CRUISING THE GREAT LAKES #6: TOURING THUNDER BAY, ONTARIO

Bruce and I had $300 of onboard credit with American Queen Voyages to use during our cruise aboard the Ocean Navigator, so we chose to use it for a couple of premium tours, including one in Thunder Bay.

Situated on Lake Superior, Thunder Bay is on the Canadian side of the border, in Ontario.  The French were the first Europeans to settle in Thunder Bay as a fur trading post along the Kaministiquia River.  Mining and forestry were the next industries to develop, and now Thunder Bay is best known for medical research and education. 

This city of about 109,000 residents is quite isolated. Forget about taking a flight in or out of Thunder Bay; you’ll have to go to Toronto for that.  I just looked it up on Google Maps, and the quickest route will take you over 14 hours to get there by car.  As a matter of fact, the closest city to Thunder Bay is an 8-hour drive away! 

Thunder Bay has managed to develop a fantastic culture and arts scene, though, so there is plenty to do for the residents.  Declared the “Cultural Capital of Canada” in 2003, Thunder Bay has a variety of cultural and community centers for the Finnish, Scandinavian, Italians, Polish, and many more.

Arts are also well-represented by Thunder Bay Symphony Orchestra (which is the only professional orchestra between Winnipeg and Toronto), a professional theatre, a variety of music and arts festivals, museums, and art galleries.  There is also Thunder Pride, an LGBTQ pride parade that has been held annually since 2010.

Numerous sports and recreation facilities, city parks, and community centers also keep the locals busy and engaged.  It’s impressive how much this isolated city has to offer!

One of the area’s natural highlights is Kakabeka Falls, the second highest waterfall in Canada at 130 feet.  We chose to take the tour that visited these falls, and it was well worth it. 

We walked across the bridge (see previous photo) to see the view from the other side. This is the view from the middle of the bridge.

We also visited Fort William Historical Park, one of the largest living history sites in North America.  Although this is a replica, they do a great job depicting the original inland headquarters for the North West Company, the world’s largest fur trading enterprise.  Our costumed tour guide, a university history student, taught us about what life was like at the fort in the 1800’s.  We were split into small groups, and ours visited the Canoe Shed, Fur Stores, Apothecary, Kitchen & Bakery, and the garden.  I managed to slip away for a few minutes  and pop in to see a few others on my own.

These massive canoes were used to transport furs from Thunder Bay to Montreal.
Seeing these real furs turned my stomach!
We got taste these fresh baked breads right out of the oven.

To conclude our tour, we returned to the city to take in the view of Lake Superior.

Next up: Splendid Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan