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“Five stars, BUT...”

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Afognak Wilderness Lodge
Ranked #4 of 5 Hotels in Kodiak Island
Reviewed August 28, 2013

It is very hard for me not to give Afognak Wilderness Lodge five stars. However, certain events and issues can't be ignored, hence the four star rating. Let me explain, starting with the good.

My husband, daughter and I spent four magical days at Afognak Wilderness Lodge, and I must admit it is one of the most enchanting destinations to which I've ever been, and I'm well traveled. The well-made, hand-hewed long cabins and lodge are snug and cozy, as well as spacious. The kitchy decorating in the guest cabins could probably be updated (my husband felt a little out of place surrounded by frilly curtains and cutesie knick knacks), but overall the lodging is delightful, especially set among mossy pathways that bring 'The Hobbit' to mind. One suggestion I do have for the owner is that it would be great if they put a little table in cabin 3 (not sure if the other cabins have a table or not). There was a basket filled with magazines and playing cards but nowhere to really play. There is plenty of room for a table, that's for sure.

Fishing on and around Afognak is excellent. The three of us came back with less than half the fish we actually caught and we brought back over 150 lbs of silver salmon, halibut, yellow eyes, lingcod and black bass. Garrett, our faithful fishing guide, worked hard to put us on the fish, and put us on them he did. It was rare for us to drop our jigs and not have a fish on almost immediately. Cranking those fish up some 150 - 200 feet took a lot of muscle and we often found ourselves having to rest awhile after landing them. We never did hook into a 'barn door' halibut but it wasn't for lack of trying.

The food at the Lodge was delicious and plentiful. Brian, the chef, knows how to cook, and his creative and thoughtful dishes never failed to please. Fresh baked breads and pastries adorned the table each morning, along with egg dishes, oatmeal, yogurt, fresh fruit, potatoes, and much, much more. Dinners were equally tantalizing, and we had everything from seafood to island harvested venison (the best wild game I've ever had, and we're hunters). Side dishes were varied and desserts, just perfect. One of the guests had dietary restrictions and Brian still managed to please every palate.

Upon arrival we were warmly greeted by most of the friendly staff. We were led to our cozy cabin in the woods where we changed clothes and booked it down to the dock to go fishing. Here is where things get a little shakey with the four instead of five star rating...

Guests share boats with other guests. That is all good and well if everyone is on the same page with expectations and wish lists. I would have to say each guest staying at the lodge when we were there had far different expectations and preferences. Sometimes it just goes that way. One couple only really wanted to photograph wildlife, though they did fish part of a day. Another couple, who had been guests of the lodge six years prior, hoped for a repeat of their previous stay which amounted to their having their own guide and a boat exclusively for them. Given what we paid for our stay I can understand wanting more one-on-one attention. We wanted to fish hard, see some whales, a bear or two, and fish some more. We did have one day all alone with our guide and it was really special, but we also had two great days fishing with Garrett's family who was visiting from Seattle. Garrett still primarily catered to our needs first and foremost and we had a lot of fun visiting with these down-to-earth people and fishing with them.

Thankfully, we only had one tense day on the water largely due to sea sickness and guests with mixed expectations. It was the very first day out and the expectations issue was remedied on our boat the next day when, after regrouping, two guests were moved to another boat. As I mentioned, we had a good time with all our boat mates but there were issues on the other boat that carried over to land and made meals and socializing rather strained at times. Besides having different trip expectations (fishing vs. photo ops), these two couples sharing a boat had pretty strong political opinions- one couple leaning hard left and the other, hard right. Not a good combination, especially in close quarters. Heated discussions even came up around the dinner table. Though my husband, daughter and I are very politically informed and have strong opinions ourselves, we did not feel it was the time or place for such discussion as no one was about to change his or her mind. This did put a damper on meals. One morning two of the guests stormed away from the table when another guest snapped and said something the others found offensive. I think it had something to do with an 'event' on the boat the previous day.

