The Southeast region of Alaska is capped at the southern tip by Misty Fjords National Park and at the north end by Glacier Bay National Park. Between the two Parks is a maritime waterway of unprecedented beauty known as the 'Panhandle.' A large number of cruise ship companies journey through the waters and offer port stops in a few towns along the way. Shore excursions in the towns are plentiful and private day tours are also available.

In a region without continual road access, transportation between most destinations is via air or water. The Alaska Marine Highway provides ferry service between destinations along the panhandle. Daily flights between cities are provided by both the regional carrier and local air companies. Local coach and van transportation is available for hire in every town but is not customarily deluxe.

For those wanting to create a customized itinerary, the common point of entry into the Southeast is Alaska's capital, Juneau. Daily flights from Seattle and Anchorage offer easy access for guests arriving from both international and domestic locations.

From a 60-minute 'meet the huskies by helicopter' tour, to multi-day private Yacht Safaris, the Southeast offers a variety of attractions. Southeast Alaska offers a plethora of destinations that offer exciting opportunities for creative planning.


Haines

Situated on a quiet peninsula beneath the Chilkat Mountains, Haines enjoys one of Alaska's most beautiful settings. The Chilkat Peninsula lies between two river valleys that are in turn flanked east and west by 4,000-foot peaks.

Haines is the traditional home of the Chilkat Tlingit Native Alaskans, whose native name for Haines is "Dei-shu" meaning "end of the trail." In Haines you will find a perfectly distilled sampling of Alaska's history, scenic beauty, arts, culture, wildlife, and lifestyle.

Accessibility

Haines is accessible by highway, and is a frequent destination for any Alaska/Yukon itinerary. Located at the north end of Lynn Canal, Haines is also accessible by ferry or fast ferry from Skagway and Juneau. While most guests travel the Alaska Highway from the Yukon to Alaska, the coastal location of Haines makes it an alternative transition via the ferry.

Activities & Attractions

  • Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve - Between the end of September and January, around 3,000 bald eagles, from all over the region, fly to the bottomlands of the Chilkat River. The eagles spend the winter days perched on leafless cottonwood trees and feast on an unusual winter run of chum salmon along a five-mile stretch of open water. In summer, 200 to 400 eagles live in the area and can be seen from viewing platforms along the highway and float trips are available.
  • Sheldon Museum and Cultural Center - Discover the treasures of the Chilkat Valley. The Sheldon Museum highlights the Native Tlingit art and culture as well as the history of Haines. Work from local artists is also on display.
  • Flightseeing - Haines is one of the busiest flightseeing centers in Alaska. Glacier Bay is just 25 minutes by fixed-wing planes.
  • Fort William H. Seward - The white buildings of historic Fort William H. Seward, the first army post in Alaska, form a distinctive landmark on the hillside that is clearly visible to those approaching by sea. This historic site is now a unique arts and culture district.

Accommodation

There are a few hotels located in Haines within walking distance to downtown.

Dining

Dining is available in most hotels, as well as local eateries, bakeries and pubs.

Skagway

Skagway embodies the heart and soul of Alaska's gold rush past. Skagway has a combination of history and spectacular natural setting that makes it a great place to visit. Skagway exudes a historic atmosphere as its buildings reflect the grand gold rush era of the late 1890s, and saloons like the Red Onion have re-created the days of '98 successfully.

The cruise ship berths are within easy walking distance of Broadway (Main Street) and the railroad depot. Shops, bars, and restaurants crowd Broadway and flightseeing aircraft take off a few blocks from downtown.

The layout of Skagway allows visitors to walk through the town and stretch their legs. The town can be visited as a day trip from Whitehorse, on a cruise ship, or with an overnight stay.

Accessibility

One of only two ports in Southeast Alaska to be linked to the highway system, Skagway is the maritime gateway to Canada's Yukon Territory. Skagway is served by the Alaska Marine Highway System, providing ferry service to/from Prince Rupert, BC and Bellingham, WA.

