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Overlooking View of Thunder Bay
Thunder Bay, Ontario offers a relaxing, natural atmosphere with lively urban space.

Thunder Bay, Ontario is one of the many Canadian cities that you can explore if you’re moving to Canada. It’s smart to research different Canadian cities before you arrive so that you can select the city that best meets your personal and professional needs. Choosing the right location is also important because it will play a vital role in your financial success.

Your careful research will help you to select the best landing location for you and your family. You can start by assessing the local job market, housing options, and community to determine if it is right for you. If you’re considering living in Thunder Bay, Ontario, Prepare for Canada can guide you with this helpful information.

About Thunder Bay, Ontario

Thunder Bay is the capital of Northwestern Ontario and offers a relaxing, natural atmosphere with lively urban space to live, learn, work, do business and play. Located on the north shore of Lake Superior, it is often referred to as the “Lakehead” because it’s the head of the Great Lakes. It’s the most populous municipality in Northwestern Ontario.

The city has roots dating back to 1683 when it was settled as Fort Caministigoyan. And today, the city comprises two former cities, Port Arthur, and Fort William which both still retain much of their distinct identities. These cities joined to become the City of Thunder Bay in 1970.

How Many People Live in Thunder Bay, Ontario?

There is a population of 108, 843 based on the 2021 Census. If you include the surrounding communities, such as Oliver Paipoonge, Neebing, Shuniah, Conmee, O’Connor, and Gillies, and the Fort William First Nation, there are over 125, 000 people in the region.

How to Find a Job & Build a Career in Thunder Bay

The Local Economy

As the largest city in Northwestern Ontario, this city is a vibrant and growing community and is the region’s commercial, administrative, and medical hub. From trees to transportation to research, health and life sciences, Thunder Bay has been developing its knowledge-based industries, primarily in the fields of biotechnology and molecular medicine.


The city is home to the western campus of the Northern Ontario School of Medicine, the first medical school to open in Canada in a generation.

The top industries in this city are:

  • Education
  • Transportation
  • Manufacturing
  • Mining
  • Forestry.

Major Employers in Thunder Bay

Here are the top employers in the city:

  • Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre
  • Lakehead District School Board
  • The City of Thunder Bay
  • Bombardier Transportation
  • Lakehead University
  • Barrick Hemlo Gold Mine
  • Resolute Forest Products
  • Canadian Pacific Railway.
Bombardier Plant, Thunder Bay Ontario

Career Pathways in Thunder Bay

There are many ways you can look for jobs in the city. You can use the Government of Canada Job Bank and other websites online. You can also use local recruitment agencies such as YES Employment Services, Workforce, and The Phelps Group Inc. 

Visit our Finding a Job in Canada resource page to get the help you need and achieve your career goals in Canada!

The Thunder Bay Housing Market

Where you live within a city is important. You’ll want to be close to your job, schools, and other amenities. Even though it is a smaller city, there are still many neighbourhoods and communities to consider such as Port Arthur and Fort William. Other areas to consider are the Bay, Algoma, Simpson-Ogden, and Westfort.

Is Housing Expensive in Thunder Bay, Ontario?

Affordability is an attractive feature of living in the city. Thunder Bay was ranked number 1 out of 227 major urban international cities for affordable housing, by the fourth annual Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey in 2021.

Finding a Place to Rent in Thunder Bay 

Even though you may not have as many options as other larger cities, you have more affordable rental options. The average rent for an apartment is $1,150 for a Bachelor, $1,250 for a 1 Bedroom, $1,350 for a 2 Bedroom, and $1,349 for a 3 Bedroom.

Use Rentals for Newcomers to search for available rental units in Thunder Bay. You can also find current rental prices in Thunder Bay. When renting, it’s also important to consider buying renter’s insurance. While renters’ insurance is optional, many property owners may require you to get a policy. 

Get more information about renting a home: Renting in Canada: What Newcomers Need to Know

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Buying a Home in Thunder Bay 

Buying a home in the city is much more affordable compared to cities like Toronto and even other Ontario cities like Barrie.

