If you’ve been following along on Instagram, you’ll know that I just spent a few days out in Thunder Bay visiting my grandparents this month. Even though I’ve never lived there, the city does hold a special place in my heart. Growing up, we could pretty much count on spending a few weeks there every summer [if not, every second summer], and because of that going out there always feels a little bit like coming home.
This most recent trip inspired me to write a post sharing all of my favorite things to do in Thunder Bay, and so I’ve dug back [and I mean WAY back] through my files to pull some photos from previous trips, and created a list of things to do if you ever find yourself in Thunder Bay for the weekend.
See & Do
Terry Fox Memorial and Lookout
This statue overlooks Lake Superior and marks where he ended his run across Canada. A must see if you are in the Thunder Bay area.
Sleeping Giant Provincial Park
One of the best memories I have of coming out to Thunder Bay was spending the day hiking up the Sleeping Giant with my family. It started out as a beautiful sunny day, but by the time we reached the top, a pretty intense thunder storm had rolled in and we ended up doing the entire 12km hike back to our car in the pouring rain. The worst part? Since my dad didn’t want us getting his truck dirty, we all had to leave our dirty clothes in the box of his truck and ride back to Gramma’s in our underwear [which was completely mortifying at 14]. But at least we made it in time to enjoy the view!
Located right in town, Hillcrest Park is a great picnic spot and offers a stunning view of the Sleeping Giant.
There is a running joke in my family that Mount McKay should really be named ‘Big Hill McKay’ because it’s no where near the size of the mountains we are used to in Alberta. But regardless of whether you want to call it a hill or a mountain, it’s a fantastic place to watch the sun set over the city.
Kakabeka Falls Provincial Park
Located right off the Trans-Canada Highway, Kakabeka Falls Provincial Park is a popular stop offering hiking, camping, and swimming. Affectionately nicknamed ‘the Niagara of the North’, Kakabeka Falls is the second highest waterfall in Ontario and is a must see if you are in the Thunder Bay area.
Visit Marina Park
One of my favorite spots in Thunder Bay is Marina Park. Personally, I think it offers the best view of the Sleeping Giant, and I’ve always enjoyed spending a sunny afternoon wandering along the water, taking in the views, photographing all the boats, and popping into the little shops and art galleries.
Old Fort William
Growing up, anytime we went to Thunder Bay in the summer we would spend an afternoon at Old Fort William. I’ve been a bit of a history nerd my whole life, so I’ve always enjoyed exploring the park and seeing how the fur traders used to live.
The Blue Point Amethyst Mine
I remember my grandparent’s taking my siblings and I here one summer and it was one of the most unique experiences we’ve ever had in Thunder Bay. We were basically told to go start digging through a rock field in search of amethysts. And anything we found that we liked, we were welcome to buy on our way out. It was a really cool way to spend the afternoon.
Feed the Deer
This isn’t advertised as a tourist spot, but if you head over to the Mission Island March Conservation Area around dusk, you’ll find yourself surrounded by the friendliest deer I’ve ever seen. Bring lots of apples and carrots, because they will eat right out of your hand.
Shopping along Bay Street
This is one of my favorite streets in Thunder Bay. I love browsing locally made products, and the Bay and Algoma Neighborhood is full of them.
Visit the Alpaca Farm
Located a bit outside of Thunder Bay, visiting the Alpaca Farm has become one of my favorite things to do in Thunder Bay. They are just so darn cute!
Eat & Drink
Every time my family visits Thunder Bay we always plan a dinner at Caesar’s Place and we ALWAYS order the same thing; Panzerottis. I’ve never come across a restaurant that serves them other then Caesar’s Place so I’ll explain. A panzerotti is basically a deep fried calzone. And they are amazing.
Merla-Mae Ice Cream
Merla Mae’s has been serving in-house made ice cream since 1951. They are Thunder Bay’s only original drive in, serving original flavors not seen anywhere else. Our favorite treat has always been their chocolate malted milkshakes. During our summer trips we’ve always made a point of stopping in on a sunny afternoon for a milkshake tailgate party.
Sleeping Giant Brewing Co.
The Sleeping Giant Brewing Co. is fairly new to Thunder Bay, but still worth a visit. Inspired by Lake Superior and the northern Canadian wilderness, the brewery produces a distinctive line-up of full-flavored beer. Stop by to check out their shop, book a tour, or just hang out with some friends in their taproom.
The Hoito is a Finnish restaurant that’s been serving Thunder Bay since 1918 and they are most famous for their Finish pancakes. They have been featured on the Food Network’s You Gotta Eat Here, in the Globe and Mail, and the New York Times and is arguably one of Canada’s most-famous pancake houses.
The Persian Man
Native to Thunder Bay, a persian is similar to a cinnamon bun but a lot richer, and is topped with pink icing. They are so popular in Thunder Bay, that those who move away often contact the bakery requesting shipments out to their new home, regardless of the cost. So if you want a true Thunder Bay experience, you better add this stop to your list.
Thunder Oak Cheese Farm
My mom loves cheese, so obviously this is one of our first stops when we come to Thunder Bay. The Thunder Oak Cheese Farm is the first farm in Ontario that produces Gouda cheese, 13 different flavors of it to be exact, so we always stock up as soon as we arrive, and again before we leave.
I, on the other hand, love chocolate. As soon as we are done at the cheese farm, we head over to the Chocolate Cow. The Chocolate Cow is a small, family operated artisan chocolate shop just outside of Thunder Bay. One of my favorite things about visiting this shop is how friendly the owner is. Every time we stop by, he tells us all about what he’s working on, what’s coming up, and how he makes his chocolates. It’s really hard not to buy one of everything, especially when then owner is so passionate about his chocolates. We’ve only recently discovered the Chocolate Cow, but it’s become a ‘must do’ on every trip since.