Cruising into Thunder Bay? 6 Ways to Enjoy Your Time Ashore

Rich in history, natural beauty, art and out-of-this-world food, Thunder Bay offers visitors a royal welcome with a bounty of treats right on the waterfront.

Thunder Bay, Ontario is a vibrant Canadian port city located at the top of Lake Superior. For generations, travellers have reached the harbour via canoe, sailboat, steamships, bulk grain and other cargo ships—and now cruise ships! For cruise passengers, there are plenty of opportunities to discover the area further. You may want to choose a planned, prebooked excursion to sites like Kakabeka Falls, which is a striking landmark known as “the Niagara of the North”), but if you prefer to stay close to your ship and explore the waterfront (known both as Marina Park and Prince Arthur’s Landing) on your own, rest assured there are a variety of sights and venues to suit your interests.

1. Experience the Art & Soul of Thunder Bay

"Ulysses" by Mark Nisenholt, Lantern Art at Prince Arthur's Landing; a large wooden slat box set on high vertical beams, with the blue sky in the background. On the front of the box is a painting of a sailboat on the bay with the silhouette of a large human head rising out of the water. "Traveller's Return by Andy Davies; An art installation made up of a series of large, highly-polished metal water drops on display at Prince Arthur's Landing
"Ulysses" by Mark Nisenholt and "Traveller's Return" by Andy Davies, two works of art that can be seen at Prince Arthur's Landing. // Photo credits Tourism Thunder Bay

Take in a number of public art installations on the waterfront, easily accessed by paved walkways. To do your own free, self-guided tour download the Prince Arthur's Landing Public Art, part of the Thunder Bay Tours App. Don’t miss the award-winning Spirit Garden, the airy, curved wooden structure which honours the history and culture of the area’s Indigenous peoples. As well, Live on the Waterfront programming features free live music concerts on Wednesday evenings from 6-9 pm, mid-July to late August.

2. Watch the World Go By at Thunder Bay's Waterfront

A sailboat sailing into golden sunlight, toward Sleeping Giant on the misty horizon.
Unwind while watching the sailboats go by, or take a tour yourself! // Photo credit Goh Iromoto

Kick back and relax on the comfortable benches and chairs scattered throughout the waterfront area. It’s a great place to do a little people-watching and see sailboats skimming over the waves or the boats moored in the marina. Observe vast cargo ships and tug boats manoeuvering in the port (just go to the Port of Thunder Bay website for information—the coloured dots on the harbour map represent the vessels you see). Or simply watch the play of light and shadow over the Sleeping Giant, also known as Nanabijou, the famous rock formation nestled in the waters of the bay. Sail Superior offers a range of lake outings, including a daily harbour tour. Book lovers know there’s something a bit magical about reading work set in the very landscape surrounding you, so consider The Lightkeeper’s Daughters by Jean Pendziwol, The Underpainter by Jane Urquhart or Making Up the Gods by Marion Agnew.

3. Get a Sense of Thunder Bay's History

The ship Alexander Henry, a large red and white metal 1950s icebreaker, docked at the Thunder Bay waterfront. The control room of the 1950s icebreaker Alexander Henry, with the engine order telegraph in the foreground.
Take a fascinating tour of the Alexander Henry and learn about maritime history while at port in Thunder Bay. // Photo credits Tourism Thunder Bay

Several examples of Thunder Bay’s history as a transportation hub can be found at the waterfront. The former Canadian Coast Guard Ship Alexander Henry is a National Historic Site. Moored adjacent to the cruise ship port, this retired light icebreaker, buoy tender and navigational aid ship is open to the public for guided tours and provides excellent information about maritime history. Railroad tracks run parallel to the waterfront, and it’s common to see and hear slow-moving freight trains making their way along the shore. The Thunder Bay Railway Historical Society has carefully restored an orange 1929 CN caboose near the small roundabout, which is open to the public. Grain elevators continue to tower along the waterfront. While they are not open for interior tours, you can delve into their history and impact via the Friends of Grain Elevators Thunder Bay, which has a self-guided tour on the free Thunder Bay tours app, packed with a great deal of information.

