park. Many people will base themselves in Thunder Bay before venturing to Quetico Provincial Park to camp or spend the night in a cabin.The rustic log cabins at Quetico Provincial Park are very charming and have all of the basics covered. You can have a relaxing night’s sleep here if you’re not so much into roughing it in the backcountry. The cabins are located near the main park store and there are comfort stations with toilets and showers nearby. There’s also a little fridge and microwave indoors, as well as a barbecue on the deck.Quetico Provincial Park is a famous wilderness park with 460,000 hectares of protected greenspace, 2000 lakes, and 35km of hiking trails. There are rugged cliffs, picturesque rivers and beautiful waterfalls. It’s recognized as an International Dark Sky Preserve and one of the best places in Ontario to view the night sky.Pigeon River Provincial ParkPigeon River Provincial Park is located south of Thunder Bay on the Canada-USA border. The main attraction is High Falls (and Middle Falls), waterfalls shared between Canada and the USA. Hike from the Ontario Travel Visitor’s Centre before the border crossing to High Falls. There’s a viewing platform for the waterfall, and also one across the river in Minnesota. Wave across to our American friends!Pigeon River Provincial Park is part of the Voyageur Boundary Waters Canadian Heritage River and there are historic plaques to read along the way. This collection of hiking trails is open year round, so you can also view High Falls when it’s frozen in the wintertime. High Falls is one of the most beautiful waterfalls in northwestern Ontario, after Kakabeka Falls. If you have time to see another waterfall, definitely make the trip.Best Coffee Shops and Cafes in Thunder BayI also sipped rich and flavourful cups of coffee throughout my time in Thunder Bay. Whether it’s a hot coffee or an iced espresso beverage, you’ll find some of the best coffee in Thunder Bay at the following cafes and coffee shops.Up Shot CoffeehouseThe HabitThe Sweet North BakeryBean FiendBay Village CoffeeSt Paul RoasteryWindy Shores CafeCalico Coffee HouseUncommon Baked GoodsDolce Coffee House


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