Your ultimate guide to the Kenai Fjords National Park

All cats know the best way to see Alaska is from the water, and a boat tour of the Kenai Fjords National Park is a fantastic option to do so. Traveling cats love this boat tour because of the abundance of wildlife, including sea birds like the adorable tufted puffin. Your human will also find plenty of reasons to enjoy this excursion, including a heated boat and stunning views of some of Alaska’s massive tidewater glaciers. 

So what do you need to know to book your tour? 

Any decent boat tour of Kenai Fjords National Park will run 6+ hours in length. You may find some that claim to be 3-4 hours, but they usually stay in Resurrection Bay, missing out on some of the most dramatic views the area has to offer. Based on personal experience, I recommend the Kenai Fjords National Park Tour, operated by the Alaska Collection. This tour leaves twice a day – 8 am and 11 am and costs $150-180, depending on the season. 

Pro tip: For a comprehensive view of what to do in Alaska, check out The Alaska Roadtrip Itinerary.

Amazing glaciers

Boat tour of Kenia Fjords National Park - Aialik Glacier
Aialik Glacier

The number 1 reason to take a boat tour of the Kenai Fjords is the glaciers. The boat will pass by a few glaciers and then make a prolonged stop in front of at least one.

On my tour, we stopped in front of Aialik Glacier, which is known for being “active” in July and August. As we drifted in front of the monstrous slab of ice, the large boat suddenly felt very tiny. As expected, we witnessed “calving”, meaning that parts of the glacier broke off into the sea. 

The thing I love most about Alaska is how Mother Nature’s true power is on constant display. This is a place where nature controls humans, not the other way around. There is no greater reminder of her power than watching thousand-year-old ice crash into the astonishingly blue sea. It is truly a life-changing experience.

Sea life viewing

Boat tour of Kenia Fjords National Park - view from the boat
Kenai Fjords, view from the boat tour

There’s never a guarantee of seeing specific sea life on any nature tour, but you can be sure of 2 things: 1. The tour guides know where to look 2. You’ll definitely see something.

Whales are fairly common on the boat tour. On my tour, in late July, we spotted one humpback whale. You’ll also almost definitely see one of my favorite Alaskan animals, the stellar sea lion. These sea lions are much bigger than their southern relatives and instead of barking, their individual calls merge together into one endless groaning sound. It almost sounds like a distant ship’s horn; I found their call to be mesmerizing and comical at the same time. 

In addition to the whales and sea lions, you will likely run into some sea otters and harbor seals. If you are lucky, you’ll witness harbor seals resting on top of the icebergs, a truly Alaskan sight!

Sea birds: Kenai’s best-known residents

Puffin, Summer in Alaska

Another huge draw to the area is its birds, and there is no bird more iconic to the region than the adorable puffin. During this boat tour, it would be hard to miss the flocks of puffins, who nest on the sheer cliffs which meet the sea. If you’ve never seen a puffin, just imagine a pudgy tucan that also kind of looks like a penguin. 

In addition to puffins, you’ll likely see bald eagles and a laundry list of lovable sea birds including the black oystercatcher, black-billed magpie, and plenty of murres.  

Alaska’s natural beauty

On any wildlife tour, it can be easy to get overly focused on checking off a list of different animals. I’d encourage anyone that travels here to not forget to acknowledge the sheer beauty of the environment itself.

Firstly, you’ll notice the vivid blue-green color of the water, which brightens as you travel closer to the glaciers. Next, you’ll notice sheer cliffs, plunging down into the water, alongside interesting rock formations, which seem to emerge from the middle of the sea without explanation.

In addition to the already stunning amount of beauty, the water is almost always calm and the sky will change frequently throughout the day. There are so many photo opportunities on this tour, it’s practically overwhelming.

The charming town of Seward

Seaside camping at Miller's Landing in Seward, Alaska
Seaside camping at Miller’s Landing

One of the coolest things about the Kenai Fjords boat tour is the fact that it leaves from Seward. If possible, I strongly suggest traveling to Seward the day before your scheduled boat tour. Some highlights of this charming, seaside town include the Alaskan Sea Life Center, Resurrection Coffee House, and Waterfront Park.

Upon completion of your exploration, I’d suggest Ray’s Waterfront for an amazing seafood dinner, with a great view. 

I personally glamped in a dry, beach cabin at Miller’s Landing the night before. There were plenty of bathrooms and showers within a 2-minute walk, and the view was unbelievable. The beach cabins sit next to Resurrection Bay, where you can gaze across the sea at the majestic coastal mountains, an integral ingredient to the magic of Alaska. Additionally, the campground has built fire rings on the rocky shoreline, allowing for an evening campfire, just a few feet from the water.

Conclusion on boat tours of Kenai Fjords National Park

Of all your options when building your Alaskan vacation itinerary, a boat tour of the Kenai Fjords easily floats to the top. The glaciers, sea life, birds, and natural beauty are a great representation of Alaska summer at its finest. 

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