When you think about vacationing in Alaska, most people immediately jump to the summer months when the salmon are running and the fireweed is blooming, but there is so much more to enjoy! I'm not sure if we're technically in "shoulder" season yet, but the shoulder seasons are the late spring and early fall months when there are fewer tourists but still plenty to do.
One amazing adventure, only available in the spring shoulder season, is the migration of the gray whales to Alaska. We took a little family getaway to Seward to take a Kenai Fjords Tour during the few short weeks the gray whales are here, to see if we could spot a few of our own.
First, we booked our lodging at the Salted Roots Cabins! These are four adorable cabins down on Lowell Point, just a few minutes drive south of Seward. The cabins were recently built with lots of modern amenities. There are two, 2-bedroom units (plus pull-out couches in the living room) that will sleep 6, and two 1- bedroom cabins - we stayed in the "Red Door Cabin" with 2 bedrooms. The upstairs loft bedroom has two twin beds, but after a little searching we found the kit that will attach the twin mattresses together to make a king bed upstairs too. The cabins are heated by a wood pellet stove - similar to a Traeger, but for keeping you warm! It was easy to operate and we were very toasty all weekend. The bathroom boasted heated floors which is so nice and cozy, complete with a dual head shower, and full-size soaking tub! The cabins don't have a TV, but they do have wifi - and this was perfect for us! Not having a TV meant we focused on each other and hanging out, versus media. That said, if you want to bring your own technology, I was impressed by the internet speeds and reliability when we needed it.
*Some photos courtesy of https://www.saltedrootsalaska.com
** One note, if you want to stay at these beautiful cabins - BOOK EARLY! We were able to find a mid-week rental pretty easily in March, but the cabins are typically booked back-to-back in the busy months! You can book directly on their website, or on Air B&B.
Our first night we celebrated Terry's birthday, so we brought flash baked Moose's Tooth pizza with us, and an ice cream cake! Thanks to the freezing temperatures outside, the ice cream cake made the trip in the Yeti just fine. Thursday morning we had a slow breakfast, and eventually made our way into Seward to the Kenai Fjords Tours office to check in and get ready for boarding our whale tour. The whale tour is the shortest duration tour that they offer, so if you're worried about your kids attention span this is a great option! I definitely recommend bringing seasickness meds with you - I NEVER get seasick, but on this trip it was sleeting outside, so I spent more time in the boat than typical - which left me feeling a little rough. I'm glad we had our meds with us, I felt much better!
On our search for the whales, the captain took us into many coves and inlets throughout Resurrection Bay, including Thumb Cove, Humpy Cove, and around Rugged Island. He pointed out the Orca Island Cabins to us, and after we got back I looked into these further. This seasonal business rents out yurts for overnight stays, and it looks like an AMAZING trip for a couple, or a few besties - you bring all of your food and supplies with you via water taxi, but the yurts are totally decked out and look amazing! If you're thinking small spaces and canvas tent - think again, these things are like little houses! I think if any of my girlfriends come out to visit we're going to do this for sure! I think my kids are a bit young for a trip out here (ie: they need too much crap... pack and plays... diapers.. etc.) but I can't wait to plan a trip in the future!
We got to see sea otters, bald eagles, dall sheep, sea lions, harbor seals and mountain goats - but the highlight of the trip was definitely the humpback whales!! While it wasn't the gray whales we expected, we were delighted at the super rare sighting of humpback whales this early in the season - even the captain was surprised! The boys took a little catnap on the boat ride back into town, while Harley and I did some more sea otter spotting in the bay. One thing I completely forgot to bring (for the second time) is binoculars! It would have been so amazing to get a closer look at these special animals, I won't forget next time!
After we returned, we swung through the local hardware store - a must-do in any small Alaskan town (If you know, you know), and headed to the Highliner Restaurant. Google and Apple Maps said this restaurant is closed, but the OPEN sign in the window indicated otherwise. My halibut fish and chips were FANTASTIC, and we'll definitely visit this place again when we come back to Seward this summer.
It was a great, easy, short trip for our family but it felt like we were worlds away! I always say Alaska is so amazing, you drive 45 minutes and it's like you're in a different country. We're so lucky to live here - come visit!