Another complaint was that as nice and darling as the girls were, the housekeeping staff was lacking in the housekeeping department (they were amazing 'deck hands, though, and can really process the fish!). We really would have liked to have had new towels each day as nothing dries there, and it was drizzly most of the time. We finally went down to the lodge and got our own replacements. We even brought our 'dirty' towels down. We were led to believe each day the girls would freshen up the cabin, replace dirty coffee cups, and so on. We made our own beds though we were told that was one of their perks. On the first full day of our stay our adult daughter found her bed remade which was strange as my husband's and my bed wasn't remade and our daughter makes a better bed than I do!

The third disappointment was having to pay for fish processing - $1 a pound for anything we brought home (keep in mind we were already paying $3200/person for four days of fishing). It's for this reason we only brought back 150 lbs. of fish between the three of us. We caught far more but we had limited funds and we still had to pay for freezer space per box in Anchorage upon our return from Afognak, as well as baggage fees to get them all the way home to Colorado. Furthermore, my husband helped filet and bag the salmon. No big deal on that as he enjoyed the comaraderie, but still, most lodges I looked at do include the processing in the package price. As an aside, I wish we'd requested different cuts of fish - filets AND steaks. I am sure the staff would have been happy to do this. We just didn't think to ask.

Fourth, I know it was due to a combination of things but we were supposed to be out on the boat by 9:00 a.m. each morning and that rarely if ever happened. Do I feel cheated or think we didn't get enought boat time? Not really. Garrett fished us hard and by day's end we were usually ready to go in, especially since the weather wasn't always cooperative. HOWEVER, we could have stayed out forever the day we were into the silvers. That was the only time we got to the dock after the other boat.

The 'event' that probably had the biggest effect on my four star review had to do a misunderstanding, if you will. The evening before our last day of fishing we asked Garrett if we would be by ourselves in the boat the following day? He said yes. No new guests were coming until the day we were leaving. One of the other staffers confirmed this. We asked Garrett if we could go out earlier than usual in the morning and he said, "If you want to I'll be ready when you are." Next morning we hurried through breakfast and headed down to the dock. On the way we ran into the lodge owner's son, also a guide, and told him we were off to fish. "No you aren't," he said. Turns out there were two men coming in on a plane in an hour or so and we had to wait for them as they were slated to fish with us. Someone forgot to inform our guide and the staffers of this fact. The owner's son continued to inform us that he was 'taking the day off from guiding' to do paper work. Please don't get me wrong. It takes a lot of organization to run a successful business, but there are three boats and three guides at the lodge and under the circumstances couldn't or shouldn't this young man have put the customer first, especially after learning about Garrett's and our plans for the day, as well as the lack of communication about the arriving fishermen (I heard Garrett insist to the fellow that he did not have these incoming men on his schedule)? However, the owner's son refused to change his plans and we had to wait almost two hours to get out in the boat. We did have fun with the two new boat mates but it just left a bad taste in our mouths.

The final blow to missing the five star rating had to do with gratuities. I had set a certain amount aside that I believed generous for the guide and the help staff. How surprised I was, though, when, at the end of the trip, the lodge owner informed me most guests tip 10% of their total bill! We were already paying $3200/person for the four-day trip, not to mention airfare to and from Kodiak, and now she was suggesting (not pressuring, mind you) that I pay another $960 to be divided by the guide and four staffers, and in a way I didn't necessarily agree with.. I was too tongue-tied to make my wishes known. I should have checked with the owner BEFORE our trip so that I could have planned accordingly. Most online sources suggest $50-60/day to the guide. Ironically, when we were in Kodiak we ran into one of the couples who had left the lodge when we did. When I mentioned the gratuity issue they were appalled and said they didn't leave anywhere near 10%, nor, they said, did the other couple who was there with all of us. Had I been taken? I don't know. The owner is a nice lady. We did call the lodge when we got to Anchorage and asked the owner to cancel our credit card tip, which she graciously did. When we got home I sent a check for the gratuity. I actually did 'up' the tips from what I'd originally planned but divided them the way I felt fair and reasonable. Still, the whole incident threw my family and me for a loop.

