Historic train ride to the edge of the Arctic Ocean
9 nights (With option to extend)
Enjoy a truly great Canadian adventure holiday and take a step back through history, to an era of European fortune seekers and fur traders, who had grand territorial ambitions and plans for Canada’s north. Our Train to the Arctic holiday departs from downtown Toronto and winds its way north-west along the shore of fabled Georgian Bay and the Muskoka Lakes.
See the Polar Bears. Spend a day in Cochrane Ontario, home to the Polar Bear sanctuary and Heritage Village then continue onboard the aptly named “Polar Bear Express” to the Arctic shores of James Bay and the community of Moosonee.
Enjoy the freighter canoe ride to Moose Factory Island. Experience the thrill of a freighter canoe ride, across to Moose Factory Island, where you will stay for two nights in this historic trading center before boarding the train back to Cochrane for an overnight stop.
Take a boat to your wilderness retreat. Travel south on the fabled Algoma Central Railroad where (Especially for you) the train will be “flagged down” to a complete stop. Your luggage will be transferred to a waiting boat and you'll be off for to your wilderness retreat. Bring the camera as the reserve is home to Black bears, Moose and Bald Eagles.
Ride the Algoma Railroad to Sault Ste Marie. Having enjoyed your remote wilderness experience with great comfort and food you will head south on the ACR to Sault Ste Marie on the banks of might y Lake Superior. Here after an overnight stop your journey ends as you fly home via Toronto. If you would prefer to extend you time in Canada we will happily make suggestions and prepare a be-spoke Canada holiday itinerary.
Day 1: Arrive Toronto
Arrive into Toronto from you direct non stop flight from Heathrow. Upon arrival, we suggest taking a standard metered cab from the airport to your downtown hotel. The approximate charge is $40.00. Alternatively we can arrange for a representative to meet you on arrival and for a private car to take you to your hotel. The total cost for this service to include tax, gratuity, meet and greet service and a private car transfer is £95.00.
As the world's most ethnically diverse city, Toronto also has distinctive shopping districts and markets that offer a wide range of unique shopping experiences. These vibrant retail areas include Queen Street West, Kensington Market, St. Lawrence Market, five Chinatowns, Little Italy along St. Clair West, the Greek community along "The Danforth," Little Portugal at Dundas and Bathurst Streets, and Gerrard India Bazaar at Gerrard and Greenwood.
Your accommodation for tonight is at the Westin Harbour Castle - located in the heart of the city downtown on the waterfront with close proximity to some of the best attractions the city has to offer & just a 5 minute taxi ride to Union Station - from where your 'Train to the Arctic' leaves tomorrow morning!
Overnight - Westin Harbour Castle, Toronto
Day 2: Toronto to Cochrane
Check in for the Ontario Northlander Train in downtown Toronto at the special passenger desk inside Union Station. Boarding will take place 45 minutes prior to the train departure at 08:45. Once onboard we suggest that you make your way to the train’s “diner”, which is one of two restaurant facilities onboard the Northlander. The other dining facility is a full restaurant which will be located midway along the train.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 you might your fellow travelers.
Communities visited on this first day are Washago, Gravenhurst, Bracebridge, Huntsville, South River, North Bay, Temagami, Cobalt, New Liskeard, Englehart, Swastika, Matheson and Cochrane.
The Northlander pulls into Cochrane at 19:25 and your accommodation is in the Station hotel or similar.
Day 3: Cochrane to Moosonee and 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 few roads north of Cochrane and non which serve the coast, you will see local residents loading the train with household purchases from the more developed south. During the night your train will have substantially grown with the addition of several “flat cars” on which local residents carry their trucks back home to the Arctic watershed. Boarding time is 09:00 and arrival time in Moosonee is 13:50. There is a diner on the train and a traditional dining car as well as an entertainment car, so you will have lots of choice for lunch. 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.
We advise you to leave your main luggage in safekeeping at the Cochrane Rail station and travel light to Moose Factory Island with a small pull along case or an overnight backpack. This will be especially convenient as you stroll between the station and the wharf.
On arrival in Moosonee it is a short stroll down the dusty unpaved main street to the wharf. We have assisters located at the rail station who will help with general directions and any other advice you need. Alternately it’s a four minute taxi ride to the wharf. The journey across to Moose Factory Island is undertaken by traditional freighter canoes, generally 24 feet long and often with a Plexiglass 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 Cree Eco Lodge has a full service restaurant and for snacks there are several modest shopping outlets distributed around the community.
Overnight - Cree Eco Lodge
Day 4: On 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.
Overnight - Cree Eco Lodge
Day 5: Moose Factory Island to Cochrane
The southbound Polar Bear Express does not leave Moosonee until 17:00 which gives you ample time for a freighter canoe ride onto James Bay so that you can get a broader perspective of Moose Factory Island from the water. 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.
Overnight - Station Inn or similar
Day 6: Cochrane to Hearst
Spend today in Cochrane. It's a day to reflect on the experiences of Moosonee and historic Moose Factory Island and to explore the two interesting attractions in this northern Ontario outpost. We suggest strolling across to the combined Polar Bear Habitat and Heritage Village, which is about fifteen to twenty minutes walk through the local community opposite the Cochrane railway station.
