If your cruise includes a day at Icy Strait Point, you’re in for a treat. Choosing the best things to do in Icy Strait Point, Alaska can be overwhelming, so I’ve compiled my list of what to do in Icy Strait Point with only a few hours in port.
Although Icy Strait Point is a purpose-built cruise ship port, similar to other Alaskan downtown cruise port areas or even cruise lines’ private islands, there are plenty of authentic Alaskan experiences to fill your day.
Best Things to Do in Icy Strait Point, Alaska
In a nutshell, you’ll want to explore the port area of Icy Strait Point, take a shore excursion in search of whales, see the cultural attractions, grab fresh seafood for lunch and possibly spot wildlife. All in one day!
Along the way, you’ll learn how Icy Strait Point truly preserves the indigenous culture of the Tlingit people and in the nearby town of Hoonah.
Keep reading for my detailed list of what to do, inspiring Icy Strait Point photos plus where your ship will dock, food, entertainment and more.
Listen to my interview with Tyler Hickman, Vice President Operations at Icy Strait Point. This interview was recorded before I ever visited Alaska or moved there. Tyler is very proud of Icy Strait Point and loves to talk about this small slice of heaven.
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Icy Strait Point – 100% Locally Owned
Icy Strait Point is the only cruise port in Alaska that is privately owned and operated. The port is under the authority of the Alaska Huna Totem Corporation and its Alaska native shareholders. All profits directly go to support the people and town of Hoonah.
The port features authentic replications of the culture and history of the Huna people and includes the completely restored salmon cannery that burned down in 1944. All of the proceeds from tourism in this town go back to the Huna Tlingit and the Huna Totem Corporation.
This means that your visit helps to support the native people to remain on the land that they have called home for thousands of years.
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In addition, Icy Strait Point is a great jumping-off point for all sorts of shore excursions. Guaranteed whale watching tours, plus more Alaskan wildlife such seals, brown bears, otters, eagles, and more!
Read on as we go over all the things you can do in Icy Strait Point on a cruise day in port.
Where is Icy Strait Point?
Icy Strait Point is located on Chichagof Island in Southeast Alaska, about 35 miles west of Juneau, the state capital. It’s where Port Frederick Bay meets Icy Strait Point. There is a floating dock where two cruise ships can berth and passengers can walk directly into Icy Strait Point.
Nearby, just 1.6 miles (2.6km) away, is Alaska’s largest native Tlingit village, the town of Hoonah. This isn’t a touristy town with lively attractions. However, if you want to get there, you can catch a shuttle bus for around $5. Surrounded by lush vegetation and a surprise sighting of wildlife, a visit into Hoonah is well worth it.
About Icy Strait Point – A Little History
Magnificient Glacier Bay, in the panhandle of Alaska, has been home to the Huna Tlingit for thousands of years. Although their homeland was traditionally farther north, glacial growth during the Little Ice Age sent the Tlingit south to Icy Strait Point, where they usually traveled in the summertime for the harvest.
The Huna quickly made Icy Strait point their permanent home, as resources were plentiful. Since the residents are still mainly Huna Tlingit, the town is named Hoonah and located about 1 1/2 miles from the port.
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In 1912, the Hoonah Packing Company, a prosperous salmon canning company, opened for business on Icy Strait Point, providing the locals with factory jobs. However, the cannery only stayed in operation until 1953.
It wasn’t until May 2004 that the Huna Totem Corporation began operations at Icy Strait Point. That year saw 32 ships and 55,000 passengers visit the newly-opened cruise destination.
The Corporation works to preserve the culture and practices of the Huna people by helping them find jobs and promoting local businesses without destroying the expansive wilderness that makes the town so beautiful and resources so bountiful.
Currently, Icy Strait Point’s primary industry is cruise ship tourism, and 85% of the people who work in the port are Tlingit locals.
Where Do Cruise Ships Dock in Icy Strait?
Icy Strait Point is a destination port, meaning it has its own attractions. Your cruise ship will drop you off right in the middle of all of the action.
There are now two cruise ship berths located on the “corner” of Icy Strait and the Port Frederick Inlet.
The port area, with most of the shops, restaurants, and excursion meet-up spots in Icy Strait Point, is the place to start. The local venues are just steps away from the cruise ship floating docks.
