Six of the best: Alaskan wilderness lodges

Winterlake Lodge

Built on the site of an old hunting camp that was supposedly home to a trapper called Gene and his mail-order bride, Winterlake is now owned and operated by a trained chef and sommelier named Kirsten Dixon and her husband, Carl. For 20 years now, they have run the place as a kind of foodie paradise on the edge of the civilised world, offering gourmet meals and vintage wines in the main lodge, and luxury accommodation in a surrounding cluster of log cabins. While enjoying a massage or yoga session you can literally hear the call of the wild – the lodge also is a rest stop for the world famous Iditarod sled dog race, and keeps its own kennel of cute, fast huskies.  One full day and night from $1550 a person, including meals and float plane transfer.


Favorite Bay Lodge

The float plane lands right on the bay, and there is a French chef waiting on the dock with a silver tray of freshly baked chocolate chip biscuits. This kind of treatment, which extends indoors to the most comfortable bedding this writer has ever experienced, creates a dreamlike, fairtytale contrast with the deep, dark woods beyond – described to me as "bear's living room" by the lodge's butler. We didn't see any grizzlies, but we did fish, kayak, and hike – very warily – through that forest with a well-trained and well-armed guide. From $4140 for a three-day, three-night, all-inclusive package.


Brooks Lodge

This more rustic, communal-style lodge is located in the famous Katmai National Park, just upstream from Brooks Falls, where every passing grizzly bear seems to stop to catch a leaping salmon and pose for a photo in a wildlife magazine. Every visitor is required to attend the in-house "bear school", where a park ranger gives a lecture on the etiquette for close encounters with these creatures (lesson one: don't run). Again, I didn't see one during my stay, but I heard something huge right outside my cosy cabin in the night. The ranger confirmed the next morning that the bears liked the taste of the weather-sealant on the cabins, and sometimes come to lick it.  From $1111 for one night including air transfer.


Afognak Lodge

Built by homesteader Roy Randall with his bare hands in the 1960s, this place feels like the real deal – truly isolated in a hidden bay on the far side of Kodiak Island and completely self-sustaining with its own generators, sawmill, fish processing plant and armoury. The Randall family are modern-day frontierspeople, and as a guest you feel not just welcome but protected. Roy's sons, Luke and Josh, can take you hiking through the thickly forested interior or boating across the surrounding waters, which are busy lanes for passing whales and sea lions. $885 aday/night, all inclusive.


Waterfall Resort

This former cannery on Prince of Wales Island is a short float-plane flight from the rainy, tourist-friendly city of Ketchikan, pretty close to civilisation by Alaskan standards. But the presence of humans still feels highly provisional here – a few leisure guests and hardcore sport fishermen eating exquisite, freshly caught king salmon and sitting around the fireplace on the edge of an immensity of trees, rocks, ice, and cold blue water. From $3880 for an all-inclusive three-night package.



Ultima Thule Lodge

Owned and operated by the Claus Family (what a perfect name for people so at home in the frozen north) this is one of the more remote Alaskan lodges. Paul Claus himself will fly you 160 kilometres past the end of the last road, into an otherwise inaccessible and unvisited national park amid the Wrangell and Saint Elias mountains. You'll be well fed and generously sheltered in a high-end private cabin, but you've also got more than 5 million hectares of wilderness outside, and the Clauses are keen to help you explore it. From $8620 for an all-inclusive four-night package.


The writer was a guest of each of the lodges, except Ultima Thule.