Yakutat: Alaska's Hidden Gem
Updated: Sep 1, 2022
We recently spent a long weekend in Yakutat, AK and were surprisingly amazed by this town – the hidden gem of AK! Yakutat touched us to the core, and we left having decided to return annually. Yakutat is accessible only by boat or plane, so plan ahead for activities, lodging, car rental, and food, as this small town of ~600 can only accommodate so much!
Here are some noteworthy things we discovered while in Yakutat:
Yakutat is considered a world-class surfing destination. While we didn’t see any surfers, we did spend a good amount of time at the amazingly beautiful sandy beaches Yakutat offers (who knew Alaska had sandy beaches?!). Cannon Beach stretches for endless miles with nary a soul in sight. We visited Cannon Beach 3 times, and saw a combined 6 people who were WAY off in the distance. Far from anything like the crowds of Miami! The beach is lined with beautiful, large driftwood as far as the eye can see, and butts up to a lush forest, home to WW2 cannons, bear, moose, and eagles. We watched the eagles soaring overhead while dipping our toes in the North Pacific. Quite a remarkable experience!
The beaches by Ocean Cape are also quite spectacular, offering views of Mount Saint Elias (the second highest peak in the U.S.) and tide pools (at low tide) filled with various sea creatures one can explore.
Hubbard Glacier (the longest tidewater glacier in North America) was AH-mazing to see! We watched and heard it calve at least a dozen times while there. My husband even flew his drone over the glacier.
Hubbard Glacier is not accessible to large cruise ships. Cruise ships are too big to navigate the icy waters or turn around and book it in case of a major calving. Therefore, the cruise ships stop quite a long distance rom the glacier. I’m not even sure they were close enough to hear it calve (we saw 2 cruise ships sitting outside the ice field, and in much need of a good pair of binoculars!). This is all to say that if folks want to get up close and personal with Hubbard, the only way to do so is via a small boat tour; if they expect to do so on a cruise ship, they will be disappointed (unless, of course, the ship offers an excursion!).
Halibut Fishing and Lodging:
Salmon fishing is a dominant activity in Yakutat, but we found many folks come here for halibut fishing charters as well. The visitors we spoke with have made Yakutat their annual fishing destination, usually for 7-10 days. Many companies offer halibut charters, halibut processing, and lodging. Aaron used Yakutat Charter Boat Company (YCBC) for his halibut trip, and came back with a freezer full of fish!
Although we did not fish with Clear Water Charters, we did lodge with them at the Red Roof Bed & Breakfast. Red Roof is very modest, offering four rooms with bunks and private bathrooms as well as a shared kitchen…although don’t be deceived by the name – there is no breakfast! We were the B&B's first “new” guests in years – as guests tend to be the owner's family and friends who return annually to fish. Info: email@example.com, 907-784-3297 or 907-410-7459.
Leonard’s Landing Lodge also offers lodging, boat rentals, a gift and tackle shop, and will clean/pack/freeze your fish for you to take home (leonardslanding.com).
The locals embraced us with open arms. While Mannie and I waited at the harbor for Aaron to return from his halibut charter, a wonderful woman and her children took Mannie all over the piers in search of starfish, sea anemones, snails, clams, etc. and gave him a wonderful lesson on sea creatures. Other locals happily pointed us to the best places to fish for salmon (depends on when they are running, but the Situk River was wonderful for salmon and also flowing with bald eagles), watch moose, bear, and surfers.
Food is expensive and limited. There are groceries available at the AC as well as Mallott’s General Store, but prices are shocking (rightly so, given how far everything travels)! For example, a box of cheerios was $18 and a handful of strawberries was $14. The stores also have limited hours – closing by 6 or 7pm.
We found Glacier Bear Lodge has a bar, restaurant, and shop, as does Yakutat Lodge, next to the airport. There is also one bar in town, but that’s all in terms of eating out.
One learned practice is to not grocery shop at the general store, but rather pack coolers with the food you will eat for the time you are there. Prior to departing Yakutat, fill the coolers with the fish you caught to bring back home. This is MUCH more economical and you are guaranteed the food you want when you want it. The general stores are good for a few provisions here and there, but not to shop for a week’s worth of groceries.
The lodges we called offered to arrange car rentals. However, we found there is only one rental in town: Economy Auto Leasing, 907-784-3316. Rentals ran about $130 a day (including taxes). All of the rentals are a typical Alaskan car – pretty banged up. Ours had a cracked windshield, torn upholstery, and every light on the dash was lit! But, it did its job. The rental office is literally a stone’s throw to the airport.
I'll end this post with a couple of videos to bring our experience to you! The first video captures the excitement of seeing the Hubbard Glacier calve; the second is the peaceful North Pacific Ocean washing ashore at Cannon Beach. Thank you for reading and happy travels!