Juneau Whale Watching Tours#3 in Best Things To Do in Juneau
Many travelers make the trek to Alaska for two things: glaciers and whales. The latter can be a bit more elusive to spot, which is why it's best to sign up for a whale watching tour. In Juneau, North Pacific humpbacks and orcas are the two most common types of whales migrating through these calm waters. Humpbacks feed off krill and small baitfish, which Juneau's waters are chock full of. The best time to see activity in the water is during migration season (May through September). Though you may be able to spot some movement from the shore (with the help of some binoculars), you'll score a better view if you sign up for a whale watching boat tour.
There are no shortage of traveler-approved tours to choose from, each offering a different experience. If you don't want to share deck space with dozens of other tourists, consider Harv and Marv's Outback Alaska. The three-hour tours are limited to six passengers and include a complimentary stop at the Brotherhood Bridge for a view of the Mendenhall Glacier. Gastineau Guiding Company is unique in that it offers hands-on experiences that allow passengers to play a part in data collection for local university and regional science programs (collecting water and plankton samples and recording marine mammal observations, for example). Juneau Whale Watch and Adventures in Alaska are two more companies travelers recommend.
Prices can vary widely by tour, but you should expect to pay at least $100 per person for the experience, which generally lasts several hours and includes water, a snack and binoculars for use during the tour (most boats have a restroom on board). Most companies will pick you up at the cruise ship terminal before transporting you to a nearby dock to start the excursion. Check each company's website for more information on pricing and tour times.
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#1 Tracy Arm Fjord
A "fjord" is a Nordic term meaning a narrow waterway surrounded by sharp cliffs. So while Juneau's Mendenhall Glacier steals most of the tourist traffic, the 27-mile-long Tracy Arm Fjord is the bigger, better and more dramatic natural gem. The inlet is very narrow – at times, no more than half a mile wide – with cliffs that rise more than 3,000 feet on either side and waterfalls that cascade down the steep rock walls. During the summer, you can spot eagles, seals, bears and whales here.
Recent visitors said that if you only have time for one experience in Juneau, this is it. Travelers described the glacial scenery as "incredible" and "breathtaking," and recommended bringing along a quality set of binoculars and a camera to capture the scene.
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