Note: Paperback includes map, Kindle digital version does not, suggest getting map below.
Opening its doors for the first time in 2003, Icy Strait Point is unique among Alaska cruise ports–ship visits are limited to one at a time, and the facility–a renovated cannery next to a Tlingit native village is surrounded by wilderness. If you’ve cruised Alaska before, you know how congested the other towns can get with four or five ships in port at once, so making a visit here is a welcome change.
Passengers come ashore by lighter to the cannery dock where there is a museum, cafe/restaurant, and numerous shops. Cannery life was a major cultural and economic element in coastal Alaska and this is an excellent chance to get a close look. There are walking trails around the site and additionally there is a shuttle bus to nearby Hoonah, the largest Tlingit village in Alaska. The facility is owned by a native corporation and the richness of Tlingit culture is a strong element throughout.
Icy Strait Point also has the longest zipline in Alaska, actually a set of six parallel zip lines so that in effect you can race your friends to the bottom. The zip landing is right by a restaurant so that the folks having lunch or coffee can watch all the zip action.
Be sure to take the shuttle bus to the village of Hoonah and have a walk around. You will find a modest town much like most small coastal towns in Alaska before the recent wave of tourism changed so much. Despite the cannery becoming a visitor attraction, commercial fishing is still one of the engines that drives the town and Hoonah Cold Storage, located on pilings over the harbor freezes the salmon that the locals catch.
When John Muir came by canoe in 1879 with native paddlers seeking the ‘bays full of ice’ that the natives had spoken about, he stopped at Hoonah to find a guide. The Hoonah natives told them to bring firewood as there was none where the ice was. Muir, having never seen a bay without firewood, doubted their story. But when Muir and the guide got up into Glacier Bay, he was glad they had brought firewood, as freshly emerged from the ice, Glacier Bay was totally empty of trees and wood.
Icy Strait Point is located in Port Frederick, just across Icy Strait from the entrance to Glacier Bay.