Introducing Thunder Bay
First impressions of Thunder Bay can be a little jarring. After hours of driving between an ethereal coastline and majestic forests, the concrete collection of industrial relics feels quite out of place. The two distinct downtown cores act like polar magnets repelling attempts at gentrification. However, below the gritty surface, expansive Thunder Bay has a warm small-town vibe. The city itself doesn't offer heaps of attractions, but it makes for an excellent base to explore the nearby historical and natural sites.
The Ojibwe have inhabited the region for centuries, even millennia. Europeans arrived in the 1600s, but it wasn't until 1803 that things really started to get rolling. The British erected Fort William as the trading hub for the lucrative North West Company (beaver-pelt central). Soon after, a rival settlement popped up 5km up the road. Port Arthur was more mining-centric, until it became a shipping center for prairie grain. The metallic granaries continue to line the seaboard.
It was only in the late 1960s that the neighboring towns merged into one city, choosing the name Thunder Bay from the aboriginal name for the region, Animikie, meaning 'thunder.' Today the city makes a worthy (and obligatory) stopover for trans-Canada travelers. Consider spending a couple of days in this isolated town – you'll be surprised to find that first impressions aren't always lasting impressions.