Sea Lions, whales and bears! Oh My! (Seward, AK)
Our new home base hotel for this portion of our trip was Hotel Alyeska in Girdwood, Alaska. It is in-between Anchorage and Seward, amidst beautiful surroundings. It is a resort style hotel property with lots to see and do at the resort, and serves as a jumping off point for a lot of activities. All of the food we had at the Alyeska is so great. Seven Glaciers Restaurant is at the top of the gondola and is very well known in the area. A gorgeous view and a fancy meal up there can be worth the price.
While exploring Anchorage and Seward, a car is essential if you are not on a guided tour. We started our group tour day with a few pitstops at Bird Pointe and mile zero of the Iditarod Trail (all with amazing views). We were headed to Seward to take a boat ride around the Kenai Peninsula.
The biggest piece of advice I can give about taking one of these many small day cruises, is dress in layers. I had 2 long sleeve layers and my coat. Along with gloves and a hat. I used all of these (taking them on and off a lot) and it was actually a gorgeous day in August. Our leader told us that our weather that day was the best she’d seen in a while. The benefit of the group tour was that we were allowed to board early, got a private lecture from the captain, and our guides took care of lunch for us.
The basic route the boat takes is heading slowly out of the harbor, picking up speed to head out into the open, and then stopping at a glacier to watch for calving. Afterwards, we turned around and headed back. It’s a minimum of 6 hours. They do have food and refreshments on board for purchase, and you usually pre-order your lunch. Our was all included with our group tour. There is little downtime with so much wildlife but bringing a card game along for the kids is a great idea. Kids can earn a junior ranger badge by completing some activities. However, to get the badge you have to visit the national parks office in the harbor on your way out of town.
Here are some of the things we saw on our boat trip. We were assured that we saw more things than most, so please take that into account. Sea lions, jellyfish swarms, puffins, humpback whales, eagles, a bear, glacier calving, otters, and orca dolphins, whew!
Hogate Glacier – it calved a piece as big as a 3 story house. The kids thought the sound was thunder!!
I could go on and on with more wildlife pictures, so you get the idea. If you are travelling with kids, another spot not to miss nearby is the Alaska Sea Life Center in Seward. It was funded by Exxon after the Valdez oil spill. The center was educational and fun too. Hands on exhibits, an aviary, touch tanks, all different kinds of salmon, jellyfish, and Lulu the octopus. Did you know that octopus are very smart and Lulu can touch a target in order to receive a fish?
Lulu the Octopus…
The Aviary at the Sea Life Center in Seward.
With our Adventures by Disney group, we arrived at the Sea Life Center as it was closing close to 6pm. Our group received a private tour of the center, along with private presentations in the aviary, and with Lulu the octopus. Afterwards, we even had dinner in the aquarium sections of the center. Eating dinner with the aquariums of fish and diving birds as a backdrop was a great experience. The guides then gave each person a kit of clay. All of the families had a great time following along, trying to make a clay puffin from their example. These extra special touches are what make traveling with a group more interesting.
After all that, we drove back to Hotel Alyeska for the night. I think the boys were asleep seconds after their heads hit the pillow. We definitely saw and did a lot that day!!