Located just a few miles from park headquarters, the town of Gustavus is the jumping-off point for adventures in Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve and a charming little village of artists, musicians and writers, fantastic gardens, wild strawberries, and stunning views.
About Gustavus and Glacier Bay
With its spectacular glaciers and abundance of marine wildlife, Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve has become the crown jewel in the itinerary of many cruise passengers and independent travelers. The bay features seven tidewater glaciers that spill out of the mountains and deposit icebergs of all shapes, sizes, and shades of blue into the ocean. Of the park’s more than 300,000 annual visitors, over 90 percent visit on a cruise ship and never set foot on shore, but the independent travelers who visit Gustavus get the bonus of experiencing this friendly, tranquil town.
Things to do
Like many places known for natural beauty, Gustavus boasts several acclaimed sculptors, painters, potters, jewelers, and woodcarvers. You can see their work at local galleries, studios, and shops in town. You can experience the area’s natural beauty yourself with popular activities like hiking the Nagoonberry Loop Trail, biking through town, beachcombing, kayaking, fishing, and of course – exploring Glacier Bay National Park.
Bartlett Cove, nine miles by road from Gustavus, is the Glacier Bay National Park headquarters and the site of a campground, a lodge, restaurant, bar, and the only maintained hiking trails in the park. At Bartlett Cove, paddlers rent kayaks, visitors board tour boats for a day cruise into the park, and rangers lead guided hikes and give naturalist programs. At the foot of the main dock is the National Park Service Visitor Information Station, where you can obtain backcountry permits, seek out information, or purchase a variety of books or topographic maps.
Glacier Bay National Park is the traditional land of the Huna Tlingit, and you can learn about the culture and see demonstrations at the Xunaa Shuká Hít Tribal House. The National Park Service and Hoonah Indian Association cultural interpreters share information on Huna Tlingit traditions and history at the tribal house.
Gustavus is a top destination for charter fishing away from the crowds of some other fishing towns. Charter fishing guides based in Gustavus primarily fish Icy Strait and Cross Sound for a variety of species including all five species of Pacific salmon, rockfish, lingcod, and everybody’s favorite: halibut. If you’re looking for a multi-day fishing experience, stay at one of the local fishing lodges that provide accommodations, meals, and daily fishing charters.
Glacier Bay offers some of the best sea kayaking in the Inside Passage, an opportunity to paddle in protected coves and past glaciers and icebergs. Kayaks can be rented in Bartlett Cove and then placed on tour boats to avoid the long paddle up the bay. Guided kayak trips can also be arranged in both Bartlett Cove and Gustavus that range from a day trip to a multi-day adventure.
The waters of Icy Strait and around the entrance to Glacier Bay are a great spot for whale watching. Book a whale watching boat trip to see humpbacks, orcas, minke whales, and other marine wildlife. Trips range from day trips to overnight excursions.
Staying in Gustavus
A number of cozy lodges provide a luxurious place to rest your head at night, and often include meals and activity add-ons such as fishing and whale watching. Gustavus is also home to a variety of comfortable inns, B&Bs, and guest houses.
Getting to Gustavus
Gustavus is easily accessible via regularly scheduled air service or air taxi from Juneau. The town is also on the Alaska Marine Highway System and can be reached by taking the ferry from Juneau.