Jump to Town: Prince William Sound | Kenai Fjords | Homer | Inside Passage | Portage
Prince William Sound //Cruises from Whittier or Valdez • Glaciers • Waterfalls • Marine wildlife
This family-run company operating out of Valdez will show you the best glaciers, with great customer service along the way. On any given day trip you’ll likely see huge rafts of sea otters, horned and tufted puffins, cormorants, humpback whales, or even bald eagles. Stan Stephens offers two daily tours, one of which features Columbia Glacier, the largest tidewater glacier in South Central Alaska. And the company prides itself on staffing its vessels with all local Alaskans.
Lazy Otter offers classic tours, but this is water taxi, so they’ll also take you anywhere you want to go within Price William Sound—or just customize a tour to whatever you want to see. Maybe that's glaciers, or whales,—or maybe it’s quiet time on a secluded beach. Lazy Otter can also help facilitate taking you and your family on a camping trip. You're not held to any strict schedule, either: if, on a day tour, you can spend more time in one spot if you want to see if a glacier will calve.
Phillips 26 Glacier Cruise, out of Whittier, will take you to 26 different glaciers in just 5 hours. Enjoy cozy comforts on the high-speed catamaran and wander its outdoor decks as you come within 300 feet of massive tidewater glaciers. In addition to glaciers, the captain will be on the lookout for wildlife like otters, whales, harbor seals, and marine birds. The trip takes place in the afternoon, and a hot lunch is included in your tour.
Major Marine Tours will take you into Prince William Sound, which has the world’s densest concentration of tidewater glaciers and calm waters for cruising. You can choose from the 4.5-hour Blackstone Glacier Tour or the new Surprise Glacier Tour that began in 2012. Both offer heated cabins, outdoor viewing decks, and an all-you-can-eat salmon and prime rib buffet.
Kenai Fjords //2.5 hours from Anchorage • Best wildlife
A fleet of fast, modern boats takes you to specifically selected tidewater glaciers as you watch for puffins, cormorants, sea otters, Dall’s porpoises, sea lions, and more. This veteran tour operator offers a lot of variety with its day trips into Resurrection Bay and Kenai Fjords National Park. Some tours are designed to please birders or shutterbugs, while some are perfect for families with little kids. You’ll hear the captain’s narration on all of them, sharing his deep knowledge of the Seward area’s history and terrain.
Resurrection Bay and Kenai Fjords are great places to see wildlife and glaciers. And Major Marine’s vessels, which have cozy heated cabins and an outdoor viewing area, can take you out to see both. The half- and full-day excursions offer an all-you-can-eat salmon and prime rib buffet to enjoy while you take in the scenery.
Homer //5 hrs from Anchorage • Cruise Kachemak Bay
Mid April to September
Homer is the halibut capital of Alaska, and this longtime charter company offers a blue-chip way to get to the fish. They have high-quality boats, experienced captains, and enthusiastic crews—as well as an inside line on finding halibut, rock fish and silver salmon. But they also offer a variety of other ways to enjoy the waters off Kachemak Bay, from wildlife cruising to paddling a kayak or hiking in Kachemak Bay State Park.
Mako’s Water Taxi is an affordable way of getting from Homer to the many interesting destinations across the bay, from hiking and camping hot spots to the charming village of Seldovia. The service basically runs year-round during daylight hours; you just schedule the drop-off and pick-up times. To make a day of your adventure, book one of Mako’s packages that coincides with the taxi service.
Plenty of whale tours let you watch the orcas and humpbacks as they breach and spout from the water—but not many also let you eavesdrop on the big mammals' conversations. This 3.5-hour tour out of Juneau is equipped with an amplified hydrophone system; listen to the whales underwater while enjoying the lush rainforest views. Onboard the North Star—a 48-passenger jet boat with large windows, an outside viewing deck, and a comfortable inside seating area—you’ll stay warm and dry while you listen to the whales and the narration of an onboard naturalist.
Just an hour’s drive from Anchorage, the MV Ptarmigan let you get within 300 feet of the towering ice wall called Portage Glacier. You can also book a narrated motorcoach tour to take you to Portage Glacier.