Ontario is a big majestic province full of spectacular natural vistas, outdoor activities, and fun things to do. This should be no surprise if you’ve read our posts and followed along on our journeys. Although our day trips and weekend getaways are quite popular, nothing beats a good old-fashioned multi-day road trip –– especially when it involves another province or state. Enter the classic Thunder Bay to Winnipeg road trip.
The Thunder Bay to Winnipeg drive via the Trans-Canada Highway is stunning. The tricky part, however, is choosing where to stop along the way and what to pack for the trip. Winnipeg, or The Peg, as the locals know it, is in the province of Manitoba, which is incredible in its own right, with stunning prairies, endless lakes, and provincial parks.
Luckily for you, you’ve got us, and we’ve prepared the perfect Thunder Bay to Winnipeg road trip guide.
What Is the Distance Between Thunder Bay and Winnipeg?
One important detail we should start with: how far is Thunder Bay from Winnipeg? The simple answer is the distance between Winnipeg and Thunder Bay is around 700 kilometres. This drive could be done in around eight hours, requiring a non-stop trip along the Trans-Canada Highway.
But as you know, we’re all about getting off the highway to find hidden gems. That said, we’ve got some essential tips to make your drive fun-filled and relaxed.
Tips For a Thunder Bay to Winnipeg Drive
Before we get started, there are a few things we thought we should mention, specifically about this road trip and road trips in general. Here are some of our top tips for a smooth Thunder Bay – Winnipeg road trip:
- Fill up on gas at every chance you get – gas stations are few and far between on this drive. For example, stops on Day 1 are usually an hour to an hour and 30 minutes apart.
- It’s really helpful to have your route downloaded on your phone. This can be crucial, as cell signal may weaken along the drive. You can find instructions on how to do this for Google Maps HERE.
We heard through the grapevine that the ability to download Apple’s maps would also be coming to their iOS.
- Regarding phones and maps, be sure you have a phone charger to plug into your car. If you rely on your phone’s map, you must keep your phone charged. Having a physical copy of the map is always a good idea.
- Load up on snacks, fruit and water. We highly recommend getting a whole load of snacks in Thunder Bay. Our recommendations include stopping at Bay Meats Butcher Shop for delectable beef jerky, Chocolate Cow for chocolate, Cheese from Thunder Oak Cheese Farm, and a collection of Thunder Bay Country Market goodies.
Remember that they’re only open on Wednesdays from 15:30 to 18:30 and Saturdays from 08:00 until 13:00.
- Why not make a playlist in advance to stay entertained as a passenger? This way, you can make the trip more memorable. Otherwise, check out this post for some fun facts about Ontario. Who knows? You might all learn something new.
Thunder Bay to Winnipeg, Manitoba Road Trip
Visiting Thunder Bay is a fantastic idea; full of attractions, history and stunning nature. In fact, check out our recent post on things to do in Thunder Bay for some inspiration. Thunder Bay is a charming city on the shore of Gitchi Gumee or Lake Superior. There is something for everyone, from its artsy and ever-growing downtown to its surrounding provincial parks.
The road trip is equally filled with terrific stops along the way, whether that’s parks, museums, or a giant moose statue. But enough delaying, let’s hit the road and get into the Thunder Bay – Winnipeg drive.
Day 1: Thunder Bay to Kenora
Duration: Around 5 hours 45 minutes
The Eddy Restaurant
Once you’ve filled up on gas and packed the car, you’ll drive for around 25 minutes (28 kilometres) until you reach your first stop, which is The Eddy Restaurant. A perfect place to get a delectable breakfast or brunch. These beautiful people make EVERYTHING from scratch!
We highly recommend The Eddy Burger. Two 4oz patties topped with smoked cheese, bacon onion jam, house roasted garlic with basil tomatoes layered on top of spring mix, and house pickles, then drizzled with blue cheese sauce all packed into a toasty brioche bun brushed with dijon aioli. That bacon onion jam is incredible!
We also recommend the Beer Battered Cod Fillets. Delicate, flaky cod wrapped in a coat of light and crisp batter. Served with their own coleslaw, lemon wedges and The Eddy special tartar sauce. Also includes hand-cut fries.
Kababeka Falls Provincial Park
Down the street from The Eddy is Kakabeka Falls Provincial Park – home to Ontario’s second-highest vertical waterfall at over 40 metres. Also known as the Niagara of the North, this waterfall is a magnificent sight and a fantastic place to go.
Luckily for everyone, it’s also an easy spot to get to. This is because it’s wheelchair accessible and begins from the parking lot. Additionally, it has a viewing platform, a pedestrian bridge, and views of the Kaministiquia River and the gorge below.
The falls provide the perfect opportunity to explore the surrounding area, which you probably won’t have time for, but if you do, the 2.5-kilometre-looped Little Falls Trail descends into the gorge. Some longer trails include the 4-kilometre Poplar Point Trail, the 4.5-kilometre Beaver Meadows Trail, and the 3.5-kilometre River Terrace Trail.
