At the end of a cove on the tip of the Kenai Peninsula, across Kachemak Bay from Homer, Alaska, there lives an award-winning chef and food writer who trained at the prestigious Cordon Bleu in Paris. On the edge of pristine wilderness is perhaps not where you’d expect to find a master chef, but Alaska is full of such surprises, and Tutka Bay Lodge, the brainchild of chef Kirsten Dixon and her husband Carl, is one of them. Nestled amid tall stands of old-growth Sitka spruces at the mouth of a miles-long fjord, Tutka Bay is a wilderness lodge with deep roots and a culinary twist. Along with an inspiring array of outdoor activities, the lodge offers a unique look at the food-gathering and preparation processes of Kirsten’s sea-to-table cuisine. Guests have the opportunity to participate in every stage of the process—from fishing and foraging to preparing and, of course, eating.
This is the sort of place that cleanses your soul, where you can breathe in the fresh mist while wandering in the temperate rain forest, hike trails that lace the beautiful coast, observe bears, soar high above a glacier, and kayak on the clear waters of a stunning fjord—all within a few days. At the end of each day’s adventure, return to your cozy cabin, a complimentary massage if you wish, and an incomparable meal—one you may well have helped prepare.
Tutka Lodge’s parent company, Within the Wild, was founded by husband and wife team Kirsten and Carl Dixon in the early 1980s. Natives of the lower 48, they both came to Alaska as medical professionals in the 70's, but sought a way to live closer to nature and to raise their girls to be comfortable on the water or in the garden.
Decades later, Within the Wild is a family venture involving three generations of humans (the littlest one mainly provides entertainment) and several dogs. Local vendors have become long-term family friends and the lodge’s naturalists stay on for years. The atmosphere is one of warmth and creativity, and a visit to the lodge is a meaningful encounter with life on one of America’s most far-flung frontiers.
Guests who book their stay through National Geographic Unique Lodges will get an exclusive look into the culinary world of award-winning chef Kirsten Dixon during a private dinner in her Wilderness Kitchen. Observe a lodge chef at work within the rustic facilities of the Widgeon II, a repurposed crabbing boat. Enjoy a private gourmet dinner, and take the opportunity to chat with the chef who is preparing your meal. As a complement to this special experience, guests will receive Chef Dixon’s The Tutka Bay Lodge Cookbook: Coastal Cuisine from the Wilds of Alaska.
Fresh Alaskan fare is part of the signature experience at Tutka Bay Lodge, and to ensure the sustainable integrity of the lodge menu, the chefs grow, forage, and buy local ingredients whenever possible. Sustainable culinary practices are so integral to the operation of the lodge that guests often find themselves naturally contributing to the preparation of the evening meal. Kayaking trips may involve a stop at the local floating oyster farm; fresh salmon and halibut caught on fly-fishing expeditions may be cooked up by the kitchen; and a hike through the surrounding woods can be coupled with foraging for wild berries and herbs. After the meals are prepared and the dishes enjoyed, leftovers are composted into soil for the herb and vegetable garden, where part of the food preparation cycle begins again.
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