Kodiak is a worker's town. Unlike many ports in the Southeast, tourism in Kodiak is nice but not necessary. That's why there's no hostel on the island, no campgrounds near the city and nobody running a shuttle service to the airport.
Everybody is too busy working, primarily at sea. Kodiak sits at the crossroads of some of the most productive fishing grounds in the world and is home to Alaska's largest fishing fleet - 770 boats including the state's largest trawl, longline and crab vessels. The fleet and the 12 shore-based processors account for more than 50% of employment on the island.
Kodiak works hard. It's consistently one of the top five fishing ports in the country and second only to Alaska's Dutch Harbor for value of product and tonnage processed. Since the king-crab moratorium in 1983, Kodiak has diversified to catch everything from salmon, pollack and cod to sea cucumbers. In 1995 Kodiak set a record when 49 million pounds of salmon crossed its docks.
It is also the home to the largest US coast-guard station, while at Cape Narrow at the south end of the island is the Kodiak Launch Complex (KLC), a $38 million low Earth-orbit launch facility.
You'll find residents friendly, lively at night in the bars, often stopping to offer you a lift without a thumb being extended. But in the morning they go to work. This is the real Alaska: unaltered, unassuming and not inundated by the tourism industry, particularly cruise ships. Arrive for the scenery, stay to enjoy outdoor adventures that range from kayaking to photographing a 1000lb bear. But most of all, come to Kodiak to experience Alaska and meet people who struggle at sea to earn a living on the stormy edge of the Pacific Ocean. This is a lesson in life worth the price of an airline ticket from Anchorage.
Kodiak destination guides
Lonely Planet: Roads Less Travelled Alaska itinerary
All roads lead from Anchorage, so start with the scenic train ride along Cook Inlet, and through the tunnel to Whittier, a bizarre relic of WWII. Afterwards, jump on an Alaska Maritime Highway ferry across Prince William Sound to Valdez for views and scenic grandeur more typical of a cruise than an inexpensive ferry trip.