Attractions & Activities

  • Glacier Dog Sledding - Explore the magical region by helicopter and land on a mountain snow field where teams of enthusiastic huskies greet you. With an experienced musher, guests travel by dog sled on a glacier trail.
  • Glacier Bay Flightseeing - Proximity to Glacier Bay National Park makes this inexpensive fixed-wing flight a recommended optional for guests.
  • White Pass & Yukon Route - Built against all odds in 1898, the narrow gauge railroad is a historical icon. The track begins at sea level and climbs to the summit of White Pass (2,885 feet); the 21-mile section of track takes you over wooden trestle bridges, through tunnels, and over deep gulches and ravines. A great excursion for tours of all sizes, or used as a transition between Whitehorse and Skagway.
  • Jewell Gardens - Located in downtown Skagway, the gardens feature a variety of plants that grow in the 'Land of the Midnight Sun'. Glass installations decorate the garden, created by the onsite Garden City Glasswork artisans. Full tea service and lunch are available at the Gardens.

Accommodation

A few hotels can cater to larger tours though the selection is limited. For smaller tours there are larger guesthouses and cabins as well.

Dining

This small port town has a surprising number of restaurants. A collection of bistros, cafés, and home-style diners line the walkways.

Juneau

Juneau is surrounded by ice fields and mountains and does not have a highway link. Juneau is located in the Tongass Rainforest and has a climate that provides it with lush vegetation and vibrant wildflowers. Juneau offers unparalleled glacier viewing with easy access to Tracy Arm Fjord, Mendenhall Glacier, the Juneau Ice-field, and Glacier Bay National Park.

Juneau is named after the gold mining prospector Joe Juneau. In 1880, Joe Juneau, a mining engineer in Sitka, was guided by local Tlingits and Chief Kowee as he prospected along the Gastineau Channel. By 1906 the thriving mining town of Juneau had become the hub of activity in Alaska, and the state capital was transferred from Sitka.

Accessibility

Juneau provides the most convenient hub for the Southeast and is very group friendly. Daily flights and regular ferry services to the main southeast communities are all available. Though Juneau does not have road access, there is daily ferry service from the highway communities of Skagway and Haines, making it a cost-effective and worthwhile detour from a typical Alaska/Yukon highway tour. Daily air service is also available from Anchorage and Fairbanks, providing a convenient stopover between Alaska and Seattle.

Attractions & Activities

  • Alaska-Gastineau Mill - What was once the world's most productive gold mine has reopened for walking tours. Visitors wear hard hats as they explore the ore-crushing plant and conveyor tunnel. There are also demonstrations of hard-rock mining equipment.
  • Alaskan Brewery & Bottling Company - Alaska's most successful brewery has long since grown too big to be called a micro brewery, but the company's beers have won many national and international awards and a devoted following. A tour includes samples of several brews.
  • Bear Viewing - Admiralty Island, known as the "Fortress of the Bears," is just a short flight from Juneau by float plane. The island is a paradise for animal lovers, and boasts one of the highest concentrations of bears in the world.
  • Juneau Ice-field - More than three dozen glaciers around the city flow from the 1500- square-mile Juneau Ice-field. Clients can visit the ice field by helicopter and walk on the glacier, take a nature hike, or take a dogsled ride.
  • Glacier Bay National Park - Juneau provides easy access to this jewel with daily flights to and from Gustavus, and almost-daily ferry service. An overnight in Juneau, packaged with a night or two in Glacier Bay, makes an attractive tour for all.
  • Mendenhall Glacier - Part of the Juneau Ice-field, Mendenhall Glacier can be seen without traveling by air. Only a short drive from downtown Juneau, there are great views of the glacier across a small lake. There is also a newly remodeled U.S. Forest Service Visitor Center with panoramic views of the lake and glacier.
  • Mount Roberts Tramway - Mount Roberts was once identified by the abandoned gold mine that overlooked the Gastineau Channel from halfway up the sheer slope. The Tlingit-owned tram rises 1,800 feet and provides access to miles of hiking trails and soaring vistas over Juneau. Facilities at the top include an award-winning film on Tlingit culture, artist studios, a large gift shop, and a restaurant.
  • Sea Kayaking - Explore the scenic coastal region by kayak, with a backdrop of tall majestic mountains and rainforest. Experienced guides can accompany a number of kayaks.
  • Tracy Arm Fjord - Cruise through some of the most picturesque fjords found anywhere. Tracy Arm is one of Juneau's best kept secrets.  It rivals other better known attractions. Hundreds of seals and pups laze on the icebergs, safe from predators in the fjord.
  • Whale Watching Cruises - Humpback whales migrate to the waters near Juneau for their summer feeding grounds, and to socialize and play in the waters, from mid-April through October. Humpbacks are among the most playful whales, and often breach (leap from the water), bubble-net feed, and slap their tails while you watch.