Where to Eat in Icy Strait Point and Hoonah
If you stomach starts to growl, there are several restaurants in Icy Strait Point. In fact, don’t retreat to the ship for lunch…enjoy something local instead.
One of the most popular restaurants for lunch is The Cookhouse Restaurant. It’s the first eatery you’ll find along the seawalk, just past the cute residences. Outdoor seating is abundant though if weather is not cooperating, you can enjoy your fish and chips indoors.
Just past The Cookhouse and the Cannery, is the Crab House. Go little crazy here with succulent crab legs and butter. If you just want a snack or a sugar rush, stop by Lil’ Gen’s Donuts shack. Their freshly made donuts are fabulous.
Also in Icy Strait Point is the Duck Point Smokehouse, right next to the docks. For some reason, it’s never been open for business when I’ve been there…but if you want a nice cocktail and a pizza, it looks like the place to go.
Finally, if you decide to visit Hoonah (and you should), have lunch at The Fisherman’s Daughter. Excellent salmon quesadillas and a lot more.
Getting Around in Icy Strait Point
From the map, you can get a good idea of the layout of Icy Strait Point and scope out the areas at the port that most interest you.
There’e a shuttle bus that operates from Icy Strait Point to Hoonah for just $5 per ticket for a round-trip ride. Or if you want a one-way ticket, it’s only $3.
Either you walk or take the shuttle; there are no ride share services like Uber or Lyft available in Icy Strait Point.
If you walk into town and don’t want to walk back to the ship, shuttle bus tickets are available to purchase at Huna Outfitters, located next to City Hall.
Here’s what you can expect for average walking time from the ship, beginning with the closest:
- Adventure Center: 3 minutes
- Excursion Hub: 5 minutes
- Historic Cannery where you’ll find dining, shopping and the museum: 7 minutes
- Crab House Restaurant at the Cannery: 8 minutes
- Cultural Theatre, Tickets and the bus from town drop-off: 9 minutes
Shopping in Icy Strait Point
At the Cannery complex, you’ll find excellent shopping for souvenirs. There are about 12 shops located within the historic Cannery. All are 100% owned by Alaskans with a wide-range of authentic Alaska items.
From small jars of Devil’s Club ointment and salmonberry jam to kitchen essentials, t-shirts and hand-carved treasures, you won’t have to lug your purchases very far to get back to your ship.
Be sure to stop by the Icy Strait Museum and gift shop for more Alaskan memorabilia to purchase. Bring home a box of smoked salmon, beautiful hand-carved sterling silver jewelry with Alaska Tlingit moieties; the Raven and Eagle.
Best Things to Do in Icy Strait Point
What to Do in ISP – Read on for all the details to plan your day.
- Go whale watching.
- Try the ZipRider.
- Take a birdwatching tour.
- See the bears at the Wildlife & Bear Search.
- Take the Ocean Raft Adventure.
- Join a tasting session at Alaska’s Wildest Kitchen.
- Explore the beach and nature trails.
- Have lunch at the Cookhouse Restaurant.
- Go shopping at the Warehouse Shops.
- Visit the Historical Cannery Museum.
- Watch the Tribal Dance & Cultural Legends Show.
- Walk into the town of Hoonah – have lunch at Fisherman’s Daughter
1. Take a Whale Watching Cruise
Icy Strait Point offers some of the best opportunities for whale watching on your Alaskan cruise, so don’t miss the Whale & Marine Mammals Cruise here!
Point Adolphus, a one-hour boat ride away from Icy Strait Point, is the prime site to catch a view of humpback whales.
Whales flock from Hawai’i to Point Adolphus in the summertime to enjoy the bountiful food in the area. There are so many humpback whales here that all of the tour guides at Icy Strait Point guarantee that you’ll see at least one when you take the tour.
On the tour to Point Adolphus, you might also see other Alaskan wildlife, such as seals, porpoises, sea lions, otters, and killer whales. Keep your eyes on the shoreline and you could spot brown bears and bald eagles, too.
So, if you want to see the most wildlife possible in one 2.5-hour trip, look for a whale watching tour while you’re here. You won’t regret it!
2. Try the ZipRider
Icy strait point has the world’s largest ZipRider, which will send you on a breathtaking coast down a 5,330-foot zipline in the heart of the Alaskan wilderness.
