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 and plans for Canada’s north. This self-guided journey 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, next day you continue onboard the aptly named “Polar Bear Express” to the Arctic shores of James Bay and the community of Moosonee. You'll 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. Your journey combines 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 (specifically for you) the train will be “flagged down” to a complete stop until your luggage has been transferred to a waiting boat for the trip 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, take the railroad through the Agawa Canyon down to Sault Ste Marie.
Train north from Toronto to Cochrane, Polar Bear Express train from Cochrane to the arctic shores of James Bay and Moosonee, Ecolodge accommodation, train from Cochrane to francophone town of Hearst, "flag stop" train from Hearst to Chapleau, Chapleau Crown Game Preserve, train ride through Agawa Canyon to Sault Ste. Marie.
Meet your driver for a private airport transfer with vehicle and driver.
A trip representative will meet you at your hotel this evening to familiarize yourself with the trip ahead.Some recommended reading:>Through the Black Spruce, by Joseph Boyden>Rupert's Land: A Cultural Tapestry, by Richard C. Davis>Robert and Francis Flaherty: A Documentary Life, by Robert J. Christopher>Ellen Smallboy: Glimpses of a Cree Woman's Life, by Regina Flannery>Missinaibi: Journey to the Northern Sky: From Lake Superior to James Bay by Canoe, by Hap Wilson
The Delta Chelsea – Canada’s largest hotel – offers a variety of options in guestrooms and meeting space. Located in the heart of downtown Toronto and within walking distance of College subway station, the city’s central business district, government offices and the hospital community. The hotel is also minutes from the city’s best shopping districts (including the Toronto Eaton Centre), Yonge-Dundas Square, fantastic live theatre, vibrant nightlife and exciting attractions.
This morning a taxi will transfer you to the rail station in Toronto.
Check in for the Ontario Northlander at the special passenger desk inside Union Station. Boarding will take place 45 minutes prior to the train departure at 08:45. Feel free to peruse 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 approximately 19:25, and your hotel is conveniently located at the train station.
Conveniently located at Cochrane's train and motor coach station, the Station Inn allows you to take advantage of exceptional northern hospitality during your travels to and through Cochrane, Ontario. A total of 23 modern guest rooms welcome overnight guests with comfort.
Note: you are advised to store your main luggage in safekeeping at the Cochrane Rail Station and travel lightly to Moose Factory Island. This will be especially convenient as you stroll between the station and the wharf. After two days at Moose Factory Island, you will be returning to the Rail Station in Cochrane.Today you will be riding the fabled Polar Bear Express train between Cochrane and Moosonee. 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.
On arrival in Moosonee it is a short stroll down the dusty unpaved main street to the wharf. 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 Plexiglas canopy (not included, approx $15 p/p). These are operated by local Cree First Nations residents and they travel quite fast, making the lodge in about fifteen exciting minutes.
Cree Village Ecolodge is one of the most environmentally advanced accommodations facility in Canada. Windows are triple-glazed low-e argon. High-efficieny, low-noise ceiling fans are used for cooling. Television sets have been specially selected for lowest energy consumption and wireless internet is available. This modern building featuring twenty guest rooms and a 66-seat restaurant is modeled on a traditional Cree dwelling, the landmark Shabatwon or better pronounced as “Shaapuhtuwaan”, meaning “long teepee with doors at each end”. The grandeur of the Shaapuhtuwaan's pine and cedar structure overlooking the picturesque Moose River pays homage to Cree ancestors.
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.
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 (not incl.). Explore the island and take a late ferry across to Moosonee (not included, $15 p/p). By the time you arrive in Cochrane it might be too late for dinner, so dining on the train in either the diner or the restaurant car is suggested. 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. In the early afternoon, depart your hotel at the railroad station for today's rail ride to Hearst, which is the northern terminus of the Algoma Central Railroad.
Accommodation in Hearst is arranged downtown in close proximity to the Algoma Central Railroad which you will re-board tomorrow morning. Transfer is included.
Note: Tomorrow’s 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 your million acre wilderness island retreat.
The Companion Hotel-Motel is ideally located on Highway 11 in downtown Hearst, Ontario. This full-facility hotel includes 50 air-conditioned guest rooms, a honeymoon suite, 24 hour front desk, a convenient gift shop, a fully licensed dining room, private dining areas and meeting rooms. The Companion offers special menus, buffets and coffee break menus, a lounge and a fitness area with indoor spa and steam room.
The Algoma Central Railroad is another of Ontario’s northern rail lines, offering a lifeline 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. Your particular flag stop is at mile 206 where you'll offload your luggage onto a waiting boat for the journey across to your 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.
The Wilderness Island Resort is situated on 2 secluded islands on Lak Wabatongushi, within the Chaplea Game Preserve. Comfortable accommodations, delicious meals, nature trails and great fishing await you at the resort.
Your stay in the Wilderness Island Resort 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.
After an early breakfast it’s time to say goodbye to this modest corner of “paradise” and you now take the southbound train from mile marker 206 through the Agawa Canyon to Sault Ste Marie, for your final night in northern Ontario. Your hotel is located directly across from the station.
The Quality Inn Bayfront hotel is ideally located in downtown Sault Ste. Marie, near the Charity Casino, and next door to the Station Mall and the Essar Centre Sports Complex. Guests will enjoy relaxing in the indoor pool, hot tub, sauna, fitness centre, and the popular 180Bay Bar & Grill.
After a restful night, you'll be transfered to the airport for your flight back to Toronto.
Featured in the Condé Nast Traveler Gold List 2010 – as selected as one of The Best Places to Stay in the World, by the Readers of Condé Nast Traveler, the Hôtel Le Germain Dominion is located in the heart of the entertainment district in Toronto. Services include a Hotel Lounge which has an evening beverage service, a Library with open hearth fireplace featuring a complimentary cappuccino bar and internet access, Roof top terrace (seasonal) and putting green, 24 hour fitness facility with outdoor terrace (seasonal), Massage room and Victor Restaurant and Bar with a seasonal patio. The decor is urban - modern with neutral hues and natural materials in evidence.
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