Exit Glacier is one of only a few Alaskan glaciers accessible by road. The road is closed about 2 miles from the Glacier in the winter/spring and the closed road is unplowed so it's a tough hike through snow. Also, beware as this is bear country.
It takes all day to drive up to Seward and cruise around Resurrection Bay and Prince William Sound from Anchorage. But it is a nice trip and you'll probably see things like whales and birds and weather.
I hiked the coastal trail on a gorgeous, sunny afternoon in May, 2002. I left my car in Lowell Point, and checked the tide table at Miller's Landing. Miller's is the biggest tour shop in Lowell Point (see website below). They rent kayaks, provide water taxi, charter boats, and all kinds of tours. They were very helpful to me.
Realizing there's not enough time for me to see all I wanted to see and return before high tide, I arranged water taxi with Miller's for an evening pickup. Their water taxi service is very convenient. They can ship people, kayaks, and camping gears to any point in Resurrection Bay. And their special landing gear allows easy loading/unloading on beach without pier/dock. It's kind of expensive though. I paid $30 for a short ride between Lowell Point and North Beach (about 5 miles).
The photo shows the narrow part of the coastal trail. This 2-mile stretch between Tonsina Point and Derby Cove submerges under water when tide arises.
Try a 3hr cruise with Renown Tours. The tour is awesome! We saw many different types of wildlife including humpback and two pods of Orcas. The rugged coastline is gorgeous! We've taken the exact trip that you are describing twice. Both times we did 3hr. wildlife tours and have been very, very happy. You will get back in plenty of time to do a little shopping eat something and still catch the train. Trust me, you'll have plenty of time and will be glad you took this tour. One warning, if you are prone to seasickness you may want to take Bonine before boarding this small boat. My family and I had no problems but their were a couple of people onboard who did get a little sick.The Renown office is located within a short walk from where you will disembark from your ship. The good people at Renown were nice enough to store our luggage for us until we were ready to leave and go to the train station.
You can’t miss this nice aquarium located near Resurrection Bay when you are driving in the town of Seward. The admission is only $20 for adults, students 12-17 pay $15 and kids 4-11 pay only $10. The building is impressive and promises to show you the wonderful sealife found at the Gulf of Alaska --- so expect to see the Steller Sea Lion swimming through glass tanks, the very cute puffins, king crabs and even a giant Pacific octopus. The facility also has “touch tanks” for close encounters, and educational short films and interactive displays.
May 1 - September 14,
Monday - Thursday 9:00am - 6:30pm
Friday - Sunday 8:00am - 6:30pm
September 15 - April 30
Open 7 days a week
10 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Closed Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day
Free wheelchairs and strollers are available for those touring the Center.
Seward is a very small town and my sister and I were on the lookout for museums in the area and we did find this little Senior Museum which was interestingly connected to a Youth Center as well. Unfortunately, it was already 6 PM and the Museum was already closed and I just peeked through the window that they have exhibits on life at Seward.
But the interesting thing would be the murals on the Iditerod that you will pass by just before you readch the Museum. Seward is known for the iditerod which is a famous dog sled race, and Mile 0 or where the race starts is right here in Seward.
The map we had also said that there was some railroad exhibit across the Museum, but we did not find any - was it removed?
Once you enter Seward, you won't miss this nice welcoming Memorial...most people would probably just bypass it. But we decided to park in it, specially for picture taking purposes --- the sign looked good...
But on further inspection, we saw that the park was beside a nice lake and that the Monument was dedicated a to a boy who designed the flag of Seward, or was it the State of Alaska? His name is Benny Benson -- he was only 13 years old! Amazing story and I will just let you find out about him when you visit this place.
Alaska is celebrating its 5oth year as a state this year, 2009 and it's just so nice to read about the very short history of this State (although the native Eskimos/Indians have more history to tell here).
Seward is where that famous dog sled race starts (did you watch that Disney Movie too?)...to get to it, I just got hold of a Seward travel magazine which is free and found everywhere in Alaska. The map is so simple because Seward is so small...
I was expecting to see a bigger place but it was just a small parking lot place and there was a very nice monument made for the event. This is called MILE 0.
There's a tower of rocks and then also a three sticks holding up a sign saying that this was where the Iditerod starts. I can just imagine all the people, excited about the event. They must park their cars far away all over the streets of Seward....yhou can hear (imaginge) the dogs barking...How fun! And then I hear there are also the animal activists who are against the event --- but then this event has become a part of the history of Alaska, a place that just got its statehood 50 years ago (this year is 2009)...
There iis also metal sled monument dedcicated to a previous winner who apparently died (he was born 1964 only - so he should have been 45 this year)...how sad.
But the place is set in a nice place on the banks and there are great spots for picture taking.
So, I got hold of a SEWARD Magazine and on opening it, the first page showed a boat cruise by Major Marine Tours which promises exploration of the wildlife and glaciers...it did look like they have half-day and full-day tours....But, we were driving to Seward and expecting to be there before noon.
