Imagine the anticipation building as you pack your essentials, the hum of excitement filling the air as you load up the car with snacks and playlists carefully curated for the adventure ahead.
There’s a unique thrill in the knowledge that each passing kilometer holds the promise of a new experience, a captivating vista, or an unexpected detour that might just become the highlight of your journey.
The road from Thunder Bay to Winnipeg isn’t just a route on the map; it’s a story waiting to unfold.
From the rugged landscapes of Northwestern Ontario to the rolling prairies of Manitoba, this road trip offers a front-row seat to the diverse beauty that defines this vast and enchanting country.
Join me as we explore the tales of charming small towns, the allure of roadside attractions, and the warmth of the communities that welcome travelers with open arms.
Things to Know About the Trip From Thunder Bay to Winnipeg
Covering a distance of approximately 700 kilometers, the journey from Thunder Bay to Winnipeg offers a scenic route that takes around 8 hours by car under optimal driving conditions.
For a smooth and enjoyable ride, it is recommended to take the ON-17 W highway, which seamlessly connects with the Trans Canada Highway.
As you embark on this road trip, there’s more to discover than just the kilometers passing by. Along the route, numerous captivating spots beckon exploration.
Whether you’re drawn to the allure of small towns, picturesque landscapes, or charming roadside attractions, the Thunder Bay to Winnipeg drive promises an array of interesting pit stops.
Choosing the road less traveled can lead to unexpected delights. From local eateries serving up regional specialties to hidden gems that showcase the unique culture of the area, the journey becomes as memorable as the destination.
You can take a moment to appreciate the changing scenery, with each kilometer bringing a new perspective and a fresh slice of the Canadian landscape.
While the convenience of car travel offers flexibility and the opportunity to set your own pace, it’s the unplanned detours that often yield the most cherished memories.
Best Time to Travel From Thunder Bay to Winnipeg
The best time to travel from Thunder Bay to Winnipeg is during the summer months, from June to August. The weather is warm and sunny, with average temperatures ranging from 18°C to 25°C.
Best Things to Do on a Thunder Bay to Winnipeg Road Trip
Going on a journey from Thunder Bay to Winnipeg opens the door to a myriad of experiences, blending natural wonders with cultural gems along the way.
As you traverse this picturesque route, you’ll encounter the beauty of the Canadian landscape and the rich tapestry of history that unfolds between these two vibrant cities.
Each stop presents an opportunity to explore, discover, and immerse yourself in the unique charm of the region.
Here are six of the best things to do that promise a memorable adventure filled with diverse landscapes, intriguing attractions, and a deep appreciation for the heart of Canada.
1. Drive up Mount Mckay.
Address: Thunder Bay District, ON P7J 1G8, Canada
Perched at an elevation of 1,500 feet, Mount McKay stands as one of the highest points in Ontario, offering a spectacular vantage point within the Ojibway Community of Fort William.
The mountain provides an unparalleled view of the renowned Sleeping Giant Provincial Park.
To access this extraordinary viewpoint, a nominal fee grants entry to a well-maintained road winding its way up about three-quarters of the massive sill.
Along this ascent lies the heart of the experience — the pow-wow grounds and an inviting overlook. Here, visitors can soak in the breathtaking scenery that the Sleeping Giant Provincial Park unfolds.
For those seeking an even higher perspective, a hiking trail awaits at the end of the parking lot. This trail promises an adventure leading to the summit, providing an immersive experience amid the natural beauty of the surroundings.
2. Hike around Roaring Kakabeka Falls.
Address: Oliver Paipoonge, ON P0T 1W0, Canada
Located approximately 30 minutes west of Thunder Bay, Kakabeka Falls Provincial Park is a destination renowned for its breathtaking waterfall.
Drawing visitors from far and wide, the park has become a compelling reason for many to go on a journey to Thunder Bay.
Kakabeka Falls itself lives up to the anticipation, captivating onlookers with its majestic beauty. However, the park offers more than just a stunning waterfall; it provides a haven for outdoor enthusiasts seeking a deeper connection with nature.
Scenic hiking trails wind through the park, inviting exploration and a chance to immerse oneself in the surrounding natural beauty.
For those who wish to extend their stay and fully embrace the tranquil ambiance, Kakabeka Falls Provincial Park also offers camping facilities. This allows visitors to not only witness the cascading waters but to embrace the entire experience of the park.
Whether it’s a leisurely stroll along the trails, camping under the stars, or simply basking in the awe-inspiring presence of the falls, Kakabeka Falls Provincial Park promises a memorable and immersive nature retreat.
