About the Guest House, Gustavus, and Glacier Bay
A peaceful retreat in a central location
Situated on 10 acres of river meadow, Aimee’s Guest House is surrounded by an ever-changing palette of wildflowers, and enjoys a panoramic view of the Salmon River, Excursion Ridge and Icy Strait.
We are pleased to offer you a place to relax after a “hard day’s work” at play. From here you can walk to the grocery store, golf course, or beach. Bikes are available to quicken your pace. You can stroll down to the river and watch the salmon slalom, or you can put your feet up and watch a world of eagles, ravens, geese, and hawks. Binoculars are available for a close-up of a bear passing by or a moose browsing in the willows.
Friendly people, and lots to do in a peaceful setting
Gustavus is a small town. We don’t have malls, supermarkets, fitness centers, bars, or movie theaters. We do have cafes, a grocery/hardware store, a liquor store, a natural-foods store, art galleries, and inns where you can get very tasty food. We have miles of sandy beach to walk on, big shoreline and river meadows to explore, berries to pick, wildlife to watch, outsanding sunrises and sunsets. This is a friendly town, where people really do wave at everyone in passing. When you arrive, take a deep breath and let yourself relax into a slower pace.
Getting here, and getting around
Gustavus is accessed via air or sea only—We are enclosed by Glacier Bay National Park--there’s no road in! It’s part of what makes this a special place.
•Daily jet service from Juneau via Alaska Airlines—summer only
•Daily air taxi service (smaller aircraft) from Juneau—year-round
•Ferry service on the “blue canoes” of the Alaska Marine Highway System—year-round
We can arrange for a taxi or rental car to meet you on arrival. From the Guest House, it’s an easy walk or bike to food, shopping, and sightseeing here in town. For longer excursions, including to Bartlett Cove (launching point for Glacier Bay boat tours plus hiking trails and Glacier Bay Lodge), you’ll probably want to take a taxi or rent a car… it’s an 8-mile hike or bike.
Where are the glaciers?
The town of Gustavus is known as the “Gateway to Glacier Bay” for good reason. We have the only road link to the park, and the employees of the National Park and its concessions are a big part of our community.
That said, Glacier Bay is a HUGE park: it spans over 5,000 square miles—almost as big as the state of Connecticut. Gustavus (and Glacier Bay NP headquarters at Bartlett Cove) is located at the mouth of this enormous bay, and the tidewater glaciers that everyone wants to see here are about 60 miles away. But no worries: there’s a fast boat that takes people to see them every single day, and the park service naturalist aboard makes sure you see it all! We can book that trip for you.
What to bring
Southeast Alaska summer days can be sunny and mild, or wind-swept and rainy—and the weather can change in moments. Although average July daytime temperatures are in the low 60s F, it can be quite a bit chillier, especially if you’re out on the water. But if you’re dressed for the climate, you’ll be able to enjoy the scenery, regardless of weather. Kayaking tours provide you with waterproof boots and sturdy raingear, but for all other tours and outings, you’ll need to bring your own Southeast Alaska adventure outfit. Suggestions:
• Fleece or wool baselayers to insulate your core and legs
• Warm socks (not cotton)
• Sturdy waterproof hiking or walking shoes
• Good raingear, including rain pants
• A warm hat
• Fleece or wool gloves
In 1958, when Alaska was still a Territory—and I was still a kid—my brother and I flew to Gustavus from Sitka on a PBY (a WWII patrol bomber recycled as a passenger plane). Presumably this was because the Gustavus School needed two more children to fill the requisite eight so a teacher could be stationed here. My father had just moved into Glacier Bay National Park’s brand-new staff housing at Bartlett Cove. He was the first Chief of Maintenance in Glacier Bay, a position he held for 20 years.
When we arrived, Gustavus had been a small but lively settlement for several decades, boasting a World War II-surplus CAA emergency airfield and a few homesteading families that had settled the area just after the turn of the 20th century.
Fred & Ruth Matson were one of these families. Ruth came in 1931 to be the first schoolteacher for the children of the earliest homesteaders, and she and her fisherman husband decided to make it their home. By the time I arrived Ruth had retired from teaching, but couldn’t bear to retire from children, so she became the local piano teacher, and kept a steady stream of us visiting her home for many years to come. I was one of her students, and in 1978 I inherited her house, piano, and the 10 acres left of their original homestead…the future location of the Guest House.
In 1985, with a further small inheritance from Ruth and Matt, I decided to start my first business. The Salmon River Smokehouse started as a 12’x 24’ cabin where I custom-processed salmon, halibut, and trout that were brought to me by locals and charter fishermen. My favorite memories come from these start-up days: my father & I collecting alder wood for the fire, my old friend, Joe Stehlik, teaching me how to speed up my fish filleting , and the little local fisherchildren proudly bringing in their river fish to be smoked.
In any case, the smokehouse grew and grew. Soon I was buying fish and sending Christmas gift boxes of smoked salmon (and, I daresay, my invention: smoked halibut) throughout the country. I had as many as 10 employees at times, and the little shed burgeoned into the 24’x 48’ building that now serves as the Guest House.
In 1998, life created new ideas for my time, and so I closed the Smokehouse, and began the process of converting my “fish foundry” in the new aesthetic. For five years there was an artist’s co-op gallery downstairs, then I made the leap to hosting guests… and thus the Smokehouse Gallery became Aimee’s Guest House.
Other faces at the Guest House
During your stay, you might also encounter Kathy, the guest house manager. A lifelong Southeast Alaskan, Kathy is a naturalist, writer, artist and teacher. Talk to her about custom nature walks in the Gustavus area.