Before your exhilarating trip down the mountain, you’ll ride to the start, via gondola. Look around to catch a glimpse of the old forests, possibly wildlife, the bay and its stunning islands that surround Icy Strait Point’s port.
Once you’re over 1,300 feet (396.2 m) up the mountain, you’ll undergo a safety briefing and be strapped into a sturdy seated harness. Then down you go!
As you glide down from the scenic old-growth mountains, you’ll get a spectacular view of all of Icy Strait Point’s landscapes and the sea. If you keep your eyes peeled, you might even see bears, whales, birds, and other wildlife.
You can’t miss this excursion, so check your ship’s plans to get the best prices for this unforgettable ride.
3. Sign up for a Birdwatching Tour
If you’re a bird enthusiast or want to take in all of the fantastic local wildlife Icy Strait Point has to offer, take the Discovering the Birds of Hoonah Tour.
Hoonah is home to hundreds of species of birds with its unique mixed coastal and rainforest ecosystem.
On this tour, your guide will take you on a hike to explore the native habitats of the many birds in Icy Strait Point.
They’ll help you identify and find bald eagles, gulls, ducks, warblers, sparrows, flycatchers, jays, woodpeckers, sapsuckers, wrens, kinglets, swifts, hummingbirds, creepers, chickadees, thrushes, and so many more!
This tour is always a big hit for families and birdwatching enthusiasts, so take advantage of it while you can!
4. See Bears at the Wildlife & Bear Search
If you want to catch a glimpse of native Alaskan brown bears and other unique forest wildlife, sign up for the Wildlife & Bear Search excursion.
On this tour, you’ll travel by tram through Hoonah into the rainforests of Icy Strait Point. Your guide will tell you all about the village, the animals, birds, and plants that live nearby, teaching you all about the forest’s ecosystem. On the way, you’ll see Sitka black-tailed deer, bald eagles, and many species of birds.
Then, your guide will lead you to a specially designed platform that overlooks the clearings near the Spasski River, where brown bears often hunt for the salmon that leap from the water.
This tour offers some of the best opportunities to see the forest wildlife of Alaska since the locals have never cut down or developed the wilderness that surrounds them. If you want to have a wild time, don’t miss this excursion.
5. Take the Ocean Raft Adventure
One of the best boat tours available in Icy Strait Point is the Ocean Raft Adventure.
Your guide will take you out onto the water in a large engine-powered ocean raft, traveling at high speeds in the open sea’s air. During the tour, your guide will also teach you more about the local Tlingit peoples and the wildlife in the area.
They’ll also take you searching for deer, bears, whales, otters, sea lions, seals, eagles, and puffins.
So, if you want an exciting ride on the stunning Strait Point Sea, go on this tour. You’ll never forget it.
6. Join a Tasting Session at Alaska’s Wildest Kitchen
Have you ever been curious about authentic Alaskan cuisine and cooking practices? Well, you can learn all about it with this one-of-a-kind cooking class!
Alaska’s Wildest Kitchen offers cooking-class-style demonstrations and tastings led by a local Alaskan fisherwoman and wilderness chef.
In the interactive tour, she will teach you how to cut and prepare fresh, locally-caught salmon and halibut while telling you stories about the local wildlife and cuisine.
Then, you’ll get an opportunity to season, cook, and eat your own fish fillet on the kitchen’s huge, authentic alder grill. So, with this tour, you get a fun experience and lunch, too!
You’ll also get an alcoholic or non-alcoholic beverage included in the cost of the tour, and you’ll get to take home some recipe cards to help you bring traditional Alaskan cooking into your home!
For a taste of what you’ll experience at Alaska’s Wildest Kitchen, check out this short YouTube Video by Norwegian Cruise Line:
7. Explore the Beach and Nature Trails
There are a lot of exciting things to do in Icy Strait Point if you want to skip the excursions. Go wilderness walking on your own, but always stick to the Icy Strait Point and Nature trail!
The Icy Strait Point and Nature Trail is a paved path that starts right beside the port and wraps around the coastline to the west. It’s an excellent spot to catch some stunning views and get a glimpse of the local wildlife.
The trail is a 0.9-mile (1.4 km) loop, and it isn’t strenuous or steep, so expect a relaxing and short walk. However, as you pass the beach and work your way into the woods, there are three other short trail loops that you can take if you want to get deeper into the forest and see some more local animals and birds on your own.
