15 Best Things to Do in Icy Strait Point, Alaska

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things to do in Icy Strait Point

Alaska is full of wonders and wilderness, and we’ve found a cruise port that’s about as intriguing as a destination can be. If you plan to head to the Last Frontier, here is what you should know about Icy Strait Point tours, restaurants, nature trails, and more. 

Most people seek to enjoy Alaska’s beauty by traveling on an Alaskan cruise. Icy Strait Point is one of the Alaskan cruise ports that is more than often included on these cruise itineraries. Most people visit the port via a cruise line, but you can also take a plane or a car ferry from Juneau.

Located 30 miles west of Juneau on the Chichagof Island near Hoonah, Alaska, the port area is a privately-owned cruise port where most excursions to Glacier Bay and other beautiful sites begin. Alaska Natives own it, and 100% of the profits go directly towards supporting Hoonah, Alaska’s largest Native Tlingit village.

While visiting this incredible tourist destination, you can experience everything you’ve ever imagined about Alaska. Whether it’s wildlife, history, adventure, charming native cultures, etc., This place has it all.

This charming little town offers plenty to see and do, including whale watching, fishing, hiking, and shopping. But to make the search even easier, we have prepared this list, including some of the best things to do in Icy Strait Point.

Things to Do in Icy Strait Point, Alaska

1. Humpback Whale Watching

Humpback Whale Watching

Humpback whales are among the top tourist attractions in the region. For this reason, most cruise ships will include whale watching as part of your on-shore excursions.

Generally, around here the summer starts in May. During this period, humpback whales flock to these nutrient-rich waters to feed. The beautiful animals will be roaming these waters until September before migrating south.

A whale-watching tour in Icy Strait Point takes you on a charter boat, allowing you to see the spectacular animals as they swim across the clear sea. These waters have the highest concentrations of humpback whales during the summer, with such high densities that the tour companies offer guaranteed whale-watching tours!

Most tour companies anywhere else in the world don’t guarantee anything with nature and wildlife, so when you get the opportunity to jump on a whale-watching tour that’s guaranteed to give you a sighting, you know it will be good!

During your tour, you might encounter other local wildlife, including Alaskan brown bears, blue herons, eagles, blacktail deer, etc. Whale watching from a cruise ship is one of the best things to do in Icy Point Strait, Alaska. Check out this top-rated humpback whale-watching tour to make the most of your experience.

See Related: Day Trips from Anchorage

2. See the Legendary Alaskan Bears

Brown baer with three cubs in Alaska
Mark Hunter / Adobe Stock

If you’ve not encountered these beautiful animals, Chichagof Island offers you an incredible chance to. There are 1-2 bears for every square mile, making it the most bear-concentrated area in the world. In fact, there are more bears than people on the island!

This means it’s hard not to see a bear during your excursion. Most tour companies will offer bear-seeing as part of their package—one incredible bear-watching tour in the Icy Strait Wildlife and Bear Tour.

The four-hour small group tour takes you through numerous possible bear sighting locations, giving you the best chance to see the animals. This specific tour is a bus ride with minimal walking involved, so you can sit back, relax, and watch out the window as your guide shares the history of the area, the habitats of these coastal bears, and everything you need to know about the Alaskan wilderness.

Keep in mind that bear sightings are never guaranteed. Nature is unscripted; you never know when, where, or if you’ll see them. That being said, you’re in the best hands with the native guides who know all the best bear hangouts, so with a little luck, you’ll be able to see them!

If you were compiling your list of the best things to see in Icy Strait Point, you should undoubtedly include these beautiful creatures.

3. Fishing Tours

Fisherman in Alaska

For fishing enthusiasts, you’ll find excellent fishing sites and tours. Many cruise tours to Alaska will have fishing as part of their itinerary. This means that you will have your day in the waters doing what you love.

Chichagof Island is known to be an excellent fishing ground for salmon and trout fish. And, to have the best fishing experience, you can join famous fishing charters such as the Icy Strait Point Stream Fishing Tours.

You are provided fishing equipment, gear, and assistance if needed during the fishing adventure. This helps ensure you’ve had the best experience out in the waters.

Depending on the time of the year you visit, you can catch pink salmon, cutthroat trout, chum salmon, dolly varden trout, or steelhead. Also, you might spot other marine life, such as beavers, brown bears, mink, otters, and marten, during the fishing expedition.