On a more positive note, Garrett took us on a bear walk at which time we saw nine Kodiak brown bears including sows and their cubs. It was an adrenaline rush for sure. Additionally, the day we fished for silvers Garrett fired up the grill and we enjoyed fresh caught salmon right then and there as we reeled them in! He also made sure we got our fill of upclose (but not unsafe) encounters with humpbacks and dall porpoises. We even saw killer whales out a ways In short, we saw everything and more that we'd hoped to see and Garrett did his utmost to give us a wonderful time.

In short, it was truly a once in a lifetime experience. I doubt we'll ever go back to the lodge, but not because we don't want to. Between airfare and travel expenses on top of lodge fees this isn't the kind of trip we can afford to take very often. Hopefully we will go back to Alaska one day, and if we do we will undoubtedly glance out in the direction of Afognak, point and say, "What a magical place, and what adventures we had at Afognak Wilderness Lodge!"

Room Tip: Cabin three is farthest from the lodge and dock. Cabin one seems to have the best view.
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  • Stayed: August 2013, traveled with family
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36  Thank Dineyander
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Reviewed August 18, 2013

After a slow start in the competition against my two friends who already had several large ling cod and halibut in the boat, I finally hooked the big one! My first halibut, weighing in at a modest 100 pounds and with a fight that you can't imagine, you must experience it! After a twenty minute tug of war with this fish, I managed to have enough strength left to bring it close enough to the surface to finally "see color!" Without the guidance of Luke Randall, a terrific boat captain and host I would have last the battle with that fish! What an experience and adventure, fishing the pristine, uncrowded waters of Seal Bay and Afognak Island.

Two friends and I spent three days at Afognak Wilderness Lodge in the second week of July, 2013. It was a gut feeling but from the moment our float plane touched the water and taxied up to the dock where I could see the staff waiting for us to arrive, I knew we were going to be treated well at this scenic island hideaway.

We experienced the wholesome quality of spruce tree log cabin accommodations nestled among the tall pines on this picturesque shoreline. Provided and made welcome by a delightful and cordial staff, chef and even a friendly red fox. Only to be topped off with a hearty, home-style meals served in comforts and warm surroundings of the Shannon, Josh and Luke Randall family lodge.

Now back to the fishing, three days of adventure with Luke (and some buddies that joined him for the week) guided us each day to our limits of halibut, ling cod, yellow-eye rock fish and black sea bass. The only crowds we encountered were the pods of humpback whales that inhabited the fishing areas. The fishing was incredible. I will be hard pressed to surpass the "fish on" experience my friends and I shared. And we can't forget the other island adventures we shared. Bear watching, piloting the boat close to seal and sea lion environs and a hike in the most unique, moss-laden, spruce tree micro climate that I have scene. Islands of rock with green, wind swept pastures of tall grass that Ireland would envy. The Afognak Wilderness Lodge adventure with my friends will be indelibly marked in my mind.

This destination must be on every Alaskan fishing adventurers bucket list! I can't wait to get back!

  • Stayed: July 2013, traveled with friends
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3  Thank Mike L
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed August 8, 2013

