Note: This is the first in our two-part series about Kodiak Island and the town of Kodiak, located approximately 252 air miles from Anchorage. It’s Memorial weekend, and the annual Crab Festival is in full swing at the same time summer seems to have arrived, an ideal recipe for a family vacation.
Kodiak is often overlooked on the itinerary of many an Alaska family vacation. Perhaps it’s the location (an extra hour of flying from Anchorage, or direct via Alaska Airlines from Seattle), remote and rugged; but I really think visitors feel they might miss the rest of Alaska if the bulk of their time in spent in one place. Kodiak is also known for its crazy weather, with fog, rain, and wind wreaking havoc with flight times and some activities for the unprepared. But for those who seek a balance between tourism and unfettered Alaska living, Kodiak might be the place to bring the kids.
We arrived via Era Alaska’s nimble Dash-8 aircraft on a morning flight, allowing an entire afternoon to mix and mingle with the Crab Fest crowd. Happening through Monday, Crab Fest is a homey sort of event that draws fisherman, families, and visitors for its atmosphere and music, not to mention carnival rides and food (do try the chocolate-covered bacon). Centrally-located near the harbor, the festival is an easy walk for most kids, and they’ll love the ride/eat/play factor that makes a visit even sweeter.
Lodging in Kodiak ranges from a few hotels to smaller guest houses and inns. We chose Cliff House Bed and Breakfast, located on the water just northeast of town. While it’s sometimes hard to judge the kid-friendliness of bed and breakfast establishments, owners Marty and Marion Owen answered all my questions prior to booking, and made sure our little family was comfortable in the “Suite of Murals” in the upstairs portion of the inn. Quiet, airy, and full of personal touches, we have a full kitchen, sitting area, three bedrooms, and a tranquil view the passage between Kodiak Island and Near Island, a stone’s throw away. Marion even stocked the refrigerator with breakfast items, snacks, coffee, and juice, saving us a trip to the store. The Owens also assist their guests with dinner cruises, activities, and answering questions about Marion’s incredible, organic garden outside. With a motto of “renewing where nature meets hospitality,” families should feel right at home. There’s even a park right across the driveway!
Activities outside of the town of Kodiak (Kodiak Island is the largest of the archipelago) drew us away from snacking and gardening with a request by AK Kid for a short hike prior to dinner. The Owens recommended Fort Abercrombie State Park, a quick three miles north of downtown. This former WWII coastal defense site is well-maintained and a fascinating history lesson for kids, with myriad trails, old concrete bunkers, and two 8-inch gun emplacements. The site at Miller Point is also home to the Kodiak Military History Museum, closed by the time we reached it, but on our list for this afternoon. We chose Lake Gertrude trail for our family hike, finding the enormous spruce trees, mossy forest floor, and magical beach to appease our little explorer quite nicely. State park staff offer tidepooling and naturalist programs throughout the summer, and families visiting Kodiak should make sure to attend at least one guided experience while here.
We’ve traveled around most of Alaska’s coastal communities; Kodiak, so far, is as charming as the rest. The combination of ocean environment and a simple, honest outdoor lifestyle is a refreshing thing, indeed. Kodiak is missing the cruise ship frenzy of many southeast Alaska ports (Princess and Holland America do stop in, but not on every itinerary), and this seems to draw more adventure-minded visitors. Bear-viewing, kayaking, fishing, hiking, and flightseeing are all top attractions for most tourists, and we, like they, are becoming captured by this place.