Just a few hours of fishing on the area’s streams will make your Alaskan trip worth the hustle. One thing you should note, however, is that the tour is a catch-and-release one.

You cannot take home your catch. If you want to take home your catch, consider this halibut charter tour that also provides you a fishing license, too.

See Related: Things to do in Anchorage, Alaska

4. Hiking

Trail in Hoonah, Alaska
maxipiotro / Adobe Stock

One thing about Alaska that remains unchallenged is that it has numerous epic hiking opportunities. For hikers, the Icy Strait Point Nature Trail is among the most popular things to do here.

Not only is it one of the best ways to experience the breathtaking scenery, but it’s also budget-friendly. Win-win!

This nature trail clocks in at about one mile and makes a loop, so you’ll end up right back where you started. It includes the most stunning views of the island and its extensive waterways, making for a lovely little nature walk.

Unlike many hiking trails in Alaska, this one is pretty easy, and with less than a 200-foot elevation gain, this is one hike the entire family can enjoy. This trail sticks to the main drag, and it’s heavily used, so you’re likely to encounter others along the trail.

This part of Alaska doesn’t have many backcountry trails because of… well.. all the bears! With so many bears on the island, it makes sense to stick to the heavily populated areas of the Icy Strait Point.

Note: Hiking in Alaska can sometimes be challenging. But for people who love the wilderness, the beauty that comes with it is more than worth a try.

See Related: Things to Do in Homer, Alaska

5. Enjoy a Delicious Meal at the Port

Enjoy a Delicious Meal at the Port

Besides the tours and sightseeing, you can also taste Alaska by enjoying a delicious meal in one of Icy Strait Point’s restaurants. There are beautiful restaurants here to enjoy fresh fried fish, crab legs, and other local seafood.

A meal here is an excellent way to learn some of Alaska’s native cultures and understand what makes the area unique.

This is an excellent place if you’ve been yearning to try some local cuisines in Alaska. A hot fresh meal in the cold Alaska weather is among the best things you’ll ever enjoy.

If you want more restaurants and coffee shops, visit Hoonah. Most of these eateries offer incredibly delicious meals at relatively low prices.

See related: Alaska Railroad Review: GoldStar or Adventure Class?

6. Go Kayaking in the Bay

Woman Kayaking on a Summer Day

There is never a shortage of things to do in the Alaskan wilderness Icy Strait Point Kayaking in the region’s incredibly calm waters is enough proof.

One of the best places to start your kayaking adventure is right off the Icy Strait/Fredrick Port. Before this tour, you are given an orientation of the trip and the necessary safety instructions, plus life jackets, paddles, and of course, your kayak.

The kayaking tour is a small group tour that takes anywhere from two to three hours. It involves paddling along the famous Hoonah waterfront as you venture into the quieter waters. Here, you can see some bald eagles, a sight that most people would love.

Humpback whales are also known to venture into these calm waters, and you might come across a few. Also, as you enjoy the calmness and beauty of this tour, you can learn a lot from your guide about the region’s wildlife, history, and even culture. Therefore, if you don’t know what to do around here, kayaking is one of those exciting activities you can pick, and it’s beginner-friendly.

See Related: Things to Do in Wasilla, Alaska

7. Tour the Hoonah City

Address: Hoonah, Alaska, USA

Touring Hoonah in between your excursions can also be quite exciting. This gives you a chance to understand more about the culture of the people who live here, their history, and their daily activities.

Hoonah is a largely Tlingit city found on Chichagof Island. This means the city can offer numerous other incredible things besides culture and history.

If you didn’t know, Chichagof Island holds the title of 5th largest island in the U.S., and it’s the world’s 109th largest. The Island had a population of 760 people, according to the 2010 census, with the number rising to around 1,300 every summer because of tourism.

The place is nice to visit, from enjoying the sweet local cuisines and relating with the warm and welcoming locals. You can learn more about their culture from Hoonah by visiting the Yaakw Kihidi Cultural Center.

8. Go Shopping

Go Shopping

Having some souvenirs to take back home sounds like an excellent idea. Shop in any of the warehouse retail shops in the area or swing by a gift shop and pick up some locally-made gifts to take home. Remember, the profits made on the island go back to the community, so you’re supporting the village directly.