I have had the good fortune of being able to visit Alaska many times due to the fact that my brother lives on the Kenai river. Needless to say I have enjoyed many great memories with my family and friends fishing the Kenai. This year two of my friends and I decided spend a couple days on the Kenai then to fly down to Afognak Wilderness Lodge. I had read many of the reviews and it sounded like a great lodge, but what really helped make our final decision was the fact that we could stay for less than a full week. We ended up staying for 3 nights in early July. This might be one of the most beautiful places on earth! We flew in from Homer a day late due to fog. We thought we would end up losing a night but not so. I called Shannon and told her we could not get out of Homer, she checked her schedule and said "Why don't you come down tomorrow and we'll add the day on the end?" I knew right then this was going to be a great group of people to work with. When we landed at the Lodge that next morning the first thing Luke, Shannon's son and our guide, asked us was "How much fish do you want to ship back?" That sums it up, it's not if you will catch fish, it's how much do you want. It turns out that the fishing is only a small fraction of the fun at this Lodge. We told Luke that we had no agenda and really wanted to see anything he would like to show us. We saw everything, bears, whales, porpoise, sea lion, puffins, beautiful water falls within a virgin spruce moss covered forest, of course the local celebrity foxes and fish, boy did we catch fish. Halibut, (My friend caught a 100 pounder his first catch), Ling cod (Huge Ling Cod), Yellow Eye rockfish and Bass. We were between the two salmons runs so we knew that would not be on the menu, though we did manage to catch a few of those as well. As mentioned in other reviews, there is so much to do that you don't spend a lot of time in the cabin but what a pleasant surprise they were. Very clean, built out of Huge Spruce logs with comfortable beds and recliners, hot showers and a view that is hard to describe. The main lodge, where Shannon lives and opens her home to all guests, is where we had breakfast and dinners every day. What a feast! Bryan, the chef, is fantastic. Each morning we had made from scratch biscuits and muffins, fresh fruit, eggs bacon, reindeer sausage, toast, coffee, and juice. Then, as we were getting our sandwiches for the boat lunch Bryan would ask if we would like fish for dinner and would we mind if he prepared it this way or that way. Dinners were spectacular, just as wonderful as breakfast only more interesting, and he was happy to tell you what it was and how he prepared it. From the very first day we had the feeling of being part of the family. Everyone was friendly and seemed happy to be there. This is a first class operation, everything from the 2 new 40' catamaran boats to the fishing gear, the fish processing and freezing facility to the cabins and the food. If you want to truly experience a little piece of Heaven on earth, this is the place to go. We have already started making plans to take our wives next year. Thanks Luke, Josh, Shannon, Garrett, Bryan and Jordan for sharing your home with us, can't wait to see you again.

Room Tip: Bring your favorite beer or wine there are no liquor stores for a hundred miles.
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  • Stayed: July 2013, traveled with friends
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3  Thank Mike L
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed July 3, 2013

My husband and I have just returned from our two day stay at the Afognak Wilderness Lodge. I planned the stay at the end of our vacation in order to save the best for last. It was that and more…much more than we expected. After our trip down from Mt. McKinley and Denali via planes, trains, buses, taxis with shuffling luggage and excursions, it was a pleasure to not have to think about anything except for what we wanted to do for the day. From the time we stepped off the float plane up to the time we boarded the plane back to Anchorage the Randall’s saw to all of our needs. The lodge cabins and the landscaping create a magical aura. Shannon, Josh and Luke Randall are the owners and operate the lodge. Shannon opens her home to all the guests. It is where we shared breakfast and dinner together, at the table and chairs made from the logs on their property. The food was served Alaskan family style with the catch of the day fish, sausages, homemade sourdough bread, biscuits, muffins, cakes and ice cream. Breakfast was hearty with eggs, oatmeal, fruit and biscuits. Everything was fresh and delicious.
Walking from the lodge to our cabin was like walking through an Enchanted Forest. The grounds were covered with moss, grass, ferns and flowers with a canopy of evergreens to protect us. There are two beautiful foxes who are “permanent residents” of the lodge. They will appear at any time. The female, Foxy, would eat out of my hand. I loved spending any spare time with the two foxes. The location of the lodge and the cabins exude a “Frontier” atmosphere. Nevertheless, they provided us with all the creature comforts we needed and more.
We came to Afognak to photograph the wildlife in Kodiak. Our guide, Garrett, was knowledgeable and experienced. We were able to see much more than we expected. Garrett tailored our daily trips to what we wanted to do and what we wanted to see. The most exciting was a humpback whale breaching right in front of our small fishing boat. A full breach within reach….what an experience, awesome!!!
It was fun to sit around the dinner table at night and share our experiences. The guests who came for fishing caught more than they had hoped for because Luke and Josh knew where to take them on their new catamaran fishing boats. The Afognak Lodge is an ideal spot in Alaska for all aficionados…hunters, photographers, and fisherman or to just escape from the stress of life. It is a comprehensive experience for all ages and interests.

