Cruise Port Guide: Best Things to Do in Icy Strait Point, Alaska on a Cruise

Icy Strait Point Duck Point Smokehouse.
Icy Strait Point Duck Point Smokehouse. (Photo by Sherry Laskin / Cruise Maven)

Trying to choose the best things to do in Icy Strait Point, Alaska can be overwhelming. I’ve compiled my list of what to do in Icy Strait Point with only a few hours in port.

Icy Strait Point, Alaska is a purpose-built and Alaska Tlinglit native-owned cruise port. The nearest town is Hoonah, a flat, walkable 1.5 miles from the port. 

Unlike other congested Alaskan downtown cruise ports, you will find plenty of authentic Alaskan experiences to fill your day. Plus, plenty of wildlife sightings abound; bears, eagles, and whales can all be seen from the port area. 

Here’s what you can do in Icy Strait Point in one day on your Alaska cruise.

Icy Strait Point Lookout
Worth a stop just to look out over the gorgeous scenery. (Photo by Sherry Laskin / Cruise Maven)

Best Things to Do in Icy Strait Point, Alaska

In a nutshell, you’ll want to explore the port area of Icy Strait Point, take a shore excursion in search of whales, see the cultural attractions, grab fresh seafood for lunch and possibly spot wildlife. All in one day! 

Along the way, you’ll learn how Icy Strait Point truly preserves the indigenous culture of the Tlingit people and in the nearby town of Hoonah. 

Keep reading for my detailed list of what to do, inspiring Icy Strait Point photos plus where your ship will dock, food, entertainment and more. 

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Icy Strait Point – 100% Locally Owned

Icy Strait Point is the only cruise port in Alaska that is privately owned and operated. The port is under the authority of the Alaska Huna Totem Corporation and its Alaska native shareholders. All profits directly go to support the people and town of Hoonah.

The port features authentic replications of the culture and history of the Huna people and includes the completely restored salmon cannery that burned down in 1944. All of the proceeds from tourism in this town go back to the Huna Tlingit and the Huna Totem Corporation. 

This means that your visit helps to support the native people to remain on the land that they have called home for thousands of years. 

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In addition, Icy Strait Point is a great jumping-off point for all sorts of shore excursions. Guaranteed whale watching tours, plus more Alaskan wildlife such seals, brown bears, otters, eagles, and more!

Read on as we go over all the things you can do in Icy Strait Point on a cruise day in port. 

Where is Icy Strait Point?

Icy Strait Point is located on Chichagof Island in Southeast Alaska, about 35 miles west of Juneau, the state capital. It’s where Port Frederick Bay meets Icy Strait Point. 

There is a floating dock where two cruise ships can berth and passengers can walk directly into Icy Strait Point. 

Icy Strait Point with ship docked.
Radiance of the Seas docked in Icy Strait Point with a tour boat alongside loading up for a whale watching trip. (Photo by Sherry Laskin / Cruise Maven)

Nearby, just 1.6 miles (2.6km) away, is Alaska’s largest native Tlingit village, the town of Hoonah. This isn’t a touristy town with lively attractions. However, if you want to get there, you can catch a shuttle bus for around $5. Surrounded by lush vegetation and a surprise sighting of wildlife, a visit into Hoonah is well worth it. 

Icy Strait Point – A Little History

Magnificient Glacier Bay, in the panhandle of Alaska, has been home to the Huna Tlingit for thousands of years. Although their homeland was traditionally farther north, glacial growth during the Little Ice Age sent the Tlingit south to Icy Strait Point, where they usually traveled in the summertime for the harvest. 

The Huna quickly made Icy Strait point their permanent home, as resources were plentiful. Since the residents are still mainly Huna Tlingit, the town is named Hoonah and located about 1 1/2 miles from the port. 

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In 1912, the Hoonah Packing Company, a prosperous salmon canning company, opened for business on Icy Strait Point, providing the locals with factory jobs. However, the cannery only stayed in operation until 1953. 