These warehouse retail shops are stocked with beautiful locally made arts, herbal remedies, antiques, jewelry, and numerous other tourist items. Buying some things here will ensure you never forget your good experiences in Icy Strait Point.

See Related: RVShare Review

9. Paddle a Tlingit Canoe

Paddle a Tlingit Canoe

The first settlers in this area built long canoes from tree logs known as Tlingit Canoes. The canoes are 40 feet long and carved from a single tree log.

Paddling one of these canoes down the waterways is an excellent way to experience the centuries-long Tlingit culture and traditions. During the excursion, you will learn more about how the people here lived, their history, and even some Tlingit words and phrases. Most of this will be through songs from the crew.

Before you set out to the sea, you’ll be taught some basics about using these traditional canoes. Also, during this guided tour, the crew ensures you wear a life vest before the ride starts.

The trip is entertaining as you listen to melodious Tlingit songs and drumming. You’ll also have the best view of sea life, creating some unforgettable experiences. 

This Tlingit Canoe Paddling and Culture Tour helps you experience all these.

10. Visit the Carving Hut

Visit the Carving Hut

As you explore Hoonah city, there is one place you shouldn’t forget to visit – the famous Carving Hut. But why is the carving hut so renowned? One thing about Tlingit people is that they are talented weavers, carvers, and artists.

Besides their subsistence busy life, the community sets out time for music, dance, and art. This is how the community expresses its feelings, communicates, and marks special events.

One of the most popular forms of carvings for the Tlingit people is the carved totem poles. The carved poles mainly convey a message or tell a story. They are cut for various events in the Tlingit people’s lives, including birth, war, death, or any other momentous occasion.

The carved totem poles can bear images of various animals, including eagles, killer whales, bears, etc. All these describe a particular story in the history of the Tlingit people.

At the carving hut in the city’s center, you will have firsthand experience with carvers doing what they do best. Even better, the carvers are not shy to explain what the carvings represent or why they are so important. Therefore, if you want to understand this part of the Tlingit culture, the carving hut is a great place to visit during your Icy Strait Point tour.

See Related: Top Restaurants in Fairbanks, Alaska

11. Adventure Park and ZipRider Tour

Adventure Park and ZipRider Tour

While zip-lining is quite common in many places across the globe, it’s still one of the best things to do in Icy Strait Point, Alaska. And, whether you have done a thousand zip-lining adventures or none, the experience is always unique.

The Icy Strait Point Zipline is an incredible tourist attraction with six zip lines. Each zip line is around 5,330 feet long and 1,330 feet high. It’s the world’s largest zipline!

These heights give you a pervasive view of the area, allowing you to enjoy more as you ride down the lines.

But before you reach the ZipRider, the 90-minute excursion takes you through an obstacle course known as Adventure Park. This consists of several obstacles you must clear along the way, such as climbing planks, a log bridge, fishermen’s nets, etc.

Once you conquer all the obstacles, you hook onto the 1,330-foot-high zip line and descend back to the sea.

Due to the high heights, you can expect to hit top speeds of 60 mph during your descent. And you will be around 300 feet above sea level, ensuring incredible views, especially of the surrounding mountains.

If you are traveling as a family, these zip lines offer the best activities for bonding. The truth is, you might be talking about the experience for a while. Not every day do you get the opportunity to ride on the world’s largest ziprider!

See Related: Best Places to Travel in December on a Budget

12. Bird Watching in Hoonah

Bird Watching in Hoonah

The numerous Hoonah bird species for bird lovers will make your trip even more exciting. A bird-watching excursion will be an excellent choice for top things to do in Icy Strait Point. The tour includes an experienced local guide who knows all the best places to spot the region’s stunning bird species.

All you need is a pair of binoculars, which you’ll be provided with if you don’t have your own. The excursion package includes any other gear to make your bird-watching blissful. You can see flocks of perching birds, bald eagles, ducks, seabirds, gulls, etc.

13. Glacier Bay Flightseeing

Glacier Bay Flightseeing Tour

Waterways are the most common option for most Alaska tourists to explore Glacier Bay, National Park. And while it’s an excellent way to see all Glacier Bay’s beauty offers, it is not the only way.

Flightseeing is my favorite option. It gives you a more comprehensive view of the entire landscape, allowing you to enjoy some mind-blowing views, impossible with waterway excursions.

