During the summer of 2019, writer Tera Swanson spent a week in and around Seward. Each day brought new adventures. However, the Northwestern Fjord Tour was clearly Tera's pinnacle of Alaska experience. Find out why.
It was the end of a week spent exploring some of the most rugged and wild places I’ve ever experienced. The environs of Seward, Alaska were also the most northerly location I’d ever stepped foot.
From the intimate remoteness of Fox Island, where it feels like you’re the only soul in the world, to the jagged rock spires emerging from the ocean in Cape Aialik (a vista that bordered on tropical it was so lush), and with glaciers seemingly around every corner our catamaran covered, I had already experienced some of the most breathtaking locations of my life in just a handful of days. I thought it would be impossible to beat.
Earlier in the week, I'd experienced the six-hour Kenai Fjord National Park tour which covered some of the park's most spectacular highlights. I wondered whether another tour was necessary. So when I boarded the catamaran in the Seward boat harbor for the second time—this time on the Northwestern Fjord Tour—it was with low expectation. How could it get any better?
What is the Northwestern Fjord Tour?
When researching a trip with Kenai Fjords Tours, whether before your arrival or at the information office near the boat harbor, the Northwestern Fjord Tour may not immediately stand out as a first choice. It’s the longest of all tours offered, and therefore it's not recommended for younger children. The nine-hour return trip over the Gulf of Alaska’s choppy waters can be daunting (or soothing, if you’re that kind of person), and without seeing the glaciers that are on other tours' itineraries firsthand, it can be hard to compare them all.
But this tour was different. It was clear from the beginning that the Northwestern Fjord Tour was going to be epic. Within the first couple of hours of our journey we’d seen more wildlife than the past four days combined. Pods of up to ten orcas danced a short distance away, their dorsal fins breaking the water’s surface as they spouted air like an ocean organ pipe. Puffins sped across the water’s surface, racing alongside the catamaran. The occasional bald eagle was proudly perched atop the spires dotting the craggy coastline. Not to mention seabird rookeries, sunbathing Steller sea lions, and otters floating casually on the water’s surface.
The deckhand's choice
It wasn't a surprise to learn that the Northwestern Fjord Tour was the crew's choice as well. Casey, a deckhand from Philadelphia, said he had personally requested being placed on the Northwestern Fjord Tour for the entire summer. It was his second summer working for Kenai Fjords Tours and while he was a big fan of glaciers like Holgate and Aialik, which I'd admired on the Kenai Fjords National Park Tour (and is also a highlight of the Glacier Dinner Cruise), it was clear this tour was his favorite.