Sea Kayaking in Alaska

    • How To Do It?
    • Where To Go?
    • What To Bring?
    • How To Do It Safely?

    A man of wisdom delights in water. – Confucius


    Sea kayaking  is a fantastic way to explore wild Alaska. The adventure of paddling across a deep fjord, between towering mountains and rolling icebergs is a great experience. Sea kayaking is a fun adventure most places, but Alaska is really home to some of the greatest sea kayaking trips and locations anywhere. A coastline that is seemingly infinite, a maze of waterways that follow some spectacular coastal mountain ranges provide an array of sea kayaking adventure opportunities.

    Getting Started

    Generally, Alaska sea kayaking trips base out of southeast and south central Alaska. The western and north coasts can be home to some rugged and particularly nefarious weather patterns, and paddling here is for the extremely hardy. Most folks enjoy the calmer and more protected waters of the inner coastal passages in south east Alaska and south central Alaska. But, if you’re an experienced paddler and outdoors person, there are countless more places you can explore.

    Some of the locations are more accessible than others. Many require a floatplane and/or water taxi just to approach, while others begin right from a parking lot on the side of a road. Expect accessibility to mirror cost; the more inaccessible it is, the higher the costs involved in getting there. Easier access generally will drive down the cost of your trip, and usually very significantly.

    Other factors to consider include the type of trip you’re looking for; a point-to-point trip, a loop, a day trip, a basecamp and daytrips, a multi-day trip, and so on. In Icy Bay, Wrangell – St. Elias National Park, it’s possible to do both multi-day adventures, moving camp each day to a new location, but equally fun, and a lot easier, to ferry to our basecamp location and do a number of day trips from there.

    Sea Kayaking - What's Involved

    Sea kayaking trips in Alaska typically involve deep glacial fjords and towering mountains, glaciers and icebergs, wildlife, remote wilderness and solitude, and a healthy dose of peace and quiet.

    An endless array of islands and channels and bays and waterways make Alaska home to an infinite sea kayaking opportunities, and definitely some of the most superb sea kayaking trips in the world.

    Entire books can be (and have been – I’ll include a few links at the end of this post) written about sea kayaking, even specifically sea kayaking in Alaska.

    I don’t offer this series of posts as any kind of complete guide to sea kayaking, but rather to outline a few of the important things you might want to consider in your planning.

    Sea Kayaking Alaska Trips Kayaking near iceberg, Icy Bay, Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, Alaska.


    I’ll cover just the basics for each. There’s no way to offer a complete review of all things you might need to know about Alaska sea kayaking trips on a website, but I hope this outline helps you in your decision making process. The various sections I’ll cover are

    1. Trip Types
    2. Gear
    3. Locations
    4. Skills & Safety

    As your trip approaches, you’ll probably want a lot more detail and specific information than I can offer here but I hope this overview helps get you started.

    Sea Kayaking Trips - Basic Types

    As with all things outdoors, there are very few hard and fast rules to do with sea kayaking in Alaska. The wilderness is a very subjective world and when we try to place square objective guidelines in the fluid and shifting holes of subjectivity we typically fail.

    The dos and don’ts are much more contextual than rigid and ironclad. What works best on a sea kayaking trip for one couple might be a complete disaster for another. How best to respond to situation A in location B might not be a wise choice in location C. It may not even be a good choice in location C.

    This concept applies to all the sections listed above and I recommend bearing that in mind as you read over the various topics.

    What type of sea kayaking trip will work best for you depends on a host of factors that may very well not apply to someone else, or even to you a month later. The paddling gear you consider for Alaska sea kayaking will vey likely not be the same gear you’d want sea kayaking in Baja, California; even sea kayaking in another region of Alaska . The gear you want to bring will depend on your skillset, your group, the type of trip you take, and on and on. The reverse is also true.

    The type of sea kayaking trip you consider should also take into account the type of gear you have and so on. The safety gear you want will depend on the group you have, the experience level they have, the type of trip you undertake, the location of your sea kayaking trip, your level of wilderness first aid training, and on and on. You get the picture.

    What you want to do is build a good solid understanding of various basics and apply that knowledge to your decision making. We break things into categories or topics when they’re often so interrelated and connected that these divisions are entirely arbitrary. In reality we can’t separate sea kayaking from sea kayaking gear. We can’t separate sea kayaking gear from locations, or skills, etc. Each are intrinsically tied to the others.

    Understanding that is important.

    Sea Kayaking - What It Is

    Sea kayaking in Alaska is typically a quest for some solitude, a wilderness experience, seeing the natural world and its dazzling awesomeness without the clunk and thunk of mechanized motors. It’s a great way to get out and touch Alaska a little more closely than riding in an RV or a train carriage or a cruise ship. It can also be a good deal of work, and shouldn’t be taken lightly.

    Give due consideration to the trip and to the various components of it. Don’t overestimate your abilities and don’t underestimate where you are. This is Alaska and even the peaceful tranquility of a glassy glacial fjord can quickly turn into serious business. It can also offer you an absolutely out of this world experience, offering unmatched vistas and profound beauty.

    So paddle on.

    Expeditions Alaska
    Visit the wild