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Alaska offers stunning scenery, wild adventures and cultural intrigue. From massive glaciers towering over the sea and vast stretches of rugged wilderness, sea, and forests teeming with wildlife to rustic towns with rich histories, a cruise to Alaska is like no other vacation experience. Your cruise will likely spend ample time sailing past magnificent fjords, watching glaciers calve and whales breach, but you will also spend some time exploring the main port towns of the 49th state. Here’s a brief overview of Alaska’s coastal towns and cities.
Juneau is the remote capital of the state, so remote, in fact, that it is only accessible by boat or plane. It is beautifully surrounded by water, untamed wilderness and grand mountains peaks. Just outside of town is prime for spying whales and imposing glaciers. Ride on the Mount Roberts Tramway for incredible views of the city and Gastineau Channel. If you seek adventure, you’ll love the thrill of landing in a helicopter on top of a glacier and feeling the crisp wind on your cheeks as a team of eager huskies whisks you along on a dogsledding excursion. Other Juneau adventures can take you to new heights, including the Tongass National Forest zip-line tour or a floatplane flight to Taku Lodge for a delicious salmon barbecue.
Sitka echoes the time when Russia ruled its shores, with the gleaming copper domes of St. Michaels Russian Orthodox Cathedral highlighting the sky. It is also a bustling commercial fishing hub. Head down to any number of wharves packed with fisherman to watch them unload their day’s catch. It is also home to the Alaska Raptor rehabilitation center, where squawking bald eagles will add their two cents as you learn how the center helps care for injured birds of prey until they can be released back into the wild. The adorable and entertaining sea otters are also residents of Sitka. They are best viewed on a small-boat tour, with a naturalist guide.
Ketchikan is a charming town that displays its Native Tlingit Indian culture through a multitude of colorful totem poles. You can view them at the Totem Heritage Center and at two totem pole parks. The town is also home to a major salmon fishery. If you’ve ever dreamed of reeling in a magnificent salmon Ketchikan is the place for you, or if you like to watch Alaska’s king crab fishermen on Discovery Channel’s Deadliest Catch, you may be able to catch an excursion out of town to watch the crew pull up crab pots as hungry eagles circle overhead. Be sure to take a stroll on Creek Street, a boardwalk built over the creek, with fun shops and restaurants all along the way. Ketchikan is also an arts town with several acclaimed galleries to explore.
Skagway, another popular port amongst Alaska’s coastal towns, was established in the late 1800s as the nearest port of entry to the gold rush fields of the Klondike. While the gold-seekers of years ago trekked over the White Pass on foot, you can catch a ride on the narrow White Pass & Yukon Railroad’s vintage train, through the steep mountains on this picturesque route. You will feel as if you stepped back to the time when the town was a boomtown, full of miners seeking to strike it rich, as you wander down wood-planked sidewalks and through saloons with swinging doors.
Anchorage, the state’s largest city and home to 41 percent of the state’s population, is mostly known for its cultural attractions, including several museums. Visit the Alaska Native Heritage Center and meet members of the state’s 11 major cultural groups. Talk with a Tlingit totem-pole carver about his art, peek inside a traditional Yup’ik dwelling, learn about Alaska’s fascinating blend of Native, Russian, Gold Rush and pioneer history. You can also experience Alaska’s indigenous cultures through stories, dances and traditional crafts. The city is a gateway to surrounding wilderness areas and mountains, including the Chugach, Kenai and Talkeetna, perfect for adventurous day trips from rafting to kayaking and wildlife viewing.
Visiting Alaska is all about the pristine natural beauty that surrounds and inspires, but the Great Land also has an intriguing history that best experienced by meeting its people and exploring its cities and towns. To learn more about your Alaska’s coastal towns and cruise options, contact one of our travel experts today.