North Bay calls itself the "gateway to Northern Ontario". The region was first populated by Indigenous peoples, and was explored and charted by French explorer Samuel de Champlain in the early 1600s.
The site of North Bay was on the main canoe route west from Montreal. Apart from Indigenous people, voyageurs and surveyors, there was little activity in the Lake Nipissing area until the arrival of the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) in 1882. The CPR started its westward expansion from Callander Station (later renamed Bonfield), just to the east of North Bay, which was the point where the Canada Central Railway (CCR) ended. In 1882, John Ferguson decided that the north bay of Lake Nipissing was a promising spot for settlement. North Bay was incorporated as a town in 1891.
North Bay was selected as the southern terminus of the Temiskaming and Northern Ontario Railway (T&NO) in 1902 when the Ontario government established a development road to serve the Haileybury settlement. During construction of the T&NO, silver was discovered at Cobalt and started a mining frenzy in the northern part of the province that continued for many years. The Canadian Northern Railway was built to North Bay in 1913.
North Bay grew through a strong lumbering sector, mining and the three railways in the early days.
The Dionne Quintuplets were born in Corbeil, Ontario, on the southern outskirts of North Bay in 1934. Their births had a tremendous impact on tourism in the area, and may have saved the economy in the district during the Depression and beyond. North Bay and area lived off this legacy well into the 1960s. Many visitors to the area discovered lakes and summer retreats that were easily accessible and the businesses thrived on tourism.
In 1951, as a result of rising tensions in the Cold War, the Royal Canadian Air Force established an air base at North Bay. Construction of RCAF Station North Bay took three years, during which it became the largest industry in the community, a status it held for more than four decades. In 1963, the North American Air Defence Command (NORAD) opened its Canadian operations centre at the base. Manned by American and Canadian military personnel, the centre, situated 60 storeys underground to withstand a nuclear strike, monitored Canada's northern, east-central and Atlantic airspace, identifying and tracking all air traffic in this airspace, and responding to airborne emergencies, crime, and suspicious, unknown and potentially hostile aircraft. In 1983 this responsibility was expanded to all of Canada, and in October 2006 the base's NORAD operations moved into a new facility above ground where it continues to provide surveillance, identification and tracking of aircraft, and warning and response to emergencies, attacks and other crises, for the air sovereignty of Canada and North America.
By the 21st century the base was no longer the city's top industry. The current engines driving North Bay's economy are the university and college population, and the North Bay Regional Health Centre, opened in January 2011. Tourism and a stable provincial government service centre also contribute to the robust economy.
Highway 11 and Highway 17 briefly combine into a single road while they pass through North Bay. Highway 11 northwest of North Bay and Highway 17 are both part of the Trans-Canada Highway.
From Toronto, take Highway 400 north to Barrie and then take the Highway 11 cutoff just north of the city. From Sudbury (and the west), take Highway 17 east. From Ottawa, follow Highway 17 west through Mattawa. From Timmins, take Highway 101 east to Matheson and then follow Highway 11 south. From Rouyn-Noranda, take Highway 101 south (in Quebec) which becomes Highway 63 (in Ontario) south.
- 1 North Bay/Jack Garland Airport (YYB IATA) (about 7 km north of Downtown North Bay, it is accessible by public transit), ☏ , AirportManager@yyb.ca. A wonderfully efficient small airport. The airport is named after Jack Garland, a long-serving local member of Parliament; his specially-built chair from the House of Commons (he was apparently a rather large man) is preserved in the waiting area. Flights to North Bay from Toronto (45 minutes) and Sudbury (30 minutes).
Canadian airlines operating to North Bay:
- Air Canada, ☏ , toll-free: . Canada's largest airline with hubs in Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto, and Montreal. It operates across Canada and services international destinations.
- Bearskin Aviation, toll-free: . Regional airline operating in Manitoba and in Northern Ontario. Is a brand of Perimeter Aviation.
- Sunwing Airlines, toll-free: . Low cost Canadian airline that operates some flights within Canada throughout the year and specializes in seasonal flights to warmer, southern international vacation destinations in the winter. Seasonal flights operate to North Bay.