4. Enjoy Delicious Food With a View at Thunder Bay's Waterfront Restaurants

A high shot looking down on a table spread with pizza, salads, beverages and plates, while diners' hands reach from all sides, picking up the food.
Flavour and beauty come together when you're dining on Thunder Bay's waterfront. // Photo credit Bight Restaurant & Bar

Take your pick of several fantastic dining options on the waterfront. At Bight Restaurant & Bar, savour upscale casual fare with many dishes featuring local produce, meats and cheese. Dine in or if the weather’s good, take in a million-dollar view of the Giant from their lakeside patio. Next door is Picnicki, offering pretty to-go picnics made with local ingredients for you to enjoy (one option even comes with a kite!). Another contemporary indoor-outdoor option for dining and cocktails with a view is Anchor & Ore on the main level of the Delta Hotel, which has live jazz on Friday evenings. For coffee, tea, pastries and more, visit Windy Shores Café housed in the historic former train station. They also have a new line of flavoured sparkling waters, made with Lake Superior water. For a quick bite, check out one of several food trucks that are part of the waterfront scene too.

5. Do a Little Shopping in Downtown Thunder Bay

The Ahnisnabae Art Gallery; a shopper's hand picks up an art print off a rack. The background is full of many more racks of colourful art prints.
Find something special and one-of-a-kind at the Ahnisnabae Art Gallery. // Photo credit Culinary Tourism Alliance

Shopping and strolling is a great way to see downtown Thunder Bay. Cumberland Street and Court Street run parallel to the waterfront and are home to a range of independent shops. Goods & Co., at the corner of Red River Road and Court Street, is a popular destination. Housed in a former Eaton’s department store that’s been beautifully updated, it has a European market vibe, with 20+ local artisans offering jewelry, art made with Lake Superior beach glass, candles, pottery, Indigenous art, maple syrup, clothing and much more, including a bar and several eateries. Other boutiques and galleries in the area include Dene Cree Designs (home and lifestyle), Lovely Body (bath and body products), Bromley’s (jewelry and gifts), Ritual Skin Co. (boutique skincare), The Loop (women’s clothing by Canadian designers), Ahnisnabae Art Gallery (Indigenous art), and Chenier Fine Arts (local and Canadian artists).

6. Experience Thunder Bay's Fabulous Cuisine

Reuben croquettes; crispy miniature reuben sandwiches artfully garnished with fresh green herbs and a white sauce. Roosters in Thunder Bay; a clean, bright restaurant counter and main room, invitingly decorated with black tables and menu board and red walls. hands holding open a box of elegantly decorated pastries
Reuben croquettes (left), photo credit Tomlin Restaurant / Rooster's Bistro (center) and Swell Bakery's incredible croissants (right)—both photo credits to Culinary Tourism Alliance

The food scene in Thunder Bay is so good that we had to include it twice! There are some exceptional independent eateries that highlight local ingredients just a short stroll from the waterfront.

On Red River Road (perpendicular to the waterfront, between Court and Cumberland Streets) look for:

St. Paul Street (a short offshoot of Red River) has:

a hand bringing a lit kitchen torch toward two beautifully decorated cocktails in a dim lounge, warmly lit by a wall dotted with lights that's in the background.
Treat yourself by lounging with some fabulous cocktails at Barkeep. // Photo credit Culinary Tourism Alliance

On Court Street there’s:

Cumberland Street is home to:

4 golden-brown cookies dipped in chocolate and standing in dollops of cream, sprinkled with ground pistachio.
Grotto Trattoria is a gastronomic delight. // Photo credit Culinary Tourism Alliance

Many of these offer patio seating in the summer months.

When Thunder Bay is your port of call, you have lots of ways to make some memories and get to know the city a little bit better, all just steps from your ship. Welcome!

About Bonnie Schiedel

Bonnie Schiedel is the founder of, which covers fun family-friendly attractions, events and restaurants in Thunder Bay. She enjoys canoeing, hiking, snowshoeing and travel, and you can read more of her award-winning work at

Recommended Articles

Search Thunder Bay