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20 Amazing Things To Do In Icy Strait Point, Alaska

Icy Strait Point on Chichagof Island is unlike all other developed Alaska cruise ports. In conjunction with the Norwegian Cruise Line, the Tlingit community has developed the land specifically as a cruise port. In this article, you’ll discover the best things to do in Icy Strait Point during a cruise.

The pristine area oozes natural beauty and contains lots of wildlife. Their dock can accommodate two cruise ships a day. As you pull into the port, look high at the nearby trees because bald eagles often grace the treetops.

Orca Dream bronze statue in Icy Strait Point

One word of caution, Icy Strait Point isn’t particularly wheelchair or scooter friendly. As we disembarked the cruise ship, there were large areas of gravel to cross before we could reach the waterfront wooden boardwalk.

Depending on your budget, there are many options for things to do in this Alaskan port. If you’re trying to save money on your Alaska cruise, here are some complimentary things to do in Icy Strait Point.

Top Tours and Excursions

1. Ride The Transporter Gondola 

There are two gondolas in Icy Strait Point. The complimentary Icy Strait gondola has green cars and takes guests from Wilderness landing to Adventure Landing.

The installation of the transporter has made the Wilderness Landing zone a vehicle-free area. Each transporter car carries up to eight guests and is wheelchair and scooter friendly.

Icy Strait Point transporter gondola car
The complimentary gondola transporter

During the high-speed 5-minute ride, you’ll enjoy views of the pristine rainforest. Alternatively, you can walk the ½-mile trail along the waterfront.

2. Get An Orca Selfie

Located on Keet Plaza (Keet means Orca in the Tlingit language), a bronze Orca statue graces the boardwalk. The monumental effigy is the work of conservationist and artist Wyland.

Wyland is a world-renowned artist best known for his whale art. Cruise passengers might also see his artwork on the hull of the Norwegian Bliss.

Orca sculpture and whale watching boat in Icy Strait Point
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A nearby sign says the bronze Orca leans toward Brown Bear Bay to welcome home fishermen and new travelers to Hoonah, Alaska. The Orca is number 2 of 100 public art sculptures worldwide.

NCLH president Frank Del Rio commissioned the sculpture. After its completion, “Orca Dream” was dedicated to the Huna Totem Corporation on June 22, 2022.

3. Scour The Beaches

If you’re traveling with children, scouring the beach for sea life is fun. The peddled beach is starfish heaven, with lots of sizes and colors.

We also found crabs, large crab claws, sea cucumbers, and kelp bulbs under the pier. The waterfront is especially plentiful at low tide.

Under the pier, the barnacle-clad pilings are a photographer’s paradise and make for beautiful pictures.

Barnacle-clad pilings under the pier in Icy Strait Point
Barnacle-clad pilings under the pier

4. Explore The Cannery Museum

A large red warehouse was housed the Hoonah Canning Company, which opened its business in 1912.

Today, the cannery is gone, and the cavernous building contains mostly shops selling locally-made merchandise and mass-produced items. Here, you can purchase gifts, handmade by Alaskan artists.

But within the shops, the remnants of old cannery equipment remain. Inside, plaques tell the story of how each piece of machinery worked. 

See a slicing, canning, a retort, all used in the canning production. Other informational boards explain a salmon life cycle, types of fishing vessels, and interesting Alaska facts.

Old retort at the fish cannery
Old retort at the fish cannery

5. Visit Hoonah

From the other side of the cannery building, you can walk to Hoonah, a Tlingit village with about 900 residents. The 1.5-mile walk takes about 30+ minutes along the scenic waterfront.

However, the Hoonah shuttle costs USD 5 roundtrip. Hoonah, a fishing community, is a quiet village with beautiful scenery. It’s far less touristy than Icy Strait Point.

There are few shops and a handful of restaurants, but the town has some spectacular totem poles and an abundance of bald eagles.

6. Watch A Totem Pole Carving

Our bus driver pointed out the convenience store, a local gas station, and a carving hut on route to Hoonah. 

At the Front Street carving hut, we met master carver Gordon Greenwald working on a cedar carving. It was three months in the works, and another three to complete.

