Thunder Bay: Inside and Out
Thunder Bay, Ontario, promotes itself as Canada’s “premier outdoor city,” a fitting moniker given its captivating surroundings. The city of just over 100,000 lies on the northern shore of Lake Superior, 1,400 kilometres (870 miles) from Toronto and 500 kilometres (310 miles) from Minneapolis, encircled by the stunningly black Nor’Wester Mountains.
Adventurers flock to this area for its rugged beauty and the challenges of its hiking and cross-country trails, the myriad canoeing and kayaking possibilities of its 150,000 lakes and rivers, the temptations of fly-in fishing and hunting lodges, and the campgrounds and rock climbing sites mere minutes from downtown.
Read through some of our favourite places to eat, shop and explore in Thunder Bay.
St. Paul Roastery
11 St. Paul St. @stpaulroastery on Instagram
When owners and high school buddies Cam Reid and Stefan Pakylak outgrew their home roasting operation, they opened this bright space on the ever-trendier St. Paul strip, swapping their hot-air popcorn poppers for a Diedrich roaster. Stop in for a cortado or a cold brew, and browse the vinyl selection at the adjoining New Day Records while you wait.
202½ Red River Rd.; tomlinrestaurant.com
This jewel box of a restaurant has had visitors and locals swooning since it opened in 2014 with a menu emphasizing local, seasonal ingredients. Choose a few dishes to share from the protein-heavy à la carte menu, or put yourself in the hands of chef and co-owner Steve Simpson for a family-style tasting. If a table’s not free just yet, give yourself over to the quiet theatre of the bar, where mixologists craft cocktails with practised ease.
200 Red River Rd.; primegelato.ca
If you manage to resist Tomlin’s dessert menu, you might have room left for Prime, just a couple of doors down. It serves up gelato so tasty, the place is always humming — even during a northern Ontario winter.
Gouda from Thunder Oak Cheese Farm
611 Boundary Dr.; cheesefarm.ca
Walter and Joanne Schep operate Thunder Oak’s cheese processing plant, while Walter’s brother and sister-in-law, Martin and Charmaine, run the dairy farm that supplies the milk for the family’s award-winning Goudas. Sample mild, medium, old and (yum) extra-old, in such flavours as nettle, cumin, garlic and fenugreek, then stock up on Dutch sweets from the farm store. If you’re lucky enough to drop by on a Monday, you can watch the cheese making in action.
Olives and Bananas
49 Cumberland St. S.; olivesandbananas.com
Whether it’s a sleepy fox in a superhero cape, a series of tiny felted snowmen melting in jars, or a dissected woollen unicorn with rainbow organs framing it, Amy Vervoort turns yarn into fanciful creatures. At her whimsical store and workshop, you can revel in shelves overflowing with an endless selection of merino, mohair, alpaca and other sustainably produced artisanal fibres.
Kakabeka Falls, just 30 kilometres (18 miles) west of Thunder Bay, is surrounded by a boardwalk for up-close viewing.
Prince Arthur’s Landing
Sleeping Giant Parkway
The waterfront has been transformed from a dead zone into a mixed-use gathering place, anchored by stunning views of the Sleeping Giant, a literal and figurative touchstone. Wander or bike along the paths, get some big air at the skate park, take in an outdoor concert or public art (like the massive, glowing lantern installations by local artist Mark Nisenholt), or browse an exhibit at the Baggage Building Arts Centre. Stop in later for a meal at Bight, where the modern, airy room offers expansive views of the lake and a gas fireplace keeps diners cozy. Afterwards, head out for a romantic spin on the splash-pad-cum-ice-rink, open for skating November through March.
Read more about Thunder Bay in re:porter Issue 67, on flights now.