Alaska is one of the world’s best destinations for cruising. Which ports would you want to visit?
This is the southernmost point for most ships, a town that sprawls along the coast of Revillagigedo Island for several kilometres and has the distinctively shaped Deer Mountain to its south. Ketchikan prides itself on being the salmon capital of the world, so fishing is the big thing here, along with Misty Fjords, which is America’s newest monument and a great snapshot of Alaska’s unspoilt wilderness. The Totem Heritage Center is the place where dozens of original Tlingit totem poles have been salvaged and restored to their original condition.
Alaska’s state capital, Juneau, is the dominant destination in the northern half of the Inside Passage. A small, picturesque city perched on the Gastineau Channel, it is a dramatic spot where towering mountain peaks cascade down to the sea. The tramway up Mt Roberts provides great views across the city, the mountaintops, and the Inside Passage. Mendenhall Glacier, with its blue ice, is Juneau’s main attraction; it’s a short drive away and can be viewed up close. Other tours include glacier walking, dog sledding and fishing.
At the northern end of Lynn Canal, Skagway was born during the great Klondike gold rush. Its reputation as the ‘roughest town on earth’ was well founded. As with most of Alaska, the best wildlife can be found out in the water and mini-cruises can get you close to whales, sea lions and otters, along with other marine mammals and birds and possibly bears on land. Hiking tours are also popular around Lower Dewey Lake and Reid Falls, which is near the Gold Rush Cemetery.
Castle Hill is the site where Alaska was handed over to the US and also offers panoramic views of Sitka. The three-kilometre rainforest trail in Sitka National Historical Park is beautiful and is one of the easiest walks in the area. For wildlife lovers, ‘Sea Otters and Wildlife Quest’ is a tour that promises you’ll see a whale, otter or bear, while other cruises take in Silver Ba, which has magnificent wildlife and landscapes, a salmon hatchery and the ruins of the Liberty Prospect Gold Mine.
Surrounded by half a dozen national parks, national forests and life refuges, Seward is a historic fishing village with an abundance of marine life. Wildlife cruises in Resurrection Bay and the Kenai Fjords area reveal eagles, puffins, kittiwakes, porpoises, whales and otters. There are good hiking trails at Mt Marathon and on the Two Lakes Trail, while Exit Glacier is an easy one-kilometre hike from the car park in Kenai Fjords National Park.
Because of its abundance of salmon, Haines boasts the world’s largest concentration of bald eagles. The Alaska Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve protects the magnificent birds, and the salmon they feed on. Just outside of town is the Kroschel Wildlife Park, which gets you up close to some common and exotic native Alaskan animals including bears, lynx kittens, caribou, moose, fox, red-tailed hawks and snowy owls. But perhaps the main attraction here is Glacier Bay National Park; flightseeing tours of this vast system have to be experienced to be believed.