If you are looking for spectacular scenery, diverse wildlife, and an incredible once in a lifetime experience, cruising to Alaska will not disappoint you. With stunning glaciers, icy seas, charming small towns, and four times more coastline than any other state, it is no surprise that more than a million people explore Alaska by cruise ship every year. Cruising Alaska’s coastline gives you access to southeastern Alaskan cities, history, the Inside Passage, and many amazing sights, some of which are only accessible by boat. This article will describe some of the best sights you won’t want to miss when cruising to Alaska.
The Inside Passage
The Inside Passage, one of Alaska’s most stunning sights and one of the most beautiful places in the world, should definitely be on your list of destinations. With its many islands, glaciers, and fjords, and wildlife including whales and bald eagles, traveling through the Inside Passage is an experience you will never forget. Wildflowers in the summer and fall foliage add to the charm of the area. Fortunately, most Alaskan cruises pass through the Inside Passage so you won’t miss out on this unforgettable experience.
The sixth most visited national park in Alaska, Kenai Fjords National Park includes the Harding Icefield, the largest ice field in the United States. With four active volcanoes and a mixture of rock formations, you won’t want to miss this natural wonderland when cruising in Alaska.
In addition to being known as the salmon capital of the world, this charming town has the largest collection of totem poles in the world. It is central to the Tlinget people’s history and culture and in the history of the logging industry. If you have the chance to stop in Ketchikan, be sure to check out Creek Street, a charming and historic area where you can watch the salmon running in the summer. With an entertaining lumberjack show, zip lines running through the rain forest, and a vibrant fishing community, Ketchikan has something for everyone.
Misty Fjords National Monument
This national monument located east of Ketchikan is the place to see diverse wildlife. It is Alaska’s second largest wilderness area and home to deer, whales, mountain goats, and bears. The dense rainforests, snow-capped mountains, tall waterfalls, glacial lakes, and granite cliffs rising from the sea are accessible only by plane or boat. You can take a float plane to get an aerial view, but be sure to take the time to experience the peaceful tranquility of this remote area.
Named for William H. Seward, Abraham Lincoln’s Secretary of State, this small port city in southern Alaska of 3000 people is the starting point of the Iditarod Trail. Set on an inlet on the Kenai Peninsula, it is surrounded by mountains. If you are interested in sea life, you will want to check out this whale and porpoise habitat and the sea life center found here. Seward is also the gateway to Kenai Fjords National Park.
This enormous fjord, located south of Juneau, can be visited by float plane or small boat when you dock in Juneau. With amazing natural scenery, wildlife including harbor seals, wolves, seabirds, and brown bears, lush forests, waterfalls, mountains, and some of the largest glaciers in Alaska, Tracy Arm should be on your must-see list of sights in Alaska.
Juneau is the capital of Alaska and one of the state’s most popular coastal cities. Lying at the foot of Mt. Roberts, it is the only US state capital that cannot be reached by road. While in Juneau, be sure to check out the town’s historic streets where you will find 19th-century architecture from the gold mining days. You can take a cable car up Mt. Roberts and hike trails with incredible panoramic views. This a great place to learn about Alaska’s native Inuit culture, to visit the Alaska State Museum, or to try out dog sledding, glacier walks, wilderness hikes, whitewater rafting, or whale watching. Mendenhall Glacier is accessible from Juneau by boat, helicopter, or plane.
Mt. Roberts Tramway, Juneau
While in Juneau, be sure to check out this thrilling tram ride. Opened in 1996 and the only aerial tramway in southeast Alaska, this six-minute ride operates from May to September. It is one of the most vertical tramways in the world and provides views of Juneau and the Gastineau Channel. It will give you a bird’s eye view of the rainforests and meadows and ascends 1800 feet from the cruise dock to the mountain. Once you reach the top of the mountain, you can hike on panoramic trails and visit the nature center. The tram is accessible and ADA compliant.
Glacier Bay National Park
This park features a 65-mile fjord, Tidewater, and alpine glaciers. It is surrounded by the world’s tallest coastal mountains. It is one of the best places to witness calving, the dramatic breaking off of icebergs, and is home to some of the best whale watching in the world. Not all cruise lines visit this park, so be sure to find one that does if you want to check it out.
Located along the Inside Passage cruise route, this small mining town was established during the Klondike Gold Rush in the late 19th century. In its historic district, you will find 100 buildings that have survived from that era. In addition to learning about its rich mining history, you can also explore the natural beauty of this area by hiking on the Chilkoot Trail.
These are just a few of the amazing sights that you won’t want to miss while cruising in Alaska. Other places you might want to check out include White Pass & Yukon Route Railroad, Icy Strait Point, Hubbard Glacier, and Petersburg. Taking a cruise in Alaska is one of the best ways to see the state and to get a sense of all that it has to offer. Whatever amazing places you end up visiting along the way, cruising to Alaska is one of the best ways to experience Alaska’s many beautiful and incredible sights.