Train to the Edge of the Arctic
This is one of those hidden gems of an adventure which takes a step back through history, to an era of European fortune seekers and fur traders, who had grand territorial ambitions for Canada’s north. Train to the Arctic actually starts in downtown Toronto and winds its way north-west along the shore of fabled Georgian Bay and the Muskoka Lakes. After breaking your journey in Cochrane Ontario, you continue next day onboard the aptly named “Polar Bear Express” to the Arctic shores of James Bay and the community of Moosonee. However your northern journey will not be completed until you enjoy the thrill of a freighter canoe ride, across to Moose Factory Island where you will stay for two nights in this historic trading center.
Train to the Arctic is a combination of two historic working railroads and a remote wilderness island retreat in a million- acre game reserve. You will travel south on the fabled Algoma Central Railroad where (especially for you) the train will be “flagged down” to a complete stop and your luggage transferred to a waiting boat for the short journey to the wilderness retreat. Be sure to bring along your camera as this reserve is home to black bears, moose and bald eagles. After a remote wilderness experience with great comfort and food you will rejoin the ACR as it winds it’s way South to Sault Ste Marie.
- Two Remote Rail Journeys
- Arctic Watershed
- James Bay
- Moose Factory Island
- (17th Century Colonial Settlement)
- 1 Million Acre Game Reserve
- Wilderness Island Retreat
- Accessible Wildlife Viewing
Upon your arrival in Toronto – transfer independently to your hotel. The Delta Chelsea Hotel is located in mid-town Toronto within reach of excellent shopping in the nearby Eaton Center and a vast selection of interesting restaurants. The hotel has a large coffee shop-dining room and a fine dining restaurant as well as a health club and several convenience outlets.
Today’s routing will gently take you from the heart of metropolitan Toronto, through the northern suburbs in a north-westerly direction towards Georgian Bay, which is often referred to as the unofficial sixth Great Lake. The Ontario Northland is an actual transportation connector between southern and northern Ontario and you are as likely to meet mining engineers, tree surgeons or Cree First Nations residents returning home after some time in “the south” as might your fellow explorers.
Communities en route on this first day are Washago, Gravenhurst, Bracebridge, Huntsville, South River, North Bay, Temagami, Cobalt, New Liskeard, Englehart, Swastika, Matheson and Cochrane.
The Station Inn is located above the tiny Cochrane Railway Station and a perfect location for this adventurous journey. You will be able to leave your large luggage in the care of the hotel while you visit Moose factory Island with your overnight pull-along case.
Mongoose & Moose Factory Island
Today you will be riding the fabled Polar Bear Express train between Cochrane and Moosonee which is the end of the rail line. This train services the coastal communities of Moosonee and Moose Factory Island and because there are few roads north of Cochrane and none which serve the coast, you will see local residents loading the train with household purchases from the more developed south.
The Polar Bear Express travels along 250 Kilometres of pristine wild countryside, crossing the Moose River on high trestle bridges for which Canadian railroads are so famous and eventually reaching the end of the line at Moosonee.
On arrival in Moosonee it is a short stroll down the dusty unpaved main street to the wharf. The journey across to Moose Factory Island is undertaken by traditional freighter canoes, generally 24 feet long and often with a Perspex canopy.
These are operated by local Cree First Nations residents and they travel quite fast, making the lodge in about fifteen exciting minutes.
The Cree Eco Lodge is a locally owned enterprise and occupies a dominant position on the banks of the Moose River. Your boat operator will take you to the lodge landing and your accommodation will be ready as you arrive. The Lodge is owned and operated by the Cree First Nation who reside on Moose factory Island. It is located steps away from the Moose River landing and its typical “A” frame dining room is reminiscent of the North. There is a full service restaurant and a gift store for local purchases.
Moose Factory Island
The history of this period British outpost is forever linked with the British expansion into North America, the fur trade, the Hudson Bay Company and the decade long struggle with the French for access to the riches of this land. It was a lonely, far-from-home colonial outpost and evidence of this can be seen in the cemetery and the museum. It was also the first English speaking community in Ontario and a fort was built here in the 1670’s! Today you will be able to visit Moose Factory Island with a resident Cree First Nations guide and discuss how life was back in colonial times and how life is now in this remote community.
