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Out on Prince William Sound

The waters of Prince William Sound around Cordova, although lacking the tidewater glaciers found in the western Sound, are protected and rich in marine life. Sea otters don't receive a second glance from locals, congregating in rafts of many dozens or even hundreds. Sea lions can be found predictably, too, and orcas and humpback whales are not unusual. Bird-watchers can expect harlequin ducks and many other marine birds.

Cordova Coastal Outfitters is a good place to start for any outdoor activities (tel. 800/357-5145 or 907/424-7424; www.cordovacoastal.com). Andy Craig and Seawan Gehlbach know the equipment, the skills, and the area, and they convey that knowledge with casual enthusiasm. Their office is south of the boat harbor, between the Alaska Commercial grocery store and Baja Taco. They guide sea kayaking, rent kayaks, and offer water taxi drop-off for kayakers. The guided sea-kayaking trip for beginners lasts 4 hours and costs $75, $60 ages 12 and under, concentrating on wildlife sightings; a 7-hour guided trip is $115, $100 ages 12 and under, including lunch. An advantage of planning your kayaking here is that there is plenty to see near the harbor and not much boat traffic. If your group isn't up to kayaking, consider renting a motorboat. You won't believe the sense of freedom you feel clearing the harbor breakwater to explore Orca Inlet and the bays of Hawkins Island, on the far side. Boats rent for $150 to $225 a day; fishing gear is extra.

A few vessels are available for fishing charters or day trips to see whales and other wildlife. The chamber of commerce has links to charter operators on its website, or call them for a referral.

Camping -- A Forest Service campground is located well out of town, at Childs Glacier.

Where to Eat -- Some of Cordova's best meals -- breakfast, lunch, and dinner -- come from Baja Taco (tel. 907/424-5599), near the south end of the boat harbor. The kitchen and espresso machine are in an old bus, with a window for ordering, and there are comfortable indoor and outdoor seating areas for diners, with free Wi-Fi. The salmon tacos are exceptional, and all the meals are tasty and generous. The restaurant serves wine and both Alaskan and Mexican beer. It's open April through September.

Ambrosia, 410 1st St. (tel. 907/424-7175), is a solid standby, a well-run family restaurant in a light storefront with an extensive menu, including pizza. It's the kind of place that stays in business in a small town: The food is reliable, the portions large, and the service friendly and helpful. My children became addicted to the gooey fettuccine Alfredo with chicken. The restaurant serves beer and wine. Prices range from $10 to $21. Hours are daily 4pm to 10pm.

The primary small-town eat-and-meet place is the vegetarian-friendly Killer Whale Cafe (tel. 907/424-7733), on 1st Street. All-day breakfast includes a selection of omelets and other ways of having eggs, and for lunch there are sandwiches in the $8-to-$11 range, including salmon and halibut, burgers, and the like. Besides the expected, the cafe serves salmon cakes, biscuits and gravy, smoothies, milkshakes, and espresso. Hours are daily 6:30am to 3pm.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.