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Gustavus, Alaska: Glacial Weekend

Looking for a taste of small-town life? This scenic Alaska village of 470 has you covered.

view from Bartlett Cove near Gustavus Alaska, image
Photo caption
Go for a boat excursion on Bartlett Cove, which is just eight miles from Gustavus.

Pioneers in the early 1900s called this spot Strawberry Point for its fields of wild berries. Bordered on three sides by Glacier Bay National Park and reachable only by boat or plane, Gustavus today is a throwback, a town of 470 with no stoplights. Bumper stickers say, "What's the hurry? You're already here." Area code is 907 unless otherwise noted.

To Do And See
Glacier Bay National Park Eight miles by road from Gustavus is Bartlett Cove, site of the park headquarters (697-2230, and Glacier Bay Lodge (697-4000, Rent cars from Bud, 697-2403. Bartlett Cove is the starting point for a daily boat excursion to view tidewater glaciers in the bay's upper inlets. Wildlife sightings may include whales, puffins, bears, mountain goats, and even wolves. Mount Fairweather Golf Course Set near the beach with magnificent views of the Fairweather Range (rising to 15,300 feet), this nine-hole course isn't exactly Augusta, but it's fun all the same, with fairways curving around old rusted tractors and trucks. Fees are on the honor system; just put your money in the jar. Questions? Call Morgan, 697-2214. Spirit Walker Expeditions Go sea kayaking and camping for several days in Icy Strait, adjacent to Gustavus, or just take a day trip. Guides prepare delicious meals and tell great stories. 697-2266, Taz Whale Watching Tours Twice daily boat excursions head to Icy Strait and Point Adolphus, where humpback whales feed on herring and other fish. The skipper kills the engine so you can hear the whales blowing and splashing. (888) 698-2726,

Fireweed Gallery Artworks include Alaska-theme paintings, pottery, photography, jewelry, and handmade cards. The gallery is also home to a coffee shop serving lattes and sandwich crepes. 697-3013, Gustavus Dray & Petrol Museum This old-time gas station with working 1930s pumps presents a range of antiques, some on display and some for sale. 697-2481. The Outpost Stocks a magnificent collection of handcarved wooden masks by Lou Cacioppo; local musicians gather here for open-mike nights.

Gustavus Inn Dinner is a must at this winner of a recent James Beard Foundation Award for excellence in the culinary arts. Locally caught halibut, salmon, Dungeness crab, and black cod are offered on alternate nights. Specialties include salads from the garden, homemade bread, kelp pickles, and berry pies. Fresh wildflowers brighten every table. Make reservations well in advance and arrive early to stroll the manicured grounds. 697-2254, Sunnyside Market A convenient spot to pick up hot or cold sandwiches for a quick lunch when bicycling around town. 697-3060

Photography courtesy of Glacier Bay National Park

This article was first published in July 2013. Some facts my have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.