I’ve heard about Dove Island Lodge; my neighbors and coworkers frequently mention their mouth-watering meals and the salt spa which, according to one, is “a work of art.” Today is my first time seeing the lodge for myself. Duane Lambeth, who co-owns the lodge with his wife Tracie, has graciously agreed to give me a tour before the season starts.
Duane picks me up in a high speed landing craft at Crescent Harbor. It’s just a five-minute ride out to Dove Island as we skirt around Sitka National Historical Park, and I count several totem poles and eagles on the shore. By the time we pull into the dock, however, Sitka feels much farther away.
“Here’s where we process our fish,” Duane says, pointing to a building off the dock, “We do it all in-house.” To the right, there’s the float plane dock where Duane keeps his beloved DeHavilland Beaver float plane secured. I follow Duane up the pathway, through a grove of Sitka spruce trees.
Fine Dining and Spectacular Libations
Our first stop is the main lodge, an impressive space with panoramic windows and a two-story fireplace. Handmade antler chandeliers hanging from the wood-beamed ceiling. There are areas for both recreation and dining.
“Meals here are a two-hour event,” Duane says, pulling out a heavy leather-bound menu from last summer. “You won’t find a buffet line or cafeteria-style food. There are five courses for each meal and the menu changes every night, so it’s never the same thing.” I flip through the menu and my mouth waters at the mention of a “Crab Feast”, with fresh-caught Dungeness crab legs roasted over a bed of potatoes and served with a side of corn on the cob.
The lodge’s two professionally trained chefs use the freshest local ingredients they can find, creating gourmet dishes inspired by southeast Alaska. During every meal, they greet guests, answer questions, and personally introduce the menu.
At the end of the main lodge, the bar is overflowing with bottles; Dove Island Lodge boasts over 200 types of scotch and bourbon, and 100 varieties of tequila. With an 8,000-bottle wine cellar, they have the largest wine list of any lodge in Alaska. It’s no wonder that they’ve won Wine Spectator awards for six years in a row.
When it gets late, guests come down to a second waterfront bar to keep the party going. The second bar is an homage to Alaska’s aviation history; there’s a sleek 1940s wooden propeller installed above the door, and the nose of a Piper float plane behind the counter. The bar itself is made of the fuselage of a plane.
Although there’s a shuffleboard and poker table in the bar, the real entertainment can be found on the back patio.
“We installed underwater lights down here,” Duane says, pointing to the water, “At night they come on and illuminate all the fish nearby. It’s an incredible 3D light show.” I rest my hand on the railing and look down at the green water. Even though it’s midday, I can imagine the ghostly silhouettes of fish dancing in the light.
Luxury Salt Spa and Sauna
In 2017, Duane and Tracie embarked on an ambitious project, importing 50 tons of Himalayan salt from Pakistan’s Punjab region. The salt was painstakingly hand-cut into bricks and incorporated into the spa’s architecture; after two years of construction, the project was finally completed.
I’ve seen pictures of the spa, so I know what to expect, but I’m still knocked breathless the moment I step inside. The walls are carefully inlaid with glowing, heated salt bricks in every shade, from a pearly eggshell white to a rich rosy red. I rest my hands on the bricks and feel the warmth soak into my skin. Himalayan salt has many claimed benefits, from reducing inflammation to maintaining proper fluid balance and a healthy blood pressure.
Duane opens the door to one of the massage rooms, where a certified massage therapist or esthetician can perform a variety of rejuvenating spa treatments for guests. At the end of the hall he points out a waterfront yoga studio with large, floor to ceiling windows.
My favorite aspect of the spa, though, is the meditation room. Every morning, lodge staff rake the salt crystals on the floor into swirling zen designs. The salt bricks on the back wall are patterned into a butterfly, and with the twist of a dial I can control the intensity of its glow.
I could stay in the spa forever, but Duane has something else to show me: the sauna outside. It looks like an oversized wine barrel and I soon learn that that’s exactly what it is.
“We had a cooper come out here and build it,” Duane tells me, “He made this barrel without any nails whatsoever, relying just on the wood and the metal hoops.” From the sauna to the spa, Duane and Tracie sure know how to make a statement with their architecture.
Relaxing Oceanfront Accommodations
As I tour the rooms at Dove Island Lodge, I’m impressed by the consistency; the views from every room are stunning. Every two-room suite comes with a private bathroom, personal oceanfront balcony, and hot tub.
“We started Dove Island Lodge in 2003,” says Duane, “But one of the biggest changes we’ve made since then is cutting our numbers in half and doubling the size of our lodging. We are dedicated to accommodations – we think this is the perfect place for couples, corporate retreats, and even intergenerational family trips.”
Adventures for the Whole Family
While Dove Island is, first and foremost, a fishing lodge, 30-40% of guests don’t even go out fishing. Over the years, Duane and Tracie have carefully cultivated an extensive list of optional excursions including kayaking, whale watching, guided tours, and ATV tours on Kruzof Island. Few other lodges, however, can boast their own personal float plane.
As a veteran pilot with 32 years of experience, there is nothing Duane loves more than taking guests out on his float plane.
“My favorite part is being able to fly – it never gets boring! I’ll take people out on glacier flightseeing expeditions. We’ll visit the ice fields on Baranof Island or the glaciers around Juneau. Some people want to see hot springs, so we fly around Baranof and Chichagof Islands. And others want to try fly fishing in a pristine mountain lake.”
As he talks, Duane’s enthusiasm for what he does is infectious.
“I love just being able to talk to the guests,” he tells me. “All of them have such incredible stories. Did you know 80% of our guests are people who have been here before? They’re the heart and soul of our client base.”
He’s already excited for the upcoming season, I can tell, and as I listen to him talk so am I!