Later we have planned a freighter canoe ride onto James Bay so that you can get a broader perspective of Moose Factory Island from the water.
The southbound Polar Bear Express does not leave Moosonee until 17:00 which gives you ample time to explore the island and take a late ferry across to Moosonee.
By the time you arrive in Cochrane it might be too late for dinner, so we suggest dining on the train in either the diner or the restaurant car. Accommodation is again reserved in Cochrane at the Station Inn.
Today is a day to reflect on the experiences of Moosonee and historic Moose Factory Island and to explore Greenwater Provincial Park, one of Northern Ontario's outstanding wilderness parks featuring unique geological formations including a series of kettle lakes, formed by the retreat of ice age glaciers.
A local guide will interpret the flora and fauna and the significance of the geology of Northern Ontario which is a feature of the park. There are many fur bearing animals to observe here-- beaver, muskrat, otter, marten, fox, ermine, mink, fisher and chipmunk.
There are also majestic moose and black bears to be seen in the region and the opportunities to sight these abound both in the park and in the journey along Highway 11 towards Hearst.
Following the park tour, guests will travel to the lumber town of Smooth Rock Falls, where they will break for lunch at a restaurant before touring the Smooth Rock Falls museum to learn about the settlement of the region and life in the lumber camps of Northern Ontario.
After lunch, travel to Hearst which is the northern terminus for the Algoma Central Railroad. The Companion Motel is located 100 yards from the Algoma Central Railroad where you will board the train tomorrow. It has a full service restaurant and is located in the center of this northern trading town.
Trackside Mile 206
The Algoma Central Railroad is another of Ontario’s northern rail lines, offering a life line to far flung communities and services the massive local forest industry. It is also one of the world’s few “flag stop” trains where the entire service halts when requested by a rural resident. Our particular flag stop is at mile 206 where we offload our luggage onto a waiting boat for the journey across to our wilderness island retreat in the massive Chapleau Nature Reserve.
Our Wilderness Lodge is located in the Chapleau Wilderness reserve on Wabatongushi Lake. It is family operated and specializes in wildlife viewing and fishing. All meals are included while at the lodge.
Wilderness Island Lodge
Your stay in the Wilderness Island Retreat includes use of small fishing boats, canoes and Kayaks as well as a full board meal plan including breakfast lunch and dinner. The Chapleau Nature Reserve is an actual Boreal Forest located quite near Lake Superior and you will need you camera handy to capture the images of their neighbourly black bear, moose, loons, bald eagles and other wildlife which makes this their home.
Sault Saint Marie
This evening you arrive in Sault Ste Marie at your hotel.
The Quality Inn is located opposite (a short walk) the Algoma Central Railroad terminus in downtown Sault Ste Marie. It is a few steps from the waterfront of the St Mary’s River and the Seaway (Soo) Locks. It has an excellent onsite restaurant and is handy for shopping and the local Casino.
After an early breakfast its time to leave this corner of “paradise” and start your journey home. Rejoin the Algoma Central Railway Southbound train and end your journey by rail.
After a restful night we transfer to the Airport at Sault Ste Marie for the flight back to Toronto.
From your arrival back into Toronto we can offer an exciting range of options such as an excursion to Niagara Falls or another Canadian destination.
- 9 nights accommodation combination of hotel & lodge in good quality local properties
- All rail transport
- All meals at the Wilderness Lodge
- Intercity flights: Sault Ste. Marie to Toronto City Centre Airport
- Coach transfers
- Sightseeing as indicated in the itinerary
- Services of a fully qualified Franklin & Frobisher Tour Director throughout
- Transatlantic Flights
- Meals and sightseeing not already indicated
- Items of a personal nature
- Gratuities to your drivers, local guides and your Franklin & Frobisher Tour Director
Daily Departures Year Round.
We can offer this itinerary in a wide range of accommodation types including Superior Hotels and Small Inns.