It wasn’t until May 2004 that the Huna Totem Corporation began operations at Icy Strait Point. That year saw 32 ships and 55,000 passengers visit the newly-opened cruise destination. 

The Corporation works to preserve the culture and practices of the Huna people by helping them find jobs and promoting local businesses without destroying the expansive wilderness that makes the town so beautiful and resources so bountiful. 

Currently, Icy Strait Point’s primary industry is cruise ship tourism, and 85% of the people who work in the port are Tlingit locals.

Where Do Cruise Ships Dock in Icy Strait?

Icy Strait Point is a destination port, meaning it has its own attractions. Your cruise ship will drop you off right in the middle of all of the action. 

Icy Strait Point Guide map
(Map courtesy Icy Strait Point)

There are now two cruise ship berths located on the “corner” of Icy Strait and the Port Frederick Inlet.

The port area, with most of the shops, restaurants, and excursion meet-up spots in Icy Strait Point, is the place to start. The local venues are just steps away from the cruise ship floating docks. 

Where to Eat in Icy Strait Point and Hoonah

If you stomach starts to growl, there are several restaurants in Icy Strait Point. In fact, don’t retreat to the ship for lunch…enjoy something local instead. 

One of the most popular restaurants for lunch is The Cookhouse Restaurant. It’s the first eatery you’ll find along the seawalk, just past the cute residences. Outdoor seating is abundant though if weather is not cooperating, you can enjoy your fish and chips indoors.

Cookhouse Restaurant in Icy Strait Point
Cookhouse Restaurant in Icy Strait Point. (Photo by Sherry Laskin / Cruise Maven)

Just past The Cookhouse and the Cannery, is the Crab House. Go little crazy here with succulent crab legs and butter. 

If you just want a snack or a sugar rush, stop by Lil’ Gen’s Donuts shack. Their freshly made donuts are fabulous.

Lil' Gens Donuts store
Lil’ Gens Donuts store. (Photo by Sherry Laskin / Cruise Maven)

Also in Icy Strait Point is the Duck Point Smokehouse, right next to the docks. For some reason, it’s never been open for business when I’ve been there…but if you want a nice cocktail and a pizza, it looks like the place to go. 

Finally, if you decide to visit Hoonah (and you should), have lunch at The Fisherman’s Daughter. Excellent salmon quesadillas and a lot more. 

Fisherman's Daughter salmon quesadilla.
Fisherman’s Daughter restaurant, salmon quesadilla. (Photo by Sherry Laskin / Cruise Maven)

Getting Around in Icy Strait Point

From the map, you can get a good idea of the layout of Icy Strait Point and scope out the areas at the port that most interest you.

There’e a shuttle bus that operates from Icy Strait Point to Hoonah for just $5 per ticket for a round-trip ride. Or if you want a one-way ticket, it’s only $3. 

Either you walk or take the shuttle; there are no ride share services like Uber or Lyft available in Icy Strait Point. 

Icy Strait Point Seawalk to Hoonah. That's the shuttle bus in the distance.
Walking back to the ship. That’s the little blue shuttle bus in the distance. (Photo by Sherry Laskin / Cruise Maven)

If you walk into town and don’t want to walk back to the ship, shuttle bus tickets are available to purchase at Huna Outfitters, located next to City Hall.

Here’s what you can expect for average walking time from the ship, beginning with the closest:  

  • Adventure Center: 3 minutes
  • Excursion Hub: 5 minutes
  • Historic Cannery where you’ll find dining, shopping and the museum: 7 minutes
  • Crab House Restaurant at the Cannery: 8 minutes
  • Cultural Theatre, Tickets and the bus from town drop-off:  9 minutes

RELATED:  Review of Whale-Watching Tour in Icy Strait 

Shopping in Icy Strait Point

At the Cannery complex, you’ll find excellent shopping for souvenirs. There are about 12 shops located within the historic Cannery. All are 100% owned by Alaskans with a wide-range of authentic Alaska items.