- Autobus Maheux, toll-free: , firstname.lastname@example.org. Operates bus routes within Quebec with some connections to Ontario. Operates a daily bus route to North Bay from Rouyn-Noranda (4.5 hours). For Rouyn-Noranda, the operator has services that travel to Montreal and Val-d'Or.
- 1 Ontario Northland (ONTC Terminal (The Station)), 100 Station Road, ☏ , toll-free: . Station open 24 hours. Map marker is for the station, which has wi-fi. Service from Toronto, Ottawa, Timmins, Cochrane, Sudbury, and connecting service from Sault Ste. Marie, Thunder Bay, and Winnipeg. Routes traveling to North Bay:
- Between Toronto and North Bay including stops in Huntsville, Bracebridge, Gravenhurst, Washago (some trips), Orillia (stop trips), and Barrie. Travel time to North Bay from Toronto is 4.75-5.25 hours, from Barrie is 3.25-4 hours, and from Huntsville is 1.25-1.5 hours.
- Between North Bay and Timmins including stops in Temagami, Cobalt, Temiskaming Shores (Haileybury, New Liskard, Dymond), Kirkland Lake, and Matheson. Timed connection is available at Matheson from Cochrane. Travel time to North Bay from Cobalt is 2 hours, from Kirkland Lake is 3.75 hours, from Matheson is 5.25 hours, from Timmins is 6 hours, and from Cochrane is 6.25 hours.
- Between Ottawa and Sudbury including stops in Kanata, Arnprior, Renfrew, Pembroke, Petawawa, Mattawa, and North Bay. Travel time to North Bay from Ottawa is 5.25 hours, from Arnprior is 4 hours, from Pembroke is 2.75 hours, from Petawawa is 2.25 hours, and from Sudbury is 1.5 hours.
There is no train service to North Bay.
North Bay City Transit and ParaBus is an efficient public transit system servicing the city and ski-hills (in the winter months).
- The North Bay Waterfront. Beautiful gardens, a walking path, a beach and a marina on the shores of Lake Nipissing.
- Dionne Quints Museum, 181 Oak Street West, ☏ , toll-free: , fax: . F Sa 10AM-4PM, or by appointment. Re-opening May 2022. The original Dionne farmhouse commemorates the May 28, 1934 birth of identical quintuplets (Annette, Emilie, Yvonne, Cecile, and Marie) in nearby Corbeil. Their fame was exploited to attract three million visitors to the area during the Great Depression. The farmhouse was relocated to North Bay as a seasonal museum displaying artefacts from the quintuplets' bizarre childhood.
- 1 North Bay Museum, 100 Ferguson Street (in the historic Canadian Pacific Railway station at the corner of Oak Street and Ferguson Street), ☏ . Features a wide range of exhibits on local history as well as special exhibitions from the Royal Ontario Museum and other national and provincial museums.
- Callander Museum, 107 Lansdowne Street E, Callander, ☏ . Community museum in former doctor's residence, collection includes artefacts related to the Dionne Quintuplets, the shipping industry on Lake Nipissing, the sawmills around Callander Bay, and the general history of Callander.
- Nipissing Lakers Hockey. North Bay's newest hockey team. The Lakers will compete in the Ontario University Athletics Men's Hockey circuit and compete against other Ontario- & Quebec-based university clubs.
- North Bay Battalion, 100 Chippewa St. W, ☏ , email@example.com. North Bay's team that competes in the OHL. Relocated to North Bay from Brampton in 2014, they play in the North Bay Memorial Gardens which has a capacity of 4,246.
- The North Bay Triathlon. Usually offered the first weekend in July. Notable among the world's triathlons in that triathletes are allowed to wear wet suits for the swimming part of the competition, because of the cold waters.
- 1 Laurentian Ski Hill, 15 Janey Avenue, ☏ . Nice ski hill in the middle of the city with a good mix of runs and a terrain park.
- There are a number of multi-purpose trails in and around the city.
