Northeastern Ontario has an abundance of nature and outdoor opportunities, but have you ever wondered what lies in the heart of that remote and untouched wilderness? You can find out for yourself when you book a train-in outdoor getaway with Shooting Star Camp, North to Adventure's Lodge Eighty Eight or when you jump aboard the Polar Bear Express.
Whether you’re a seasoned rider of the rails or it's your first time, consider the many advantages rail transportation provides, such as a relaxed atmosphere and quality service, the enjoyment of the drive without the traffic, the beautiful back country scenery, and the affordable ride with generous baggage limits.
Travelling by rail also has a nostalgic appeal and a certain element of romance, especially since Canada was developed on the construction of steam-powered railways, the first of which opened in 1836 outside Montreal, called the Champlain and St. Lawrence Railway.
Northeastern Ontario has two popular passenger train services: Via Rail's Sudbury-White River Train and Ontario Northland's Polar Bear Express.
Via Rail’s Sudbury-White River Train
Via Rail’s Sudbury-White River Train, formerly called the Lake Superior train, but commonly known as the Budd Car (built by the Budd Car Company between July 1956 and June 1958), serves the communities between Sudbury and White River, ON, three times per week.
This diesel train operates out of downtown Sudbury, departing Saturdays, Tuesdays and Thursdays at 9 a.m., and returns from White River on Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays at 8 a.m. You can also depart the train from the Cartier, Chapleau and Missinabie stations.
Where to stay
Shooting Star Camp is in the heart of Gogama’s remote Spanish River region. Relax in a comfortable, fully equipped outpost cabin nestled amidst towering pines and sparkling cool waters. Each cabin is individually and ideally located to provide the perfect base from which to pursue your outdoor adventures, whether that includes hiking, canoeing, kayaking or photography. The isolation of the camp also allows for big game hunting or for exploring those secluded waters to reel in a northern pike, walleye or smallmouth bass.
To stay at Shooting Star Camp, disembark the train at the Metagama mileage 40 flag stop, where you will be greeted by Shooting Star Camp staff, who will assist you with your luggage and transport you to your outpost cabin.
North to Adventure’s Lodge Eighty Eight is located within the Canadian Shield and on the remote, twenty-seven mile Esnagi Lake, which is best described as an angler’s dream for fishing walleye, northern pike, perch and whitefish. Explore the land by walking trails, where you may catch a glimpse of Northern Ontario’s wildlife, enjoy the scenery from a secluded beach or rocky shore, savour a shore lunch cooked on an open fire or simply relax in the privacy of your log cabin or suite.
To reach Lodge Eighty Eight, disembark the train at Swanson Mileage 88 flag stop, where you will be greeted by lodge staff, who will assist you in your luggage and transport you to your cabin.
How to pack for the Sudbury-White River train
Carry-on allowances are based on fare, but each passenger is allowed up to three checked articles of 50 lbs each, or less. Additional costs apply to overweight and extra baggage.
Click here for full details.
All gear should be clearly labeled with your name, your party's name and the destination (lodge), and packed in sturdy containers, such as the standard 13 gal. Rubbermaid or Roughneck totes with lids, which provide adequate space, dependability and weatherproofing.
Meals are not offered onboard, so be sure to pack a lunch. To guarantee seating, book your tickets in advance through Via Rail’s website.
Ontario Northland’s Polar Bear Express Train
Ontario Northland’s Polar Bear Express train, servicing Cochrane to Moosonee, operates from Monday to Friday, and on Sundays in the summer months. Take in the sights of the northern wilderness, the glimpses of wildlife, a massive hydro dam and the wide and shallow Moose River on either side when you cross over on a bridge.
A shuttle bus from Timmins to Cochrane is also available to passengers departing Timmins at 6:30 a.m.
Where to stay
The town of Moosonee is nestled along the Moose River, which connects to the James Bay. The fact that it is only accessible by air and the Polar Bear Express train adds to the allure and the feeling of travelling ‘back in time.’ The nearby Moose Factory Island is also only accessible by ferry or water-taxi. Both communities served as ports for one of Ontario's oldest settlements, and was once home to the original Hudson's Bay Company, of which remnants of the first settlers are still visible.
Outdoor enthusiasts will appreciate activities year-round, including fishing, hunting, camping, canoeing and wildlife viewing, such as moose, caribou and eagles. During certain times of the year, experience spectacular views of the Northern Lights, catch glimpses of seals and beluga whales in James Bay or explore the landscape by snowmobile or snowshoe.
Learn about the ever-changing landscape and wildlife of the area by taking a guided tour with Moose River Tours.
On the mainland in Moosonee, a short distance away from the train station, is the Moose River Guest House, a place to relax in a quiet setting, with clean, modern furnishings in their standard rooms, suites and two-bedroom apartment. Enjoy a complimentary continental breakfast and high-speed wireless Internet during your stay.
How to pack for the Polar Bear Express
Passengers aboard the Polar Bear Express are allowed a maximum of three checked bags, to a maximum of 50 lbs each. Additional pieces may be checked at a charge of $5. In addition, Ontario Northland provides an Express Freight service, allowing passengers to ship oversized and/or overweight baggage up to 75 lbs. Each checked piece of baggage must be visibly tagged with the name, contact information and destination of the passenger.
Passengers are allowed a maximum of one carry-on baggage, at a maximum of 50 lbs. Personal items such as purses, briefcases, laptops, strollers, car seats and diaper bags are not included in this limit. Click here for more information on the Polar Bear Express.