By Kim Kerr-Dearsley
Contributor Kim Kerr-Dearsley samples Canada’s hottest new luxury accommodations at The Courthouse Hotel Thunder Bay, and explores the city’s waterfront district, Prince Arthur's Landing
Recently, I had the pleasure of visiting two northern destinations in Canada. One in British Columbia – the small yet vibrant town of Smithers– the other Thunder Bay Ontario. Although it’s in my home province, Thunder Bay, which has a population of around 110,000, is still very far away from the Toronto area, where I’m from. In fact, it’s 1,400km from home, the equivalent of two day’s 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. How? Thanks largely to social media and reporting by influencers, as well as websites like LuxuryCanada, these wonderful (and 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 best things to do when visiting, 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 recent experience in Thunder Bay, and in particular, my amazing stay at the newest luxury hotel Thunder Bay has to offer: The Courthouse Hotel.
The Historic 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 man – stands the majestic Courthouse Hotel. As its name suggests, this brand new 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.
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 recently, and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. From the warm welcome of the staff to the exquisite décor (and views!), the experience certainly matches 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 many of their original historical features, from attractive old tiled fireplaces to the heavy oak doors with their original brass fixtures, along with the original hardwood flooring.
Possibly the Most Restful Sleep in Canada
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, now serving as a ballroom for functions and weddings. Notable original features here include the huge chandelier that remains the room’s centerpiece, as well as the original judge’s bench (which we’re told 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 new hotel – part of the exclusiveAscend 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 of this luxury hotel are exquisitely furnished, too, with extremely plush pillowtop mattress 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. (Editor’s Note: 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 omelettes 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’re wanting 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 Thunder Bay, The Courthouse Hotel 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 favourites were the Skull Rock stout and Northern Logger from Sleeping Giant Brewing Co – The Courthouse was very pleasant to come back to afterwards.
To learn more about The Courthouse Hotel Thunder Bay, visit their website at www.courthousehotel.ca.
Kim Kerr-Dearsley is a Muskoka-based writer and traveller. She likes nice things and authentic travel experiences.