So Much to See and Do!
Wildlife cruises offer sightings of marine wildlife such as humpback whales and orcas while bear viewing opportunities include black and brown bears at Pack Creek on Admiralty Island, Anan Creek near Wrangell, Fish Creek near Hyder and Herring Cove near Ketchikan. But wildlife isn’t Southeast’s only draw. Chase your adventure by kayak, take a zipline tour, go saltwater fishing, or fly to a nearby icefield and walk on glaciers. SOUTHEAST ALASKA Mist shrouded oldgrowth forest, the smell and sound of the sea lapping against pebbled beaches, hundreds of thickly forested islands along quiet waterways: This is Southeast. Also known as the “Panhandle” of Alaska, it encompasses a narrow strip of mainland backed up against the Coast Mountains and hundreds of islands in the Alexander Archipelago. It is a uniquely different environment from the rest of Alaska, offering a uniquely different experience for visitors.
Tours here include glacier and icefield flightseeing, as well as sightseeing cruises of Glacier Bay National Park, Misty Fiords National Monument, LeConte Glacier, Stikine River and Tracy Arm. Experience first-hand Russian and Tlingit dance performances and visit historic totem pole sites. Step into the past at colorful saloons or explore the wilderness by kayak or canoe (rentals readily available in most communities).
Southeast Alaska has very few roads; most communities are accessible only by water or air. Travel throughout the area is by boat, state ferry, small plane (wheel and floats), and commercial jet service. SOUTHEAST COMMUNITIES The mainline ports in Southeast are Juneau, Ketchikan, Sitka, Petersburg, Wrangell, Haines and Skagway. Prince of Wales Island, a 3-hour ferry ride from Ketchikan, is the third largest island under the American flag (Kodiak is second, the Big Island of Hawaii is first) and boasts the most extensive road system in Southeast.
Ketchikan (pop. 8,313) is “Alaska’s First City,” and its Waterfront Promenade pays homage to the town’s status as first port of call in Alaska. Stop by the Southeast Alaska Discovery Center for a regional introduction. And don’t miss the Totem Heritage Center, Saxman Totem Park or Totem Bight State Historical Park.
Wrangell (pop. 2,448) is the only Alaska city to have existed under 4 nations and 3 flags—the Stikine Tlingits, the Russians, Great Britain and the United States. Wrangell has tours to Anan Wildlife Observatory (for bear viewing), the Stikine River Delta and LeConte Glacier.
Charming Petersburg (pop. 3,200) reflects both its Norwegian heritage and its major industry—commercial fishing. Whale watching, sea kayaking, LeConte Glacier and other cruises, tours and activities entertain visitors.
Sitka (pop. 8,985), beautifully situated on the west side of Baranof Island, was the capital of Russian Alaska. It was here, at what is today Baranof Castle Hill State Historic Site, that Alaska changed hands from Russia to the United States on Oct. 18, 1867. Harrigan Centennial Hall hosts the New Archangel Dancers and the Sitka Summer Music Festival.
Juneau (pop. 33,064), Alaska’s capital, is the only U. S. capital not accessible by road. But it remains a gem of a city, often referred to as a “little San Francisco.” See the Juneau feature on page 19 for more on its charms.
Haines (pop. 2,530), gateway to the Alaska Highway for Inside Passage travelers, is located on Chilkoot Inlet against a backdrop of rugged snow-covered peaks. It is home to the Alaska Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve, where more than 3,500 eagles congregate each October.
Skagway (pop. 927) dates back to the Klondike Gold Rush and evidence of its past is everywhere, from historic false-fronted buildings and boardwalks to the historically significant White Pass & Yukon Route Railway.