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 It’s not called the Emerald Isle for nothing. Kodiak Island, located in the Gulf of Alaska, is the 49th state at its most scenic. Russian explorer Stephan Glotov discovered the island in 1763, calling it Kad’yak. When James Cook, the British captain arrived fifteen years later, he wrote the name “Kodiak” in his journals Lush pine forests, mountains rising from the sea, misty waterfalls and abundant wildlife are a few of the natural highlights, while the town of Kodiak’s harbor hums with fishing vessels. Most of the 35,000 annual visitors arrive by ship from one of the three cruise lines serving Kodiak. This popular route gives passengers an up-close look at culture in the Last Frontier.
Kodiak Alaska, the second largest island in the United States, and one of the top five commercial fishing ports in the United States is also the place where the first European settlers were Russian explorers. They arrived in 1763, approximately 7,500 years after the Alutiiq Native Indians. Kodiak, today is the largest town on Kodiak Island, and the fifth largest city in Alaska. The scenery is what attracts visitors to Kodiak. Located on the Gulf of Alaska and just over 250 air miles from Anchorage, this is a natural landscape of the great Alaskan wilderness. Kodiak Island is 100 miles (160 km) long and 10 to 60 miles (16/96 km) wide.
The colonization began with the Russian during in the mid-1700s. Kodiak became the first capital of Russian America. Kodiak became a major fur-trading center for many years. During World War II Kodiak became a major staging area for North Pacific operations. Kodiak focused on the fishing industry after the war. However, on March 27, 1964, a massive earthquake shook Southcentral Alaska. Though little damage was done to the islands, it triggered a series of tsunamis, which all but destroyed Kodiak's waterfront and central businesses.
Kodiak is known as the "Emerald Isle" for its deep, pristine forests. The wildlife in Kodiak is unmatched. The National Wildlife Refuge offers visitors a chance to see Kodiak bears, moose, fox, sea lions and puffins. Famous for huge Kodiak brown bears, world-class sport fishing, Kodiak is one of the largest commercial fishing ports in the nation. This colorful fishing port of Kodiak lies on the Chiniak Bay and on the northeastern coast of Kodiak Island. Kodiak bears are the world’s largest bears, with some adult males exceeding 1,000 pounds. Kodiak bears eat fish, grass, plants and berries.  Bear-viewing is one of the most popular activities on Kodiak Island, with July, August and September the best months for bear-viewing. From the city of Kodiak, a number of local air taxis offer half-day bear viewing trips with an experienced guide.
Holland America Line is Kodiak’s most frequent visitor, calling once a month between May and September. The 14-day, round-trip Alaska Explorer Cruise departs from Seattle and stops at Ketchikan, Juneau, Kodiak, Homer, Anchorage, Sitka and Victoria, British Columbia. Along the way, visitors will glimpse scenic spots like Vancouver Island, the fjord at Tracy Arm, Icy Strait Point and chilly Hubbard Glacier. All cruises dock at Kodiak's Pier 2 ship terminal, located in the downtown area.
A luxury cruise line Crystal Cruises with exotic ports of call around the world, Crystal Cruises visits Kodiak on two trans-Pacific itineraries. The 18-day Pagodas and Puffins excursion departs Tokyo and visits two more ports in Japan, Aomori and Otaru. Then it’s on to Russia, where the ship visits Korsakov and Petropavlovsk. Crossing the Bering Sea, the cruise lands in Alaska, stopping in Dutch Harbor, Kodiak, Seward, and Ketchikan, and then concludes in Vancouver. The 23-day Glacial Grandeur cruise visits all of those ports, with the additions of Skagway and Juneau in Alaska, before arriving at its final destination, San Francisco.
Silversea offers trans-Pacific cruises that stop in Kodiak, running once per year. Directions alternate annually. The 13-day Tokyo-to-Seward trip departs the Japanese capital and visits Kushiro, on the Japanese island of Hokkaido, and Petropavlovsk, on Russia’s Kamchatka Peninsula, before reaching Alaska. There, the ship visits Dutch Harbor, Kodiak, Homer and Seward. On Tokyo-bound cruises, passengers visit the same ports in the opposite order with the addition of Hokadate before concluding in Tokyo. Kodiak is a boutique port rarely seen by most passengers on Alaskan cruises. But in 2015 Holland America's Statendam visits the city twice a month, along with a stop from Silversea's Silver Shadow and May visits from the Volendam and Crystal's Symphony.
Activities in Kodiak include fishing, whale watching, bear viewing, kayaking, biking and camping. There are also several museums to explore, from the Alutiiq Museum which has one of the largest collections of native artifacts and artwork, to the Baranov Museum which offers both permanent and temporary exhibits that display the culture and history of the island. The Holy Resurrection Russian Orthodox Church gives visitors a glimpse of the heavy Russian influence of Kodiak's early days. In 2015, Holland America's ships will be in port for an average of 7 hours. For each of the following excursions, we've added an icon that tells you what percent of your time in port is spent on the excursion. With that in mind, you can plan for other activities, including exploring the town, dining, or shopping.
Where You are Docked
Your ship will make port at Kodiak's City Dock II, located about 1½ miles south of the downtown area. The most direct pedestrian access from the cruise ship dock to downtown is along Shelikof Street, which will take you past the fish processing facilities in town.
