Glacier Bay National Park

People who set foot on Glacier Bay National Park come here with purpose.  No one just ends up here, our kayak guide said.

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Glacier Bay National Park, view from our tour boat

It’s true. Getting to Glacier Bay National Park takes some planning. There are a few large cruise lines that come to the park, but the stay in the bay, and people don’t disembark. There are some small boat cruises that dock at the park, but for the most part, if you want to step foot in the park, you’ll have to the the Alaska Marine Highway ferry or fly in.

In fact only two percent of visitors to the park step foot on the land. This results in a certain vibe in the park that sets it apart from the crowded parks we visited in the lower 48 last year or even Mendenhall Glacier.

The park was quieter than other parks I visited, but it was also more laid back. We all came to take in Glacier Bay National Park.

Our family took the Alaska Marine Highway ferry. We really enjoyed it, but it took some planning. The ferry schedule on the website looked a bit like a bus schedule. Though I figured it out, I didn’t feel comfortable purchasing the tickets online. I called the customer service line. The lady on the phone was very helpful and I felt confident that I was purchasing the correct tickets.

The ferry to Gustavus (the closest town to the park) only leaves twice a week, Monday and Wednesday. Because of our schedule, we went on a Monday and came back to Juneau on a Wednesday. Taking a flight gives you more flexibility. We chose not to fly because of the cost. It actually worked out in our favor. Because of fog during the week, a lot of the flights were delayed.

The ferry ride was quite pleasant. The employees were very friendly and the ship was clean. It’s a four hour ferry ride. We had time to walk around the boat, go outside and take pictures. We spotted wildlife such as whales and sea otters. The boat has a cafeteria and dining room. We also chatted with some other travelers.

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View from the ferry pulling away from Juneau. Credit: NPS

Finally, we made it to Gustavus. We were staying the Glacier Bay Lodge, the only lodge within the park. It’s operated by Aramark. There’s a shuttle from the ferry to the lodge.

Once we got there, my husband and you younger kids went fishing with a guide in Gustavus. My eldest and I took an afternoon guided kayak trip.

Guided kayak trips from the lodge are through a third party company, Glacier Bay Sea Kayaks. While it was cold on the ferry, by the time we met our guide and got ready for the kayak trip, the sky cleared up and the weather warmed up.

Kayaking along Bartlett Cove was amazing. We saw sea otters and eagles. We saw schools of feeder fish swimming under our boat. We saw harbor porpoise as well. We saw different types of kelp floating in the water.

Our guide was amazing. He was friendly and laid back, but knowledgable as well. While the wildlife viewing was great, even if I hadn’t seen a single animal, the view and the tranquility that came from kayaking along the coast alone would have made the trip worth it.

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My view from the kayak. Sure beats the view from my office.

After our trip we came back and waiting for my husband and younger two kids to return from their fishing trip.

We enjoyed a lovely dinner at the lodge. We were exhausted by the end of the day. We fell asleep quickly, which was good because we had to wake up early the next day to go on the boat tour.

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