Book The Prince Arthur Hotel and Suites

Every year Outside Magazine runs a feature on the top 50 best small towns to live in the USA. If they did the same survey for Canada, Thunder Bay, Ontario, on the western end of Lake Superior, would get my vote for one of the top ten best Canadian places to live.

Although Thunder Bay is no longer the main grain shipping port for the interior hinterlands of Ontario and the prairie provinces, the world’s largest grain elevators still stand as testament to the power of agriculture, with wheat, oats, and barley freighted across Lake Superior by mammoth ships and around the world.

Thunder Bay is a relatively new city in Canada, built on the namesake of Port Arthur and Port William, merging together as one cosmopolitan unit in the 1970s.  The city now is a tourism draw and a center for small business and light industry. They even have their own Casino, a charity casino with the profits shifted to the national government. The Casino offers slots and table games of Blackjack, Caribbean Stud Poker, Let It Ride, Spanish 21, Texas Hold 'Em, and Roulette.

Comfortable rooms and
suites at Prince Arhur.

The most historic place to hang your hat while in town is the Prince Arthur Hotel, which was originally conceived in a 1908 poker game. While traveling to Winnipeg and back, John James Carrick, the mayor of Port Arthur, and Sir William Mackenzie, the president of the Canadian Northern Railway, together with Sir Donald Mann, were playing poker in Sir William’s and Sir Donald’s private rail car. In the small hours of the morning J. J. told Sir William that Port Arthur needed a good hotel and that the C.N.R. should build one. Without any authority from the city council, J.J. added that the town had an ideal location for the hotel (the existing site overlooking the waterfront) and was prepared to turn it over to the C.N.R. When Sir William showed an interest J. J. said that the hotel would cost about a quarter of a million dollars to build.  Sir William agreed.

The Portside Restaurant caters
to all your yachtie needs .

The following year (after the city council had agreed to the proposal and passed the necessary by-law), construction began on a four story hotel under the architectural supervision of Warren and Wetmore of New York City. To quote from Mr. J. D. Matheson of the firm, “The probability is that the entire exterior of the magnificent building will be of Simpson Isle or Isle Royal sandstone.”  The hotel was open for travelers on March 14, 1911, and was one of the best furnished and appointed hotels on the North American continent.  The hotel even had hot and cold running water! (Rates were $1.50 without bath and $2.00 with bath per day.)  In April 1912, an addition was started and completed in 1914. The hotel cost more than the original estimate envisioned by J. J., coming in at about $850,000.  The two story rotunda still exists.  The original bedrooms were twenty feet long with an outside living room. The first three floors still are decked with the original mahogany, with the upper floors hewn weathered oak. The original dining room wass approached from the rotunda by way of a marble staircase. Now the Portside Restaurant is the hotel's major dining area.

Prince Arthur Hotel and Suites
was recently renovated.

Located in the "Heart of the Heart" of downtown Thunder Bay, on the corner of Red River Road and Cumberland Street, the Prince Arthur Hotel is the only full service waterfront hotel in town.  Over the last two years the Prince Arthur Waterfront Hotel and Suites has invested over 2.5 million Canadian dollars for renovations and upgrades to the property, including wireless high speed internet access to all it guest rooms and conference rooms, according to Brandi Burns, hotel manager.

The hotel is still a sentinel for business conferences and banquets because of its prime location. I stayed in one of the Superior Lakeside rooms with a Jacuzzi and a superior view of Marina Park in the foreground and Sleeping Giant Provincial Park in the distance. Sun streams through the clouds reflecting off the largest of the Great Lakes, and with such a breezy day I should have been out on the water sailing.  I walk along the boardwalk circumnavigating the marina and I vow to return for the summer regatta racing season.

Legend of the Sleeping Giant —

Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada Looking East across the shores of Lake Superior it requires little imagination to see the form of a sleeping body — a giant, arms folded across a massive chest as if in a deep sleep. Outside Thunder Bay, on Isle Royal , a tribe of Ojibway natives kept a loyalty to their Gods and industrious mode of living. Nanabijou, the spirit of the deep sea water, rewarded them with silver mines, but if the mines were ever revealed to the white man then the Nanabijou would be turned to stone and cover the silver mines.  The Ojibway became famous for their beautiful silver ornaments, and when upon seeing them, the Sioux strove to wrest the secret from them.  The Ojibway never divulged the secret of the mines, so their Sioux enemies devised a cunning plan.  When a scout entered an Ojibway powwow disguised as one of them, he succeeded in learning the secret of the silver. The scout found the silver and stopped at a white settlement to trade silver for food, and the word was out to the white man.  The Great Spirit lay down across what was once a bay and the Sleeping Giant has been guarding the Ojibway silver mines ever since. A warning fulfilled.