3. Take a dip at Sandbar Lake Provincial Park in Ignace.
Address: ON-599, Ignace, ON P0T 1T0, Canada
Contact number: 807 934 2995
About two hours away from Kakabeka Falls lies the quaint town of Ignace, Ontario. A mere 11-kilometer drive from the town leads you to Sandbar Provincial Park.
Renowned among dedicated canoe enthusiasts, this park serves as the launch pad for some of northern Ontario’s most exhilarating canoe routes.
For those seeking a quick respite and families looking for a peaceful break, Sandbar Provincial Park offers a charming, family-friendly beach. The shoreline gently slopes into a shallow lake, providing the perfect spot to cool off on a scorching summer day.
If your stomach starts to growl, consider a pit stop in town at the Ignace Tavern, known for its delectable signature pizzas.
And if you decide to extend your stay in Ignace, you have the choice of camping at Sandbar Lake or opting for a cozy night at the Northwoods Motor Inn.
4. Walk the Wabigoon River Suspension Bridge in Dryden.
Address: 20 Government St, Dryden, ON P8N 2N9, Canada
As you embark on the scenic drive from Thunder Bay to Winnipeg, consider making a delightful stop in the charming town of Dryden, conveniently located just an hour away from Ignace.
You can start your visit by capturing a photo with the iconic ‘Max the Moose’ at the visitor center.
If you’re in need of accommodation, both the Best Western Inn and Comfort Inn in Dryden offer excellent options — or explore the cozy cabins on Eagle Lake through Airbnb or VRBO.
Dryden serves as the halfway point on this journey, and a must-visit destination is Aaron Provincial Park, which provides an idyllic setting for camping and fishing enthusiasts. The park offers a serene escape and a chance to immerse yourself in nature’s beauty.
While in Dryden, take advantage of the opportunity to stretch your legs with a leisurely stroll across the Roy Wilson Suspension Bridge, situated in Johnston Park.
This picturesque bridge spans the Wabigoon River, providing breathtaking views of the rushing rapids below. It’s a refreshing and scenic way to break up your drive, allowing you to connect with nature and enjoy the tranquility of the surroundings.
You may also want to consider exploring the vibrant town of Dryden, taking in the local charm, and perhaps indulging in some outdoor activities.
5. Wander through Whiteshell Provincial Park.
Address: Hwy 1, Eastern Manitoba, MB R0E 0N0, Canada
Contact number: 866 626 4862
Operating hours: Open 24 hours
As you transition onto Highway 44, the picturesque beauty of Manitoba’s Lake Country unfolds before you.
Continue along Highway 44 until it intersects with Highway 307, where you can embark on a scenic route through the enchanting Whiteshell Provincial Park.
This park is a perennial favorite among Manitoba’s destinations, attracting visitors with its timeless allure. Acting as the final stop before venturing up to Churchill to witness polar bears, Whiteshell’s beauty consistently lures tourists back for more.
For a refreshing break on a warm day, make a stop at Rainbow Falls, or, if your journey takes place in winter, explore Whiteshell Provincial Park’s snowy landscapes with an invigorating session of snowshoeing.
If you find yourself craving sustenance, consider dining options such as the High Point Restaurant & Lounge in Whiteshell or the Nite Hawk Cafe in West Hawk.
6. Walk on History at Pinawa Dam Provincial Heritage Park.
Address: MB-520, Pinawa, MB R0E 1L0, Canada
Contact number: 866 626 4862
Operating hours: Open 24 hours
Pinawa Dam Provincial Heritage Park is just a short 30-minute drive from the north entrance of Whiteshell Provincial Park. To get there, follow the scenic route by turning right onto HWY 11, then another right on HWY 211, and finally a left on HWY 520.
Finding ample parking is a breeze, especially if you arrive early in the day or during the late afternoon.
This Manitoba Provincial Park is a captivating blend of nature and history, situated on the grounds of a hydroelectric dam constructed back in 1906.
The dam, now surrounded by the remnants of the abandoned town of Pinawa, ceased generating electricity in 1951. Amidst the Romanesque ruins, experience the allure of roaring waterfalls and the embrace of lush marshland.
You can immerse yourself in the rich narrative of Pinawa’s past, where the original town was left behind as the dam’s generators fell silent.
The juxtaposition of the ancient ruins against the backdrop of cascading waterfalls and thriving marshes creates a captivating scene, inviting you to explore the echoes of a bygone era.
Pinawa Dam Provincial Heritage Park is an opportunity to step into the pages of Manitoba’s history and witness the enduring beauty that time has etched into the landscape.
