Known to many locals as the largest city on the edge of the world, Thunder Bay is a charming, urban destination surrounded by unspoiled nature. It's population consists heavily of First Nations descendants, who originally traded with the North West Company at Fort William. This established a booming network of trade in the early 1800s, where goods were brought by massive canoes all the way from Montreal, Quebec in exchange for furs from local trappers and indigenous folk. The small but important fort soon grew into two separate towns, Fort William and Port Arthur. Both continued to expand until 1970, when they merged to become the Thunder Bay we now know.
The Perfect Pairing of City and Country
Thunder Bay cruises immerse travelers in the most Northwest part of Lake Superior, where impressive city attractions are paired with awe-inspiring nature. Up close, the sheer scale of the mountains and cliffs that extend from the water will dwarf cruise ships and anything else made by man. Just across the water from Thunder Bay looms the Sleeping Giant. Now a provincial park, the Sleeping Giant is made up of multiple mesas lined by 250 meter cliffs, forming the appearance of a giant laying on his back. Around the area, you'll find several shipwrecks that entice history lovers from all over. In the city, we highly recommend picking up a Thunder Bay shipwrecks map to aid your exploration.
It is treasures like these that bring Great Lakes cruises to Thunder Bay, along with ever-evolving urban development in the area. Because there's so much to offer, many cruise lines are champing at the bit to add Thunder Bay to their itineraries. When in town, travelers have the opportunity to visit unique restaurants, markets, breweries and cocktail bars, all located near shore. Just a step outside, seemingly endless nature beckons hikers, kayakers, and and boaters to explore.
Best Things to Do in Thunder Bay
FORT WILLIAMS HISTORICAL PARK
Dedicated to preserving the legacy of First Nation and early European trade that led to Thunder Bay's founding, Fort Williams Historical Park maintains and recreates life just as it was during the early 1800s. Here, you can experience the craft and culture of the Fort Williams First Nation firsthand, then explore the fort itself. Each building holds a new revelation of life during the fort's operation, from the general store to the doctor's office to the bakery. Throughout, guides in accurate garb detail Fort William's history, making it a must see for all Thunder Bay cruises. Fort William Historical Park
While technically a small community lying just outside of Thunder Bay, Silver Islet is packed with history. It was once a bustling silver mining town, but now maintains just six full-time residents. Folks from Thunder Bay and the rest of the region flock to Silver Bay for a taste of the outdoors and a glimpse down the 1,260 foot (384 meter) mine shaft, found just under the water level, that flooded in 1884. The islet features mostly sheltered waters which are perfect for kayaking and paddleboarding. Many brave visitors will even float right across the top of the mine shaft for the best view below! Silver Islet
GOODS AND CO. MARKET
Hosting a wide variety of local businesses, Goods and Co. functions as a food hall and market. Here, you'll find everything from First Nations-created jewelry to the finest Canadian maple syrup to hand-poured candles. It's the perfect spot to pick up a souvenir for a reminder of your Lake Superior cruise to Thunder Bay. Goods and Co. is located in the heart of walkable downtown, only a short distance from the cruise terminal and countless other restaurants and shops. Goods and Co.
KAKABEKA FALLS PROVINCIAL PARK
Known as the "Niagara of the North," Kakabeka Falls roars year round on the Kaministiquia River. The water drops 131 feet (40 meters) into a multi-layered stone gorge carved by glacial melt. The falls themselves feature viewing platforms so you can watch the water thunder down from various angles, and a visitor center educates guests on Kakabeka Falls' history and geology during the summer months. Kakabeka Falls
Stepping right off the ship when Great Lakes cruises arrive in Thunder Bay, travelers will find themselves in Marina Park. It stretches along the city's shoreline near downtown to include a boardwalk, beautiful gardens, a skatepark, and numerous monuments. The park even includes a splashpad and ice cream shop at Prince Arthur's Landing, a popular place for tourists and locals alike. In winter, the same splashpad turns into an ice skating rink. While you won't find any beaches at Marina Park, unique boats and views across the bay of Sleeping Giant are plentiful. During the summer months, concerts in the park's festival area and Thunder Bay boat tours offer the perfect evening entertainment. Marina Park
Learn More About the Port of Thunder Bay
The city of Thunder Bay takes its name from 18th century French maps, which labeled its area at the head of Lake Superior as Baie du Tonnerre (Thunder Bay), due to the intense waters French Canadian traders had to canoe when sailing in Thunder Bay. Superior itself is the world's largest freshwater lake by surface area, containing 10% of all fresh water. It has served as an essential part of Thunder Bay's economy by bringing in business and resources from all over. One of the biggest of these businesses is Canada Malting Company, which produces malt used by Jack Daniels, Coors, and many other large distillers and brewers. Several small breweries in town also use the same malt. Using the freshest malt and water, you'll find incredible craft beer in Thunder Bay at places like Lakehead Beer Company and Sleeping Giant Brewing Company.
The city has over a hundred parks to explore, meaning there's always something to do outdoors. Hockey is a major activity both indoors and out here too. The city of Thunder Bay has produced more professional hockey players per capita than any other city in the world. Hockey is a huge tradition in the city. While Thunder Bay doesn't have an NHL team, we highly recommend catching a Thunder Bay North Stars (part of the Superior International Junior Hockey League) game if you have the chance. You might just catch a rising star before they head to the National Hockey League!