How many of us have made the trek east, to our neighbor past Kenora. We don’t hear a lot about our neighbor to the east, we are more obsessed with making fun of the provincial cousin to the West.
I get to travel to Thunder Bay for my job job every few months and I’m making the trip this Sunday. It is an easy to navigate drive down the Trans-Canada Highway, just drive to Kenora and stay on the #1. Thunder Bay is a 7.5 hour drive with a number of small towns along the way, namely Dryden, Kenora, but also Upsala and a number of native reserves.
But the real star is the landscapes that you’re driving through. It is tough to sit and take pictures on such a long drive but it is worth it. There is some danger to stopping, it is two lane after Kenora (with some passing lanes every few kilometers on the straight stretches) but there are some spots too nice to pass up. And there really aren’t that many travelers.
When you get to Thunder Bay, drive down to the water, it’s Lake Superior and its vast and a beautiful thing to us lake people of Manitoba.
The people are a fine mixture of Winnipeg and Dauphin, that beautiful city size under 200,000. Being the only large centre in North Ontario, Thunder Bay has attracted all of the large box stores and brands. Most Thunder Bayians visit Winnipeg for deals (they don’t have Costco) and most people I’ve met have been to Winnipeg at least once.
The city has a great dynamic and it’s easy to drive across town in less than half an hour. The rush hour is negligible but they still head out of town en masse to their nature paradises. The downtown has a few bars, live music venues and a large casino that keeps a few people out late. There are a nice number of shops and restaurants in town and the highlights are Hoito, Churrasqueira Galo Portugese Restaurant and getting Persian donuts at Nucci’s.
But I go back to the beauty of this town and the fun surrounding Thunder Bay lies in the nature and green spaces. There is a Terry Fox Memorial nearby on the Trans-Canada but the best view of Thunder Bay I’ve seen is at Mount McKay. I have heard of the Sleeping Giant Provincial Park (and how they got robbed) and I’ll visit I promise.
The problem with Thunder Bay, is that they have contaminated the view with buildings and large harbor structures. There are few accessible views of the lake and you can’t get to the edge of the lake in too many places. Marina Park, a nice small park where large community events are held has a great view of a protected bay with sailboats lazily sailing. Hudson Bay’s port, Port Arthur, is huge boon for the city and creates many jobs in the area but it does dominate the view. It’s cool to see the tankers, large ships coming into the harbor.
Thunder Bay is the little jewel carved out of rock and forest. Most Winnipeggers will enjoy the trip and the town if they get the five hours past Kenora.