Home Canada 2 Days in Thunder Bay – Best Things To Do

2 Days in Thunder Bay – Best Things To Do

by Andy Vanr

See stunning Kakabeka Falls and explore the beautiful outdoors in its Provincial Park. Visit Fort William and learn about local Indigenous culture and North America’s early explorers.

We’ve got the details about the amazing things to do for 2 days in Thunder Bay, at the head of Lake Superior, the largest freshwater lake in the world.

Thunder Bay Itinerary

Wondering what to do in Thunder Bay? Our 2-day itinerary covers all the best things to do in Thunder Bay.

Day 1: Museums and Culture

Day 2: Explore the great outdoors.

Thunder Bay Tourist Attractions Map

Thunder Bay Attractions Map
Click on the map for an interactive version.

Fort William Historical Park

This is an exact replica of the inland headquarters of the North West Company, the world’s largest fur trading company. The park has many heritage buildings, an Anishinaabe encampment and a working farm, all staffed by exceptional interpreters. These talented re-enactors are always in character, bringing 1816 to life and answering visitors’ questions.

Experience the Great Rendezvous, the annual summer meeting between French-Canadian voyageurs, Indigenous and Metis fur traders and the company’s partners. See the process of trading beaver pelts for ironware, cloth and trinkets brought from the east. The pelts were sent to Europe to satisfy the 19th century appetite for fur clothing and accessories.

Join the crowd in welcoming the arrival of a dignitary from the local Anishinaabe community. They traded extensively with the company obtaining items to help survive the harsh wilderness.

Fort William Historical Park is on the banks of the Kaministiquia River. The river was used extensively by fur traders to reach the interior of the continent from Lake Superior. Canoes and kayaks are available for rent to explore the river.

For star-gazers, the David Thompson Astronomical Observatory is located near the visitor centre and offers public events year-round.

For more details about programming and events, as well as hours, admission, camping and more, check the Fort William Historical Park website.

Val and Andy atop the lookout tower Fort William Thunder Bay
We climbed to the top of the lookout tower at Fort William Historical Park for this great birds-eye view over the fort’s many buildings.

Kakabeka Falls

These 40-metre-high falls are the second highest waterfall in Ontario (after Niagara Falls).  A wheel-chair accessible, boardwalk trail gets close to Kakabeka Falls, the Kaministiquia River and its stunning, deep gorge.

The falls are within Kakabeka Falls Provincial Park, located right off the Trans-Canada Highway. There is plenty of parking.  A Daily Vehicle Permit is required to see the falls.

Val and Andy with Kakabeka Falls and river bridge background
Kakabeka Falls, behind us, are on the Kaministiquia River. The river has carved a deep gorge below the falls.

Hiking in Thunder Bay

The 3 best hiking areas in Thunder Bay are:

One of the best full day hikes in Ontario is at Sleeping Giant Provincial Park, about an hour east of Thunder Bay.

Hiking Trails Thunder Bay

Use these trail details to find your perfect hike.

Trail Name/ TrailheadLength/Type/Difficulty
Kakabeka Falls Provincial Park 4853 Highway 11/17 (48.4031,-89.6225)
Boardwalk Trail Main parking lot750 m out/back Easy Wheelchair accessible
Mountain Portage Trail Near Visitor Centre1.25 km loop Easy Wheelchair accessible
Little Falls Trail mid Mountain Portage Trail2.5 km loop Moderate – Difficult
Poplar Point Trail Ski trail parking lot near Whispering Hills campground4 km loop Moderate
Beaver Meadows Trail4.5 km loop Moderate
River Terrace Trail3.5 km loop Moderate
Cascades Conservation Area Balsalm St. (48.4926, -89.2254)
Yellow Trail from parking lot1.7 km out/back Easy
Forest Trail from parking lot750 m paved loop Easy
Red Trail from orange or blue trails1.4 km linear Easy to Moderate
Orange Trail from yellow or blue trails1.6 km linear Easy to Moderate
Blue Trail from parking lot700 m linear Easy
Cedar Falls Conservation Area End of Broome Rd. (48.3694, -89.6558)1.6 km out/back Easy

Kakabeka Falls Provincial Park

The park has a number of hiking trails of varying difficulties and lengths.

