An Unforgettable Day: Mendenhall Glacier & Whale Watching

The excursion I was most excited about during my first visit to Alaska was whale watching. I even told someone that if I didn’t see a whale, I would be really disappointed. The small group option for Mendenhall Glacier and whale watching is nothing short of extraordinary!

Our journey started with the excitement of boarding a shuttle and then a charming vessel, perfect for our small group. The Alaskan waters promised not just serenity but a canvas of breathtaking wildlife. A casual chat with our guide set the stage for what was to come—a day filled with awe-inspiring encounters.

Once we arrived in Juneau and disembarked, we boarded our shuttle bus. Our guide shared that we would be allowed to walk down a trail that was closed to visitors, but we had special permission to take. It put us right across from the glacier and allowed us an excellent view from our vantage point.  It was here I also was able to see an Eagle a little closer than expected.  We were at the water’s edge, and I felt something above my head- it was then I saw an Eagle swoop to the water to retrieve a fish.  A little too close to comfort for me but a sight to see for sure.

We then took our shuttle bus to the marina and boarded a small boat made for wildlife viewing – the side panels/windows made this possible as they were able to be raised.  It wasn’t long before the magic began. The boat captain began pointing out a humpback whale – mom and baby.  The boat captain told us they had been spotted here for a good portion of the morning to just keep watching.  For a while we saw them occasionally floating to the surface and we would see a whale tale emerge.  Then the whales began breaching.  This is when a whale propels itself out of the water and falls back in with a splash, creating a loud noise and a spectacular sight.  We watched in wide-eyed wonder —a moment that felt like a dream come true.

If that wasn’t enough, next a pod of orcas appeared. Their sleek, black-and-white forms glided effortlessly through the waves, and began to bump our boat.  We were told they were a pod of male juveniles.  We watched as they swam and played together for what seemed to be forever.  If I had wanted to reach down from where I was positioned in the boat and touch them- I could have, they were that close.  However, I wanted to keep all my fingers and both hands, so I kept my hand in the boat.

When we first boarded the boat, we were told that when looking at the trees, the white golf ball looking spots were eagles.  We saw lots of eagles mainly in the trees.  However, we were blessed with seeing a few bald eagles in flight as they soared gracefully, the epitome of freedom against the stunning Alaskan backdrop.

We also were taken to several spots where we were able to see harbor seals.  They were everywhere and basking upon the shore or slab of rocks in the water.  It was fun to watch them and HEAR them!

Each moment spent with the humpbacks, orcas, seals, and eagles felt like a cherished memory engraved in time.  Getting to see Mendenall Glacier and its immense, icy blue facade as it stood proudly, as a testament to nature’s grandeur was amazing.

If you’re yearning for an adventure, the small group option was incredible and allowed us to experience nature’s marvels in an unforgettable way. Trust me, it’s a journey that will leave you spellbound.  I did not walk away disappointed but headed back to the ship with a full heart.  It made me feel thankful and blessed to see part of God’s big, beautiful world.

Tara Waldrop loves traveling the world with her husband, Mike.  Exploring God’s handiwork is at the top of her list of things to do! As an avid reader if Tara isn’t off on an adventure, she probably is reading about one.  She owns Tailored Travel, a full-service travel agency with a team of agents ready to help you cross off the next destination on your list- including this beautiful place.  You can reach Tara at or by calling 423.7748523.