From small jars of Devil’s Club ointment and salmonberry jam to kitchen essentials, t-shirts and hand-carved treasures, you won’t have to lug your purchases very far to get back to your ship.

Be sure to stop by the Icy Strait Museum and gift shop for more Alaskan memorabilia to purchase. Bring home a box of smoked salmon, beautiful hand-carved sterling silver jewelry with Alaska Tlingit moieties; the Raven and Eagle.

Best Things to Do in Icy Strait Point

What to Do in ISP – Read on for all the details to plan your day.

  1. Go whale watching.
  2. Try the ZipRider.
  3. Take a birdwatching tour.
  4. See the bears at the Wildlife & Bear Search.
  5. Take the Ocean Raft Adventure.
  6. Join a tasting session at Alaska’s Wildest Kitchen.
  7. Explore the beach and nature trails.
  8. Have lunch at the Cookhouse Restaurant.
  9. Go shopping at the Warehouse Shops.
  10. Visit the Historical Cannery Museum.
  11. Watch the Tribal Dance & Cultural Legends Show.
  12. Walk into the town of Hoonah – have lunch at Fisherman’s Daughter

1. Take a Whale Watching Cruise

Icy Strait Point offers some of the best opportunities for whale watching on your Alaskan cruise, so don’t miss the Whale & Marine Mammals Cruise here! 

Point Adolphus, a one-hour boat ride away from Icy Strait Point, is the prime site to catch a view of humpback whales. 

Humpback whale tail
Humpback whale takes a dive. (Photo by Sherry Laskin / Cruise Maven)

Whales flock from Hawai’i to Point Adolphus in the summertime to enjoy the bountiful food in the area. There are so many humpback whales here that all of the tour guides at Icy Strait Point guarantee that you’ll see at least one when you take the tour.

On the tour to Point Adolphus, you might also see other Alaskan wildlife, such as seals, porpoises, sea lions, otters, and killer whales. Keep your eyes on the shoreline and you could spot brown bears and bald eagles, too. 

So, if you want to see the most wildlife possible in one 2.5-hour trip, look for a whale watching tour while you’re here. You won’t regret it!

2. Try the ZipRider

Icy strait point has the world’s largest ZipRider, which will send you on a breathtaking coast down a 5,330-foot zipline in the heart of the Alaskan wilderness. 

Icy Strait Point Ziprider
Try the Icy Strait Point ZipRider…if you dare! (Photo courtesy of ZipRider)

Before your exhilarating trip down the mountain, you’ll ride to the start, via gondola. Look around to catch a glimpse of the old forests, possibly wildlife, the bay and its stunning islands that surround Icy Strait Point’s port. 

Once you’re over 1,300 feet (396.2 m) up the mountain, you’ll undergo a safety briefing and be strapped into a sturdy seated harness. Then down you go! 

Listen to my interview with Tyler Hickman, Vice President Operations at Icy Strait Point. This interview was recorded before I ever visited Alaska or moved there. Tyler is very proud of Icy Strait Point and loves to talk about this small slice of heaven.

 

As you glide down from the scenic old-growth mountains, you’ll get a spectacular view of all of Icy Strait Point’s landscapes and the sea. If you keep your eyes peeled, you might even see bears, whales, birds, and other wildlife. 

You can’t miss this excursion, so check your ship’s plans to get the best prices for this unforgettable ride. 

3. Sign up for a Birdwatching Tour

If you’re a bird enthusiast or want to take in all of the fantastic local wildlife Icy Strait Point has to offer, take the Discovering the Birds of Hoonah Tour. 

Hoonah is home to hundreds of species of birds with its unique mixed coastal and rainforest ecosystem.

On this tour, your guide will take you on a hike to explore the native habitats of the many birds in Icy Strait Point. 

