The Lake Superior port of THUNDER BAY is much closer to Winnipeg than to any city in Ontario, and consequently its 120,000 inhabitants are prone to see themselves as westerners. Economics as well as geography define this self-image, for this was until recently a booming grain-handling port, and the grain, of course, is harvested in the Prairies. Some grain still arrives here by rail to be stored in the town's gigantic grain elevators on its way to the Atlantic, but since the 1990s the economics of the grain trade have favoured Canada's Pacific ports and many of the grain elevators that dominate the harbourfront are now literally rotting away. This reversal of fortunes has encouraged Thunder Bay to reinvent itself through manufacturing and tourism. To boost the latter, the city council has created a cheerful marina and built a spanking new casino, though this proved very controversial. Such was the opposition that the casino was, in a rather bizarre compromise, called the "Charity Casino" to remind the citizenry that the profits are and will be spent on good causes.
Scarred by industrial complexes and crisscrossed by rail lines, Thunder Bay is not immediately enticing, but it does have enough of interest to make a pleasant stopover on the long journey to or from Winnipeg. The most agreeable part of town is the few blocks stretching inland from behind the marina in Thunder Bay North – north of Central Avenue – and here you'll also find several good cafés and restaurants. Thunder Bay South is much less appealing, but on its outskirts is the city's star turn, the replica fur-trading post of Old Fort William, or you could plump instead for the waterfalls of Kakabeka Falls Provincial Park, 30km or so west of Thunder Bay