Hike the historic portage route that early explorers, fur traders and Indigenous people used to go around the huge obstacle of Kakabeka Falls. Imagine being a fur trader carrying a canoe, animal pelts and personal belongings around the waterfall. The hike is a 3.6-kilometre loop combining the Mountain Portage and Little Falls Trails.

People wooden viewing platform Kakabeka Falls
The boardwalk at Kakabeka Falls is close to the falls. The boardwalk is on either side of the river and over the road bridge. All other trails in the park start across the bridge.

The park is open year-round for day-use. In the winter, several trails are groomed for cross-country skiing. Snow-shoeing is also available. Daily Vehicle Permits are required for day use access. They are available up to 5 days in advance of arrival at the park. In the summer there are day-use visitor limits so buying a permit in advance guarantees you a spot. Permits are available for 2 hours, 4 hours or the full day.

The park offers camping from mid-May to mid-October.

Visit the Ontario Parks Reservation website to obtain a Daily Vehicle Permit for day-use and/or to reserve a campsite.

Cascades Conservation Area

Hike Cascade Conservation Area‘s short, generally easy, trails through the forest to the cascades on the Current River. Each trail provides the hiker a slightly different view of the forest and river. The cascades are a series of small waterfalls over rocks of the Canadian Shield. Relax to the sound of the water tumbling between small pools worn into the rocks.

Andy is in foreground with Val on rocks above river
The trails at Cascades Conservation Area lead to the Current River and its pretty cascades over pink granitic rocks. Val is standing at the edge of the channel the river has cut.

The park pavilion at the parking lot provides information about the rocks, trees, animals, birds and plants of the area. Enjoy a picnic on tables by the pavilion or bring it along to the riverside.

Cedar Falls Conservation Area

Enjoy a short, out-and-back hike through mixed forest of the conservation area to pretty Cedar Falls.

Andy and Val at Cedar Falls in woods Thunder Bay
Cedar Falls is the perfect destination for a hike. We really enjoyed the fall colours on our hike.

Sleeping Giant Provincial Park

For a great day hike that’s only an hour from Thunder Bay, check out our article Hiking Sleeping Giant – Best Day Hike in Ontario.

Vertical cliffs separated by crevice water background

Terry Fox Monument and Lookout

The monument, sitting high on a hill above the Trans Canada Highway, honours Terry Fox, a courageous Canadian. He began his Marathon of Hope, a run across Canada in 1980, to raise money and awareness for cancer research as he’d lost a leg to cancer. The Terry Fox Memorial is near the spot where, unfortunately, he was forced to end his run in September 1980 due to cancer’s return.

Andy standing in front of granite monument with Terry Fox statue on top
This beautiful granite monument behind me is a tribute to the memory of Terry Fox. He inspired Canadians to support cancer research in 1980 before his cancer returned and took his life.

Sculpted in bronze, the 3-metre-tall statue of Terry Fox is mounted on 41 tons of Ontario granite. The granite base includes the provincial and territorial coats-of-arms and Canadian symbols, the maple leaf and beaver. Terry died in June 1981 before the monument was unveiled.

Enjoy the view from the plaza where the monument sits. See Lake Superior and the Sleeping Giant, Sibley Peninsula in the distance. There is also a Tourism Thunder Bay visitor centre.

Mount McKay Scenic Lookout

Mount McKay, Anemki Wajiw in Ojibwe, is on land of the Fort William First Nation. It is the prefect spot to look out over Thunder Bay and the Kaministiquia River. Anemki Wajiw stands out on the horizon with its top about 300 metres above Lake Superior. Its flat top is hard, igneous rock protecting the softer rocks below from eroding away. There is a small fee to access the lookout.

Andy and Valerie standing on wooden platform panorama Thunder Bay
We had a beautiful panorama view of the city and beyond from the lookout platform.

Thunder Bay Museums

In addition to Fort William Historical Park, other area museums are worth a visit.