They’ll help you identify and find bald eagles, gulls, ducks, warblers, sparrows, flycatchers, jays, woodpeckers, sapsuckers, wrens, kinglets, swifts, hummingbirds, creepers, chickadees, thrushes, and so many more! 

This tour is always a big hit for families and birdwatching enthusiasts, so take advantage of it while you can!

4. See Bears at the Wildlife & Bear Search

If you want to catch a glimpse of native Alaskan brown bears and other unique forest wildlife, sign up for the Wildlife & Bear Search excursion.

On this tour, you’ll travel by tram through Hoonah into the rainforests of Icy Strait Point. Your guide will tell you all about the village, the animals, birds, and plants that live nearby, teaching you all about the forest’s ecosystem. On the way, you’ll see Sitka black-tailed deer, bald eagles, and many species of birds. 

Brown bear in Alaska

Then, your guide will lead you to a specially designed platform that overlooks the clearings near the Spasski River, where brown bears often hunt for the salmon that leap from the water. 

This tour offers some of the best opportunities to see the forest wildlife of Alaska since the locals have never cut down or developed the wilderness that surrounds them. If you want to have a wild time, don’t miss this excursion. 

5. Take the Ocean Raft Adventure

One of the best boat tours available in Icy Strait Point is the Ocean Raft Adventure

Your guide will take you out onto the water in a large engine-powered ocean raft, traveling at high speeds in the open sea’s air. During the tour, your guide will also teach you more about the local Tlingit peoples and the wildlife in the area. 

They’ll also take you searching for deer, bears, whales, otters, sea lions, seals, eagles, and puffins. 

So, if you want an exciting ride on the stunning Strait Point Sea, go on this tour. You’ll never forget it. 

6. Join a Tasting Session at Alaska’s Wildest Kitchen

Have you ever been curious about authentic Alaskan cuisine and cooking practices? Well, you can learn all about it with this one-of-a-kind cooking class! 

Alaska’s Wildest Kitchen offers cooking-class-style demonstrations and tastings led by a local Alaskan fisherwoman and wilderness chef. 

In the interactive tour, she will teach you how to cut and prepare fresh, locally-caught salmon and halibut while telling you stories about the local wildlife and cuisine. 

Then, you’ll get an opportunity to season, cook, and eat your own fish fillet on the kitchen’s huge, authentic alder grill. So, with this tour, you get a fun experience and lunch, too!

You’ll also get an alcoholic or non-alcoholic beverage included in the cost of the tour, and you’ll get to take home some recipe cards to help you bring traditional Alaskan cooking into your home!

For a taste of what you’ll experience at Alaska’s Wildest Kitchen, check out this short YouTube Video by Norwegian Cruise Line: 

7. Explore the Beach and Nature Trails

There are a lot of exciting things to do in Icy Strait Point if you want to skip the excursions. Go wilderness walking on your own, but always stick to the Icy Strait Point and Nature trail! 

The Icy Strait Point and Nature Trail is a paved path that starts right beside the port and wraps around the coastline to the west. It’s an excellent spot to catch some stunning views and get a glimpse of the local wildlife. 

Icy Strait Point Nature Park
Icy Strait Point Nature Park. (Photo by Sherry Laskin / Cruise Maven)

The trail is a 0.9-mile (1.4 km) loop, and it isn’t strenuous or steep, so expect a relaxing and short walk. However, as you pass the beach and work your way into the woods, there are three other short trail loops that you can take if you want to get deeper into the forest and see some more local animals and birds on your own. 

While you’re walking, keep an eye out for whales off the coast, deer in the brush, and eagles and other birds high in the trees. 

Also, be aware of your surroundings to ensure that you don’t run straight into a bear when you’re in the woods! Bears love Icy Strait Point. Don’t worry too much, though. They’re pretty used to the tourists, and they won’t attack unless you provoke them, so just watch out and ensure that you make plenty of noise as you walk. 

