Two remote Alaska lodges have been given an international nod with a listing from National Geographic as some of the most unique in the world.
Nestled in scenic Tutka Bay on the southern Kenai Peninsula, is the Tutka Bay Lodge.
“Well, Tutka Bay is a large fjord across Kachemak Bay from Homer and the lodge is very private. There’s not a lot of other buildings around.”
The lodge is owned and operated by Mandy Dixon and her mother Kirsten.
“And you get off your boat and you walk up the boardwalk onto a huge deck, which can land three helicopters at a time. It’s a very large deck and it has a hot tub in the middle of it. It’s quite beautiful and it’s surrounded by old growth forest and lots of eagles’ nests. It’s just like this private little cove that’s protected from everything else,” says Dixon.
The luxury lodge recently joined the National Geographic Society’s Unique Lodges of the World program. To be part of the program, lodges must demonstrate a commitment to authenticity, excellence and sustainability.
“Well, it was really an amazing honor for my family. We basically got the recognition through a random referral to National Geographic. We don’t know who that is or what happened there, but somebody just kind of got us on their radar. They came and inspected us and they felt like we were a great fit for their small group of unique lodges around the world.”
One thing that caught National Geographic’s attention was the lodge’s unique offerings of local cuisine. Dixon is a world-renowned chef. In 2014, she was the governor’s nominee to represent Alaska at the Great American Seafood Cookoff. She and her family pride themselves on serving local food as much as they can.
“Ninety percent of our food is local, either from here in Homer for Tutka Bay, from the farmers, obviously the seafood, and from the Matanuska Valley for the other lodge, Winterlake.”
Winterlake Lodge, also owned by the Dixon family, made National Geographic’s cut as well. It is about 60 minutes northwest of Anchorage by floatplane in the Alaska range. It serves as part of the Finger Lake checkpoint on the Iditarod trail, where they feed hungry mushers by the dozen.
“It’s log cabins. My father has built all the buildings on site. It’s kind of up an old Gold Rush trail and since we moved there, animals have flocked back there. There’s moose and bears. Every day they see them at the lodge.”
Dixon’s family has been in the luxury lodge business for about 30 years. And while neither lodge necessarily needs a boost in business, she says this designation will open up new avenues for them.
“People respect National Geographic. They respect their opinions and trust National Geographic. They actually have their own booking agency, so people can book to come to the lodge through National Geographic. So, that is a new outlet for us.”
All in all, Dixon says she’s pleased with the listing. She says being at the top of the luxury lodge business isn’t something she planned but it has made for an exciting life.
“My mother is a trained chef. I am a trained chef. We care a lot about food. My father is an incredible adventurer and just loves to give people that experience – that authentic, life-changing experience. I think with that, and having high quality service, we just kind of came into that market.”
Winterlake and Tutka Bay are two of only three lodges in the U.S. to make the list. In total, 38 properties on six continents have been given this prestigious title.