The Prince Arthur hotel is nearby the original train station that serves as the HQ now for fine dining restaurants that were unfortunately closed the day I was visiting. But the city is a melting pot of Italian, Chinese, Greek and French cuisine, and even Finnish fine food. Of course there are the steakhouses, because this is after all an agricultural center filled with mom and pop hometown cafés.  One of the more popular lunch crowd pleasers near the hotel is Gargoyles, filled with grotesque statues, begging for a bite of my salad and my hosts' sandwiches. A blues bar is located just across the street from the hotel, and in fact, one of the most vibrant blues festivals is held at the Marina Park every July. The town even has a fringe theater festival where performance art rules and I am certain Prince Arthur Hotel is one of the venues. There is no better spot to watch the Canada Day fireworks blasted off at Marina Park than a lakeside room.

Other services that prop up the local economy are antique shops, photography and art galleries and studios, computer services, and a large health care hospital complex. The hotel touts itself as “The Heart of the Heart,” and it is certainly true, because I met a computer programmer who was staying in the hotel while installing a new system at the regional hospital a few blocks away.

Comfortable beds
with Lake Superior views.

There are 121 guestrooms and suites in the hotel with some floors completely non-smoking. There is no charge at the hotel for children under 16 when sharing a room with a parent. Guest room amenities include data ports, voice mail, in-room coffee makers, in-room pay movies, free local calls, hairdryers, alarm clocks refrigerators, irons and microwaves in some rooms, and for security, electronic door locks. There is a valet service, dry cleaning and laundry service, a gift shop, and also an Avis car rental desk on the property.

The hotel has reciprocal agreements with a nearby health club, but it recently added its own pool and whirlpool. The hotel even has a complimentary shuttle van to the Thunder Bay International Airport, one of the east airports to access that I have ever flown from.

Port Arthur Hotel Meeting and Banquet Facilities —

Port Arthur has high speed
data lines and is in the
heart of Thunder Bay.

There is over 9,900 square feet of conference space in seven rooms for up to 300 people in each room. The professional staff offers fax and photocopy service and other business services. If in town on business become a tourist for the day with a short ride to the historic reconstructed Fort William, or to Kakabeka Falls, both worth the excursion. When I visited the fort the crowds were gone for the season. The blockhouses on stilts warn me of the gnarly winter conditions along the scenic picturesque river.

Thunder Bay Yacht and
Sailing Information

Thunder Bay Yacht Club
BOX 24045 Thunder Bay
ON P7A 8A9

Lake Superior Yachting Assn.

Great Lakes Cruising Club

Other Ports of Interest:

Nipigon Bay Harbor
Red Rock Recreation Centre
100 km E. of Thunder Bay

Thunder Bay Charter
Sailboat Companies

Sail Superior
Thunder Bay Ontario

Lake Superior Sailing
and Scuba Excursions

Luxury 40’ yacht
RR#2 Site 13-1
Thunder Bay ON P7C 4V1

Sailing Thunder Bay
RR # 6
Thunder Bay ON P7C 5N5

Prince Arthur Hotel
17 N. Cumberland Street
Thunder Bay
Fax: 807/345-5411

Prince Arthur Hotel Packages

Motorcoach Package — Package includes complimentary room for each 15 rooms paid; 50% off regular room rates for the bus driver; personal greeting for each tour; refreshing welcome punch reception; fresh baked muffins upon departure; complimentary dinner and breakfast for tour escort and driver; motorcoach parking, and baggage handling.

Medical Package — Special hospital and doctor appointment rate (proof of appointment may be required); complimentary shuttle to and from appointment; use of Club Nautilus.

Centennial Golf Package — Great golf meets genuine hospitality.  The package includes breakfast in hotel’s Portside Restaurant, one round of golf at Centennial Golf Course and Driving Range (18 holes), golf cart rental; bucket of range balls; and hotel accommodations starting at $118 Canadian.

Casino Package — Includes $10 in gaming tokens, $5 in match play coupons, 25% off merchandise at Cargo Hold gift shop at the Casino, free deck of cards, $2 off any main course dinner at the hotel’s Portside restaurant.

Sports Packages — Prices start at $75 plus taxes per room per night and includes breakfast for two.

Romance Package — Package includes the Fireplace Suite or Lakeside Guest Room; split of Champagne; fruit basket; after hours pool access; breakfast for two in the Portside Restaurant or room service; and late check out privileges.

I have to return to Thunder Bay some day just to find out who Prince Arthur was, and when I do, there is only one place for me to stay, because of the congenial staff, and as the hotel portrays: “The Only Thing We Overlook Is The Waterfront.”

By Kriss Hammond, Editor, Jetsetters Magazine.