Baranov Museum
The Baranov Museum presents artifacts from the area's Russian past. On the National Register of Historic Places, the building was built in 1808 by Alexander Baranov to warehouse precious sea-otter pelts. W.J. Erskine made it his home in 1911. On display are samovars, a collection of intricate native basketry, and other relics from the early Native Koniags and the later Russian settlers. A collection of 40 albums of archival photography portrays various aspects of the island's history. Contact the museum for a calendar of events. The fascinating Baranof Museum is located in one of the oldest remaining Russian buildings in Alaska. The museum is friendly, homey, and packed with history. Its collections span Alutiiq prehistory, Russian occupation, and World War II. The gift shop offers some Native artwork, but is best known for Russian lacquerware, icons, and samovars, as well as books. 101 Marine Way; 907/486-5920
Holy Resurrection Russian Orthodox Church
The ornate Holy Resurrection Russian Orthodox Church is a visual feast, both inside and out. The cross-shape building is topped by two onion-shape blue domes, and the interior contains brass candelabra, distinctive chandeliers, and numerous icons representing Orthodox saints. Three different churches have stood on this site since 1794. Built in 1945, the present structure is on the National Register of Historic Places.
Alutiiq Museum and Archaeological Repository
The Alutiiq Museum and Archaeological Repository is home to one of the largest collections of Alaska Native materials in the world, and contains archaeological and ethnographic items dating back 7,500 years. The museum displays only a fraction of its more than 150,000 artifacts, including harpoons, masks, dolls, stone tools, seal-gut parkas, grass baskets, and pottery fragments. The museum store sells Native arts and educational materials.
Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge
The 2,812-square-mile refuge encompasses two-thirds of Kodiak Island and includes a diverse habitat that ranges from rugged mountains and alpine meadows to wetlands, spruce forest and grassland. The refuge has outstanding fishing but the most popular activity is bear viewing. The refuge is home to 3,500 bears with males that normally weigh in at more than 800 pounds but have been known to exceed 1,500 pounds and stand more than 10 feet tall. The refuge has no roads, so bear viewing is done as a day tour with an air charter operator or as an excursion from one of many remote wilderness lodges on the island.
Fort Abercrombie State Historical Park
As part of America's North Pacific defense in World War II, Kodiak was the site of an important naval station, now occupied by the Coast Guard fleet that patrols the surrounding fishing grounds. Part of the old military installation has been incorporated into Fort Abercrombie State Historical Park, 3½ mi north of Kodiak on Rezanof Drive. Self-guided tours take you past concrete bunkers and gun emplacements, and a network of trails wind through moss-draped spruce forest. There's a spectacular scenic overlook, great for bird- and whale-watching, and a volunteer-run military history museum inside a bunker; call the park for museum hours.
Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center
Whether you're spending time in the Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge itself, make sure you stop by the Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center (located a block from the downtown ferry dock). Wander through exhibits about Refuge flora and fauna, attend an interpretive talk, and marvel at the complete 36-foot hanging skeleton of a male gray whale on the second floor.
Archaeological Dig:
One of Kodiak's most unusual tourist opportunities is the chance to take part in an archaeological dig. Dig Afognak (907/486-6014) places you at a working field camp in weeklong sessions. No experience is necessary, and the work includes breaks for fishing, exploring, and informal learning sessions. Dormitory-style tents, family-style meals, and friendly hosts give Dig Afognak the aura of a summer camp for grown-ups. Day trips are also possible, depending on availability.
Alutiiq Museum
The Alutiiq Museum and Archaeological Repository focuses on the seagoing Alutiiq people and their more than 7,500 years in the Kodiak region. The museum often hosts visiting exhibits that highlight the culture of other Alaska Natives. Its small gift shop features artwork, jewelry, and books. 215 Mission Rd; 907/486-7004
The mountains on Kodiak lie fairly low compared to others in Alaska. Barometer Mountain, a three-sided peak, stands only 2,488 feet high, while the island's tallest mountains barely exceed 4,000 feet. (Barometer Mountain is so named because you can tell if the weather is getting worse or better by watching the cloud ceiling move along Barometer's sides.) The peaks of Kodiak's mountains are easily climbed in an afternoon. On a warm day, hikers can be spotted against the bare, grassy mountainside making their way to the top for a view of the Pacific or the mainland's snowcapped peaks across Shelikof Strait.
Eating Out
Kodiak is a renowned fishing destination that offers access to all five species of salmon along with halibut, rockfish, cod and trout. Henry's Great Alaskan restaurant is a big, boisterous, friendly place at the plaza near the small-boat harbor. The menu is equally big, ranging from fresh local seafood and barbecue to pastas and even some Cajun dishes. Dinner specials, a long list of appetizers, salads, rack of lamb, and a tasty dessert list round out the choices. Old Powerhouse Restaurant is converted powerhouse facility allows a close-up view of Near Island and the channel connecting the boat harbors with the Gulf of Alaska. Enjoy fresh sushi and sashimi while watching the procession of fishing boats gliding past on their way to catch or deliver your next meal. Keep your eyes peeled for sea otters, seals, sea lions, and eagles, too. The menu also features tempura, yakisoba (fried noodles), and rice specials.
One glance through the windows of Kodiak’s storefronts and you will know you are in for a treat.   Shops here are full of unique largely Alaskan or Kodiak made items that will find a place with your other family treasures.   Take home a original piece of art from one of our many galleries or visit our museum gift shops for Native or Russian made arts and crafts.
Forgotten important pieces of your wardrobe?  Many local shops carry the necessary gear to keep you warm, dry and happy during your stay on Kodiak Island.  Left your fishing reel behind or just want to treat yourself to a new fly rod and reel?  Kodiak stores can take care of you in that department, too.   Whether it’s rubber boots, hiking boots, fleece jackets, rain gear, bicycle parts or fun gift items to take to friends  and family, you can find it in Kodiak!

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