Accommodation

Juneau offers many overnight options to meet any tour budget. Most hotels are located downtown, within easy walking distance of shopping and many attractions.

Dining

Meal options abound in the state capital. Fine dining is available at hotels and local restaurants, and there are plenty of cafés and local fares as well as a salmon bake.

Glacier Bay National Park/Gustavus

While the Inside Passage is dotted with glaciers, it is not as dense as Glacier Bay. In 1794, British explorer George Vancouver gingerly picked his way between icebergs in Icy Strait. What he saw was a massive wall of ice, 20 miles long and 4,000 feet tall!

You can see Glacier Bay either by water or by air. Though flightseeing through Glacier Bay National Park provides some perspective on the sheer size of the area, we highly recommend viewing it by boat. There are more than a dozen tidewater glaciers melting directly into the sea, and 30 alpine glaciers that have retreated above the waterline. Thousands of seals lounge on icebergs in front of the glaciers as puffins, kittiwakes, pigeon guillemots, oystercatchers, and cormorants circle the glaciers, occasionally swooping down to catch fish.

The gateway to Glacier Bay National Park is the small town of Gustavus. Gustavus is home to the Park headquarters and has daily flights from Juneau, Skagway, and Haines. Bartlett Cove lies about ten miles from Gustavus, and daily excursions into Glacier Bay by cruise vessel begin and end here. Though a day excursion into Glacier Bay National Park is possible, we typically recommend an overnight here to fully enjoy all that this area has to offer.

Accessibility

After the new dock was completed in 2010, the Alaska Marine Highway system began making regular trips to Gustavus from Juneau. Flights arrive daily from many of the surrounding cities for those wanting to visit this breathtaking park.

Attractions & Activities

  • Flightseeing - Get a bird's eye view of some of Alaska's most amazing scenery: the Brady Icefield, the snow-capped Fairweather Range, alpine and tidewater glaciers, fjords, bays, and alpine lakes. There will be outstanding photo opportunities.
  • Glacier Bay Cruise - Spend the day on the waters of Glacier Bay and see magnificent tide water glaciers, ancient snow capped mountains, whales, Steller sea lions, rare birds, coastal bears, seals, eagles, and so much more!  As the only day tour permitted inside Glacier Bay National Park, the Glacier Bay Cruise offers an intimate view of marine and coastal wildlife along side massive glaciers and towering mountains.
  • Guided Kayaking Excursions - A great way to experience the bay on a much more intimate scale. Learn kayaking basics from your experienced guide. Then take a guided paddle tour of Bartlett Cove and Beardslee Island. Gear and instruction are included.
  • Whale Watching Tour - Your chance to see some of the area's amazing and majestic wildlife, including humpback and orca whales, sea lions and sea otters, bald eagles, puffins, and much more.

Accommodation

There are limited number of accommodations thus advance plans are needed; however, the variety is from standard inns to all-inclusive lodges.

Dining

The lodges and inns all have restaurants and offer meals to all guests.

Sitka

Sitka is considered one of Alaska's most beautiful coastal towns. First discovered by Russian explorers in the early 1700's, it was the return of the ships to their homeland carrying a fortune in sea otter pelts that spurred the major 'rush' of fortune seekers to New Archangel. Alexander Baranof presided over New Archangel and established a trading relationship with the local Tlingit natives to keep the Russian motherland supplied with pelts. In 1867, when Russian America was purchased by the United States, New Archangel officially became Sitka - derived from "Shee-Atika," a Tlingit word meaning "by the sea."