The Glacier Bay National Park flight excursion takes you from Hoonah, Alaska, flying you across Point Adolphus, Glacier Bay, and Brady Glacier.

I can assure you that the sight from up there is quite breathtaking. The beautiful views of massive ice caps, whales swimming across the waterways, and learning how Glacier Bay was formed, make the entire flight worth every second. This flightseeing tour is one of the best ways to enjoy Alaska’s beauty.

14. Visit the Hoonah Canning Factory

Hoonah Canning Factory at Icy Strait Point, Alaska
steheap / Adobe Stock

Probably the most iconic sight you’ll see as your cruise ship arrives at the port, this massive building now serves as a museum with several shops. Remember that Icy Strait Point was originally built as a salmon cannery, which has played a very important role in the Tlingit community.

The Hoonah Packing Company Cannery opened in 1912. While it no longer serves as a canning operation, you can visit the museum and learn all about the history of the canning center, get up close and personal with century-old equipment, learn more about the Tlingit community, and even purchase some locally made crafts from the gift shops and stores within these historic walls. 

15. Enjoy Dinner with a View

Duck Point Smokehouse Restaurant in Alaska
Management / TripAdvisor

Address: 108 Cannery Rd, Hoonah, AK 99829

Since the Icy Strait Point is relatively small compared to cities like Juneau and Anchorage, your options for dining are fairly limited. Make no mistake, though, because the few restaurants on this island will serve you some of the best Alaskan cuisine you’ve ever tasted.

Duck Point Smokehouse overlooks the beaches of Icy Strait and Port Frederick, giving you a front-row seat to Alaska’s impressive natural landscape. This restaurant is also adjacent to the zip line, so if you’re vacationing smarter, not harder, plan your day to do the zipline first and then this restaurant.

The house-smoked salmon is a crowd favorite, but there is something for every taste bud. Nothing beats a hearty bowl of seafood stew on a chilly day, but other options include specialties like the grilled halibut teriyaki sandwich, brick-oven pizzas, and more.

Kick back with one of the signature cocktails and enjoy the views of Port Frederick! You’ll feel like you’re dining on top of the world…and at these latitudes, you are!

FAQ

What activities can you do in Icy Strait Point?

The Icy Strait Point is ideal for nature lovers and wildlife enthusiasts. As you journey through the Tlingit village of Hoonah and out into the coastal rainforest and muskegs, bald eagles, Sitka black-tailed deer, and Alaska coastal brown bears are just a few of the critters you may see. On the water, the Point Adolphus area is home to Alaska’s largest summer population of humpback whales, and many tours guarantee a whale sighting during your tour. 

How do you get to Icy Strait Point?

The majority of visitors arrive at Icy Strait via a cruise ship, but a cruise line is not the only way. You can also take a short plane ride from Juneau, but if you’re looking for a budget-friendly option, take the car ferry via Valley Transit Center Bay 3, near the cruise port.

This boat ride takes almost five hours, but you’ll save big if you have time to spare. This ferry costs anywhere from $25-$60, and while the ride may be long, it’s filled with stunning views along the way. 

What wildlife can you see in Icy Strait Point?

The Icy Strait Point has an abundance of wildlife to enjoy. Whale watching is one of the most popular activities, and on these whale-watching tours, you may also catch a glimpse of other marine life, including Steller’s sea lions, seals, and porpoises.

You may even spot a bald eagle or two on the coast. Speaking of the coast, the Icy Strait Point is home to more bears than people, and the Spasski River Valley is known for having one of the highest populations of coastal brown bears in the wild. 

Where is Icy Strait Point located?

Icy Strait Point is a privately owned tourist destination outside the Hoonah village on Chichagof Island, about 30 miles west of Juneau. It is Alaskan Native-owned and operated, with 85% of staff living in Hoonah. Hoonah is Alaska’s largest Native Tlingit village, home to about 700 residents. 

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Jacks
WRITTEN BY

Jacks

Jacks is a New Orleans native passionate about exploring the Arctic region. She's a frequent writer and contributor to Only in Your State. A mediocre ukulele player, photographer, and artist, she thrives on spontaneous solo adventures and encourages everyone to follow the deal, not the destination. When she’s not traveling, she’s feeding the neighborhood crows, squirrels, and bluejays that have befriended her, much to the dismay of her cat, Tugger.

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