According to the Thunder Bay Real Estate Board, the median sale price for single-detached homes is $366,900 (as of March 2022). Even though prices are on the rise, they are still well below the Canadian average. Find out more about buying your first home in Canada: First Time Home Buyer: Newcomer Tips.

Driving & Public Transit in Thunder Bay

Driving in Thunder Bay, Ontario

There are a lot of rural roads in Thunder Bay. Driving can be challenging at times, especially during the winter months. With significant wildlife in the region, it’s essential to always pay attention. The main highway through the city is Highway 11/17, also known as the Thunder Bay Expressway.

All drivers are required to have a valid Ontario driver’s licence to operate a vehicle. Learn more about driving in Canada with these 10 essential facts.

Get more information about driving in Canada:

Driving Test in Canada: A Full Guide

Tips for Winter Driving to Ensure Your Safety

Thunder Bay Public Transit

Thunder Bay Transit operates 17 bus routes across the city. For maps, routes, and schedules, click here. The cost of public transit varies depending on the route, method, and distance. See here for a list of fare prices.

The city is home to the Thunder Bay International Airport and it’s a railway hub for Canadian National and Canadian Pacific Railway.

Community Support for Newcomers

New immigrants have access to community support through several organizations. They are Thunder Bay Multicultural Association (TBMA), Doors to New Life, and 211 Ontario North. For more information, tools, and free webinars about living in Canada visit our Settling in Canada resource page to help with your settlement needs.

Language Support in Thunder Bay

Language support services are offered through TBMA, Lakehead University and Confederation College.

Personal Finance & Banking

Establishing your finances in a new country is an essential step. Newcomers can open a bank account, apply for credit cards and loans, and get a mortgage through local banks and credit unions. They have programs in place to assist new immigrants. 

Get more banking tips for newcomers:

Top 10 Financial Steps to Take Before You Leave for Canada

Move to Canada | Transferring Cash & Valuables

Open a Bank Account Before Arriving in Canada

Thunder Bay’s Education System

There are many primary and secondary education schools. Thunder Bay has 38 elementary schools, three middle schools, eight secondary schools, two private schools, a university, a college, a medical school, and an adult education facility. These schools include French immersion programs, comprehensive special education services, an International Baccalaureate Programme, and an Outdoor Education Centre.

Elementary and High School Education

The main school boards serving the area are the Lakehead District School Board, the Thunder Bay Catholic District School Board, and the Conseil scolaire de district Catholique des Aurores boréales (CSDC).

The Lakehead District School Board is the largest, with 22 elementary schools, four secondary schools and a centre for adult studies. The Thunder Bay Catholic District School Board has 16 elementary schools, three middle schools and two high schools. CSDC operates one elementary and one high school in Thunder Bay, and an additional six schools throughout the Thunder Bay District.

Post Secondary Institutions

This city is home to Lakehead University and Confederation College. The Northern Ontario School of Medicine has a campus at Lakehead University. Lakehead has about 8,000 students and Confederation College has about 35,00 full-time students. Both offer satellite campuses across Northern Ontario. 

Lakehead University building in Thunder Bay, Ontario, built in 1909.
Lakehead University building in Thunder Bay, Ontario, built in 1909.

Read more about education in Canada:

Schooling in Canada | A Look at the Education System

Higher Education Offers Benefits to Newcomers

Where to Get Medical Care in Thunder Bay, Ontario

The city is home to the Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre, and many long-term care centres operated by the St. Joseph’s Care Group such as the Lakehead Psychiatric Hospital, St. Joseph’s Hospital, and Hogarth Riverview Manor. And, there are smaller medical and dental clinics. 

thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre
Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre is the major hospital in the city.

The Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP) provides residents with health care coverage. Learn how to apply for an OHIP card. In case of an emergency call 9-1-1. This number is the same no matter where you live in Canada. For prescription drugs and services that Ontario Health does not cover, you can pay for additional health insurance plans.

How to Find a Family Doctor in Thunder Bay

You can look for a family doctor who is taking on new patients through Health Care Connect. Or call 1-800-445-1822 or visit www.ontario.ca/findadoctor to search online. You can read more about health care in Canada.