Wildlife and history add greatly to Sitka's mystique, and the nearby waters are feeding grounds for marine species such as humpback whales and puffins. Lovable sea otters can be spotted quite regularly, and sea lions live on rocky outcrops. Sitka features attractions for all group tastes, whether the emphasis is on wildlife or Russian history.

Accessibility

As with many of the Southeast destinations, access to Sitka is by air or boat only. Daily jet service is available from Seattle, Portland, Juneau, and Anchorage. The Alaska Marine Highway schedule includes Sitka on its routes from Prince Rupert and Bellingham. Utilizing the Alaska Marine Highway makes sense, and offers a refreshing degree of flexibility for itineraries.

Attractions & Activities

  • Alaska Raptor Center - What began as a volunteer effort, has evolved into one of the state's premier bald eagle research and rehabilitation facilities. Each year the Alaska Raptor Center provides medical treatment and tries to rehabilitate 100-200 injured bald eagles and other birds of prey. Some are injured too severely, however, and become Raptors-in-Residence. The center is a must-see attraction for any group visiting Sitka.
  • New Archangel Dancers - Visitors to Sitka can attend a performance of Alaska's most popular dance group at Harrigan Centennial hall. The all-woman troupe specializes in traditional Russian and Ukrainian dances celebrating Sitka's traditional Russian heritage.
  • Saint Michael's Cathedral - The original cathedral was the oldest church structure from the Russian era in Alaska when it burned to the ground in 1966. Fortunately, the majority of the icons were preserved as people from all over town saved them from the burning building. The present cathedral was modeled after the original, and is a National Historic Landmark in the center of Sitka.
  • Sheldon Jackson Museum - One of the largest and oldest collections of Native cultural artifacts, the museum's collection has been called a jewel in the crown of Alaska ethnographic collections. The Rev. Dr. Sheldon Jackson was the driving force behind the creation of the museum, and was responsible for collecting many of the artifacts himself during his missionary travels through Alaska between 1888 and 1898.
  • Sitka National Historical Park - Founded in 1910, the 100-acre Sitka National Historical Park contains historic sites and structures related to the Tlingit Indian and Imperial Russian history in Sitka. There you will find a cultural center for Indian history and artists, a museum and beautifully wooded park set aside for impressive Tlingit and Haida totem carvings.
  • Sitka Tribal House - Captivating performances take place throughout the summer in the Sheet'ka Kwaan Naa Kahidi Community House, built in the tradition of the Tlingit people. With Native dress and a tribally sanctioned dance, this distinguished group delivers one of the most authentic presentations of age-old Tlingit culture.

Accommodation

There are a few options of moderate hotels and budget chains available.

Dining

Fresh seafood overlooking a harbor can be found in fine dining establishments or the local restaurants. Mediterranean and Asian options are also available.

Wrangell

Positioned at the northern tip of Wrangell Island, nearly 90 miles north of Ketchikan and 150 miles south of Juneau, the tiny community of Wrangell (pop. ~2,400) sits on the doorstep to one of Southeast's prime wilderness areas. Wrangell was settled originally by the Tlingit people who dominated the region's trade routes.

The Stikine River had gold discoveries which brought people to Wrangell in successive boom and bust waves throughout the late 1800s and the early 1900s. Today the town bustles with canneries, shipping docks, fishing fleets, lumber mills, and logging tugs. Wrangell is a true frontier town with a strong spirit of independence; travelers have the rare opportunity to see a "real" Alaskan town.

As gateway to the mighty Stikine River, Wrangell offers an exciting choice of adventure opportunities which include wildlife excursions, glacier viewing, jet-boat adventures, rafting, hiking, and kayaking trips. Flights take you over the LeConte Glacier, and sightseeing tours allow you to experience the Tlingit Native Culture and lifestyles of this unique Alaska town. Golfers might be tempted to play the only regulation USGA rated golf course in Southeast Alaska.

Accessibility

With Wrangell being located in central southeast Alaska, it is easily accessible to all the other major communities as well as Anchorage, Juneau and Seattle. Travel to Wrangell is primarily by the daily jet service but you can also get there by the Alaska Marine Highway System and small aircraft.

