As we look to put 2020 in our rearview mirror, I reached out to the experts at SmartFlyer to see about something to check off your bucket list for 2021. With that in mind, this week we take a look at Alaska, the VIP way, by private aircraft, including floatplanes and helicopters.
With wide-open spaces and an abundance of wildlife, Alaska is the ideal destination for social distancing on your bucket list. Discover the wilds of Alaska on this privately chartered plane trip, perfect for outdoor enthusiasts seeking the best the region has to offer. Learn from experts as you beach comb along the coastline of the “The Last Frontier,” take part in guided nature walks, get whisked away to remote areas by helicopter, taste the freshest Alaskan produce, go on glacial hikes and observe wildlife in its natural habitat. With hand-selected luxury Alaska lodges as your anchor for this trip – including luxurious properties like Winterlake Lodge and Tutka Bay Lodge – you’ll have days filled with adventures with the assurance of being lulled to sleep in with all of the creature comforts you know and love.
Enjoy exclusive experiences along the way, with days that present thrilling activities like rafting scenic rivers interspersed by stopping to pick wildflowers and berries before being whisked away by private helicopter for a mountaintop wine and cheese tasting with stunning panoramic views. Plus, the true beauty of this itinerary is that there are no set dates; though the best times of the year to travel are May to early September, we can work with you to determine the timeframe best aligned with your schedule and the activities you’d like to experience.
Due to the diversity of the landscape and a wide range of activities available, you can work directly with your SmartFlyer travel advisor to customize your itinerary, but the below is meant to serve as inspiration as you get your creative juices flowing.
Arrive Alaska, Anchorage to Girdwood
Upon arrival at the Anchorage Airport, meet your private driver-guide who will transfer you to your hotel and home for the next three days. The property is located in the small town of Girdwood, just a 45-minute drive from Alaska’s capital city. Nestled between the breathtaking Turnagain Arm and spectacular Mt. Alyeska, Girdwood originally named Glacier City, was founded as a gold mining town at the turn of the century. Girdwood is now is a year-round scenic destination for outdoor enthusiasts and you’ll find The Hotel Alyeska is the ideal location to rest, relax and rejuvenate after your travels.
Day 2 – Full day excursion to the Chugach Mountains
After breakfast, take part in an exciting full-day adventure in the Chugach Mountains. Access the remote glaciated Chugach Mountains by helicopter; there is no better view than from a Robinson R44 helicopter. Take in views of the cirque, hanging rock, and retreating mountain glaciers and see the grand scope of the Chugach Mountains. Land 2,000 feet high at Comet Glacier and begin your downhill trek to Spencer Lake. Hike through snowfields and wildflower meadows and take in panoramic views of glacier-carved valleys. At the lake’s edge climb aboard your raft for a gentle float among the icebergs at Spencer Lake.
Enjoy panoramic views of the glacier and the surrounding mountains as your experienced guide steers you amongst the floating icebergs. You may even have the opportunity to touch the ice while on the lake. In the late afternoon, you will return to the lake’s edge where a private gourmet salmon bake has been prepared especially for you. Dine on freshly prepared salmon, pasta salad, triple chocolate brownies, and warm drinks while watching the alpenglow over the Chugach Mountains and Spencer Glacier. After dinner, return to Girdwood by the Alaska railroad. Upon arrival at the Girdwood rail depot a private transfer will be provided back to your hotel.
Day 3 – Sightseeing on Prince William Sound
This morning after breakfast at your hotel, travel south by private vehicle along the scenic Turnagain Arm of the Seward Highway, designated an All-American Road. Travel into the glacier-carved Portage Valley, and through North America’s longest combined vehicle-railroad tunnel to reach the unique and stunning community of Whittier. Here you will board your private, custom-built Alaska vessel and cruise the wildlife-rich and open waters of glacier-filled Prince William Sound for the day. Your captain will discuss your interests and take you in search of tidewater glaciers, coastal mountain views, and wildlife. Watch for stellar sea lions, otters, and whales. Tuck into secluded coves and explore old-growth forests. Pull up to a remote beach for a guided walk and picnic lunch before continuing your exploration. Return to Girdwood in the evening.
Day 4 – Winterlake Lodge, Girdwood to Finger Lake
Enjoy breakfast before meeting your private driver in the lobby for a short transfer to Anchorage’s Lake Hood. Board your private charter flight by scenic floatplane flight and observe the wondrous scenery en-route to Winterlake Lodge. As you touch down on Finger Lake, you will be met by your guides and lodge staff. Disembark your plane and receive an orientation from your guides who will also assist you in planning your afternoon. Settle in with a warm lunch and then set off on a day of adventures. Available activities include hiking, mountain biking, canoeing, enjoying the sauna, and fishing. An evening wine and cheese reception is included before your gourmet dinner this evening.
