Canadian Fur Trade Route
The exploding demand in Europe for beaver fur in the 17th century resulted in the growth of the fur trade, which became key to the development of the Canadian interior.
French “voyageurs” paddled upstream in birch bark canoes from Montreal and Quebec City to reach fur trading posts strategically located along waterways where Native Americans would trade their pelts for supplies. Hudson’s Bay Company’s need to find new sources of fur forced a push west, resulting in the exploration of the Pacific Northwest.
Only recently have modern voyagers been able to explore the beautifully wild expanse of the fur trade route in pure luxury. Start off in picturesque Quebec City, then Montreal for a foodie walking tour. Stop in for a fitting at Harricana for ethical, recycled fur fashions (www.harricana.qc.ca). Dine at Maison Boulud, inside the newly renovated Ritz-Carlton. Next, experience the voyageurs’ river life near Ontario by canoeing the aquatic thoroughfares, rife with rapids, that crisscross northern Quebec (www.blackfeather.com).
Fly to Winnipeg, the jumping off point to Churchill, stay at Fort Garry Hotel, then charter up to see the polar bears from a private Tundra Buggy with Frontiers North Adventures (Contact: Owner Lynda Gunter, (204) 949-2050; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.frontiersnorth.com), or join expert guides and walk with the polar bears at Seal River Heritage Lodge. Jet over to Jasper and drive the scenic highway to Banff where Fairmont’s historic resorts in Banff and Lake Louise provide five-star passage on the Continental Divide. In summer, paddle in a glass-bottom canoe or saddle up for a guided horseback ride (or ski powdery slopes in winter). Stop at the Four Seasons in Whistler before heading to Vancouver.
A 1950s seaplane whisks you to Clayoquot Wilderness Resort for salmon fishing, brown bear watching and horseback riding. Fly by seaplane to Desolation Sound and sail along the Inside Passage of Vancouver Island on the Pacific Yellowfin, a yacht built in 1943 and recently outfitted with state-of-the-art technology for whale watching and kayaking.
The Ritz-Carlton, Montreal’s $200 million renovation preserved its 1912 details while ushering the building to a new level of luxury. The 4,700-square-foot Royal Suite, the largest in Montreal, comes complete with 12 rooms and butler service (about $5,028 a night; www.ritzmontreal.com).
The Belvedere Suite at historic Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise delivers two stories of jaw-dropping views of the lake’s emerald waters and Victoria glacier (about $1,239 a night; www.fairmont.com). With spectacular views of Whistler and Blackcomb mountains, Four Seasons Whistler’s Presidential Suite (pictured) features high ceilings and large, secluded balconies with an outdoor dining area and gas fireplaces (about $2,735 a night; www.fourseasons.com)
Book a prospector-style Luxury Ensuite Bathroom Tent at Clayoquot Wilderness Resort for king beds, heated floors, propane wood stoves, plus antique dressers and oil lamps on the grounds of an eco-luxe Canadian safari camp (from $6,125 per person for three nights; www.wildretreat.com).
Taste the flavors of Quebec, canoe like a fur trader, polar bear photo safari, private dogsledding, helicopter over the Rockies, fish on the historic Pacific Yellowfin yacht.
WHEN TO GO
Summer for the entire tour; for winter activities, go in January or February; October and November bring the best polar bear sightings.
From $50,000; Entrée Canada creates custom journeys across Canada
and can include any segment of the above experience.