Room Tip: Cabin 1 is located on a front edge of the lodge property with water views on two sides. We sat in t...
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  • Stayed: June 2013, traveled as a couple
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3  Thank SunnyNY_12
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed February 27, 2013

My family and I went for five days in August. We were ruined by the experience. Now nothing else compares to the beauty of the wilderness and the wildlife. The accomodations were excellent and the food superb. Luke, one of the guides and the son of the owner was well seasoned and willing to do any activity we had in mind, from fishing to whale watching to snorkeling. We ate in the main lodge with the owner and the guides each day and experienced the true un-edited culture of the Alaskans who live on the Island. Luke took us to view an eagle nest that was on the side of the cliff (apparently a rarity) rather than in a tree and we observed the mother and baby eagle from a close but safe distance. We saw Arctic Foxes, Seals, Sea Lions, Sea Otters, River Otters, Breaching Whales, Orcas, Falcons, Deer, many birds and of course numerous Bear. Luke has an excellent knowledge of the biology of the area and was an excellent resource. We watched a mother bear with three cubs (from a safe distance) eating a salmon. Luke had his assistants (mostly college students working there for the summer) video much of the trip for us. Thanks, Randolf Family for the wonderful time. We hope to return someday.

Room Tip: There is no bad room. Hopefully, like us you won't spend too much time in you room.
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  • Stayed: August 2012, traveled with family
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2  Thank amy k
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed July 30, 2012

We had a great 4 nights here. The cozy cabin was better that I expected. Josh, "Mac" and Garrett were excellent guides and thoughtful in helping in every way. The food and homemade bread was a big hit...thanks for everything!! If you want to view wildlife, this is the place!!

  • Stayed: July 2012, traveled as a couple
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2  Thank LucyandKota
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed June 18, 2012

I was here in July 2011 and was lucky enough to return for another 4 nights in mid May 2012.
Truly, it felt like coming home. Weather was fabulous, new cook, same comfy room. Excellent new boat for amazing wild life viewing...lucky enough to see pods of orca, humpback family with breaching calf and fin whales; plus the usual mammals and birds. Due to record cold winter, the sock eye salmon were just arriving so bears were not in the streams. However, saw a large male looking for clams on the beach. Last year's eagle chick had been replaced with a tiny week? old chick. Last year's silver fox has a boyfriend this year. BBQ on Russian beach with stunning sunset is a high light. Great fishing. Packed 50lbs of sock eye to California. All this in jaw dropping beauty.

Luke is an amazing guide and great fun.

Sadly, you fly over huge tracts of logged wilderness that impact on the elk and deer populations. Tsunami rubbish is arriving on the ocean currents, especially styrofoam.

I am already planning my 3rd trip!

  • Stayed: May 2012, traveled with friends
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3  Thank goodtimes1950
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Additional Information about Afognak Wilderness Lodge

Address: PO Box SYB, Seal Bay, Kodiak,, Kodiak Island, AK 99697-0230
Phone Number:
Location: United States > Alaska > Kodiak Island
Amenities:
Bar / Lounge Beach Business Center with Internet Access Free Breakfast Free High Speed Internet ( WiFi ) Children Activities (Kid / Family Friendly) Restaurant
Hotel Style:
Ranked #4 of 5 Hotels in Kodiak Island
Price Range: $400 - $800 (Based on Average Rates for a Standard Room)
Number of rooms: 6
Official Description (provided by the hotel):
We are located in the heart of a coastal state park with a wide variety & abundance of land/marine wildlife plus outstanding fresh/saltwater fishing and we've been one of Alaska's favorite true-wilderness lodges since 1974. To reach us, you fly to Anchorage, connect to & overnight in Kodiak then, the next morning, the float-plane service will pick you up from your hotel lobby, have you on our dock by 9:00am . . . and the adventure begins. ... more   less 
Also Known As:
Afognak Wilderness Hotel Kodiak Island

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