- Northgate Shopping Centre, 1500 Fisher Street. A great place to get whatever you need. Many restaurants and specialty shops are also scattered throughout the immediate area.
- Downtown North Bay. Has many shops with fine, handcrafted goods.
- 2 Nipissing University, 100 College Drive, ☏ . Nipissing University used to be a campus of Sudbury's Laurentian University but became a separate institution in the early 1990s. It has a full undergraduate program.
- Canadore College, 100 College Drive, ☏ , toll-free: . Canadore College of Applied Arts and Technology shares a campus with Nipissing University, and has two satellite campuses in North Bay, one in Parry Sound, and three in Toronto.
- Highwayman Restaurant, 3001 Highway 11 North, ☏ .
- Dave's Green Papaya, 652 Fraser Street, ☏ . Tu-Su 4PM-8PM. Asian food, eat-in, take-out and delivery.
- Kelsey's, 1899 Algonquin Avenue, ☏ .
- Moose's Cookhouse (The Moose), 134 Main Street East, ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org.
- 1 Raven and Republic, 246 First Ave West, ☏ . Tu-Thursday Noon-3PM & 5PM-11PM, F Noon-3PM & 5PM-Midnight, Sa 5PM-1AM. Live music, wide selection of beers.
- Twiggs Coffee Roasters, 473 Fraser Street, ☏ . M-Sa 6AM-9PM, Su 7AM-7PM. The flagship location of a five-shop chain in North Bay, Sturgeon Falls, Sudbury, and Parry Sound. Serving freshly roasted fair-trade organic coffee, Montreal-style bagels, and soups in a lively café atmosphere. Also includes an outside patio.
- Crown and Beaver, 786 Lakeshore Drive, ☏ .
- 2 The Boat Dockside Bar & Grill, 255 Memorial Drive (North Bay Waterfront), ☏ . Su-Th noon-10PM, F Sa noon-1AM. A restaurant and bar on a boat with a beautiful view.
- 3 Churchill's Prime Rib House, 631 Lakeshore Dr, ☏ .
- Cecils Eatery and Beer Society, 300 Wyld St Box 1017, ☏ .
- Evolution Niteclub, 151 Main Street East, ☏ .
- Fraser Tavern, 680 Fraser Street, ☏ .
- Winnie's Pub, 631 Lakeshore Drive, ☏ .
There are many parks in the region that are great for camping. Visit http://www.parkscanada.ca for more information on camping in the region.
- 1 The Lincoln Inn, 594 Lakeshore Drive, ☏ , toll-free: .
- Comfort Inn Airport, 1200 O'Brien Street, ☏ . Check-in: 2PM, check-out: 11AM. Clean, comfortable rooms. Free breakfast.
- Comfort Inn Lakeshore, 676 Lakeshore Drive, ☏ . Check-in: 1PM, check-out: 11AM.
- Best Western North Bay, 700 Lakeshore Drive, ☏ , toll-free: . Check-in: 3PM, check-out: 11AM.
- Inn on the Bay, 340 Main Street West, toll-free: .
- Northern Suites Plus, 710 Lakeshore Drive, toll-free: .
- 2 Terrace Suites, 2363 Highway 94, Callander (two minutes off Highway 11 at the Lake Nosbonsing Rd. exit), ☏ , info@TerraceSuites.ca. Check-in: 2PM, check-out: 11AM. 20 suites, each with wi-fi and a fireplace.
North Bay is surprisingly central despite its perceived location. Sudbury (west along Highway 17) and Muskoka (south along Highway 11) are only an hour and a half away by car. Ottawa and Toronto are both within a few hours' driving distance as well. Timmins is about 360 km to the north.
- Algonquin Provincial Park is south of North Bay, less than two hours' drive.
- Mattawa — a point of departure for canoeing or boating on the Ottawa River
|Routes through North Bay|
|Cochrane / Timmins via ← Temagami ←||N S||→ ENDS → Huntsville → Barrie|
|Sudbury ← West Nipissing ←||W E||→ Mattawa → Ottawa|