Day 5 – Activities at Winterlake Lodge
Your time at Winterlake Lodge is completely customizable! You could spend your day flying by helicopter over the mountains or to a remote picnic location, fishing or simply enjoying the luxurious amenities and breathtaking views from the lodge. For those seeking adventure, we recommend rafting the wild and scenic river accessed by helicopter.
You’ll experience your guide Carl’s lifelong love of rivers and rafting when you travel down the scrappy Class IV river with him at the oars! Every turn of the river offers a new view and a new opportunity to see a part of the hidden Alaska backcountry. There is an opportunity to stop and pick wildflowers or wild berries, fish, or have a hot lunch along the clear, cold river. Before dinner this evening, you’ll be whisked away by a private helicopter to Wolverine Ridge for a memorable wine and cheese pairing set against stunning panoramic views.
Day 6 – Activities at Winterlake Lodge
Your time at Winterlake Lodge is completely customizable! Opt to head out for a paddle on the lake, enjoy a cooking class at the lodge, and end the day with a cocktail and stargazing. In the winter, glacier trekking is especially popular. To the south of the lodge lie the Tordrillo Mountains which is a rarely visited segment of the Alaska Range and the location of two accessible glaciers – the Trimble and the Hayes. The mountains surrounding the glaciers and the lodge, born of volcanic activity as recent as a 1992 eruption of Mt. Spurr, provide the backdrop for our glacier explorations.
Depart Winterlake Lodge with your guide via helicopter and after a 10-minute scenic flight up the Hayes Valley, we land on the glacier itself! Dwarfed by the peaks and awed by the alien surroundings, we begin our trek. Depending on your interest, we can take a brief 30-minute walk to explore the crevasses, moulins, icefalls, snowfields, and other glacial features. The glacier here is nearly flat affording easy walking.
Day 7 – Homer, Alaska; Winterlake Lodge to Tutka Bay
Enjoy breakfast at the lodge, then board a floatplane for your scenic flight to Tutka Bay. Depending on weather conditions a fuel stop in Anchorage may be required en route. Pass over Anchorage and continue to Kachemak Bay. Your route takes you along Cook Inlet, lined with active volcanoes. The mountains of Lake Clark National Park jut directly from the ocean and you may see pods of beluga whales swimming in the Inlet below.
Touch down in Tutka Bay where you will be met by the lodge staff as you unload onto the dock. Settle into your cabins and enjoy a delicious home-made lunch as you enjoy the sweeping views of Tutka Bay. After lunch explore the nearby private hiking trails or wander the coastline by kayak. A reception and dinner will be served in the main lodge tonight. This evening you may be treated to a bonfire on the beach with homemade smores.
Day 8 – Homer, Alaska – Activities at Tutka Bay
Your stay at Tutka Bay Lodge is completely customizable! Indulge in the ocean-based foods and wonderful wine tastings served at the main lodge, head out on a birding adventure, or explore the nearby tidal pools. In addition to these daily activities, guests at the lodge have a choice of a fly-out bear viewing excursion along the Katmai coast, a deep-sea fishing excursion, or a helicopter adventure. If you prefer to relax and simply enjoy your surroundings, the lodge hosts morning yoga classes and has its own sauna and hot tub for you to take advantage of. This evening take part in a private sunset cruise where you’ll traverse the waters of Tutka Bay and enjoy the pristine views of waterfalls and surrounding wildlife while sipping champagne.
Day 9 – Tutka Bay to Anchorage
Enjoy one last breakfast at the lodge this morning. Your private floatplane will take you from the lodge dock over Cook Inlet to Anchorage where your private driver and guide will greet you upon landing. Enjoy a sightseeing tour of Anchorage this afternoon that can be tailored to your specific interests. The picturesque city of Anchorage started as a construction camp and headquarters of the Alaskan Engineering Commission, immediately growing to almost 2,000 people. Today, Anchorage is home to nearly 295,000 residents. Take a scenic walk on the coastal trail, enjoy the shops of downtown, visit Earthquake Park, or get high above the city with a hike on Anchorage’s most famous mountain, Flattop. Make a stop at the Alaska Native Heritage Center where you’ll enjoy a scenic walk with a private docent to visit authentic, life-sized Native dwellings with traditional structures. Sit down with an Elder for a private storytelling experience. At the conclusion of your tour, your private driver will bring you to your hotel for your final relaxing evening in Alaska.
Day 10 – Depart Anchorage for Home
After breakfast at your hotel, you will be privately transferred to the airport in time for your departing flight.