Before I begin... I have to admit this is glamping, which is very unlike us..... please continue....
If you want to get off the beaten path in Alaska, but aren’t looking for an incredibly rustic experience, then Orca Islands outside of Seward, Alaska might be for you. We happened upon it while searching for a place to stay along the coast as a rest period in between backcountry hiking experiences in the Kenai Peninsula and Lake Clark wilderness. For us, it was glamping at the extreme, which was very unusual a for us, but it offered a chance to be out of a hotel and some opportunities for quick hikes and paddles in protected coves on the Pacific Ocean.
You’ll meet the Orca staff at the J Dock and park in a self-serve overnight parking lot. You’ll load your gear in their small boat and grab ice for your cooler, which serves as your refrigeration while at Orca Island. A quick one hour boat ride gives you the full Resurrection Bay experience. You’ll likely see sea otters and eagles while scanning the bay and the mountain side. If you are lucky you’ll see whales, but that is usually only in early June as they pass through.
Humpy Cove is a very well protected cove that rarely sees large waves or wind and has predictable tidal action, so the fishing, kayaking, and paddle boarding are reliable activities as long as you don’t mind rain. This area gets a lot of precipitation; remember it is a temperate rain forest.
The yurts are situated on the rocky hillside and seem to cling to the rock faces. They have arranged the 8 yurts to give each guest nice views of the ocean, but they are a little different, so if you have specific preferences, voice it when you book. Ours was the closest one to our neighbors and we could hear them talking, cooking, listening to music, etc. If you are looking for seclusion, this is not the place for you. Think of it as being among a community of other vacationers who will mingle and share common spaces and resources. Once you understand that, you’ll be better prepared.
Our yurt was more rustic than I had expected, with college like furnishings, furniture, and cookware, but that didn’t bother us. If you are expecting that hefty price tag for each night to come with posh interiors, remember this is Alaska. Getting resources to these remote locations is difficult. We had a comfortable bed with a hodgepodge of bedding, a futon, a porch table and plywood kitchen. The propane stove worked well and we always had hot water for our shower or dishes. The composting toilet was a bit odd as you had to climb a set of stairs and felt like you were on a throne. It made for a lot of good jokes though.
There are three basic activities at Orca island: kayaking the protected coves over to a waterfall, hiking up to an old WWII lookout, and fishing or tide-pooling around the island.
Kayaking to the waterfall
Hiking to the WWII bunker
They have also added some propane fire pits to the decking and we really enjoyed visiting with some of the other guests late into the bright Alaskan evening.
Orca Island decking
Pros-Yes, the views are amazing. It is as advertised and the decks are spectacular. The kayaking felt safe and the tides and waves were manageable with little worry. I'm amazed they can take on that liability with the cold water, but it went well for us. We always had warm water and the kitchen had everything we needed. The hike was rugged and straight up to an amazing view. I was not expecting it to be that cool on top and it didn't disappoint. We loved seeing the starfish come and go in the tides. We saw jellyfish smacks, otters, and sea lions.
Cons- you are not alone or as secluded as you might like. We could hear the guests next to us talking, cooking, listening to music, etc. There are also others sharing the activities, so you may have to wait to do what you want to do. Our timing worked out so that we never had to wait, but with covid, there were only 4/8 yurts full. It rains a LOT in Alaska, so one of our days was cold and foggy. You might get stuck with bad weather and limited views. Our first day was really cold and wet, but the next day was perfect. Bring everything you need. You'll put everything in a big cooler, so bring ice and prepare to operate out of limited resources. It is pretty bare bones and rustic- think plywood and patio tables. Bring sleeping masks for the bright nights.