"When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe."
Day 0 Arrival (pm)
Day 1 Glacier Bay Tour on Catamaran with National Park Service Naturalist
Day 2 Private charter to Glacier Bay with Fairweather Adventures
Day 3 Gustavus Gallery Tour/Gardens/Homesteads
Day 4 Glacier Bay Rainforest/Intertidal (am) Overflight (pm)
Day 5 Private Charter to Icy Strait
Day 6 Inian Islands Institute/Icy Strait
Day 7 Inian Islands Institute/Point Adolphus Whales
For detailed itinerary, scroll down.
NOTE: Because our group size is so small (maximum 4), the order of this itinerary is subject to change based on weather or changing wildlife viewing opportunites. Our small group size allows us the flexibility necessary to maximize our tour.
Day 0 - Arrival in Gustavus
Alaska Airlines flies once a day into Gustavus, with a jet departing Juneau at approximately 4:15pm. Alternatively, you can travel from Juneau to Gustavus via single-engine airplane. Flights on these smaller planes are available throughout the day. See “FAQs” for more specifics. Please plan on arriving in Gustavus between 3pm and 5pm. Your trip leader, Sean, will meet you at the Gustavus airport to welcome you.
Our first evening you will check in to the historic Gustavus Inn, where you will be treated to unsurpassed hospitality by innkeepers Dave and JoAnn. You may want to pull out your camera even before you walk inside, to photograph their lush, colorful garden and picturesque setting. The Gustavus Inn serves meals based around local culinary delights such as king salmon, Dungeness crab, and vegetables picked fresh from the garden. In 2010, the Inn received the prestigious James Beard America’s Classics Award for their incredible local cuisine.
Day 1 – Glacier Bay catamaran tour
Our first full day will be aboard a comfortable, 79-foot catamaran on a tour of Glacier Bay National Park. This is a fast catamaran that takes visitors to view nesting sea birds, wildlife, tidewater glaciers, and of course, the unmatched and majestic scenery of Glacier Bay. We will be accompanied by a National Park Service ranger to share the natural history of the area. It is a packed, eight-hour day full of action. For most park visitors, this will be the highlight of their trip. For us, it is just a warm up.
Day 2 – Glacier Bay small boat tour/private charter
Day two will have us board the 26-foot charter vessel “Alaska Dream” in Glacier Bay with long-time local Captain Jim Kearns. Jim’s swift boat will take us over 60 miles into the heart of Glacier Bay to go ashore near calving tidewater glaciers. We will navigate blue ice bergs, dramatic jagged peaks and swift tidal currents. The setting is simply stunning in this up close and personal boat tour. Along the way we will stop by South Marble Island which is not only a haul-out for hundreds of raucous Steller sea lions, but also hosts nesting sea birds including black-legged kittiwakes, common murres, pelagic cormorants, black oystercatchers and even tufted and horned puffins.
Of course, we will constantly be scanning the shoreline for both brown and black bears. Occasionally wolves and moose are spotted. In addition to the nesting birds at South Marble Island, there are loons, gulls, terns, ducks, eagles and songbirds throughout the bay.
Day 3 – Gustavus
Day three will be a shore-based day. We will tour the quaint town of Gustavus to explore several local art galleries, flourishing vegetable and flower gardens, the photogenic 1950s era gas station and museum, and even some classic, southeast Alaskan homesteads. This day offers lots of flexibility based on our small group’s preferences. There are several easy hikes where wildflowers abound, as well as the sandy Gustavus beach which offers spectacular views of the Fairweather Mountain range. If you like to golf, there is even a 9-hole golf course complete with local charm and breath-taking views.
Day 4 – Rainforest hike, tide-pooling, and Glacier Bay flight-seeing tour
Day four will see us in three completely different venues:
The temperate rainforest of lower Glacier Bay. Here we will walk amongst giant spruce and hemlock trees, placid glacial ponds, draping lichens, and lush green vegetation everywhere. It is a mystical place filled with bird songs and berry bushes.
“The Cut” is a jewel, hidden to most, but known to a few. Here, at low tide, is the greatest concentration of biodiversity in the entire region. Sea stars, sea urchins, tube worms, crabs, sculpin, chitons, limpets, snails, the list goes on and on. Suffice it to say that tide-pooling in this place you will encounter critters of every color, shape and ecological niche imaginable.
A third unforgettable adventure on this day is an overflight of Glacier Bay National Park in a small, single-engine airplane. This is perhaps the best way to begin to comprehend the sheer magnitude of this wild place. Unending snowy peaks, rivers, valleys, glaciers and the Brady Ice Field all come into view. Glacier Bay, along with several other protected wilderness areas comprise an internationally recognized world heritage site covering over 24 million acres. This is the second largest wilderness area on the planet—only the entire continent of Antarctica surpasses it. We will be in the air for up to two hours. This is subject to flying conditions, which can vary greatly, even in the summer. We may choose to fly earlier or later in the week, depending on the weather and the forecast. Again, our small group size allows us to have this flexibility.
Day 5 – Icy Strait small boat tour/private charter and drop-off at the Hobbit Hole
Day five will take us back out on the water onboard a private charter vessel to Icy Strait to seek humpback whales, harbor porpoises, Steller sea lions, and sea otters. Point Adolphus on Chichagof Island, along the southern extent of Icy Strait, is one of the most consistent places to view humpback whales in Alaska. We have the entire day, however, and won’t limit ourselves to just that one spot. We may also have a chance to visit the small fishing village of Elfin Cove, or Cross Sound at the entrance to the Gulf of Alaska, or Dundas Bay – a secluded bay west of Glacier Bay. Marine life abounds set amongst glaciers and verdant forests.
In the late afternoon, we will be dropped off in a place—hidden within the expansive, southeast Alaskan wilderness—like no other. Affectionately known to locals as “The Hobbit Hole”, for many years this has been a B&B, fishing retreat, and longtime homestead. It has recently been revamped to serve as the home of the Inian Islands Institute--a non-profit organization driven by a group of young, determined conservationists seeking to build, “an ecological field school like no other."
Day 6 Inian Islands Institute/Hobbit Hole
Here, within the solitude and comfort of the Hobbit Hole, we will have an opportunity to reflect on the incredible natural setting of Glacier Bay and Icy Strait. Inian Islands Institute director, Zach Brown, will be with us to share his extensive knowledge of the area. Here, in addition to photography, we will have ample opportunities for hiking (either up the hill, or along the beach), kayaking, or just kicking back with a book or a drink. You will be hard-pressed to find a more relaxing setting. However, if you haven’t yet had your fill of boating and wildlife, there are Steller sea lions, sea bird colonies, glaciers and even the small fishing village of Elfin Cove within easy reach.
Day 7 Point Adolphus
After spending two nights at the Hobbit Hole, following lunch we will depart for our return boat trip to Gustavus. On the way home, we will stop at Point Adolphus for another up close view of humpback whales. We will return to the Gustavus dock, and then on to the airport for departures back to Juneau.
For anyone wishing to spend additional time in Gustavus, this is also an option. If you are interested in an extended stay, we can help arrange for this when you book your trip.