Back when we were living in Anchorage, one of our many day trips was down to Seward where we took a boat out into Kenai Fjords National Park. (Before I continue, I think it’s worth noting that because Alaska is kinda big (okay, really big), most day trips can technically be done in a day, but are almost guaranteed to be a very long day. So it helps to plan accordingly.)
We headed out of Anchorage at about 7am and made it to Seward with a little time to spare before boarding, so we grabbed some coffee and wandered around the piers near the ship.
Cruises start as early as March, but we went in late June as that time of year we had a slightly better chance of getting nicer (and warmer) weather. Plus, I had hoped that because we lived nearby in Anchorage we could attempt to plan around a nicer weekend since we had more flexibility than tourists usually do. But the thing about Alaska is no matter how hard you try to work around sunnier and warmer days, you’re probably looking at cloudy and colder ones. Which is what happened to us. But stormy or sunny, at least I didn’t have to worry about the trip being canceled since ships seemed to sail through good weather and bad. And, as I find myself saying a lot, that’s just Alaska.
There were a few different companies and tours to choose from and we opted for a morning cruise that lasted about 6 hours. While we could’ve chosen a longer all-day cruise and go physically farther into the fjord, it didn’t seem worth the extra time or money and I figured 6 hours was plenty of time to be on a boat (and it was for us).
The time came to board and we sailed slowly out of the harbor. Not more than a few minutes passed before we had our first wildlife sighting – tons of birds and some sea lions just to the side of the boat. Nice!
We had gotten off to a good start. The scenery was equally captivating and the dark skies made photos look quite moody.
Cruising farther from town we hugged the eastern shore and spotted bald eagles and otters before emerging out onto the open sea. As the captain increased his speed, the water got noticeably rougher and the boat started heaving up and down. I might be biased as I’m not prone to motion sickness, but I actually didn’t think it was too bad and I remembered the boat trip out to the Great Barrier Reef in Australia being much, much worse.
We continued at a fairly fast pace and eventually rounded a corner that headed into Aialik Bay where the waters were calmer and we could get closer to land to look for wildlife.
We saw a group of sea lions hanging out on the rocks, but otherwise it was very quiet on land. There was a lot more activity in the water and we continued to see sea lions and multiple sea otters hanging out on ice chunks with their babies. The otters were especially adorable to watch. Later, we would also see two finback whales which we were told are a very rare find.
After checking out the Aialik Glacier we started our return trip and they gave us our complimentary lunch and warm cookies. I munched on my food and felt happy to just chill by the window and watch for more wildlife.
Overall the trip was good – the glacier was nice, the scenery beautiful and the fjords pretty (but not quite as dramatic as I imagine the ones in Scandinavia to be, though I still have to go in person to confirm). I think if it had been my first time seeing tidewater glaciers (the kind of glacier that reaches the sea) I would’ve been more excited. But after seeing the ones in Glacier Bay and Prince William Sound (out of Valdez) I think I was glacier-ed out. Once you’ve seen one glacier calving (where big ice chunks break off and fall into the sea), I kinda feel like you’re good for a while.
That said, Kenai Fjords is obviously beautiful, as many parts of Alaska are. And of course it’s also a National Park, so it was fun to add another one to my list.
If you haven’t yet taken a cruise like this, I do recommend checking out the Kenai Fjords if you’re staying in Seward or the Anchorage area because the cruises are pretty accessible and affordable. And they’re also great if you’re not the type of person to go on a week-long cruise on a mega-ship, but want similar scenery with a much more intimate experience.
Kenai Fjords National Park – official website
Maps of Kenai Fjords – by the National Park Service