From Denali, we headed south to the Kenai Peninsula and the beautiful Kenai Fjords National Park. This was the longest stop of our Alaskan adventure, with two full days (excluding travel days) devoted to exploring the park. In retrospect, this was absolutely the correct decision. Katmai and Denali are beautiful, unique, and well worth a visit but can be seen very well in one long day. Kenai Fjords has more diversity, and in particular there were two things we really wanted to do, each of which would take the better part of a day: 1) kayaking to Aialik Glacier and 2) hiking the Harding Icefield Trail.
Google maps said the drive from Denali to Seward would take about 6.5 hours, but I’d guess that it took us at least 8. (My husband would probably tell you that this is because I stopped to take a photo every 30 seconds).
We reserved our first full day for our kayaking trip to Aialik Glacier, which was what we most wanted to do. There are a number of operators that offer this trip and many of them are at a similar price point and have perfect 5 star ratings on TripAdvisor. Beyond looking at prices and TripAdvisor reviews, choosing an operator was a bit of a crapshoot but we were thrilled with the one we chose, Kayak Adventures Worldwide.
Our day began at their Seward headquarters at 7:15 am for gear fitting and some basic kayaking instruction. My husband and I had both kayaked a few times before but are far from pros, and the other two women in our group had never kayaked before. Before we knew it we were loaded onto our water taxi, which would take us to the kayak launch site, and departing Seward harbor.
The water taxi ride is long – more than two hours – because the coastline is dotted with long fjords that give the national park its name, and the distances to travel by boat are considerably longer than as-the-crow-flies distances. To get to our kayak launch point we had to travel all the way to the mouth of Resurrection Bay (the bay on which Seward is located), around a long peninsula with many inlets, and then into Aialik Bay, where the glacier is.
The two hour ride was far from boring, however. In addition to the expected scenic views of the coastline, we were treated to incredible wildlife sightings, including humpback whales, Dall’s porpoises, sea otters, Steller sea lions, harbor seals, puffins, and the largest school of jellyfish I’ve seen.
My favorite part of the water taxi ride was when we passed through the beautiful Spire Cove with turquoise water (thanks to glacial “rock flour” sediment) and grass-covered spires rising up out of the ocean.
Finally we rounded the point and entered Aialik Bay and caught our first glimpse of the glacier we were going to kayak to.
The water taxi dropped us off at our launch point, and after unloading our kayaks (no standing around and watching the crew do it, this was a hands-on activity), we started paddling towards the glacier. The water was glassy calm, as you can see from the photos, and so the paddling could not have been easier. My husband and I actually had to take turns paddling because when we both did it we went too fast for the pace of the group. The pace was very slow, since the other two people we were with were more interested in taking selfie after selfie rather than moving their boat forward, but I didn’t mind that much. It was a gorgeous, warm day, we were surrounded by beautiful scenery on all sides and I was happy to just take it all in (and take lots of photos).
As we made our way closer to the face of the glacier, we began to pass increasingly large icebergs.
When we got as close to the glacier as we could safely go, we linked up our kayaks and enjoyed a well-deserved lunch. Aialik Glacier is very active and we got to see it calve (when a large chunk of ice breaks off and falls into the ocean) several times. After finishing our lunch, we enjoyed a leisurely paddle back to the launch point, exploring some nooks and crannies of the cove we had skipped on our way to the glacier.
I was of course expecting to enjoy this outing, but I loved it way more than I thought I would. It might have been my very favorite day of the whole trip (it helped that we got so lucky with perfect weather and great wildlife sightings). Kenai Fjords is made to be seen from the water, and kayaking to Aialik Glacier is a great way to do it.