If you think Alaska, you probably think cruise. And it’s no wonder--Alaskan cruises are the most popular way to visit the Last Frontier. But if you’ve never been on an Alaskan cruise before, you may be wondering just how to choose a cruise. To help you narrow your choices down a little bit, here are 5 Can’t Miss Alaskan Ports (from south to north).
Ketchikan is technically made of 3 different islands separated by the Tongass Narrows. Creek Street is the highlight of the town—it’s entirely on stilts! Dolly's House (a brothel turned museum) is worth a visit, and a ride on the funicular will take you up to an amazing view of the town and the water. Take some time to visit Saxman Native Village Totem Pole Park to see the largest collection of standing totem poles.
Outside of Ketchikan you can visit Misty Fjords National Monument (almost 4 times the size of Rhode Island). While too small for cruise ships to get into (except for smaller ships like UnCruise), you should absolutely visit on a shore excursion.
Tip: Alaska Marine Highway has its headquarters in Ketchikan. If you want to explore the coast but aren't jazzed with the idea of a tight-scheduled cruise, the Alaska Marine Highway is the way to go!
Sitka was settled by the Tlingit over 10,000 years ago and also maintains a strong Russian influence. This is especially obvious in some of its main attractions: New Archangel Dancers, Russian Bishop’s House, and St. Michael’s Cathedral. But Sitka doesn’t just have historical attractions, it has several natural attractions!
The Alaska Raptor Center is one of the most popular sites to visit when on a Sitka shore excursion. You’ll get to see rehabilitated raptors in a seventeen-acre facility. Sitka is also a great spot to view whales or go on a whale-watching excursion. Just keep in mind that humpback whales are usually only seen in the fall. So if you’re cruising in July, a whale-watching excursion might not be for you!
Tip: Whalefest happens in early November in Sitka. So if you love whales, this is the event for you!
#3 Glacier Bay
About 80% of the visitors who come to see Glacier Bay National Park come by cruise ship. But in order to maintain the pristine conditions of the environment only two cruise ships are allowed per day, making Glacier Bay National Park a highly sought after port.
Glacier Bay NP has the most rapid retreat of glaciers since the ice age, plus an incredible amount of wildlife to view: seals, birds, bears, & whales. There are sixteen active tidewater glaciers in the park. And if you’re not visiting with a cruise ship, in-park accommodations and the opportunity to join kayak trips are available.
Tip: If you really want to visit Glacier Bay NP on your Alaskan cruise, make sure you or your travel agent selects your sailing carefully.
Fun fact: Juneau, the capital of Alaska, is not accessible by land! In fact when your cruise ship docks, you pull right into downtown. It’s a pretty amazing sight to see the cruise ships dock right in the heart of Juneau.
Juneau is full of historical structures and wilderness. More than 60 pre-1904 structures are within seven blocks of the dock. The Alaska State Museum and Alaskan Brewery & Bottling Company are both located in Juneau. Juneau itself is at sea level, but several mountains surround it, including the Juneau Icefield.
The Juneau Icefield includes Mendenhall Glacier, which is one of the few accessible glaciers those with mobility issues can view. The Icefield has more than three dozen glaciers—some you can walk and even take dog sled rides on! There’s a lot you can do in Juneau!
Tip: The Mt. Roberts Tramway (Tlingit-owned) will take you from the cruise dock up into its mountain station. It’s a great opportunity to snap some breathtaking pictures!
Haines is not often a large ship destination but a great place to visit if your ship offers a stop there. Haines is one of the northernmost ports on an Alaskan cruise and often a disembarkation point. It can be reached by the Alaska Marine Highway, the Alaska Highway, and is connected to Canada by road (very rare for Inside Passage towns).
Haines is home to the Chillkat Dancers, one of the state’s best shows. Performances are usually set up to sync with cruise ship arrivals. Haines is also home to the Chillkat Bald Eagle Preserve: a place to visit in the winter; between October and February over 3,000 bald eagles visit the preserve.
Tip: If you’re not into traveling Alaska by cruise ship, Haines is a good base to see Skagway & Glacier Bay along with beginning your travel to the interior of Alaska.
Have more questions about traveling in Alaska? Send me an email or leave me a comment!
Now get out there and go!