Best Places to Stop on a Drive From Thunder Bay to Winnipeg
As you traverse the vast expanse between these two Canadian cities, there are several must-visit stops that add a touch of adventure and discovery to your travel itinerary.
From scenic wonders to historical landmarks, here are the five best places to pause, explore, and immerse yourself in the beauty and charm that lie along the road from Thunder Bay to Winnipeg.
1. Dryden & District Museum
Address: 15 Van Horne Ave, Dryden, ON P8N 2A5, Canada
Contact number: 807 223 4671
Operating hours: Tuesday to Friday: 9 – 12 pm; 1 – 5 pm
When passing through Dryden, take a moment to stretch your legs by visiting the Roy Wilson Suspension Bridge, accessible through Johnston Park, conveniently located off the Trans Canada Highway.
You can begin your exploration by admiring the captivating “Pieces of Dryden” tile mosaic before strolling down the path leading to the Wabigoon River and the bridge itself. As you traverse the bridge, enjoy the splendid views of the rushing rapids below.
The park serves as a hub for urban trails in Dryden, offering a starting point for those eager to explore the natural beauty of the area.
While the path may be a bit uneven in some spots, it continues beyond the bridge, inviting you to discover more of the scenic surroundings.
For those with an appreciation for quirky roadside attractions, don’t miss the chance to visit Max the Moose before departing from town.
Although not the largest moose in Canada, Max proudly stands as the oldest, having graced the Dryden Tourist Information Centre since July 19, 1962.
Standing at an impressive 18 feet (5.6 m) and weighing a whopping 2 tons, Max adds a unique charm to your journey through Dryden.
2. Silver Falls Provincial Park
Address: Unnamed Road, Thunder Bay, Unorganized, ON P0T, Canada
Silver Falls Provincial Park is renowned for its Holocene-era features, each a testament to the dynamic changes within the last 10,000 years.
From the captivating Dog Lake Marine to the intriguing kettle terraces, spillways, and outwash deposits, the park boasts a diverse tapestry of geological wonders.
As you indulge yourself in the park’s embrace, a range of recreational activities await. Seasonal rustic camping beckons, offering a connection with nature that goes beyond the ordinary.
The park’s expanse welcomes enthusiasts of canoeing and boating, inviting exploration of its hidden corners, while sport fishing enthusiasts can cast their lines in pursuit of the perfect catch.
You can embark on an enchanting journey through the great hiking and walking trail, which guides you with every step towards the majestic Silver Falls. This trail, adorned with the beauty of lush forests, offers an immersive experience in the heart of nature.
For those seeking a temporary retreat into the wild, Silver Falls Provincial Park provides a total of 56 campsites. Among these, 44 are seasonally leased, creating a community of nature enthusiasts drawn to the park’s allure.
If you prefer a more planned escape, 12 campsites are available for reservations, ensuring you secure your spot in this natural sanctuary.
It’s important to note that Silver Falls Provincial Park embraces a rustic charm — there’s no electricity or running water here.
Instead, the park encourages a back-to-basics experience, where the rustling leaves and babbling brooks compose the soundtrack to your retreat.
3. Aaron Provincial Park
Address: Kenora, Unorganized, ON, Canada
Contact number: 807 938 6534
Operating hours: Sunday and Monday: 9 – 9 pm; Tuesday to Saturday: 9 – 10 pm
Located on the eastern shores of Thunder Lake and easily accessible via Ontario Highway 17, Aaron Provincial Park beckons nature enthusiasts with its serene beauty and a host of recreational offerings.
Established in 1958, this natural environment park spans 116.74 hectares, providing a picturesque retreat for visitors seeking a blend of tranquility and outdoor adventure.
As you explore the park, you’ll discover two inviting sandy beaches along the clear, shallow waters of Thunder Lake, creating an idyllic setting for a range of water-based activities.
If you’re inclined towards swimming, boating, or fishing, Aaron Provincial Park has something to offer everyone. The pristine surroundings and the gentle lapping of the lake against the shore make it an ideal spot for those seeking a refreshing escape.
For those who wish to extend their stay, the park facilitates camping, allowing visitors to immerse themselves in the natural beauty that abounds.
However, it’s worth noting that the availability of certain facilities and activities might be subject to specific areas within the park, ecological considerations, or seasonal weather patterns.
To plan your visit or inquire about the park’s current status, you can contact the Northwestern Health Unit at (807) 938-6534 during the summer or (807) 223-7535 in the winter.
4. Nestor Falls Fly-In Outposts
Address: 1170 Nestor Falls Fly-In Rd, Nestor Falls, ON P0X 1K0, Canada
Contact number: 807 484 2345
Nestor Falls Fly-In Outposts, a cherished family-run enterprise, beckons adventure seekers to the pristine wilderness of Ontario, Canada.
