15 things to do in Utcavik (AK)

Utqiaġvik, also known as Barrow, is the northernmost settlement in Alaska, United States. The traditional name was voted to keep Inupik in 2016.

As the gateway to the Arctic Ocean, this part of the world dates back to 500 AD, where whaling and fishing were the livelihoods of its ancestors.

Tour groups often visit Utqiaġvik, venturing into the North Pole before heading to Point Barrow, the northernmost point in the United States.

Visit this remote world and see the desolate and beautiful Arctic. Here are some of the best things to do in Utqiaġvik.

1. Inuit Heritage Centre

Inupiat Heritage Centre

The museum and cultural center offer amazing insights into the people who have lived and hunted whales in the region for over a thousand years. Here you’ll find exhibits, handicrafts and art, as well as a library and gift shop.

There is also a traditional room for displaying and teaching traditional crafts. You can even watch traditional dance performances by local dancers.

It shows how locals help commercial whaling work. Help the staff get food and clothing to fight the elements. Authentic insight into the history of the people of Utqiaġvik.

2. Barrow Beach

Barrow Beach

This beach is a frozen paradise in Utcavik. You can’t miss a chance to visit the area without taking a stroll on this amazing beach. An important tip is to visit in the early morning in summer with almost 24 hours of sunshine.

You can see boulders, black sand and beautiful views on the beach. Some people visit to take part in Arctic diving. Jump into the icy ocean and a story to tell for the rest of your life. Not many people can say they’ve jumped into the Arctic sea.

Be careful when visiting, there are no real high or low tides, but at certain times of the year you may encounter polar bears that frequent the area.

3. Lake Emaiksoun

This freshwater lake is a moderate hiking distance from town. This is a great place to visit, it feels very secluded and peaceful as you walk to the lake.

There are stunning views and breathtaking landscapes to explore, not to mention the abundance of wildlife to discover. Most notable are the seabirds found in the area, making it a great place for bird watchers to visit.

Pick a trail and explore, but make sure you end up with plenty of supplies. You don’t want to be left out.

4. Tundra Tour

Tundra Tour, Barrow

Sometimes referred to as the Top of the World Tour, you will enjoy a fully guided tour of the area. This type of travel means you don’t have to worry about planning your own excursions because it’s all done for you.

Visit the Arctic Circle and learn about the way the locals live, all in one visit to the top sights. You can book tours in advance, which is a good idea, especially if you’re here for a short time.

5. St Patrick’s Catholic Church

St Patrick's Catholic Church, Barrow

This church is the northernmost Catholic church in the world. The original church was built in 1954 from an abandoned military building.

The last mass in the old church took place on Easter Sunday in 1992, then it was demolished and the new St Patrick’s Church started. This also includes the pastor’s living quarters. The first mass held in the new church was at midnight on Christmas Day 1992, although it was not yet fully completed.

Today, the church is seen as a pilgrimage for Alaskans and Fairbanks priests. But in the area, it’s an interesting place.

6. Naruqartak Festival

Nalukataq festival (blanket throwing)

Held in late June, the Nalukataq festival is a celebration of the end of the whaling season, and the greater its success, the longer the festival lasts.

The highlight of the festival is throwing blankets, which are used to throw people as high as possible into the air using sealskin tarps held by locals. It’s not a safe sport, but it’s fun to watch and be part of the atmosphere.

While whaling isn’t a practice that some in the U.S. like, the traditional use of whale meat is regulated by Alaska state law.

7. The end of the road

    Look North at Barrow

Point Barrow or the end of the road is the northernmost point in the United States. You can tour almost to the end of the road, but the last few miles are a bit tricky and not very safe.Many tourists come to the area just to visit this

Polar bears are frequent in the area, so hiking on the soft, cold sand is not recommended to prevent encounters, and to avoid running into sinkholes and getting stuck.

You may wish to hire a local who knows the area to take you out. But it’s just as good to drive to the end of a suitable drivable road and enjoy the distant scenery and bizarre atmosphere.

8. Beipo District Office

Although a working administrative office, the building is also home to some interesting Aboriginal artifacts. While it’s not a tourist attraction per se, you can enter the lobby area to view artwork and historical artifacts.

You can visit at any time of the day, you just need to get permission from security personnel to enter and explain why you want to visit.

9. Northern Lights Restaurant

Northern Lights Restaurant, Utcavik

If you’re looking for a quick bite to eat at a place recommended by the locals, then you should consider a stop at the Northern Lights restaurant.

Open for lunch and dinner, they offer a varied menu, plenty of potions, and a family-friendly vibe. You’ll find the restaurant on Hermann Street in the north of town. Favorite dishes include regular American burgers and pizza, but they also do some great Korean and Chinese dishes.

10. Spotting polar bears

polar bear, alaska

Due to its northern location, you have the chance to spot polar bears in their natural habitat. If you are new to the area, you should not explore on your own as it can be dangerous. However, you can book local guides and tours.

A trip out will give you the best chance to see bears from a safe distance and learn about their habitat.

11. Hiking

Barrow, Alaska

Book a walk around this northernmost town and you can be led by a knowledgeable guide who will show you the best places.

Choose to be part of a small group, or book a private guide who will expertly introduce you to history, culture and interesting local trivia.

If you want to explore on your own, you can always download a walking guide or get a map at the information center. In this way, you can choose the places to visit and learn about.

12. Birnirk Archaeological Site

Birnik archaeological site

Designated a National Historic Landmark for its archaeological importance, this historic site can help you learn more about prehistoric Arctic culture. The site consists of 16 mounds that have been studied to understand the early Birnirk and Thule cultures.

Artifacts found here include ancient hunting and fishing equipment, carving tools and darts. This area is critical for understanding life in ancient Alaska.

13. Nijvi Kut Restaurant

Top of the World Hotel Barrow

If you like a meal with a view, this restaurant won’t let you down. The restaurant is located on the top floor of the “Top of the World” hotel, facing the Arctic Ocean. You can eat your food while sitting in a small pavilion overlooking icebergs floating in the ocean.

The menu is American and you can book a table in advance, a tip is to look and designate your preferred table before booking to ensure you have a great view.

14. Ukpiagvik Village

Ukpiavik Village

While there isn’t much to see here today, just southwest of the town is where this ancient village once stood. If you look closely, you’ll see the remains of a turf hut turned into small mounds on an otherwise flat landscape.

If you take a walking tour, your guide will tell you more about the history of the area.

15. Cape Smythe Whaling and Trading Post

This old wooden building originally served as a shelter for the whalers who came to work here, but has since been used more notably as a trading post.

This is the oldest framed structure in the Arctic, built in 1893 and worth a visit to see the building and the jawbone of the bowhead whale standing outside.

Also known as the Gateway to the Arctic, many tourists take the opportunity to dip their toes or touch the icy waters.

Where to Stay: Best Hotels in Utcavik, Alaska (AK)
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