Mr. Greenwald showed us a drawing that inspired the pole’s designs. We learned that traditional poles were rarely painted and usually were carved after they had been commissioned.

Totem pole carving in Hoonah, Alaska
Gordon Greenwald demonstrates totem pole carving

Icy Strait Point has excursions for every budget if you want to explore more of the area and spend a little cash.

7. Tree Top Adventure Park

If you’re traveling with children, the Tree Top Adventure Park provides fun for all ages. Located under the transporter gondola, you’ll have fun traversing a forested obstacle course.

The adventure park offers four levels of difficulty. Ages seven and up will enjoy the easier level one and two courses. Level three provides a slightly more challenging path.

The top-level course has a minimum age of 12. It features six zip lines and 18 obstacles containing  balancing bridges, log walkways, and a zip line.

8. Ride The World’s Largest Ziprider

For thrill-seekers, the Ziprider provides a 1320-foot drop from the top of Hoonah Mountain to sea level. Rated as the world’s longest zip line, six riders can simultaneously glide down the mountain.

The Icy Strait Point Ziprider is accessed by the red gondola, included in the cost of your zip line ticket.

The ZipRider in Icy Strait Point
Icy Strait Point Ziprider

The 90-second ride has riders reaching speeds of up to 65 mph. At USD 1.72 PER second, it’s not exactly a cheap shore excursion.

There are cameras on the launching platforms. So, if you prefer to watch a family or friend, you can wait at the bottom and see them prepare for their run on a nearby screen.

9. Watch A Native Tlingit Show

Near the cannery museum, a tribal hall allows visitors to enjoy a tribal dance. It’s a great way to immerse yourself in the Tlingit culture and learn about life in Alaska.

High school students perform a moving dance in ceremonial costumes that an elder describes. The show includes a question-and-answer period. 

You’ll learn about the different tribes, hear their stories, and the area’s history during the show. Part of the performance is done in English, and part in their native tongue.

10. Ride The Gondola To Hoonah Mountain

In 2022, the Tlingit community opened the Icy Strait Point gondola. The cars look like the green transporter ones, except they are red.

The gondola tickets weren’t cheap at USD 49.95, and Icy Strait Point staff marketed the ride as an all-day one. If you’re riding for the views, the outlook is much better on the gondola than at the top. 

Riding the gondola to Hoonah Mountain
Riding the gondola to Hoonah Mountain

At the peak, there are hiking trails, only accessible when bears aren’t sighted. If the area is closed, you’ll only be able to ride up and down the gondola.

The staff selling tickets won’t tell you the trails are closed, only that they “could be” closed. So, imagine our disappointment after paying USD 107 for two tickets, only to ride up and down again.

While the ride was nice, it wasn’t worth over USD 100.

11. Have A Brew At Icy Strait Brewing

If you love to try craft beer, then stop by Icy Strait Brewing. You can sample red, blonde, and IPA on the corner of Hill and Front Streets in Hoonah.

Pair your beer with Alaskan classics such as Alaska Reindeer Chili, salmon cakes, and fish chowder. The menu changes often, but the food always represents the Last Frontier.

Microbreweries are big businesses in Alaska. Juneau, Ketchikan, Sitka, and Skagway all have small breweries, ready to welcome you. Of course, the majority of beer makers are found in Anchorage.

12. Rent A Kayak

Explore the sheltered waters of Port Frederick in a two-person kayak. A wilderness guide accompanies you on the three-hour tour.

Kayakers in Icy Strait Point
Kayakers in Icy Strait Point

As you enjoy the serene coastal waters, wildlife sightings can include bald eagles, humpback whales, sea lions, and even a coastal brown bear.

I watched a whale breach close to the coastline during my visit to Icy Strait Point. Moments later, a group of kayakers appeared close to where the whales surfaced.

13. Enjoy Alaska’s Wildest Kitchen

A hands-on experience cooking in Alaska’s Widest Kitchen is ideal for the foodies. During the tour, you’ll learn about Alaska’s seafood.

A local Tlingit woman shows how fish are preserved, including canning, smoking, and pickling. You’ll watch a filleting demonstration using the freshest fish.

