Prince Arthur's Landing on Thunder Bay's Waterfront

I knew I’d come across somewhere special when I arrived at Prince Arthur’s Landing.

I live on a houseboat in a marina in the San Francisco Bay so, understandably, I’m a little choosy about my marinas. The non-negotiables are, of course, an expansive view of a large body of water and, naturally, a scenic backdrop. A little commercial activity would be appreciated, but more importantly, I want a community feel, somewhere I’d enjoy just hanging out and taking in the local culture.

I knew I’d come across somewhere special when I arrived at Prince Arthur’s Landing in Thunder Bay. To start with, Thunder Bay’s waterfront at Prince Arthur's Landing (also known as Marina Park) is situated in a picturesque and protected lakefront harbor on the grandiose Lake Superior, with tree-covered hills and pristine islands in the distance.

And then there’s the marina itself: a treasure trove of activity: events, fine dining, art exhibits, playgrounds, a skating rink, aboriginally designed Spirit Garden, public art, and lazy paths perfect for just plain strolling. In the past few years, public and private entities have poured in more than $100 million worth of visitor-friendly design and urban planning, including a ‘Call to Art’ where almost a dozen local and internationally known sculptors and artists added their unique perspective on the beauty of Thunder Bay.

marina poem leviton
(Public art is scattered through out park, part of the new waterfront development - Photo by Jarmo Jarvi)

In addition to the waterfront redevelopment, the city has seen several new restaurants open in the historic district, and there’s a great nightlife scene. I just missed seeing the Seattle band The Supersuckers, but I did manage a worthy-of-any-big-city meal at Tomlin Restaurant, a contemporary restaurant with incredible food and delicious cocktails in the centre of a downtown with a hopping live music scene.

Officially known as Prince Arthur’s Landing, where once was industrial buildings is now landscaped mixed-use space. In 2018, a luxury hotel will open but the park’s features are already lining up: a open-air pavilion Gathering Circle at the Spirit Garden, a skate park, bike paths, a splash pad in the summer and a skating rink in the winter, an art gallery and gift shop in the Baggage Building and Bight Restaurant in the Water Garden.

And then there are the events. From the annual Canada Day festivities (July 1) and Thunder Bay Blues Festival (the first weekend of July) to film nights and a Wednesday evening concert series, not a few days go by without a family-friendly community gathering.

To me, Thunder Bay felt like a small town that just happened to have 120,000 residents, an international airport, university, college and an internationally recognized medical center.

spirit garden logs leviton
(Ash logs re-purposed from Vicker's Park serve as benches in the Spirit Garden - Photo by Jarmo Jarvi)

If you come to the marina expecting, you know, sailing, you’re in luck pretty much whenever you arrive. Show up on a Monday, Wednesday or Friday during the summer when sailboats pick up willing crew members who arrive just after work.

Don’t fret about the sails going on past dark, since the sun doesn’t set in Thunder Bay until after 10 pm in the summers. In fact, the tradition has been successful enough to spawn a marriage: that’s how the captain of my overnight sail out of the Thunder Bay Marina, Captain Greg Heroux, met his wife.

boats docked leviton
Sail Superior yacht docked at Thompson Island harbor - Photo by Jarmo Jarvi

Yes, that’s right: overnight sail. If you’d like to do more than simply admire the grandeur of Lake Superior from the shore, then it’s time to sail it. Skip the 10 years it would take to get your own license or buy your own sailboat, and hop aboard Sail Superior’s Frodo.

Captain Greg took us just a few hours offshore to Thompson Island, where we basked in the city’s Finnish history (over ten percent of Thunder Bay’s residents have Finnish ancestry) in the island’s community-built traditional wood-fired sauna after hiking through the island’s Middle Earth-esque moss-draped trees.

We ended the day skipping shale stones along the glassy waters of Lake Superior and eating Persians (Thunder Bay’s culinary gift to pre-diabetes – a frosting-topped delicacy only available in this city), before heading back the next day for lunch at Bight Restaurant, a tour of the public art, and a view of the Sleeping Giant resting behind the marina.

My own marina isn’t even close to offering all of that.

Go to visitthunderbay.com for hundreds of ideas about traveling in the area, city events and attractions, and outdoor adventures, including Sail Superior.

Thunder Bay is an extremely easy two-to-three-hour flight from most cities on the Eastern seaboard, including 16 daily direct flights from Toronto with quick connections to New York, Boston, Chicago, and most other cities.

About Alex Leviton

Alex Leviton writes about travel, light adventure and the intersection between traveling and happiness. She has contributed to over two dozen Lonely Planet books, including Tuscany & Umbria, Discover California and Happy. She’s currently the Editorial Director for Gogobot.com and her home base is a houseboat on the San Francisco Bay.

Recommended Articles

The 5 Best Sights to See in Thunder Bay

From the legendary Sleeping Giant to Indigenous art galleries these Thunder Bay attractions are not to be missed.

12 Best Places to Stay in Thunder Bay

A boutique courthouse, art-filled hostel, or a luxe waterfront hotel—TBay has accommodations for every taste.

6 great hiking trails in and around Thunder Bay

Hike the famous Sleeping Giant or the Flett railway tunnel in this Northwest Ontario city.

5 Things You Probably Didn't Know About Thunder Bay

Experience Your Perfect Summer in Thunder Bay

An A to Z guide to outdoor adventure in this scenic Northern Ontario city

Rainy Days and Everyday

Indoor Play Areas for Kids in Thunder Bay

Conquer a Giant

This iconic Northwest Ontario landmark rises 1000 ft above the surface of Lake Superior.

Thunder Bay Winter Fun Guide 2024

The complete A to Z list.

Time to change your clocks—but why?

The Thunder Bay and Northwest Ontario Connection to Daylight Savings Time.

There's alpacas! And you need to visit them!

This farm grows fuzzballs!

Top 5 places to view the Sleeping Giant

Thunder Bay's Most Famous Landmark and the best places to see it

Nook: Modern Italian Cuisine in the Bay & Algoma District

12 Places to Go Walleye Fishing In and Around Thunder Bay

Catch your limit and experience the province's best angling near this Northwest Ontario city.

How far would you drive for a buttertart?

Check out these 4 Thunder Bay day trips.

Lac Des Milles Lacs and Black Bay

Ice Fishing Hot Spots near Thunder Bay

A Bird's-Eye View of Thunder Bay

Mount McKay Lookout - Anemki Wajiw is a must-do in this Northwestern Ontario city

Eating pancakes to save history

The future of Thunder Bay’s Hoito lies on your plate

Good News Yarn Hunters!

Two New Yarn Stores have opened in Thunder Bay

A Friendly Place for Food & Drink

Cheer's Village Pub

Treasure Hunting in Thunder Bay

A longtime thrifter's story—and some hot tips!