Thunder Bay, an unexpected hub of Finnishness

After Nova Scotia, we returned to Toronto to pick up our next rental car for the long drive out to Vancouver and California. Our next destination stop after Toronto was Winnipeg, although the driving distance would have been impossible to cover in just one day. We decided we needed to make two stops: the first in the unremarkable town of Sault Ste. Marie on eastern edge of Lake Superior, and a second in Thunder Bay, on the other end of the lake.

Sault Ste. Marie (a.k.a. “the Soo”) was a service stop in every sense of the word. Our hotel room overlooked the city’s “beautiful waterfront” as the marketing literature had it, which in actuality was a huge concrete car park outside a closing-down Sears department store. Oh well, we’d just been to Nova Scotia.

From the shores of Lake Superior

Thunder Bay was a pleasant surprise. The drive up from the Soo was absolutely breathtaking. The road hugs the shores of Lake Superior and offers some extraordinary Canadian views. They are especially enjoyable this time of year as the leaves start to turn a bright red. The city itself seems to have a bit of a buzz about it. It boasts design shops and trendy restaurants, but the most interesting thing about it is that 10% of its population is of Finnish descent.

Thunder Bay’s own Finnish soppi

As a result, the town is home to its own “Little Finland”. Clustered around the intersection of Bay St and Algoma St is a cluster of Finnish shops, such as a Finnish deli and butcher’s, as well as a couple of design shops. The jewel in the crown is Kangas Sauna (Oliver Rd), a sauna-cum-café in a Finnish-inspired mid-century building that’s all exposed breeze blocks and birchwood. We filled up on a wholesome breakfast there before hitting the road for Winnipeg.

Kangas Sauna did not disappoint

The Finnish theme continued in our accommodation. We stayed in a beautiful Airbnb furnished with all sorts of Finnish design and objects, we wish we could have stayed longer to soak up some more of those Nordic vibes!

Our flat was replete with Moomin memorabilia

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