The best part is you get to grill the local catch, usually halibut or salmon, over a smoking alder fire. A tasting session with a sample beer or wine completes the excursion, along with a take home recipe card.

14. Take A Bear Wilderness Tour

While you can see orphaned coastal brown bears at Sitka’s Fortress of the Bear, they are not in the wild.

The ABC Islands (Admiralty, Baranof, and Chichagof) are home to many bears. Since Icy Strait Point is on Chichagof Island, it’s an ideal place to take a Wilderness Bear Tour.

A coastal brown bear family
An Alaskan bear family

During a bear-watching tour, guests travel to a wooden boardwalk at the Spasski River Valley. The chance of seeing them increases when the salmon are running. 

Along with bears, you could also see Sitka deer, otters, and bald eagles.

15. Go Halibut Fishing

Many Alaskan ports offer fishing excursions, and Icy Strait Point is no different. So, book a charter, and purchase a license because there are plenty of fish in the sea! 

Halibut season is from mid-May to mid-September which happens to be Alaska cruise season. The waters around Icy Strait are prolific with fish.

Tour providers work with fish processors to process your catch and ship it home if you catch the big one.

16. Go Whale Watching

On an Alaskan cruise, you can take a tour to see whales in Juneau or one in Icy Strait Point. If you’re docked at Adventure Landing, the whale-watching boat often departs at the dock. 

All other whale-watching tours depart from a dock in front of the Cannery Museum or from Hoonah. Due to its marine-rich waters, Icy Strait Point is a fantastic place to go whale watching on the west coast.

Whale-watching tour boat in Icy Strait Point
Whale-watching tour boat in Icy Strait Point

Humpback whales are prolific in the area, and most tours guarantee you’ll see whales. During the tour, you could witness the phenomenon of bubble net feeding. You may see Orca, sea lions, and porpoises too.

Whale Watching Tours

17. Take The Hoonah Mountain 360 Tram Tour

Like a hop-on hop-off bus, the 360 Tram Tour allows guests to enjoy the scenery from an open-air vehicle. Guests start the 90-minute tram tour from the top of Hoonah Mountain.

If bears aren’t present, you can hop off for photo opportunities and hike a short distance. You can purchase tickets for this excursion at the same location where you bought the gondola tickets.

18. Take A Helicopter Tour

Icy Strait Aviation offers helicopter tours in Anchorage and Hoonah. Travelers can choose from three excursions depending on their adventure level. The Alaskan picnic by helicopter offers a leisurely and cultural experience.

The 2.5-hour Pilot’s Choice flight lets the pilot decide where to fly based on weather and animal sightings. Part of the flight could include panoramic landscapes of Glacier Bay National Park.

The Heli-Bike excursion combines a helicopter ride and a bike ride. You’ll be dropped off at a secluded mountain for a wilderness bike ride down to sea level. Heli-biking is a thrilling experience, and Icy Strait Aviation offers the only Heli-Bike tour in southeast Alaska.

19. Enjoy The Area In A Tlingit Canoe

Immerse yourself in the Tlingit culture by paddling in a dug-out canoe. The ancestral 40-foot canoes are created by hand and are usually reserved for the locals. 

The cannery building in Icy Strait Point
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The excursion includes a tour of “Yaakw Kahidi,” or the canoe shed. You’ll learn some Tlingit native words, hear stories of their culture, and listen to their drumming.

20. Take An ATV Expedition

After a short bus ride to Hoonah, you’ll board a rugged ATV for a mountain top adventure. With a minimum age of 6 years, it’s the perfect excursion for adventurous families.

The 2.5 hr. tour drives along dirt trails in the canopied forest, with ocean and valley views. With narration on the area, you’ll immerse yourself in the beauty of the isle and come away knowing part of its history.

Final Thoughts On Things To Do In Icy Strait Point

Icy Strait Point is all about the outdoors. Travelers are often captivated by the natural beauty of Chichagof Island. If you find Icy Strait Point too commercialized, head to the village of Hoonah to see authentic Alaska.

Planning your trip?