After a lost summer season in 2020, the wild frontiers of Alaska were able to salvage a partial season last year, with great success. This year at least figures to offer a full summer of adventure — although you don’t have to limit your Alaska explorations to the warmer months. Alaska’s autumn colors are just as spectacular as any you’ll see in the Lower 48, and the longer nights increase your chances of spotting Northern Lights. Cruising is the most common way people get around, and the Inside Passage does indeed showcase the state’s spectacular landscapes and wildlife, but it’s not the only way. Boutique lodges can be a fabulous way to explore Alaska’s interior and less-trafficked waterways.
Believe it or not, you’re not too late for the summer season. Regent Seven Seas Cruises is offering a two-category suite upgrade plus $1,000 shipboard credit and 50% reduced deposits on select voyages. The special also includes select 2023 departures and goes through June 30 of this year, so if you do miss or your summer schedule is already full, there’s plenty of opportunity to explore Alaska’s vast wilderness.
Shore excursions take you into the heart of the wild, with nature hikes and 4×4 safaris, ocean rafting and kayaking and on the search for wildlife, from otters to raptors to bears. There’s also a boatload of history, from Russian America to the Gold Rush to explore. From the ship, you’ll be amazed by the sheer size and majesty of Hubbard Glacier and Glacier Bay, and if you’re lucky enough you can spot whales doing bubble-net feeding and a pod of orcas cruising by.
Base yourself on land, and you can spend several days among some of the best concentrations of brown bears in the world, or stay at an adventure lodge and fill your days with fishing, glacier trekking and helicopter excursions, with daily cooking classes and naturalist-guided hikes closer to home. A scenic train ride from Anchorage (nearly 8 hours) or Talkeetna (a little over 4 hours) brings you to Denali National Park. There, canoeing, fishing and hiking abound, and you can journey by bus about 95 miles into the park to watch moose, bears and wolves, or by small plane to the north face of Denali, whose peak tops 20,000 feet. Alaska’s one of the 50 states, sure, but it’s a world away from ordinary life.
Where to stay
Set on the edge of the wilderness, rustic luxury can be found at Stillpoint Lodge located on the water edge on a private peninsula in Halibut Cove, easily accessed from Homer by boat or directly by floatplane or helicopter. Surrounded by Alaska’s only state wilderness park, this secluded, eco-friendly outpost welcomes guests to enjoy a selection of one, and two-bedroom comfortably refined rustic cabins decorated with rich bedding and luxury amenities. Enjoy a day of adventure like bear viewing or kayaking the glacier lake, sample the lodge’s 500-bottle wine cellar, and relax in the cedar hot tub with the soothing sounds of a nearby waterfall.
Tutka Bay Lodge
Tutka Bay Lodge is at the entrance to a nine-mile fjord at the southern end of Kachemak Bay, near Homer, Alaska. Watch whales and sea otters as eagles soar overhead. In the main lodge, guests gather for award-winning cuisine. Try hiking through a magical old-growth forest or sea kayaking, before settling into a cooking class in the evening. The lodge offers guided deep-sea fishing or bear viewing on the Katmai Coast and evening wildlife tours on the bay. Six cozy cabins offer sweeping views and rustic seaside luxury. Tutka Bay Lodge offers complimentary massage, yoga, cooking classes, as well as wine and cheese tastings in its peaceful cove.
Situated on the western edge of the Alaska Range, Winterlake Lodge immerses you into wild, rugged mountains and glaciers. Nestled on 15 acres along mile 198 of the historic Iditarod Trail, the lodge overlooks peaceful Finger Lake – where guests arrive by floatplane in the summer and ski-plane in the winter. Fly-fish or raft remote rivers, travel by helicopter to dramatic active glaciers for summer dogsledding or hike historic trails with opportunities to potentially view Mount Denali, North America’s tallest peak. All guests receive complimentary massage, yoga, cooking classes, and wine & cheese tastings.
Fairmont Pacific Rim
On the waterfront in the heart of Vancouver, Fairmont Pacific Rim offers expansive views of the North Shore Mountains, Stanley Park, and Coal Harbour. Each of the 367 guest rooms is exceptional but stay on the Fairmont Gold floor for its exclusive lounge, butler service, and evening canapés. Delight in the offerings of Willow Stream Spa, discover Vancouver on concierge-crafted itineraries or settle into a cabana around the rooftop pool. For dining, enjoy one of three distinct destinations: giovane cafe + eatery + market; The Lobby Lounge and RawBar, featuring live nightly music; or Botanist, Vancouver’s hottest new restaurant.