Juneau’s most unique whale watching experience – Juneau Lighthouse Tours Review

Last Updated on July 12, 2023

The relatively new (in 2022) Juneau Lighthouse tour offers a unique whale watching experience in Juneau that is hyper local and perfect for those who like to go beyond what everyone else is doing for something extra special when they’re traveling.

Juneau is well known for its fantastic whale watching and this is a way to combine that with a visit to a historic lighthouse to go a bit deeper with Juneau, it’s history and it’s people. The owners of this company have years of experience whale watching in Juneau (listen to Episode 5 of my podcast for an interview with them) and started this tour as a way to offer something different and unique and they have succeeded.

A humpback whale tale in the air as the whale dives with a big splash. The tail is black with white markings and you can see mountains in the background on a cloudy day.
A humpback whale near Juneau. Photo Credit: Juneau Lighthouse Tours

I’m a former Alaskan and I still visit frequently. I’m picky about tours since I’m a guide myself! And, I loved this tour so that tells you a lot about how good it is. I do not have the equipment or photography skills for whale photography, but Juneau Lighthouse Tours let me use a couple of theirs for this article as well as hosted me for this experience. All opinions in this article are my own.

Who is the Juneau Lighthouse Tour best for?

This is the ideal tour in Juneau for anyone who wants to go whale watching and is looking for something unique and different from what everyone else is doing.

If you enjoy getting to know local people when you travel and see places not many visitors get to go and you want to do a whale watching tour, this is the tour for you!

Accessibility and Mobility

I highly recommend contacting Juneau Lighthouse Tours in advance for specific mobility needs. Like most small companies in Alaska, they’ll do everything they can to make the tour work for you and answer all your questions.

You can definitely do this tour without stairs (except for inside the lighthouse), though there are some stretches of walking and stepping on to and off the boat to navigate (their crew will help you do this safely).

On board the board there is plenty of seating and great views on the first level of the boat, it is not necessary to go upstairs to have an amazing time.

Sentinel Island is a remote location and they have done an amazing job of making the walking path on the island barrier free and smooth.

The historic lighthouse does have stairs that go up to the door and stairs in the tower.

The restrooms on board the boat are most spacious than many marine toilets, but still small compared to large bathrooms on land. Think of it as a bigger version of an airplane toilet and you’re on the right track.

What to expect on the Juneau Lighthouse Tour

A white and dark blue tour boat docked at a floating dock with a few people walking down to the boat. There are forested hillsides in the background on a cloudy day
The M/V Beacon docked at Sentinel Island

What makes this tour really special as I’ve mentioned several times is the local experience. This company is owned by long time Juneau residents and experienced whale watching guides. The lighthouse tour is a new offering in Juneau and gives you the chance to visit a historic lighthouse as part of your whale watching trip.

You’ll be picked up either at your ship or hotel depending on what the rest of your trip looks like.

You get to get off the boat and explore Sentinel Island during the tour and you also get to see “out the road”, something very few people experience when visiting Juneau. One way you will leave from or arrive at Auke Bay and the other you will board the boat (or get off) near the end of the road. You’ll get a comfy ride while checking out more of Juneau than most people get to see.

It also includes a stop at an excellent view point of the Mendenhall Glacier.

While you have an excellent chance of seeing whales and other marine wildlife at any point during the tour, about half of the tour is specifically devoted to whale watching to make sure you get some fantastic whale sightings during the trip.

The scenery on this tour is absolutely stunning. It was a rainy day when I went on this tour and we still saw plenty of mountains and glaciers surrounding us, even if we didn’t see them all due to the clouds.

The boat itself is new, beautiful, spacious and has plenty of seating and big windows to enjoy the view from the heated and warm seats. There is plenty of room outside on deck for everyone to be out looking at whales and other wildlife when you’re near them.


Juneau’s summers are typically cool and rainy. Make sure to bring a rain jacket with a hood (umbrellas are no good on both) and comfortable shoes or boots to walk in.

If it’s raining it will still be an amazing experience (it was cloudy and raining off and on the day I did it and it didn’t matter).

Will I see whales?

Yes. Juneau is one of the best places in Alaska, if not the best, for whale watching. In fact this is one of the best places in the world to see humpback whales during the summer months.

