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Tiny Tenakee is a Portrait of Remote Charm


Tenakee Springs is a remote village on the Tenakee Inlet off the Chatham Strait that dates to the late 1800s and is inaccessible except by boat or plane.  During the summer months, about 100 people reside there, many who live the rest of the year in Juneau.  There is a small marina where a few dozen fishing boats will tie up as needed while working in the area.  The entire village consists of one gravel road with homes and a few businesses on either side.  A mountain climbs up behind the village, leaving nowhere else for it to go or grow.  There is a mercantile store, a community bathhouse, a small gift shop and bakery, and a post office.  And a brown bear makes occasional appearances.  Most residents keep four-wheel vehicles or bicycles for getting around town.

There is a public restroom–an outhouse that basically stands at the end of a pier and empties directly onto the rocky beach below.  The residents are a mixed bag of older couples, old hippies and families with small children.  Some are very friendly, others would just as soon nobody stopped in.  We arrived as a group of 15 or so, so we weren’t much of an impact on the town.  But Jeff had e-mailed ahead to let the gift shop/bakery know we’d be stopping and they opened up for us.

A teenager sat in a phone booth beside the community bathhouse with a laptop in his lap, a wonderful bit of technological irony that was not wasted on us.

We knocked around for an hour or so and headed back towards the marina for our tender back to the Island Spirit.  A fisherman spoke to us as we walked beside him and asked if we had stopped in Rosie’s for a beer.

‘You mean there’s a bar up there?’ I asked.

‘Yeah, right up there by the bathhouse.’

‘I can’t believe we missed it,’ I said.

‘Well, it’s easy to miss and it doesn’t look like it’s open, but it is.  You can have a beer and she also serves hamburgers, pork chops and steak, but that’s it.  A beer will cost you around $3.75 and a hamburger is $7.75.’

He then invited me to come see his boat, which I did.  It was about 60 years old and all wood.  He and his crew of four, including his son and grandson, were working Alaska for the summer.    He spends his winters in Arizona and plays golf.  Another bit of irony in Tenakee, I thought.


Mac Lacy

Mac Lacy is president and publisher of The Group Travel Leader Inc. Mac has been traveling and writing professionally ever since a two-month backpacking trip through Europe upon his graduation with a journalism degree from the University of Evansville in 1978.