Specializing in remote fly-in fishing excursions, this unique business transports enthusiasts to secluded outpost cabins nestled on the shores of 10 picturesque lakes.
Accessible exclusively by air, the cabins provide a gateway to a mesmerizing natural haven where the serenity of the surroundings enhances the thrill of the fishing experience.
Each lake offers a diverse range of fish species, including the coveted walleye, elusive trout, formidable muskie, predatory pike, and spirited bass.
What sets Nestor Falls Fly-In Outposts apart is not just the fishing but also the commitment to preserving the natural beauty and ecological balance of these remote locations.
Embracing a catch-and-release policy, the business ensures that every guest contributes to the sustainability of the ecosystem while relishing the trip of a lifetime.
5. Husky the Muskie
Address: 21 Sylvan St, Kenora, ON P9N 1S4, Canada
Contact number: 804 407 2529
Operating hours: Open 24 hours
In 1967, as a potential Canadian Centennial project, Jules Horvath and Bob Selway from Deluxe Signs and Displays, working under the direction of the Kenora Chamber of Commerce, brought to life the iconic outdoor sculpture known as Husky the Muskie.
This monumental 40-foot-tall muskellunge graces the landscape of McLeod Park in Kenora, Ontario, Canada, capturing national attention due to its impressive size and strategic location alongside the Trans-Canada Highway.
Beyond its local fame, Husky has found its way into the broader cultural landscape, making appearances in various movies that showcase the essence of travel across Canada.
This includes memorable scenes alongside other iconic sculptures like Max the Moose in Dryden, Ontario, and Wawa, Ontario’s goose.
One notable film featuring Husky the Muskie is “One Week” (2008), further solidifying its status as a recognizable symbol on the Canadian cinematic map.
Tips for a Safe Drive and Memorable Experience from Thunder Bay to Winnipeg
As you navigate the highways connecting these two vibrant cities, safety and enjoyment should be at the forefront of your journey.
To ensure a drive-safe and memorable experience, consider the following tips that encompass both practical advice and suggestions for exploring the beauty that lies between Thunder Bay and Winnipeg.
1. Have a flexible plan.
Before you head on a road trip, you have to create a flexible itinerary with a list of planned activities and sights.
Adapting to unexpected circumstances is crucial, as you’ve had to adjust plans due to bad weather or stumbled upon intriguing unplanned attractions that were too captivating to ignore.
Flexibility allows for spontaneity and enhances the overall travel experience.
2. Download maps onto your phone or have a GPS handy.
If your vehicle lacks a GPS, download maps for your planned route before leaving home. Alternatively, consider the traditional approach and bring a paper map as a backup.
This ensures you have navigational resources for the areas you’ll be traveling through.
3. Expect spotty cell service.
During your drive from Thunder Bay to Winnipeg, anticipate occasional weak cell service, especially outside major towns.
If you’re with a major provider like Rogers, Bell, or Telus, highway coverage is generally reliable. However, once you exit the highway and move beyond town limits, expect a rapid loss of cell service.
4. Prepare for traffic.
When planning a road trip in Northern Ontario along Highway 17, be aware that the two-lane road may lead to delays behind slower transport trucks due to factors like steep hills, construction, weather, wildlife, and accidents.
It’s advisable to stay patient, maintain a flexible schedule, and allow extra time for unexpected events.
5. Gas up at every opportunity.
When traveling, it’s advisable to refuel whenever possible, especially along Highway 17, where gas stations can be widely spaced. This ensures you won’t run out of gas between stops, providing a smoother and more reliable journey.
6. Bring entertainment.
The Thunder Bay to Winnipeg drive has some great stops, but it also includes long stretches, making entertainment crucial, especially with kids.
It’s wise to ensure your kids have games on their devices that can be played offline, along with books and card games for variety.
This mix of entertainment ensures an enjoyable road trip experience, catering to different preferences and avoiding reliance on cell service for gameplay.
7. Be on the lookout for wildlife.
When driving along the Trans-Canada Highway in Northern Ontario, be alert for wildlife, particularly during dawn and dusk when they are most active.
Animals may be seen grazing or crossing the road at any time. You have to pay attention to the drivers ahead, as they may suddenly slow down for wildlife.
If you encounter bears or moose, give them ample space and never attempt to feed them or approach them outside your vehicle.
8. Bring a camera.
Pack your camera for an incredible road trip filled with unforgettable moments. You may want to capture the beauty and excitement along the way, preserving memories to share with loved ones.
Get ready to document the amazing experiences that await you on this adventure.