The Road Through Neebing
This article is part of a series highlighting the people and food of Neebing, and is made possible through a partnership with the Municipality of Neebing, located within the District of Thunder Bay in Northwestern Ontario, Canada.
In the midst of the rerouting of life as we once knew it, our travel habits were completely grounded. The world in which we once had relative freedom to explore was no longer accessible. We were told to go home and stay home.
If we consider that this shift has afforded us the opportunity to slow down and reassess how we experience this world and the means through which we travel, it has in fact pushed us to look closer to home when seeking out the novelty of new experiences.
To see with new eyes the places that are most familiar takes a certain passivity and willingness to accept what is. It is in this state that the most important experiences can be formed, and what do we perceive to be most familiar with than our own backyard?
For a long time, Neebing was simply a place we drove through on our way to Minnesota from Thunder Bay. Always in awe of the striking landscape, it was earmarked as “that place we will explore more one day”. Admittedly, those days rarely come.
But, despite this future planning, we do interact with Neebing on a regular basis. The Neebing food products that line the shelves of local shops and markets have played a big part in the collective Thunder Bay experience, to which many have exclaimed with a certain pride in realizing that the products on these shelves are in fact local.
When you consider the comforts of a rolling landscape woven into farmland, bordered by awe-striking cliffs, the boreal forest, and direct access to Lake Superior, it’s easy to understand why many food producers call this region home.
To celebrate what makes Neebing special, we are inviting you to explore your backyard with a suggested itinerary that will keep you wandering all day long. While this is most definitely not an exhaustive list of all there is to see and do, it is an excellent starting point to begin your exploration.
The Road Through Neebing
30-40 minute drive time from Thunder Bay, Ontario
Head south on Highway 61. You’ll know you’ve hit Neebing when your breath gets lighter and you begin to remember why it is good to getaway. Some bends of the road are reminiscent of driving along the Po River on the way to Venice, Italy, and if this is a drive you have yet to take in life, just know that it is peaceful and pleasant. As the road winds, you flow into a certain daydream and as you pass through the Slate River Valley, you realize it has its charms too.
Thunder Oak Cheese Farm
If there is a cheese Thunder Bay locals are familiar with, it’s definitely Gouda. This family operation has been around for multiple generations, passing along a tradition rooted in Dutch heritage. It is evident that people are a product of place, and the products they produce in turn reflect this connection. Just as Finlanders found comfort in the familiarity of the landscape in northern Ontario, I like to think that the Dutch farmers also felt at ease knowing how to work this same land.
Opt to stop at Thunder Oak Cheese Farm for a visit to see firsthand how this local cheese is made. Multiple ages and flavours of Gouda await! Be sure to taste the Extra Old Gouda, an award-winning cheese that has been aged for two years. You’ll find it is firm, crystallized, and crumbly with caramel-like notes. And if you find yourself feeling nostalgic or yearning for novelty and the unfamiliar, an assortment of imported Dutch food products is also available in the shop.
Little Trout Bay
Spend the day at Little Trout Bay. This is one of eight Conservation Areas in the Thunder Bay district that is maintained by the Lakehead Region Conservation Authority, which aims to preserve the natural environments in our region. Aptly named, this is a great spot for fishing salmon, pickerel, whitefish, rainbow trout, and lake trout. Spend the day and enjoy a picnic at one of the many picnic tables on location.
James Duncan Nature Trail
A newer trail to the region, this is one that is well worth the climb. The trailhead is directly across from the Little Trout Bay parking lot. Hike up through pockets of juniper berries to vistas showing you the lake like you have never seen it before. Talk about seeing the familiar through new eyes. If you consider how present Lake Superior is in our daily visual landscape, this will surely spark awe in the familiar. The total trail length is 9.5km, but you can climb up to a steep peak, take in the views (perhaps with a picnic!), and return in a period of two hours.
We knew it then and we know it now: in a society built around the automobile, the drive-in is a concept that just works. On a turn just off of Highway 61, a drive-in cinema has once again opened for the summer season. One of the many perks of a northwestern Ontario summer is the long sun-filled days. After a day of adventuring, pull up and settle in under the wide-open skies to take in a sunset and a show. With an assortment of films on offer throughout the summer, it’s the perfect end to your little journey away.
This summer, we encourage you to take the drive south and explore your backyard. Take the backroads. Take the dirt road. Swim in the lakes and taste all the cheese. If it feels like you are far away from cities everywhere––you are.
Photos: Matej Rodela