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Thunder Bay: an Outdoor Enthusiast’s Paradise

by Kathryn A Lyzun

No matter which direction you come from, you will know you’re there when you can see nothing but golden trees and sparkling open water. Thunder Bay is an outdoor enthusiast’s paradise. Located on the northwest shore of Lake Superior, this former Ontario fur-trading post is home to Canada’s most spectacular variety of scenery, culture and outdoor activities.

It’s a six-hour drive from any major city, but it’s well worth the trip. You can find just about any summer and winter activity, from kayaking in thousands of inlets around the city to participating in North America’s only ice-climbing festival. No matter what you’re into, the season is always perfect.

It may get blistering cold, but pack your parka because winter is the number one season in Thunder Bay. Who can notice the sub-zero temperatures when you’re whizzing down a ski slope on a sparkling, snow-covered mountain or racing a snowmobile over 600 km of cleared Adventure trails? Even if speed is not your style, test your endurance on the miles of cross-country ski trails, take in a great game of top-caliber junior hockey or have a few beers and a laugh at a rollicking curling game.

For summer visitors, camping is a must. Trowbridge Falls is an excellent local campground located 15 minutes from downtown. To be totally immersed in nature, bring your hiking boots and set up camp at majestic Kakabeka Falls and Sleeping Giant provincial parks.

Sleeping Giant Park is particularly awesome. Offering everything from canoeing to fishing to an abundance of wildlife, you may not come into town at all. Learn Ojibway legends of the spirit Nanabijou, who was turned to stone and now sleeps in Thunder Bay harbour, arms folded across his massive body, guarding a cursed silver mine. Then bike to the sleepy mining town of Silver Islet on your way to climbing The Chimney, the tallest point on Sleeping Giant Mountain.

Although famous for them, Thunder Bay is not all forest and moose. Stay at one of two hostels and explore the city’s heritage. Step into 1814 at Old Fort William, one of the country’s largest living historical sites. Take a walk along the breathtaking and bustling waterfront, making sure to stop for old-fashioned ice cream at old-fashioned prices at Merla Mae’s. Explore native art at harbourfront boutiques. Have you ever tried a Persian? Get a bite of these unique desserts at many local shops.

As for nightly entertainment, Thunder Bay locals know how to do it up. In the summer, start early by floating down the Kaministiquia River on a tube with your buddies and a cooler of refreshments. Hit the harbourfront casino at night, or brave the locals at The Zoo, Armani’s or for a truly northern experience, The Inntowner Palace. And nothing cures a night of partying better than a hearty, cheap Finnish breakfast at the Hoito Restaurant, a local favourite.

So pack your snowsuit and your bathing suit, because you may want to stay to do it all. Thunder Bay is a must-see stop on any cross-Canada tour.

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