While you’re walking, keep an eye out for whales off the coast, deer in the brush, and eagles and other birds high in the trees.
Also, be aware of your surroundings to ensure that you don’t run straight into a bear when you’re in the woods! Bears love Icy Strait Point. Don’t worry too much, though. They’re pretty used to the tourists, and they won’t attack unless you provoke them, so just watch out and ensure that you make plenty of noise as you walk.
8. Have Lunch at the Cookhouse Restaurant
Icy Strait Point is most famous for its authentic Tlingit traditions. So, while you’re here, why not eat like a local?
The Cookhouse, once the go-to restaurant for the old cannery’s workers, has plenty of options for everyone. Most of their food has a local flair, and their menu includes freshly fried halibut, salmon burgers, crab, shrimp tacos, reindeer burgers, and more.
They also offer locally-brewed beers, such as Icy Strait’s signature brew, Cannery Red Ale. Their beers are brewed with unique locally-grown ingredients, so be sure to give them a try if you’re a beer drinker!
The Cookhouse also has a fantastic atmosphere with scenic ocean views, and you might even get a performance from local singers and dancers while you eat!
If you can’t decide what to get, I recommend their best-selling halibut and chips! The halibut is perfectly flaky and crisp with a flavor that you can’t get outside of Alaska!
9. Go Shopping at the Warehouse Shops
You can find most of the shops in Icy Strait Point near the Cannery Museum in the long red buildings. These shops are all locally owned businesses stocked with Alaska-made products.
Hoonah is well-known for its expertly crafted soaps, candles, canned salmon, and native art, so be sure to browse the shops or buy a souvenir to make your trip even more unforgettable!
10. Visit the Cannery Museum
In the center of the port district, don’t miss a brief walk through the Icy Strait Point Historical Cannery Museum. The museum, housed in the restored Hoonah Packing Company of 1912, will teach you all about the salmon industry’s long-standing history in the area.
In the museum, you’ll learn about all of the different varieties of local salmon, and you’ll get a glimpse of what the factory would have looked like in its heyday.
Be sure to check out all of the restored machines, which were once used to smoke and can salmon. It’s unbelievable to think that they still stand where they did over 100 years ago!
11. Watch the Tribal Dance and Cultural Legends Show
If you want to sit back and relax after a long day of whale-watching, wildlife-spotting, walking, and touring, head on over to the Tribal Dance and Cultural Legends show on the east side of the port.
This show makes for a perfect introduction to Hoonah’s culture and the unique legends that the natives have carried down here for centuries.
Performed by the native Hoonah Tlingit, the performances include music, dancing, and storytelling in a lively and entertaining atmosphere that will teach you more about what makes Icy Strait Point so unique and memorable.
While you’re at the theater, be sure to stop and admire the enormous totem poles outside the entrance! They’re quite marvelous.
12. Walk or Take the Shuttle into Hoonah
The walk into Hoonah is about 1 1/2 miles from the Shuttle Bus ticket stand. It’s a flat, scenic walk along the sea. There’s a good chance to spot a whale or if you feel like something’s starting at you, there could be a bear up in the hill overlooking the seawalk.
Don’t worry. As long as you can run faster than the person you’re with, all should be okay. Just kidding. Don’t do something stupid like I did and munch on my salmon quesadilla on the walk back to the ship. Yes, a bear was following me from above.
Conclusion: What to Do in Icy Strait Point
Icy Strait Point is an amazing place to view Alaskan wildlife, especially humpback whales. You’ll have a chance to do everything from soft adventure like a nature walk to the adrenaline-pumping ZipRider high above the treetops.
Everything’s authentic here, from the old-growth forests and local cuisine to the Tlingit people and their cultural displays.
From a historic and cultural standpoint, you’ll learn a lot about the Tlingit people who have inhabited the area for thousands of years. Grab some fresh seafood and an Alaska-brewed beer. For such a small town, Icy Strait Point has more to choose from than is visible at first glance.
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I’m the editor and creator of CruiseMaven.com, a solo traveler cruising the world on waves and wheels, collecting recipes along the way. I hope my articles and photos entertain, advise and inspire you to travel the world without flying. Take a breath…stop for a local meal and a glass of wine along the way.