Ride Hard, Live Large
Ride Lake Superior is definitively Ontario’s bucket list motorcycle tour—a once-in-a-lifetime wild grab at freedom. If you're a rider who hasn't yet heard the call of the Inland Ocean, check out this video:
Ride Lake Superior is 1,400 miles (2,300 km) of some the best scenery in North America. At that length, you're easily tempted to do 300 or 400 miles a day, and blast through the trip. But in the midst of the ride’s solitude, space, and exhilaration, there’s a place where you can settle down for a day—or two—and enjoy some urban comforts. Trust us, this is something you don’t want to rush.
Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada
On the rocky north shore of Lake Superior is a city that holds the essence of the great lake. A city, much like the lake, with cool depth and underrated charm. And much like the land, it has a rocky fierceness and raw beauty.
Thunder Bay is the product of dozens of competing influences. If the streets could talk, they’d tell you about the paths of the Indigenous people, the bricks laid by the Finnish, and the cement and asphalt of the lumber and ore industries. There’s too much here to experience in an afternoon—and that’s why you need to plan your ride around the big lake so you can get some quality time in the city of the Sleeping Giant.
Here are some of our top picks, depending on how you're travelling.
Is there anything better than a solo ride, where you can take all time you need to follow anything that catches your eye? Thunder Bay is especially good for solo riders. There's lots of riding to explore around the city, and super welcoming communities (that also know when to leave you alone!).
Right in town, Mount McKay is the perfect way to start your day. The road to the top is wickedly bumpy—no matter. The view speaks for itself, and when you’re back on the ground you’ll marvel at the mountain you just rode up.
Probably the most historically accurate depiction of what life was like in settler times, Fort William is a sprawling compound complete with artifacts, reproductions, and historical recreation actors, making it seem like you’ve stepped back in time. This is one for you history buffs.
As authentic as it gets, the Hoito is Thunder Bay royalty. It's not fancy, but it is the real deal, and everyone passing through the city should eat here. Finnish pancakes for breakfast are the only way to go food-wise, but you’ll enjoy more than the cuisine as you savor the history flowing through this place as well.
An experience like Ride Lake Superior is too good to keep all for yourself. Seeing the majestic Sleeping Giant rock peninsula, eating world-class steak, and taking in a good sauna—it's like the city was built for making memories “two-up.”
The Sibley Road leads down to Sleeping Giant provincial park—if you’re into camping, this is a great place to stay, but the road itself is pure riding joy. Decent pavement, sweeping under a massive railway tressle, and plenty of sweepers through the forest, past lakes and into the heart of the giant. If you’re up for a short hike, some pretty killer views await. And just outside the park is the perfectly quaint former mining town of Silver Islet. Tip: the cinnamon buns there are not to be missed.
Thunder Bay has deep Finnish roots, which explains why they love their saunas so much. Kangas let you book a room for two with complete privacy and a sauna and cool-down area, as well as private shower. Plan on spending at least an hour here, and not doing much else after.
We know, we know—harbour cruises are typically a dull affair. But when you’re being captained by Sail Superior's Greg Heroux, one of the most charismatic people on the lake, on his 40-foot cruiser, Frodo, you quickly learn how different Lake Superior makes things. An evening cruise is a great way to end the day, but if you love being out on the water, Greg can make a day of it.
The Sovereign Room gastropub is right downtown, making it choice for a long walk along the waterfront to the marina and skatepark after Sunday brunch.
There are few things that can compare with hitting the open road with your riding buddies. But taking over a town like Marlon Brando in The Wild One is a close second. Of course, we're sure no matter what your buds are into, you'll find what you seek in the Bay.
The “Grand Canyon of the North,” Ouimet (pronounced we-met) really underscores how crazy the geography is in this neck of the woods. A hilly, windy road to the top leads to a lookout that will floor you. Bring your camera.
The easiest way to get a sense of what’s cool in a city is to take a seat at its hippest coffee shop. Calico is a local favourite and has a pitch perfect patio on which to slow your roll.
You can absolutely do a tour if you feel like you haven’t seen enough craft breweries in your life—but the biggest attraction at the Sleeping Giant Brewing Company is the beer. Head down to the shop, grab some suds (and Northern souvenirs), and find someplace quiet to sit and sample. Might we recommend the Northern Logger to start?
Places to Stay
Thunder Bay has great accommodations that are motorcycle friendly - you can always find just the right kind of place that suits you. Check out the Thunder Bay website for a complete list of places to stay.
And we've barely scratched the surface here. If you want to ride more, there are loops out to Silver Mountain Station and Pigeon Falls to keep you entertained, plenty of other restaurants, and a great farmers’ market on weekends (with some painfully tasty baked goods). If you ever needed a reason to draw out your bucket list trip, Thunder Bay has you covered.