Central/Eastern Standard Time Zone marker
Next, we recommend driving to the Central/Eastern Standard Time Zone marker, which will take around 50 minutes (76 kilometres). Here, you can grab a shot perfect for your Insta feed before continuing. Or you can move from one side of the marker to another and pretend you’re time travelling! It’s a one-hour difference.
The next part involves quite a lot of driving, so swap with your partner if you feel like a break. Then, after an hour and 30 minutes (143 kilometres), you’ll reach Ignace. Tower Hill is a great place to visit — a lookout with stunning views of the surrounding woods and the town. It’s a great pitstop to stretch your legs and catch a breather.
Then head into town to check out the Twin Beech aircraft, a hidden gem on the side of the road. This is also a good time to top up your gas. Then pop into Robin’s and, top up your snacks, your water and grab a coffee.
Now, you’ll drive for another hour and 10 minutes before reaching Dryden. This delightful city is the perfect spot to get a bite to eat, refill your gas if you didn’t already in Ignace, and see some sights. I recommend checking out Max the Moose, a 5.6-metre-high statue that’s been a proud symbol for Dryden since July 1962.
Another must-see is the Roy Wilson Suspension Bridge, which is 34 metres and is above the Wabigoon River. Lastly, there’s the Dryden & District Museum, where you can learn all about the area’s history. Admission is $4 per person.
Lastly, you’ll end Day 1 with an hour and 33-minute drive (138 kilometres) to Kenora. This city is the last big stop before rolling into Manitoba’s rolling prairies. That’s why we recommend spending a night here. Don’t stress. We’ve got some great recommendations for where to stay and what to do.
Where To Stay in Kenora
You’ll need somewhere to get some rest, so here are our recommendations:
- Nature’s Inn Kenora – Just off the Trans Canada Highway, this is the perfect place to stay for road trippers. They have spacious rooms with free Wi-Fi, a mini-fridge, a microwave, and coffee-making facilities. What’s more, we stayed here and thoroughly enjoyed it. Prices start from $144 per night.
- Big Narrows Resort – This spot is ideal if you prefer something closer to nature. It’s on Lake of the Woods, so you’ll get some stunning views. Each cabin has a fully equipped kitchen, a barbeque, an outdoor deck, and an en-suite bathroom. Prices start from $125 per night.
What To Do in Kenora
There are so many fun things to do in Kenora, but here are our favourites:
- Redditt Bottle House – This fabulous building is just 25 minutes outside Kenora. It’s a small house completely made out of glass bottles created by locals Hank and Myrtle Deverell in the 70s. It’s accompanied by a glass windmill, a glass home of the three bears, an elf’s garden, and a wishing well. Admission is donation-based.
- Lake of the Woods Brewing Company – If you love craft beer as much as we do, you must check out this brewery. They make all kinds of beers, including a blueberry ale. Tours start at $25 per person (relatively inexpensive for a tour).
Day 2: Kenora to Winnipeg
Duration: 3 hours 45 minutes
Day 2 starts in Kenora, where you should grab something to eat before setting off. Two terrific spots are HoJoe Coffee & Eatery and Cottage Time Public House. HoJoe offers delectable coffee, baked goods, and all the usual breakfast options. Cottage Time offers breakfast tacos, French toast, eggs benedict, and blueberry pancakes. Both restaurants open at 08:00.
After breakfast, head to Keewatin Place and stock up on snacks, water and sandwiches.
Manitoba Welcomes You Sign
After fuelling up, you’ll drive for 40 minutes (52 kilometres) until you reach the Manitoba ‘Welcomes You’ sign, which is the perfect spot to catch a road trip shot.
From the sign, you’ll continue on Highway 44. Next, you’ll drive for another 30 minutes (34 kilometres) to Whiteshell Provincial Park, which has a variety of hiking trails, the Bannock Point Petroforms, and Pine Point Rapids.
You’ll turn right onto Provincial Road 307, driving another 30 minutes to Pine Point Rapids.
The Pine Point Rapids Trail
The Pine Point Rapids Trail is an all-season destination, popular for its cross-country skiing in the winter and hiking in the summer.
We did the 5.1km loop, which has a scenic (2.7km) route along the river and a more direct (2.4km) route on the way back. The Pine Point Rapids is located at the halfway point of the loop. The full trail is 8.2km in length.
Manidoo-Abi (Bannock Point Petroforms)
Just two minutes drive further north on Highway 307; you’ll find the Bannock Point Petroforms. While the petroforms site has been named the Bannock Point Petroforms, many still acknowledge the site by its original name in Anishinaabemowin (the Ojibwe language) as Manidoo-Abi, translated to English as “Where the Spirit Sits.” Manidoo-Abi is a sacred site and remains in use to this day.