The tail of a humpback whale diving and showing white markings
A humpback whale’s tail with distinctive markings is a common sight on this whale watching and lighthouse combo tour. Photo Credit: Juneau Lighthouse Tours

On my tour, we saw several different humpback whales at different points during the trip. We even saw a mother and baby whale and the baby was having a blast frolicking all over the place. It was a very special experience! The team at Juneau Lighthouse Tours has years of experience finding the best whale viewing spots and they see whales on all of their trips.

The side of a tour boat with gray water and forested hillsides nearby on a cloudy day.
Heading to look for whales!

What other wildlife will I see?

In addition to whales, it’s very likely that you’ll see eagles, sea lions, harbor seals and other shore birds on the tour.

What is the Lighthouse like?

After a years of seeing Sentinel Island and it’s lighthouse from the Alaska ferry going between Juneau and Skagway, it was a real treat to get to walk around the island and go inside the lighthouse.

Even without that personal history, it’s pretty special to go to a tiny island that only a few people get to see (this tour is the only way to get there – even the lighthouse volunteers who are restoring it use Juneau Lighthouse Tours to get there).

The Sentinel Lighthouse is one of the earliest lighthouses in Alaska and stands watch over the spectacular Lynn Canal which goes from Juneau up to Haines and Skagway and is just one waterway over from world famous Glacier Bay National Park (whose mountains you can see from the island).

There are also beautiful wildflowers on the island and many native plants.

A historic white lighthouse with a red cap and green plants with purple wildflowers in the foreground
Lupine are all over the island in early summer before they give way to other wildflowers like fireweed. Sentinel Island Lighthouse in the background.

Will I get seasick?

It’s very unlikely you will get seasick on this tour. The inland waterways around Juneau are very protected from ocean swell and in the summer usually the wind is not intense enough to kick up big waves.

If you are particularly sensitive to motion sickness or just don’t want to worry about it, it’s always an option to take a medication in advance for seasickness, but it’s unlikely you’ll need it on this tour.

Are there snacks?

Yes! There are complimentary snacks, water and soft drinks on the boat. You are welcome to bring your own snacks as well if you like.

A rocky beach with some trees near the shore and distant forested islands.
Sentinel Island and the Lynn Canal are beautiful even on a cloudy day

Does the boat have restrooms?

Yes! There are good sized flushing toilets on board the boat. They are a bit bigger than airline bathrooms.

Is there wifi?

No wifi! This is a chance to sit back and enjoy the sights without worrying about your phone, except to take photos. I recommend putting your phone in airplane mode to extend the battery life of your phone, especially when there’s not a strong cell phone signal.

What to wear and bring for the Juneau Lighthouse Tour

The most important thing to bring on this tour is layers for every imaginable kind of weather! The best whale watching experience always happens when you’re outside on deck so make sure you have the clothes to enjoy spending time on deck (even if it’s raining).

A rain jacket is critical. Umbrellas are not super helpful on boats because the boat creates wind as it travels across the water. Make sure the rain jacket has a hood. Rain jackets are also great for protection from wind.

I also recommend a warm layer (even on a sunny warm day) as well as a hat.

You’ll also need sun protection, especially sunglasses, even if it’s overcast. Keep in mind that the weather often changes throughout the day, so be prepared for rain and sun.

If you have a back up battery for your phone, I recommend bring that with you and if you have binoculars those are a great thing to bring along as well. I never remember binoculars and I still had a great time!

RelatedWhat to pack for Alaska

Cost and Booking

If you’re visiting Juneau on a cruise, you can book the Juneau Lighthouse Tour and whale watching through your ship (you might have to ask for it, as it’s a new tour). Or, you can book directly with them online.

The tour costs $195 for all ages of guests.

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Jennie Flaming
Hi! I'm Jennie. I’m a fourth generation Seattleite. I lived in Alaska for many years and I still spend lots of time there every year visiting friends and working as a tour director. I've been a guide for many years in both Alaska and Washington, am a field editor for the Milepost and host the Alaska Uncovered Podcast about Alaska Travel as well as the Washington State Hiking Podcast. I love to share the places I love with visitors, newcomers and my fellow locals. I’m so glad to have you here!