I dialed up their number (1-800-764-7300) and a lady (Sara) told me there was a good deal on the half-day cruise which departs at 1230 PM - only $62 plus a $19 eat all you can buffet --- okay! So, the boat could have 100 passengers but during this month of May, only 30 people have reserved so there was so much room.
The office of Majors is so easy to find at the small town of Seward - just by teh Visitor Center and you can't miss it. I paid the tour and immediately, we went to board the nice blue boat, passing through a blue-canopied deck and passing through several nice boats...
Our boat was the one featured on the magazine I was holding - the Star of the Northwest. There were two levels for passengers and an upper level for viewing. There was a park ranger who was with us throughout the tour and he spoke through a microphone that can be heard through speakers all over the boat - wherver you are. he did a good job but would not accept a tip from us later and just wanted us to tip the crew (his name was Tom).
Thew boat ride itself is very exciting, starting off with a welcome froim the captain, then introduction of the crew, and then a great buffet of salad, salmon, and steak...it was good and filling and worth the $19!
Then you see a sea otter and then a mountain goat, then porpoises/dolphins and then a killer whale orca!!! You will need your cameras of course, some bringing big ZOOMERS and we were good coz we had our binoculars. But if you missed bringing them, they also rent out binoculars for $5.
Then we passed this great mountainside cliff with amazing birds that screech by the thousands --- it was eerie and I took a video of it and upload here on VT.
The tour was exhausting with seeing all the wildlife - so by the time we reached the Bear Glacier n- we were poofed....Must be very tiring to do the whole day tour!
Overall a great experience and would do it again...
Like everywhere in Alaska, Seward and the area nearby include some of the most dramatic and breathtaking scenery in America. If you are into natural, pristine beauty and into solitude, then you are going to love Alaska.
I would definitely recommend that you take a drive outside of Seward and head over to the Kenai Beach area. IF you choose to drive onto the beach(es), I'd recommend four-wheel drive.
One little note about driving in Alaska... keep your eye on the fuel gauge. In some areas, even down in "more populated areas" like Seward and the Kenai peninsula, there are not a plethora of service stations. Don't get too low on fuel or too far from a town. :)
The bald eagle is the national symbol of the United States. And down here in the "lower 48 states", we've all become used to the idea of them being rare. That is NOT the case in Alaska. Bald eagles are literally EVERYWHERE in our gorgeous 49th state, as are many other varieties of eagles. In fact, there are so many animals that are rare or near extinct in other parts of the country that can be found in huge and increasing numbers in Alaska.
I remember one particular moment that sums up the presence of eagles in Alaska. One after in Seward, I literally saw two bald eagles sitting on top of a phone booth. (For you young kids who don't know how we made calls before cellphones, these were booths with a "pay phone" into which you inserted coins and.... oh never mind. :)
There was also a huge eagle's nest less than 400 yards from the front door of the bed and breakfast where we stayed in Seward. (see photo below)
Glaciers are alive... albeit at a slow pace, they are constantly in motion, and it's a journey that has literally taken tens of thousands of years. Pieces of the glacier ice sometimes breaks off, causing it to slide more quickly along the surface of the glacier itself. And sometimes, at the point that the glacier reaches the sea, large chunks of glacier will break off and fall into the sea.
Talk about awe-inspiring... These chunks can weigh hundreds of tons, and when they break and crash into the sea, the sound is deafening. From a safety standpoint, it's dangerous to be too close to a glacier in a smaller craft when a large chunk of ice falls into the water.
The phenomenon I describe above is referred to as "calving" in glacier-speak. If you are fortunate enough to see a really large chunk "calve", consider yourself lucky. Nature has given you an upfront look at her power and majesty.
We all know that glaciers and glacial ice contain literally the sands and waters of timelessness - they were formed literally hundreds and thousands of years ago. The thing about glaciers that has always amazed me are the depth of blue color you see when you peer into the deepest and clearest parts of the ice. The deep frozen crystal of the ages literally traps light in such a way as to produce the most amazing deep blue hue.
Just another miracle of nature. :) In the picture below, blow it up and look at the deeeeeep blue colors in the lower parts of the glacier's edge.
It's been over ten years since we visited Seward, and I honestly can't remember the name of the company with whom we did our afternoon/evening whaling and fjord tour. There are plenty of reputable outfits in the area, just do your research and pick one that offers what you're looking for.
All of them will give you the disclaimer about "we can't guarantee that you'll see a whale on any specific tour".... and that's lawyer talk, something that has to be said. From what I heard and the people I talked to, it's not really that hard to find whales, so I suspect that you'll have good luck in spotting whales galore, along with all sorts of other wildlife. The waters around Seward are teeming with life and spirit.
One of the things you're going to want to do in the Seward area will be to do a wildlife/whaling cruise through the area fjords. If you're a fan of crisp weather, deep water and nature, you'll love this. The quiet and the majest of the area are incredible, and when you get a chance to look over one of the glaciers, you'll learn that it's a living thing, these glaciers. They creak constantly like the hold of a sailing ship. And when ice breaks lose and falls (they call it calving), it roars like thunder.
Just another way that the majesty and power of this beautiful and special planet shows her pretty face in Alaska.