What is Day-to-Day Life Like in Thunder Bay?

Things to Do in Thunder Bay

This city is a great place to live if you enjoy the outdoors. It’s home to many parks, conservation areas, and trails. It’s a family-friendly city with many recreation facilities and neighbourhood community centres that offer fitness and seasonal activities.

The city operates indoor ice rinks and seasonal outdoor rinks, indoor and seasonal outdoor community pools, several curling sheets, golf courses, and more. And residents enjoy active lifestyles because they are close to the Boreal Forest wilderness and the rolling hills and mountains of the Canadian Shield.

Public Spaces & Attractions 

The city’s main attraction is Fort William Historical Park. Other top places to visit include The Waterfront District marina in Port Arthur, Terry Fox Memorial and Lookout, and Thunder Bay Art Gallery.

Restaurants & Nightlife

The best places to eat, dance, and enjoy nightlife are close to Marina Park. Some of the best places to check out include The Sovereign Room, The Foundry, and On Deck.

Nature & Natural Landscapes

The natural landscapes and parks are what really sets Thunder Bay apart. You can hike in Sleeping Giant Provincial Park, climb Mount McKay, check out the Kakabeka Falls, and explore Ouimet Canyon Provincial Park and Eagle Canyon. Plus, there are many other parks, trails, and ski areas to explore.

Sleeping Giant Provincial Park on Lake Superior, Thunder Bay, Ontario
Sleeping Giant Provincial Park on Lake Superior.

Sporting Events & Concerts

This city does not have any professional sports teams. But, they do have minor sports teams in addition to the Lakehead Thunderwolves who compete in Ontario University Athletics (OUA). If you are looking to enjoy a concert, check out the Thunder Bay Community Auditorium, and NV Music Hall.

Culture & Diversity in Thunder Bay

Diversity

Thunder Bay is also the sixth most culturally diverse community of its size in North America, with Finnish, Italian, Scottish, Ukrainian, Polish, French, Chinese and Croatian ethnicities. About 4% of the population are visible minorities. 

There are close to 14,000 people of Finnish descent, making the city the largest Finnish community in Canada. As well, the city also has a large Indigenous population that represents 13.2% of the population.

Worship

The city is home to Christian Churches of all denominations, as well as Jewish, Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist, and Sikh, among others. About 80% of residents identify as Christian.

You can connect with local multicultural associations to find information about specific faith communities, places of worship and ethnocultural organizations in the city.

The Weather in Thunder Bay

This is the sunniest city in eastern Canada with an average of 2,167 hours of sunshine each year. The sun may be out even in winter and snow. And while summer gets warm, it is cool in the evening, which makes it less humid and more comfortable than other Ontario cities. The average daily temperature is -14.8 °C (average high of -8.6 °C) in January and 17.6 °C (average high of 24.2°C) in July.

Loch Lomond Ski Area

With plenty of snow and large vertical drops, local ski hills are great for downhill skiing and snowboarding. Loch Lomond Ski Area is the city’s largest ski area.

Common Questions Immigrants Ask About Living in Thunder Bay

Is Thunder Bay a Good City for Immigrants?

As part of the Rural and Northern Immigration Pilot, the city is looking to attract new immigrants. This will create job opportunities for newcomers. The city is looking for skilled foreign workers to fill job vacancies. And, this makes it a city worth considering for new immigrants.

What are Some Potential Disadvantages of Living in Thunder Bay for New Immigrants?

While the immigrant population is small, the city is working to attract more newcomers. Another downside is that the city does lack big-city attractions and it is more remote compared to other cities in Ontario. However, you will discover an outdoor haven and an escape from congested cities.

What are the Benefits of Living in Thunder Bay?

Thunder Bay on a Fall day
Overlooking Lake Superior in early fall.

Thunder Bay is a beautiful part of Canada. It has unique natural attractions and it’s an ideal location for people who enjoy the outdoors. The city has several growing job sectors, offering many career options. Housing affordability is one of the most attractive benefits of living in this city.

For more information, tools, and free webinars about living in Canada visit our Settling in Canada resource page. We’ll help you to settle successfully!