Swim with the Polar Bears!
This is an experience that will astound your friends back home. At the Polar Bear Habitat and Heritage Village you can 'swim with the polar bears'. There's a wading pool beside the polar bear pool and you are separated from the great white giants by a thick protective glass divider. The heritage village is an excellent example of life in rural Ontario and contains some mouth watering examples of restored cars trucks, snowmobiles and homes.
By early evening your shuttle service to Heart will be ready to depart. Tomorrow you will board the Algoma Railroad train to the Wilderness Lodge. This train does not have dining facilities and guests are advised to bring along snacks for the short ride to the “Flag-stop” at trackside mile 206 where you will leave the train and board the boat for the million acre wilderness island retreat.
Overnight - Downtown accommodation Hearst
Day 7: Hearst to trackside mile 206 (Wilderness Lodge)
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.
Accommodation is reserved at the Wilderness Lodge on a full board basis commencing with dinner on arrival and ending with breakfast on departure.
Overnight - Wilderness Island Vacation Resort
Day 8: Wilderness Island retreat
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.
Indeed with your own private boat you may choose to spend the day fishing, bird watching or just relaxing and soaking up the stunning lake scenery, the choice is yours.
The lodge is also a great place to see Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights) with such a remote location at the top of the Canadian Shield, the oldest mountain range in the world, it's great for seeing the Aurora Borealis. The slightly higher elevation, clear air, and total lack of light polution offers incredible views of the night skys.
A family run lodge located on and island on Lake Wabatongushi in Northern Ontario Canada, it offers you a getaway from civilization experience you are never likely to forget.
Overnight - Wilderness Island Vacation Resort
Day 9: Mile 206 to Sault Ste Marie
After an early breakfast its time to board the lodge boat and rejoin the Algoma Central Railroad as it makes its way south to Sault Ste Marie. Remember to pack along some refreshments as this remote train does not have any dining facilities. There are several rural communities which are served by the “ACR” and the train goes slow to enable the crew to pick up and drop off residents near their homes. Mid way through the day the ACR winds lazily through the amazing Agawa Canyon, so have your camera handy for the most stunning views, often enhanced by equally stunning sunsets. Early evening you arrive in Sault Ste Marie and stroll across to your nearby hotel for a final night in northern Ontario.
Overnight - Overnight accommodation provided in Sault Ste Marie
Day 10: Departure from Sault Ste Marie
After a restful night your tour ends here in Sault Ste Marie. Spend the morning exploring the area before transfering to Sault Ste Marie Airport (Transfer not included) and depart for your flight home (Via Toronto).
Our qualified Canadian travel specialist team will be happy to make suggestions should you wish to increase the duration of your Canada holiday either before or after this tour. All have completed extensive training with the Canadian Tourist Commission and have made frequent visits to all parts of Canada
Cost & Package Details
Per person based on 2 people sharing a room.
- Roundtrip scheduled flights (Heathrow - Toronto) with British Airways
- Domestic scheduled flight (Sault Ste Marie - Toronto)
- UK & Canadian Airport Taxes
- Overnight accommodation in Toronto for one night (hotel as mentioned above or similar)
- Rail journey from Toronto to Moosonee
- Accommodation on Moose Factory island for two nights
- Overnight accommodation in Cochrane for two nights
- Connection to the Algoma Central Railroad line
- Overnight accommodation in Hearst for one night
- Rail journey to Sault Ste Marie on the ACR
- Boat transportation (from trackside) to the Wilderness Island Retreat
- Overnight accommodation at the Wilderness Island Retreat for two nights in a two million acre crown game reserve.
- All meals at the Wilderness Island Retreat
- Use of motorboats, canoes and kayaks at the wilderness retreat
- Agawa Canyon – through ~ rail journey
- Overnight accommodation in Sault Ste Marie for one night
- All applicable taxes
- Sightseeing and attractions visits in Cochrane and Hearst are done independently
- All meals are included on the wilderness island retreat
- Diner and dining cars are attached to the trains from Toronto to Moosonee
- Diner and dining car attached to the train from Moosonee to Cochrane
- There are no dining facilities on the train from Hearst to Sault Ste Marie
- Guests are advised to purchase snacks before boarding the train in Hearst
- In Moosonee guests can walk with wheeled luggage or an overnight backpack from the rail terminus to the ferry or take a local taxi
- Water Taxi ferries are taken from Moosonee to Moose Factory – fifteen minutes approx $15 pp
- Luggage can be left at the Station Inn in Cochrane and retrieved on the return journey
- Airport/hotel transfers are not included in prepaid cost
Some recommended reading:
Missinaibi: Journey to the Northern Sky: From Lake Superior to James Bay by Canoe - Author Hap Wilson
Ellen Smallboy: Glimpses of a Cree woman’s life - Author Regina Flannery
Robert and Francis Flaherty: A documentary life. 1883-1922 - Author Robert J Christopher
Rupert’s Land: A Cultural Tapestry - Author Richard C Davis
Through Black Spruce - Author Joseph Boyden