Alaskan Towns Full of Adventure
Coastal Alaska provides some of the most beautiful scenery on the continent. Each town is a hidden gem, accessible by air, water, and few by road system. The communities thrive on tourism, but have other important industries that bring money into their economies. The communities are tight knit and encourage visitors to experience their towns. This list compiles 10 Coastal Alaskan towns that are a must visit.
Ketchikan is the first stop in Alaska for most cruise ships. The town of 13,700 is surrounded by the Tongass National Forest. Only a 90 minute flight from Seattle, Ketchikan thrives on tourism and makes sure everyone’s visit is worthwhile. Must see attractions include the infamous downtown Creek Street, Great Alaskan Lumberjack Show, Tongass Historical Museum, Saxman Native Village, and the SE Alaska Discovery Center. The nearby Misty Fjords National Monument is easily accessible by air or water. Ketchikan has a strong commercial fishing community and visiting the George Inlet Cannery will let you see how seafood canneries operated in the early 20th century.
Wrangell is small community that has begun focusing greatly on its tourism industry. The town is known for its Tlingit native culture and has beautiful sites to show for it. The Chief Shakes Tribal House Monument and the Petroglyph Beach State Historic Park both represent the native culture of the community. You will have no trouble finding outdoor adventure while visiting Wrangell. The Anan Bear and Wildlife Observatory nearby bring in bears for visitors to view during the summer salmon seasons. The Stikine River is the community’s backyard and offers visitor’s jet boat tours of the river and its must see sites, including hot tubs heated by natural hot water springs.
Known as “Little Norway,” Petersburg thrives on its rich Norwegian culture and commercial fishing industry. If you are looking for recreation on your visit, Petersburg will keep you busy during your entire stay. Adventures on the water will consist of salmon and halibut fishing, whale viewing charters, sea kayaking, glacier tours, and its famous red can channel markers that sea lions spend their days on. Recreation within the town includes Eagle Roost Park, Sandy Beach Picnic Area, and Outlook Park. Downtown is filled with local gift shops and history. The Sons of Norway Hall is a community hub that represents the Norwegian culture that has stayed strong within the community. Bojer Wikan Fisherman’s Memorial represents Petersburg’s commitment to its local fisherman.
Of all the communities located in SE Alaska and the Inside Passage, Sitka is the only one that faces the Pacific Ocean. This gives Sitka some of the best sport fishing in the state. You will be amazed by the giant sport fishing fleet. This gives you many options when it comes to species and price of the charter. There is a rich Russian history in Sitka and you can experience it while touring downtown. Other must see attractions include the Sitka National Historical Park, Alaska Raptor Center, and an extinct volcano Mt. Edgecumbe.
Hoonah is a small community that most people have not heard of. The community has recently become a hub for tourism in SE Alaska. The first cruise ship docked in Hoonah in 2004 and ever since the community has not stopped improving its vibrant tourism industry. Referred to as “The Little City with a Big Heart,” Hoonah is a very small town with a strong native culture. The Hoonah Zip Line was installed in 2007 and is currently the world’s longest zip line at 5300 feet. Hoonah is very creative when it comes to boosting their tourism industry and that is why they are a must visit when coming to Alaska.
Skagway is the northernmost town in SE Alaska’s Inside Passage. Its history is unlike most Alaskan towns and resembles a western cowboy town like Tombstone, AZ. The Klondike Gold Rush brought in many people to the town of Skagway in the late 1800’s. Well known residents were the infamous Soapy Smith and Frank Reid. There are great tours of historic downtown put on by the National Park Service. The Chilkoot Trail is just outside of Skagway and provides a 4 day hiking adventure that takes you on the route gold miners took on their search for riches. Cruise ships come into Skagway 5 times a day bringing in thousands of visitors, maintaining Skagway’s gold rush identity.
Cordova is the most proud fishing community in the state. Famous for the Copper River, commercial fishing is the industry of choice for this coastal town. When visiting Cordova you will be amazed by the rugged mountains, lush forests, pristine river flats, and jaw dropping glaciers. The Copper River flats provide bird viewing that attracts hundreds of bird watchers each year for the Shorebird Festival. Visit in late August to early September and experience the best Coho salmon fishing in the state. The outdoors are at your fingertips in Cordova. With the ability to drive out the road and walk to a glacier this location is hard to beat.
Valdez offers visitors beautiful scenery, glacier tours, sea kayaking, and great sport fishing. The Trans-Alaska Pipeline marks its finishing point in this community. In the winter extreme sports enthusiasts venture up to this town for heli-skiing. The jagged mountains and slopes provide some of the best heli-skiing adventures in the world. The location of this town acts as the gateway to Alaska. From Valdez you can access the Richardson Highway to experience the Alaskan interior.
Seward’s biggest attraction for visitors is the Kenai Fjord’s National Park. This is an epic experience that brings you into the Harding Ice field where you can see glaciers calve into the ocean. Marine wildlife surrounds the fjords and visitors will not be disappointed. Seward has great sport fishing opportunities and from here you can hop on the Alaska Railroad to tour Alaska by rail car.
Homer is known as “The End of the Road.” It is located at the end of the Sterling Highway, 4 hours from Anchorage. Homer is a hidden gem. The summer months bring in hundreds of visitors. Tents are pitched on the Homer Spit and folk music is playing in the local bars. Your trip to Homer will not be a disappointment. Halibut fishing is amongst the best outside of Homer. Sport fishing charters are abundant and provide you with many options. Kachemak Bay provides kayaking and wildlife viewing. Homer has all of the accommodations you could ask for.
These ten communities of coastal Alaska are prime spots for visitors. Include these towns on your visit to Alaska and they will not disappoint you. From sport fishing to sight-seeing coastal Alaska has it all.
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