Thunder Bay could be considered the gateway to Canada’s great outdoors, as it is situated on the shores of the world’s largest freshwater lake, and is embraced by the Nor’Wester Mountain range, a vibrant urban community in a wilderness setting. The largest city on Lake Superior, Thunder Bay is only 90 minutes by jet aircraft from the major international airports of Toronto and Minneapolis. With the Trans-Canada Highway alongside the city, Thunder Bay is accessible to all types of vacationers.
Thunder Bay offers visitors true Canadian experiences with four distinct seasons to enjoy. Summer daytime temperatures vary from 15° C to 30° C while nights tend to be cooler and less humid than southern Ontario locations. Recent winter daytime temperatures have ranged from spring-like to relatively cold – perfect for ice-fishing, snowmobiling and skiing adventures.
Thunder Bay has a continental climate with warm to hot summers and cooler winters with a Great Lake moderating influence.
Summer daytime temperatures vary from 15° C to 30° C, while nights tend to be cooler and less humid than southern locations. The summer period is well suited to both active and passive outdoor recreational pursuits.
Recent winter daytime temperatures have ranged from springlike to relatively cold with sunny days. This type of climate is well suited to all kinds of active outdoor recreational pursuits.
As the home of Fort William, the inland headquarters of the Northwest Company, our region brought together Northwestern Ontario’s Aboriginal inhabitants with French and British settlers. As the era of the fur trade drew to a close in the late nineteenth century, our regional economy shifted to one based upon newer industries like forestry and shipping.
This, in turn, ushered in an era of prosperity that drew immigrants from all over the world further enriching our cultural mosaic. The forest industry held a special attraction for the Finns and even today, Thunder Bay boasts one of the largest settlements of Finnish people outside Finland. The omnipresent saunas, the shops of “Little Finland” on Bay Street and the prevalence of nordic-style skiing are just a few of the ways the City reveals its Finnish heritage.
Ethnic diversity is one of Thunder Bay’s greatest assets, and it shows most clearly in the cultural events that visitors have come to enjoy. The Folklore Festival, a world tour of nations, attracts tourists and locals alike every spring in a celebration of song, dance and cuisine. Just as the Festa Italiana celebrates the food and fun of Italy, the Ukrainian Festival highlights the traditions of the Ukrainian heritage. Ojibwa Keeshigun, a traditional pow-wow held at Fort William Historical Park, offers a colourful glimpse of Native culture.
The coming together of diverse cultures is reflected in the formation of the city itself. Two towns that developed side by side – Fort William and Port Arthur – were amalgamated in 1970 under the name the first settlers had chosen – Thunder Bay.
The City of Thunder Bay is strategically located near the geographical centre of Canada, on the shore of Lake Superior – the western terminus of the St. Lawrence Seaway System.
Thunder Bay is a regional centre and the “Gateway to the Great Northwest”, a physical area nearly the size of Europe. The City is also the access point to and from the American Mid-West by way of the Pigeon River border crossing, 45 minutes away by road.
Thunder Bay is the 10th largest city in Ontario and the largest metropolitan centre in Northwestern Ontario. The population of Metro Thunder Bay is approximately 125,000 and is made up of a diverse multi-cultural base.
Thunder Bay’s central location in the centre of the continent and at the head of the Great Lakes made it a natural meeting and trading site as far back as the Paleo-Indian civilization 11,000 years ago.
The first Europeans arrived in the 17th century and established a series of fur trading posts at the place they named Baie de Tonnere, or Thunder Bay.
In 1798, the North West Company built Fort William near the mouth of the Kaministiquia River, which quickly became a lively community of Scottish traders, French voyageurs and Native trappers.
Today, that era is revisited at Fort William Historical Park, one of Canada’s Top 10 Visitor Attractions.