Whale Watching Cruises in Glacier Bay, Alaska: A Guide

We had quite a bit of difficulty coming up with the name of this article – “Whale Watching Cruises in Glacier Bay, Alaska” – because it is hard to define the precise region in which these whale watching cruises take place. The whale watching cruises we are referring to are offered in what is roughly the Glacier Bay National Park area, but the real focus of the cruises is Point Adolphus, one of the best places in the world to see Humpback whales. However, the whale watching also takes place near the Icy Strait Point, which is to the southeast of Point Adolphus. Most whale watching outfits in this area can’t really be said to be based “in” or “at” any of these locations, though; instead, they primarily operate out of Gustavus, Alaska, an extremely small town with an airport. Moreover, the whale watching cruises in the Glacier Bay area take totally different forms, and there is really only one company that offers standard whale watching cruises. In short, the situation is complex, so below we sort out the whale watching scene in and around Glacier Bay.

In case we’ve already overwhelmed you with geographical details, we’ll zoom out for a second to look at the larger land and seascape. The region of Alaska we are concerned with is Southeast Alaska, or the relatively thin stretch of land that is sandwiched between the ocean and Canada. This region is by no means a solid land mass, and is instead a collection of jaggedly shaped islands and waterways. The area around Glacier Bay is basically right in the center of it all. Since this area is in the southeast region of Alaska, it is located in a whale watching region that is not entirely distinct from the whale watching region of Washington. The two places are several hundred miles apart, but the sea life is fairly similar in the North Pacific region. Grey whales swim through these waters each spring as they head north for summer feeding, for example, and there are resident killer whales in these waters as well. However, the major draw in the Glacier Bay area is humpback whales, who congregate in this area every summer to feed. Other whales can be seen on the whale watching cruises around Glacier Bay, but humpback whales are definitely the main focus.

As we mentioned above, there is really only one company that offers traditional whale watching cruises, by which we mean regularly scheduled cruises that take place on a relatively large vessel and last a few hours. These cruises are offered by the Gustavus-based TAZ Whale Watching Tours, which sails out twice a day for three-and-a-half-hour cruises from late May through early September. (At the beginning and end of the season, only one cruise is offered a day.) These cruises are $120 for adults and $60 for children ages 4-12. (Three and under sail free.)

The rest of the whale watching cruises are quite a bit different. A couple of other outfits offer private cruises for groups in the four- to six-people range. Glacier Bay Sportfishing is one such company, and private whale watching cruises are also offered by the Wild Alaska Inn. These cruises are in the $1,000 range, with the price depending on how long the whale watching excursion lasts. Finally, there are at least a couple of companies that offer kayaking trips, which can last multiple days, that are specifically aimed at seeing whales. Spirit Walker Expeditions of Alaska offers these trips, as does the Alaska Mountain Guides and Climbing School. The prices vary widely depending on the nature and length of your journey, but even a day-long trip costs hundreds of dollars, and trips that last longer can quickly climb above a thousand dollars.

As you can see, there are many whale watching opportunities in Glacier Bay. Only one company offers whale watching cruises in the way that we normal define that activity on this site, but there are other possibilities that might appeal to you as well. For more general information, check out our article on whale watching cruises in Alaska.

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