8. Have Lunch at the Cookhouse Restaurant

Icy Strait Point is most famous for its authentic Tlingit traditions. So, while you’re here, why not eat like a local? 

The Cookhouse, once the go-to restaurant for the old cannery’s workers, has plenty of options for everyone. Most of their food has a local flair, and their menu includes freshly fried halibut, salmon burgers, crab, shrimp tacos, reindeer burgers, and more. 

Cookhouse restaurant in Icy Strait Point
Cookhouse restaurant in Icy Strait Point. (Photo by Sherry Laskin / Cruise Maven)

They also offer locally-brewed beers, such as Icy Strait’s signature brew, Cannery Red Ale. Their beers are brewed with unique locally-grown ingredients, so be sure to give them a try if you’re a beer drinker!

The Cookhouse also has a fantastic atmosphere with scenic ocean views, and you might even get a performance from local singers and dancers while you eat! 

If you can’t decide what to get, I recommend their best-selling halibut and chips! The halibut is perfectly flaky and crisp with a flavor that you can’t get outside of Alaska!

9. Go Shopping at the Warehouse Shops

You can find most of the shops in Icy Strait Point near the Cannery Museum in the long red buildings. These shops are all locally owned businesses stocked with Alaska-made products.

Hoonah is well-known for its expertly crafted soaps, candles, canned salmon, and native art, so be sure to browse the shops or buy a souvenir to make your trip even more unforgettable! 

10. Visit the Cannery Museum

In the center of the port district, don’t miss a brief walk through the Icy Strait Point Historical Cannery Museum. The museum, housed in the restored Hoonah Packing Company of 1912, will teach you all about the salmon industry’s long-standing history in the area. 

Icy Strait Point Cannery
Icy Strait Point Cannery. (Photo by Sherry Laskin / Cruise Maven)

In the museum, you’ll learn about all of the different varieties of local salmon, and you’ll get a glimpse of what the factory would have looked like in its heyday. 

Be sure to check out all of the restored machines, which were once used to smoke and can salmon. It’s unbelievable to think that they still stand where they did over 100 years ago!

11. Watch the Tribal Dance and Cultural Legends Show

If you want to sit back and relax after a long day of whale-watching, wildlife-spotting, walking, and touring, head on over to the Tribal Dance and Cultural Legends show on the east side of the port. 

This show makes for a perfect introduction to Hoonah’s culture and the unique legends that the natives have carried down here for centuries. 

Performed by the native Hoonah Tlingit, the performances include music, dancing, and storytelling in a lively and entertaining atmosphere that will teach you more about what makes Icy Strait Point so unique and memorable. 

While you’re at the theater, be sure to stop and admire the enormous totem poles outside the entrance! They’re quite marvelous. 

12. Walk or Take the Shuttle into Hoonah

The walk into Hoonah is about 1 1/2 miles from the Shuttle Bus ticket stand. It’s a flat, scenic walk along the sea. There’s a good chance to spot a whale or if you feel like something’s starting at you, there could be a bear up in the hill overlooking the seawalk. 

Don’t worry. As long as you can run faster than the person you’re with, all should be okay. Just kidding. Don’t do something stupid like I did and munch on my salmon quesadilla on the walk back to the ship. Yes, a bear was following me from above. 

Conclusion: What to Do in Icy Strait Point

Icy Strait Point is an amazing place to view Alaskan wildlife, especially humpback whales. You’ll have a chance to do everything from soft adventure like a nature walk to the adrenaline-pumping ZipRider high above the treetops. 

Everything’s authentic here, from the old-growth forests and local cuisine to the Tlingit people and their cultural displays. 

From a historic and cultural standpoint, you’ll learn a lot about the Tlingit people who have inhabited the area for thousands of years. Grab some fresh seafood and an Alaska-brewed beer. For such a small town, Icy Strait Point has more to choose from than is visible at first glance.

