A few years ago while on an early season Alaska cruise our ship stopped at Icy Straight Point. For a number of reasons we had decided to take it easy that day. The ship was anchored out and we had gone ashore early in the morning and took a nice hike thru the forest. We were back on the ship well before noon and had gone out on our balcony to read.
Some of our friends had taken the opportunity to go on excursions in the port and whale watching seemed to be the choice of the day. Of the whale watching options one was a kayak trip and as we sat on our balcony we could see the kayaks move along the shore and head out toward open water.
A little over thirty minutes into our reading we were startled by a load noise coming directly below us. It was a large Humpback whale that had crossed under the ship and was blowing as it surfaced directly below our stateroom.
We had been whale watching before and had seen whales off of Hawaii, Vancouver Island and in Alaska. On one cruse up the Inner Passage we had a pod of Orcas pace the ship for over a half hour. With them I never got a picture because we never knew where they would surface next and before you could react – they were gone.
This time at Icy Straight Point our Humpback stayed near us for twenty minutes, circling and diving and putting on a real show. Most of our fellow passengers were off exploring and it didn’t seem this whale was drawing much attention at all.
That evening talking to our fellow passengers it seemed that the whale watch tours that day were mostly a dud. The kayakers had seen whales but none had come anywhere near the group and one whale watching boat had not seen any whales at all.
Sometimes lady luck just smiles in your direction…
General – This is a nature port on Chichagof Island which opened in 2004 and is only open when cruise ships are in. It was developed by the Native Tlingits and celebrates their culture. It is the ideal location for viewing wildlife and sea life. Hoonah, the only town on the island is described as the largest Tlingit Village in the state.
Where You’re docked – Depending on tides and number of ships, cruise ships either dock or tender (sometimes both). In either case, arrival is near the adventure center which is the starting point for land tours. Going in the other direction, the boardwalk takes you to the old cannery complex which now houses a museum, local shops, restaurants and a display of the original cannery operation. The Fish House is also located in this area and it is the starting point for marine tours.
Transportation – There are very limited car rentals or taxi service. A sightseeing trolley is sometimes operational. If you plan to do more then a walking exploration, it is probably best to book a tour.
Money – The US dollar is used here
The largest and highest zipline in North America is located at ISP. It runs 5330 feet and includes a 1300 foot vertical drop.
Hoonah Village is a short ride from where you come ashore. If a trolley is running it will be one of the stops. It is a very small community with only a few shops and restaurants.
The nature trail provides an opportunity to see native plants and possibly brown bears, bald eagles and the Sitka black tailed deer. If the weather is wet, trails can be very muddy so hiking boots are recommended.
Porpoises and whales have been sighted from shore and ship and several tours visit the Point Adolphus area, a prime location for whale watching.
NOTE: Cruise ships do not dock near town but do dock right next to the Adventure Center which is the major attraction at this port.