All photos courtesy The Courthouse Hotel Thunder Bay
Updated August 7, 2023 / Commissions may be earned from our affiliate partner links
In my extensive travels, I’ve had the good fortune to visit some of Canada‘s most interesting northern destinations. In British Columbia, I was smitten with the small yet vibrant town of Smithers. That same epic journey, a two-month-long road trip from Ontario to BC and back (via Napa California, naturally!), saw us also visit Thunder Bay.
Although it’s in my home province, Thunder Bay, which has a population of around 110,000, is still very far away from the Greater Toronto area. In fact, it’s 1,400km from Thunder Bay to my hometown of Gravenhurst in Muskoka, the equivalent of two days’ driving… or a two-hour flight.
In both cases, I have to admit that although my expectations were somewhat modest, I was pleasantly surprised by these up-and-coming travel destinations. Like so many other small towns and cities around the world, they’re experiencing something of a renaissance as more and more people find out about them.
A Warm Welcome Awaits at The Courthouse Hotel Thunder Bay
Thanks largely to social media and reporting by influencers, as well as websites like LuxuryOntario, these wonderful yet sometimes remote destinations are coming into their own and finding their groove. And as we learn more about their unique experiences and lifestyles, as well as the many fun things to do when we get there – whether it’s trying out the best coffee shops, bars and restaurants, or learning of the best places to stay and shop – we’re opening ourselves up to no end of exciting new travel opportunities.
While I’ll save lovely Smithers BC for another day, I do want to share my experience in Thunder Bay. And, in particular, my amazing stay at what is definitely one of the best luxury hotels Northern Ontario has to offer: The Courthouse Hotel Thunder Bay.
Perched high atop a hill overlooking Lake Superior and the famous Sleeping Giant Provincial Park, a massive land formation in the distance that resembles a slumbering giant, stands the majestic Courthouse Hotel. As its name suggests, this first-rate Ontario boutique hotel occupies the city’s former Superior Court of Justice, an elegant Beaux-arts-inspired building constructed in 1924 that’s just a short walk away from the magnificent Prince Arthur’s Landing waterfront district.
History at Every Turn in The Courthouse Hotel Thunder Bay
To their credit, the hotel’s owners have done a magnificent job of preserving the integrity and character of this stunning revival-style structure. From its fine redbrick exterior to the classy trim and finish, the building impresses upon you from the moment you arrive the fact that it was, and still is, something quite special.
My husband and I had the great pleasure of staying at this wonderful mansion-like hotel in Thunder Bay on the return leg of our Ontario to BC road trip and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. From the warm welcome of the staff to the exquisite décor and views, the experience certainly matched that of any top luxury hotel in Canada.
Each of the hotel’s 40 rooms and suites, many of them once used as chambers by city judges and magistrates, retain most of their original historical features, from attractive old, tiled fireplaces to the heavy oak doors with their heavy brass fixtures, along with the original hardwood flooring.
Possibly the Most Restful Sleep in Thunder Bay
Before heading to our room, we made a point of checking out the hotel’s public spaces. Situated off the huge main lobby and hallway is the former courtroom itself; it now serves as a ballroom for functions and weddings. Notable original features here include the huge chandelier that remains the room’s centrepiece, as well as the original judge’s bench (which we’re told now serves as a great DJ booth!). There’s also a well-equipped fitness center available for guest use.
Another unexpected and much-welcomed feature of this great Thunder Bay hotel, part of the exclusive Ascend Hotel Collection, was just how quiet the rooms are. The walls are original and are so well insulated that no noise whatsoever permeates your room.
Add to this the fact you’re located on a hill with no direct traffic at the front or rear of the building – the front boasts an exquisite park-like area – and you’re guaranteed a peaceful, interruption-free sleep.
The rooms are exquisitely furnished, too, with extremely plush pillowtop mattresses and high-quality bedding, comfortable lounge chairs, along with a great work desk. The décor is warm and inviting, and the huge marble bathrooms feature roomy walk-in glass showers with rainfall showerheads, organic shower products, as well as cozy bathrobes and slippers. A number of pet-friendly units are available, along with five accessible guest rooms for those with mobility issues.
A Great Place to Stay in Thunder Bay
After an extremely restful sleep (one of the best, we agreed, we’d ever experienced in a city hotel), we made the most of the hotel’s excellent breakfast, included with your stay.
Served in the small breakfast nook, you can order items including fresh-made omelets from the hostess, or try your hand at waffle making (idiot proof… my husband figured it out!), plenty of fresh fruit, cereals, pastries, and muffins, as well as fresh coffee and juices.
Our verdict? This exquisite luxury boutique hotel really does deliver, and certainly went well above and beyond our expectations. Whether you want to spend a romantic night away with a loved one, are a business traveller looking for quality accommodations with business necessities such as Wi-Fi and printing needs, or like me travelling through and wanting to check out the area, The Courthouse Hotel Thunder Bay will certainly please the most discerning of client.
I really wish I could have stayed longer, as one night just wasn’t enough in so fine a hotel… and in so interesting a city. And as already mentioned, an added benefit is you’re just a short stroll from the city’s marina, waterfront parks, and other top Thunder Bay attractions, not to mention a wide variety of great food and drink opportunities.
And after an evening exploring great bars and restaurants, including the superb Red Lion Smokehouse, popular for its large selection of local and Canadian craft beers – our favorites were the Skull Rock stout and Northern Logger from Sleeping Giant Brewing Co – The Courthouse was very pleasant to come back to afterward.
LuxuryOntario Recommends: Enjoy a Stay in Thunder Bay
For the latest reviews, as well as the best rates and to make reservations, check out our preferred accommodations partner at The Courthouse Hotel Thunder Bay.
Looking for other accommodation options. Check out this list of great places to stay in Thunder Bay.
For ideas and inspiration regarding fun things to do in Thunder Bay, see Visit Thunder Bay, the official website of the local tourism board.
Kim Kerr is a Muskoka-based writer and traveller. She likes nice things and is a Co-Founder of Riley International Media.