Oliver Paipoonge Heritage Park

Walk the dusty “Main Street” with its general store and shops to the railway station. Visit buildings relocated from forgotten pioneer settlements in Northwestern Ontario to the museum, formerly called Founders’ Museum and Pioneer Village. The homestead, church, one-room school, blacksmith, cobbler and carpenter give a look into the past. There are antique cars, tractors, farm equipment and much more. Get all the details on the Oliver Paipoonge Heritage Park website.

Lakehead Transportation Museum

The star attraction at this waterfront museum is the SSGS Alexander Henry.  The retired Canadian coast guard ship served as an icebreaker, buoy tender and lighthouse supply ship. It has returned to Thunder Bay where it was built in 1958 by the Port Arthur Shipbuilding Company.

The Lakehead Transportation Museum is dedicated to the preservation and display of transportation artifacts important in the history of the Thunder Bay area. Tours of the Alexander Henry are available. Several street cars are also on display.

Boat at dock picnic tables grassed area
The Alexander Henry, a retired coast guard ship now permanently at the Thunder Bay Transportation Museum, was built in Thunder Bay in 1958.

Thunder Bay Museum

The museum has 3 floors of galleries filled with permanent and temporary exhibits. Learn about the history, culture and heritage of the local area and region. The museum is in the former police station and court house built in 1912. For information about exhibits, hours, admission and more, visit the Thunder Bay Museum website.

Thunder Bay Heritage Walking Tours

The local heritage committee has developed a number of self-guided historical walking tours highlighting the history and architecture of the city. Printed maps are available at Thunder Bay Visitor Centres or by visiting the City of Thunder Bay Heritage Walking Tours webpage.

Thunder Bay Waterfront

The Thunder Bay waterfront has undergone a huge transition over the last decade. In the 20th century it was the world’s largest grain port, home to over 20 grain elevators. While grain elevators still exist, the commercial activities are now concentrated in the south leaving the north for recreation and entertainment. It is thriving. There are condos, multi-use trails, parkland, shops, restaurants, bars and the pleasure-boaters marina.

Thunder Bay Marina

The marina, with more than 250 slips, is open from mid-May through mid-October. It’s adjacent to a vibrant waterfront park with access to the city’s downtown. There are also condos and shops of all types nearby.

For a water adventure or just a different perspective of the city, set sail with Sail Superior from their dock at Pier 3, Marina Park.

Paved path docked boats Thunder Bay Marina
Thunder Bay Marina has over 250 slips and is in the centre of the action at Marina Park on the Thunder Bay waterfront.

Thunder Bay Marina Park

The park has a number of recreation and entertainment options.

  • Picnic area and children’s playground
  • Paved trails for walking or cycling
  • Skateboard and BMX plaza
  • Summer splash pad/Winter skating rink
  • Prince Arthur’s Landing event space. For a list of upcoming events, check the City of Thunder Bay Events webpage.
  • Baggage Building Arts Centre showcases local artists in a renovated early 20th century railroad freight shed.

Parking is available near the marina and on the other side of Water Street which parallels the lake shore. A covered, wheelchair-accessible walkway starts behind the arts centre and crosses over the railway tracks and busy Water Street to the downtown.

Near the walkway’s exit is the Thunder Bay Tourist Pagoda, at the corner of Water Street and Red River Road. Open since 1909, it is Canada’s oldest operating information building. The pagoda-shaped roof and domed cupola are unique.

Thunder Bay Breweries

After a day of exploring the city, enjoy a beverage at one of these great Thunder Bay breweries.

For some great food, try the locally-owned Daytona’s restaurant. They’ve been serving comfort food for over a decade. We enjoyed an amazing blackened chicken sandwich paired with our Sleeping Giant brews.

picnic tables industrial building Sleeping Giant Brewery
Pick up a Sleeping Giant beverage to take home or enjoy it on their patio.

Be sure to check out our Ultimate Guide to Northern Ontario for even more road trips and destinations in Northern Ontario.

Highway coloured forest hill truck distance

Interested in more Itineraries? Sign up here.