Attractions & Activities

  • Jet Boat Tour - The trip up river takes you through pristine wilderness and into a region of wildflowers, forests, and alpine country. The region offers good opportunities for wildlife viewing, including bears, moose, and eagles. Each jet boat has comfortable seating, and all passengers are outfitted in warm weatherproof clothing.
  • Bear Viewing - A 45-minute jet boat ride will bring you from Wrangell to Anan Creek. On arrival, walk the rainforest trail (1/2-mile) to the observatory platform where your guide will give a bear safety briefing. The multi-level observatory platform provides excellent opportunities for viewing black and brown bears that are fishing 30 feet below you and across river. Due to limited availability this tour is not available when cruise ships are in port.
  • Stikine River Flightsee - A 60 minute bird's eye view of the Stikine River and the Glaciers that feed into it. You will cross over the LeConte Glacier and several 10,000' peaks, look for wildlife in the mountains and whales along the coast. This tour is flightseeing at it's best!
  • Hiking - Wrangell is home to a fantastic trail system. Enjoy a 5 hour trek through the wilderness. A mix of boardwalk and nature trail, this hike climbs approximately 2000' in 2 miles. You will travel through rainforest and along pond edges. Your reward is panoramic views of the islands of Southeast Alaska.

Accommodation

Wrangell accommodations are rustic and simple. They offer a few lodges, inns, and B&B's.

Dining

Cafes and hometown restaurants are available as well as local pubs.

Ketchikan

Ketchikan is the fourth largest city in Alaska and an important hub for the southern tip of Alaska's Panhandle. Located on Revillagigedo Island, Ketchikan is often used for access to Prince of Wales Island, Metlakatla, Hyder, and the spectacular Misty Fjords National Monument. Native art and culture flourish, represented by three indigenous tribes: the Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian.

Historically Ketchikan was established by Tlingit Indians as a salmon fishing camp. After settlers arrived, several canneries sprung up in the area fostering an industry that produced more than two million cases of salmon yearly. In the 1970's the fishing industry nearly collapsed due to over-fishing, but is in the slow process of recovering today.

Visitors will find a fascinating variety of shops, galleries, and boutiques throughout the town. Creek Street is the well-known downtown mecca in Ketchikan that was once noted for its brothels. The street has now become an eclectic mix of boutiques, art shops, and coffee houses.

Accessibility

Ketchikan is the portal to Misty Fjords National Park and other local attractions. As Alaska's southernmost port, Ketchikan is reached easily by air from Juneau or Seattle, and from Prince Rupert or Bellingham aboard the Alaska Marine Highway vessels.

Attractions & Activities

  • Misty Fjords National Monument - A pristine masterpiece, the fjords were created by massive glacier action in the ice-rimmed wilderness. The region has 2.3 million acres include soaring cliffs, countless waterfalls, bottomless saltwater fjords, and miles of glaciers. Misty Fjords is accessed by floatplane, boat, or a combination of both from Ketchikan.
  • Southeast Alaska Discovery Center - The center features world-class exhibits and an award-winning audiovisual program. Other highlights include totem poles and exhibits on Southeast Alaska's ecosystems; fishing, wildlife, mining, recreation, and timber.
  • Totem Heritage Center - With the growth of non-Native settlements in Southeast Alaska and the decline of a barter economy, Native Alaskans moved to communities where work was available. In 1938 the U.S. Forest Service began a program aimed at salvaging and reconstructing totem poles left behind. Skilled carvers were paired with young artisans who learned the art of carving and restoring totem poles.
  • Totem Bight Saxman Native Village - Just five miles south of Ketchikan is a small Native village known as Saxman. Inside the village is Saxman Totem Park, exhibiting the world's largest collection of authentic totem poles. There are 34 totem poles at Saxman Native Village, and each one has its own unique story and history.

Accommodation

This small town has a surprising array of accommodation options. Fishing camps, full service lodges, rustic cabins to budget chains can all be found here.

Dining

Local seafood is always on the menu in Ketchikan. Restaurants are varied and include full service dining, local cafés and coffee shops, as well as the downtown eateries that accommodate this port town.


Alaska Regions:

Southcentral | Southwest | Southeast | Interior | Far North | Yukon, Canada

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