Today Whiteshell Provincial Park is well-known as a cottage country for thousands of visitors, campers and hikers, but Indigenous peoples from many nations have been living in this region for tens of thousands of years.
As you walk through the boreal forest, to see this sacred petroform site: rocks and boulders arranged by Indigenous peoples over millennia.
Remember to be respectful and not touch or move any objects or materials from the site.
Jennifer’s Restaurant Picnic
Just for the record, this part is such a stunning drive. That said, after the hike and petroforms, you’ll feel a bit hungry. Luckily, the next stop is Jennifer’s Restaurant Picnic after a 28-minute (38-kilometre) drive. This food truck offers delightful appetizers, schnitzels, burgers, goulash and fried shrimp.
Beausejour Dairy Bar
Feeling like something sweet? Next up is Beausejour Dairy Bar after a 25-minute (39-kilometre) drive. You’ll turn left onto MB-11 and then right on Highway 44. Here, you can get all kinds of sweet treats, like sundaes, floats, shakes, slushies, and soft serve.
Getting to the Centre of Canada Park takes 38 minutes (57 kilometres). Lastly, you’ll head west on Park Avenue for 9 kilometres before turning left onto Highway 12. You can pass the historical Centre of Canada Park on this road if you turn right onto Rosewood Road and take another right onto the Trans-Canada Highway.
Centre of Canada Park
The Centre of Canada Park is the exact longitudinal centre of Canada, which is a cool place to be as it’s a geographical highlight.
Winnipeg, aka The Peg
Finally, you’ll drive for another 34 minutes (30 kilometres) along the Trans-Canada Highway until you reach Winnipeg.
Where To Stay in Winnipeg
Once you get to Winnipeg, you may be feeling tired. Here are some great places in Winnipeg to stay.
- The Fort Garry Hotel, Spa and Conference Centre – This hotel is very centrally located. It is just a minute’s walk from The Forks Market, the Winnipeg Railway Museum, and Bonnycastle Park. Plus, it’s got stunning rooms, a world-class spa, down duvets, and high-speed Wi-Fi. We thoroughly enjoyed our stay here. Prices start from $213 per night.
- Mere Hotel – Right on the banks of the Red River in the Civic Centre is this delightful hotel. It’s close to the Manitoba Museum, Fort Gibraltar, and the Manitoba Theatre Centre. Rooms come with flat-screen TVs, minibars, air conditioning, and bathrobes. Prices start from $220 per night.
What To Do in Winnipeg
As the capital of Manitoba, there are so many things to do in Winnipeg. That said, we’ve summed up our top picks.
The Forks Market
The area for this market has served as a meeting place for over 6000 years. Now, it’s one of the top places for foodies and shoppers. So, if you’re hungry and looking for a bite to eat – come here. It’s open all week from 10:00 until 21:00 (except for the food hall, which is open Sunday to Thursday from 11:00 until 22:00 and Friday to Saturday from 11:00 until 23:00).
Canadian Museum For Human Rights (CMHR)
Canadian Museum for Human Rights – For an insightful look into the history of human rights in Canada and internationally, this museum will fascinate you. It’s got all kinds of exhibits, including about the Holocaust, climate justice, and Canadian stories. It’s open Tuesday to Sunday from 10:00 until 17:00 and until 21:00 on Fridays. Admission starts from $18 per person.
If you looking for some air and greenery? This park has everything from an English Garden, a zoo, six restaurants, and various sports fields. It’s absolutely buzzing in the summer, with free concerts and barbeque facilities.
Optional Stops On The Drive to Winnipeg
While we’ve provided you with tons of stops along the drive, we still couldn’t fit in a few options. That said, here are three other stops to consider:
- Quetico Provincial Park – Just two hours outside of Thunder Bay along the Trans–Canada Highway is this fabulous park. It’s got over 35 kilometres of hiking trails, over 2,000 lakes, and backcountry campsites. It’s open all year from 08:00 until 16:30.
- Sioux Narrows Provincial Park – This gorgeous park is just an hour outside Kenora. It’s situated along the shoreline of Lake of the Woods. It’s a small park with two campsites, canoes for rent, and three hiking trails. It’s open from May until October.
- Sandbar Lake Provincial Park – This fantastic park is just ten minutes outside Ignace. It’s home to a stunning sandy beach, forests, and various canoe routes, aka the perfect spot to be in spring in Ontario. It’s open from May until September.
Final Thoughts On a Thunder Bay to Winnipeg Trip
So, there you go, all you need to know and do for a Thunder Bay – Manitoba road trip. It’s a lovely place to be, driving along the Trans-Canada Highway. What’s more, there are so many brilliant spots, whether provincial parks, cutesy towns, or interesting museums.
Winnipeg is a great spot, as it’s full of exciting attractions. That said, there are so many terrific cities in Canada to explore. For more awesome options, check out these weekend getaways in Ontario.
But for now, we leave you with this. The place is called Juneberry. The best pancakes we ever tasted. Delicious.