Established in 1903 as a trading post on the Moose River 600 mi/965 km north of Toronto, Moosonee is the northern terminus of the four-hour Polar Bear Express train ride that begins in Cochrane.
The train, which runs late June-early September, travels through beautiful wilderness and can be taken as a day trip or with a stayover in Moosonee. We recommend the overnight option, but those who are short of time may want to return the same day—they'll still have some time to see the town. Be aware that Moosonee is very popular: The available rooms may be booked a year in advance, so be sure to plan ahead if you want to spend the night.
Just offshore from Moosonee is Moose Factory Island, which is reached by a short boat ride. In 1673, a Hudson's Bay Company trading post was established on the island, and the strategic outpost was the site of battles between the French and English in the late 1600s and early 1700s. It now has several preserved buildings from the period as well as a church built in the 1800s. The island is also the home of Cree Village, which contains a teepee and other displays related to the Cree tribe. A restaurant serves bannock (unleavened bread), a traditional staple of the tribe's diet.
Those with large budgets and a yen for backcountry adventure can travel another 300 mi/480 km north from Moosonee to Polar Bear Provincial Park, which is accessible only by charter plane. This gigantic preserve is home to approximately 200 polar bears and also has moose, caribou and black bears. This is not for tourists who want a walk in the woods—it is true wilderness, which means there are no facilities. Visitors are warned to be well-prepared: Take along appropriate rations and equipment. If you want to go, you'll need to obtain a permit from the Ontario Parks Superintendent, P.O. Box 730, Cochrane, ON P0L 1C0.
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