If you need a break from your Alaska vacation or a vacation from you Alaska life, you can hardly top Tenakee Springs. Bring a book and a towel and expect to unwind. You might stay longer than you expected.
A visit to Tenakee provides a getaway like no other. It's a tiny, beachfront city of 85 year-round residents, without cars but perfect for boating, mountain biking, hiking and walking. With a right-sized general store, town library and museum, it's clear that people enjoy living here and take pride in what they're created. For recreation, hike or bike miles of nearby logging trails, hang out with local artists at the cafe, and end your day with a soak in the 105-degree therapeutic hot springs. Big, juicy salmonberries grow thick here in mid-summer, fertilized by the droppings of brown bears you might bump into while picking.
Fish in fresh or salt waters, take a charter to see brown bears doing their own fishing, and get out to see some amazing whale action as pods work together to bubble feed in waters teeming with rich marine life. October is the best month for seeing and more often, hearing humpbacks in the still waters of Tenakee Inlet. They're fattening up before their annual migration to Hawaii's warmer waters.
Tenakee Springs sits on the east side of Chicagof Island on Tenakee Inlet, 45 miles southwest of Juneau. The calm, nutrient rich waters of the 26-mile inlet attract bait fish and more than 750,000 salmon annually. These in turn attract whales, brown bears and eagles.
People arrive here either by yacht or boat, on the ferry system, or (most frequently) by floatplane from Juneau.
Taxiing up to the dock, your view of the town includes the historic Tenakee Market, established in 1899 as Snyder's Mercantile. With its brilliant teal paint job, you can't miss it - not would you want to. Locals say this is the best store in Southeast Alaska, with a surprising variety of foods: gourmet cheeses, fresh produce, and several meats, to include roasts, ribs and everything in between. This is where you'll also find the perfect bottle of wine, beer or other spirits.
Another musts-see spot in Tenakee is the Shamrock Building. Built in 1902, it has been everything from a jail, pool hall, dance hall, senior center and bakery.
There are a handful of quaint cabins where you can hang your hat during your stay in Tenakee, and the local lodge is a great option for larger groups. There is no formal campground, but visitors sometimes pitch tents on the beach just past the boat harbor.
Summer is the time for visitors to experience the town's best weather, fishing and wildlife viewing. The population expands in the summer to around 150, as retirees return from waters, seeking a hot soak or groceries.
No visit to Tenakee would be complete without a long soak in the hot springs, whose healing properties drew the Tlingit people to this area long ago. The springs, which include, a beautifully restored bathhouse and changing room, are in the middle of town, across from Tenakee Market. A local Bathhouse Committee works on a donation basis to maintain and run the hot springs, which have separate hours for men and women, and are used at all hours of the day and night.
Stay in Tenakee at least a few days to take in the feel of this quaint town, where artists are inspired by the natural wonders around the. After exploring the area, talking with locals and relaxing in the hot springs, you'll leave refreshed and ready to start planning your return trip.
Alaska Seaplanes has scheduled stops in Tenakee Springs three times daily in summer and 1-2 times daily in winter. This is a convenient and scenic way to travel (and you can also bring your bike). Ferry travel is another option, with a service from Juneau twice weekly year-round. Read more about traveling to Tenakee Springs.