Sometimes it takes a pandemic to bring you to new places, some near and some far. I became obsessed with Alaska during the pandemic, mostly because I had always wanted to visit and it was an easy USA destination. Once I started learning more about the 49th state, it became apparent that Alaska is truly a place of abundant natural beauty and people that want it to stay that way.
During a virtual travel trade show, I met with the Sales Manager of Within the Wild, and was really excited about the product. Within the Wild is comprised of two lodges in Alaska – Tutka Bay (one hour south of Anchorage and Winterlake, one-hour north via float planes).
Both lodges are owned by a family that loves Alaska. Kirsten and Carl Dixon and their daughter, Mandy, run the show here, and they handpick each staff member. Kirsten and Mandy are world-class chefs, and the food is outstanding. They have large edible gardens in each of the properties and prepare fresh food all day, every day. Think halibut cheeks and fresh crab cakes. Yum!
Another reason I wanted to visit Alaska is that it is such a pristine state. It is the most sparsely populated state with 1.3 people per square mile. The Dixon’s share their love of Alaska by minimizing their footprint and prioritizing sustainability. The lodges are small, and they gather their own spring water at Tutka Bay as well as manage their own power generator at Winterlake. They are constantly trying to care for and preserve the natural world. As a visitor, you see this commitment to the environment, and it makes you so much more aware of how every little step counts to keep our planet safe.
We did the Mountain and Sea Package which outlines three nights at each lodge. Within the Wild prides itself on doing whatever is necessary to make each guest’s stay as memorable as possible. Each lodge visit comes with an “out-camp” adventure of your choosing. The options at Winterlake Lodge include trekking on a glacier, visiting with the dog sled team on the glacier, fly-fishing or rafting, E-biking, or hiking through our gorgeous alpine trails. Winterlake offers many helicopter-assisted excursions. Tutka Bay “out-camp” adventure options include a bear-viewing flight to the Katmai Coast, a deep-sea fishing excursion for halibut or salmon, or a marine wildlife cruise. Believe it or not, there are more options for fun at each lodge – making memories of a lifetime is the top priority!
Winterlake was my favorite lodge – it is Alaska at its finest! The lodge is a one-hour and fifteen-minute floatplane ride away from Anchorage. We did have to wait a few hours for our floatplane to take off due to weather overhead somewhere between Anchorage and Winterlake. Mother Nature is very much in charge of your itinerary. Finally, we arrived at the homestead. The homestead is run on a generator from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. There are six cabins and one main lodge where drinks, meals, yoga, board games, massages, and everything in between are based.
I traveled with my twenty-one-year-old daughter, and we had so much fun together. We shared meals with middle-aged couples, families with young adult children, two women in their late fifties who come to fish every year, and a young couple on their honeymoon. The week before, the lodge was exclusively used for a bachelor party. This property would be perfect for multi-generational families and works great for exclusive use just your private party!
My daughter and I did a glacier hike were told it was one of the best days weather-wise of the year. We were in heaven! The helicopter dropped us off on the glacier and we were treated to a gourmet picnic lunch. The helicopter picked us up and took us on a glacier tour with a birds-eye view. We got to see Denali in the distance in all her glory.
After a floatplane ride over to Tutka Bay, we reached a more civilized destination. The harbor town, Homer, was twenty minutes away by boat. There are many more boats and planes than cars in Alaska! While getting an orientation about the property from our guide, we were all summoned to the dock for a majestic whale sighting. We then jumped in the boat to “toodle” around the bay. We heard our whale first and then spotted the whale spout. We saw eagles, jellyfish, otters, and so much more wildlife. We even saw a baby bear cub on the way back to the lodge! We spent the rest of the afternoon in the banya (Russian word for sauna) and then jumped in the frigid bay. I highly recommend this – it is life-affirming!
Unfortunately, our bear viewing day was canceled due to weather, but the day was saved with a nearby hike to a deserted forest. Fishing was an option, but we opted for the hike. If you have any clients that like to fish, this is the place to go! The guests who did go fishing came home with more than enough fish. They had them shipped home and fished and released the rest of the day.