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Hotspots Near You

286. Glacier Bay National Park & Preserve, Gustavus, Alaska

Visit via cruise ship in summer to see murres, alcids, guillemots, puffins, bears, calving glaciers, and other natural wonders.

A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Glacier Bay National Park & Preserve covers more than 3.2 million acres and features more than 1,000 tidewater and terrestrial glaciers. Despite being accessible only by plane and boat, the park is visited by more than half a million people a year, primarily via cruise ship between May and September.

Glacier Bay did not exist when English Captain James Cook explored Alaska in 1778. But an extraordinary glacial retreat has left a 70-mile bay and numerous inlets, creating a spectrum of successional habitats. Mosses, lichens, and fireweed abound in areas where glaciers recently receded, while lush spruce and hemlock forests blanket areas where they receded long ago. There are also birds: The park is an important breeding area for murres, alcids, guillemots, and puffins.

Visiting Glacier Bay by cruise ship provides an opportunity to see Alaskan birds and one of the world’s spectacular natural wonders. Many birds will be distant, but there are few other ways to comfortably see birds such as Kittlitz’s Murrelet, Horned and Tufted Puffins, Black-legged Kittiwake, and Arctic Tern. Plus, calving glaciers in picturesque fjords appeal to birders and non-birders alike.

286. Glacier Bay National Park & Preserve, Gustavus, Alaska


Cruise ships that visit Glacier Bay National Park & Preserve depart from west coast ports, primarily Seattle and Vancouver. Not all Alaska cruises visit the park, as the National Park Service limits the number of ships to two per day. Other cruises visit different tidewater glaciers outside park boundaries. Check specific itineraries for details.

Downloadable Files

At a Glance

Click on the coordinates below to view location:
58°27’17.04″N 135°52’55.12″W


Fjords, glaciers, icebergs, wild coastlines.


Cruise ships don’t dock in the park.


More than 280 species. May-September: Harlequin Duck, Surf, White-winged, and Black Scoters, Barrow’s Goldeneye, Common Merganser, Red-throated, Pacific, and Common Loons, Pelagic Cormorant, Bald Eagle, Black Oystercatcher, Red-necked Phalarope, Parasitic Jaeger, Common Murre, Pigeon Guillemot, Marbled, Kittlitz’s, and Ancient Murrelets, Cassin’s Auklet, Horned and Tufted Puffins, Black-legged Kittiwake, Bonaparte’s, Mew, Herring, and Glaucous-winged Gulls, Arctic Tern, Northwestern Crow.

When to go

May-September; peak season is June-August. Book early (6-12 months in advance) for best cabin selection, as Glacier Bay cruises tend to sell out.


Depends on cruise line. Two official park bird checklists available on website at


National park. No separate fee for cruise ship passengers. National Park Service rangers will board cruise ships when they are in the park, providing commentary, answering questions, and staffing an information desk.


Weather in southeast Alaska is highly variable, even in summer. Dress in layers and be prepared for rain. Keep an eye out for other iconic Alaska wildlife, including grizzly bears, mountain goats, sea otters, Steller sea lions, and humpback whales. Cruise ships are stable enough for scopes. Pelagic species, including Black-footed Albatross and Northern Fulmar, are possible on several parts of most Alaskan cruises. If you’re in the town of Gustavus, head to Bartlett Cove, near the park’s visitor center, to search for songbirds.

For more info

Glacier Bay National Park & Preserve, (907) 697-2230
Plan your visit
Audubon Alaska

Sites nearby

Mendenhall Glacier Recreation Area, Hotspot Near You No. 41
12 miles from Juneau. One of the most accessible glaciers in the state. Can be good for many birds, including an Arctic Tern colony in summer.

Mendenhall Wetlands
Adjacent to Juneau’s airport. One of the finest birding locations in southeastern Alaska. Good for shorebirds and waterfowl, particularly in May and August-September. The Dike Trail is popular with birders.

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Jason A. Crotty

Jason A. Crotty is birder, lawyer, and contributor to BirdWatching,, and other outlets. He lives in Portland, Oregon.

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