Kodiak City and Nearby Destinations

A multi-cultural town full of hard-workers, residents of Kodiak believe they live in paradise.  On sun-drenched days in summer, you’ll find families out walking the trails and beaches, picnicking, fishing and swimming.  Downtown, picturesque St. Paul Harbor is active with fishing and sightseeing boats coming and going. The ferry brings people from the mainland and the Aleutian chain. The shopping square is lively with visitors and townsfolk looking for treasures at Kodiak’s unique gift shops or dining at one of Kodiak’s great restaurants.  Three museums, the Baranov, the Alutiiq and the National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center are in the heart of downtown Kodiak.  You’ll meet many locals who take great joy in talking with tourists and sharing their love of the island.

Just across the channel from downtown Kodiak is Near Island, a popular place for short walks and the site of one of two float plane airports in Kodiak.   Near Island is also home to the Fisheries Research Center, which features an aquarium and touch tank where curious people can learn more about the fish and intertidal animals.  At St. Herman’s Harbor in Dog Bay, large commercial fishing vessels can be found preparing for trips to sea.

Approximately 13,000 people live on Kodiak Island with around 2,000 of those living in the remote villages.   Despite the fact that there are plenty of shopping conveniences available, many families depend on Kodiak’s local fish and wildlife resources for much of the food on their tables.   When the fish are running, locals are out fishing to fill their freezers for the long winter ahead.  The same is true when hunting season begins.  Deer, elk, duck, and rabbit are mainstays on the dinner table along with salmon, halibut, cod, scallops and shrimp.  

There is a strong tie between the people of Kodiak and all its natural elements.  Whether worrying about loved ones at sea or debating about the best time to put in a subsistence fishing net, Kodiak residents are connected to the sometimes rugged marine environment.  The weather can be harsh on Kodiak Island with strong gales and pouring rain. The island, a rain forest, receives approximately 80 inches of precipitation per year.  Fog is not uncommon. Winters are considered mild compared to other parts of Alaska, but ice and snow are often seen November through March.  The weather seldom stops people from enjoying the outdoors; the motto is “gear up and go” and visitors are encouraged to do the same.

The name “Kodiak”

As in any small town in America, there are varying stories about how the town name came about.  The word “Kigikhtak” means island; “Kikhtahgmitt” island people; “kiktagamutes” islanders; Kikhtak, “island.”  “Kadyak” comes closest to the pronunciation used by islanders.  The people living here at the time of the first Russian contact were the Konyag.  In 1890 the name Kadiak was adopted as the official spelling, but islanders continued to use “Kodiak” until, in the early 1920s, Kodiak was adopted. 

Island Celebrations

Local residents take every opportunity to celebrate their island life.  In April, Whale Fest celebrates the annual migration of gray whales through Kodiak waters with educational programs, music and art.  Whales can also be observed from several points along Kodiak’s road system throughout spring and summer months.

Memorial Day weekend is important in Kodiak.  It signals the end of winter and the promise of sunshine and warmer weather.   Crab Festival, a Kodiak tradition for more than 50 years, celebrates the bounty of the sea.  People come to Kodiak from all over Alaska to enjoy this four-day festival.  Food is the main attraction, along with carnival rides, survival suit races and demonstrations by the Coast Guard rescue team.   A large art exhibit provides opportunity for artists to show and sell their work. 

Two ceremonies during the festival are very important to local fishing families. A moving Fisherman’s Memorial Service honors those lost at sea during the past year and the blessing of the Fleet sends the current fleet off with prayers for a safe return.

In the tradition of the nation, Kodiak celebrates the 4th of July with a parade and fireworks.  The many cultures of Kodiak are highlighted with colorful and lively parade floats.

In August, hundreds of people travel to Kodiak to honor the life and canonization of St. Herman of the Russian Orthodox Church by making a pilgrimage to his home on Spruce Island.

Labor Day weekend is Rodeo and State Fair time in Kodiak. Equestrian events, exhibits assembled by active 4-H clubs, and a full-fledged rodeo fill the weekend with fun and laughter.

A thriving arts community provides a variety of performances, art shows, and musical entertainment throughout the year.  The sporting community hosts activities ranging from high school athletics to cycling, running and other competitive opportunities.  In other words Kodiak, in spite of its remote location and rugged landscape, is a typical small town.

Nearby Destinations

Bells Flats

About 10 miles outside Kodiak city is the settlement of Bells Flats.   Sargent Creek, Russian Creek and Salonie Creek drain into Women’s Bay, so named because it was a favorite fishing ground for Native women.  There are several bed and breakfasts in the Bells Flats area for those wanting a rural setting during their stay in Kodiak.


At the end of the road approximately 45 miles from Kodiak is the small settlement of Chiniak.  The trip out to Chiniak takes about an hour via a partially paved road with hairpin turns, steep hills and breath-taking views of coastline and mountains.  This road was blazed during World War II when the army installed bunkers and pill boxes in the area.  Many of these, although in ill-repair, are still standing.   Chiniak is a great place to get away from the hustle bustle of the harbor and downtown Kodiak. You can always find a quiet bay to beach comb or picnic.  Cliff tops make a great place to spot whale spouts.  Several bed and breakfasts and lodging properties are located in Chiniak, although there are no other visitor services.   

Monashka Bay

Another road’s end is found about 12 miles northwest of Kodiak city at Monashka Bay. Here you will find beautiful White Sands Beach.  A long, lovely beach is very popular for among locals for fishing, beachcombing, and picnicking.   Sometimes seals can be seen floating in the bay.


At the end of another of the few roads on Kodiak Island, lies Pasagshak.  A popular fishing destination, the landscape here is quite different from Chiniak and it is definitely worth the drive through the mountains until they open into the broad sea.  A small community lives quietly here.  Beyond the settlement lies Surfer Beach and Fossil Beach, both popular destinations for visitors to the island.  Surfer Beach is a broad expanse of black sand where you can easily spot whales and get in tune with the tide.  During particularly high surf, you may spot surfers who brave icy waters which can make this sport “extreme” surfing to the max!  Fossil Beach, at the bottom of an unimproved (often four-wheel drive only) road, is another oft-visited beach where you can search for ancient fossils.   Other than a lodging accommodation or two, there are no visitor services here.

Also out the road Pasagshak way is the Kodiak Launch Complex owned and operated by Alaska Aerospace Development. The launch complex is used for launching satellites into polar orbits, and sub-orbital payloads for research and development.   At times the launch complex may be off limits, but is well signed when you should not enter. 


Other Drives

Anton Larsen Bay can be reached by driving an unpaved 12 mile road through the mountains.   The drive offers beautiful views of the green hills with opportunities to see wildlife along the way.   The bay is home to a few local residents and also the site of a busy boat launch.  The road narrows toward the end when it reaches a stream tumbling down from the mountain tops.

Mill Bay Drive and Rezanof Drive, which extend from downtown to the Monashka Bay, are main arteries that lead you to interesting shops, bookstores, art galleries, bakeries and coffee shops.  Many of these stores feature local art.