View of Icy Strait Point floating dock.
View of Icy Strait Point floating dock. (Photo by Sherry Laskin / Cruise Maven)

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11 Comments

  1. Hi Wendi,
    Thank you for taking the time to report back after your cruise. I’m happy to learn that your lunch in town was really good and worth the walk into Hoonah. I hope the rest of your Alaska cruise was just as wonderful! And thank you for reading my Icy Strait article.

    Sherry

  2. I just visited Icy Strait last week and your blog was very informative. The Salmon tacos (not quesadilla) were amazing! Worth the hike into Hoonah.

  3. Thanks for your follow-up comment from your cruise. I agree about the souvenir prices. But it sounds like you had a good day after all. Seafood in all Alaska restaurants is expensive. Gas was $5.10/gallon last week. Everything costs more up here.

  4. You are right, I have been to this port three times. The food is way overpriced, though I did not take the walk to Hoonah. The only part I liked was the walking trail directly behind where the cruise ships park. We walked the beach, and continued up the trail and around. It was a beautiful walk.
    The souvenirs are overpriced, get an ice cream, sit on a bench and wait for the whales to do their show.

  5. Hi Peggy,
    Thanks for reading my article! That’s a really good question and I am sorry that I do not know the answer. You should give them a call and ask. Or you might be able to rent one online. I’ve never done that but I know others who have rented cameras and lens for their trips.

    And you’re right! It would be a great video taken on that zip line!
    Have a wonderful cruise to Alaska!
    Sherry

  6. Hi Sherry,
    I am going on my cruise in July. My question is do you know if they have go-pro cameras for rent at the ziprider in Icy Strait Point?
    I think it would be fun to film that ride, I am not sure I want to buy the camera though.

    Thanks

  7. I just visited icy straight point on the cruise inwas on last week. I can honestly say i have never ever been more disappointed in a port than ibwas at this one, none of the resturants were open at the port we went minto town and had food at the fishermans daughter it was absolutely disgusting the food had no flavor at all, my soda was piss warm and sonwas my milk shake. The town looks like a complete dump buildings falling apart all over and super dirty. The souvenirs were way over priced and had a horrible selection. The people were extremely rude at the port shops. The excursions are outrageous price almost double the price from the other ports we visited and everyone that did an excursion at the port was severely disappointed. I have seen that this port won port of the year in 2020 and was on the travel channels 50 places that are a must see i am completely confused about how this is possible i would have had a better time eating a sewer rat in the ghettos in detroit than we had at this port

  8. Hi Amber,
    Thanks for reading my article. It certainly isn’t necessary to spend a ton of money to enjoy all of Alaska’s amazing cruise ports. I’m glad my Icy Strait Point suggestions were helpful. Be sure to stop by the “playground” trail. There’s plenty for the kids to do there to burn off steam, lol. Enjoy your cruise! And thanks again for taking the time to leave a comment.

  9. Super helpful, we are taking all five kids on an Alaska cruise in a few weeks. We are looking for lower-cost options to have fun at all the ports. Thank you for taking the time to put this thoughtful list together.

  10. Hi Lyn,
    Thank you for reading my Icy Strait Point article! Your fishing adventure sounds amazing. For such a small place (ISP and Hoonah) there is SO much to do. Interesting that you had guards at the ready in case of bears. Bears outnumber the people on Chichagof Island and easy pickings for a free and effortless meal! I curious now and will look into your fishing tour. Some people might really prefer to do that as well. Thank you very much for taking the time to leave your comment. I’m sure it will be helpful to others, too.

  11. The last time we were in Icy Straight, we arranged a Salmon fishing expedition with 2 local guides at a river on the far side of the island for our family of 10. It was great fun, everyone hauled in a few beautiful Salmon & released them quickly. The guides took turns standing guard with their rifles at the ready in case any bears tried to join our fishing outing. The high point of our cruise!

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