Alaska

Alaska

21 Top Things To Do In The Inside Passage Of Southeast Alaska

June 14, 2021

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best things to do in Alaska

Photography by Ready Set Jet Set

Hello from Alaska! I’ve been to Alaska for Christmas a couple of years and it was a winter wonderland but I’ve been wanting to come back in the summer. During the summer, Southeast Alaska gets over 18 hours of daylight in June and July! 

SEE ALSO: 15 Best Things To Do In Wisconsin

We flew into Juneau, Alaska’s Wilderness Capital City, of 33,000 people. Juneau lies in the heart of the Tongass National Forest, America’s largest temperate rainforest with nearly 17 million acres of forest, ice, and rock. 

A couple of fun facts on Juneau:

  • Juneau became the capital of Alaska in 1906, 53 years before becoming a state
  • Timezone: Alaska Standard Time (AKST) 
  • Climate: Pacific Temperate Rainforest – 62″ of rainfall and 88″ of snow each year
  • Main industries: government, tourism, fishing, mining
  • Juneau residents refer to themselves as “Juneauites” 
  • more trails than roads
  • home to 280 species of birds, brown and black bears, five species of salmon, and whales (primarily humpback and orca)
  • What to eat: wild-caught salmon, halibut, cod, crab, and shrimp – It’s all caught locally! 

What to pack:

  • lightweight, breathable layers
  • fleece jacket and sweaters
  • water-resistant pants
  • water-resistant shoes like rainboots 
  • hiking boots
  • refillable water bottle

Here’s my 7-day guide to exploring the Inside Passage of Southeast Alaska through Juneau, Haines, Wrangell, and Ketchikan.


Tracy's King Crab Shack in Juneau Alaska

1. Eat king crab at Tracy’s King Crab Shack

Tracy’s was a stop on the Juneau Food Tours and is the ultimate spot for Alaskan king crabs. We had the crab bisque and crab cakes and it was absolutely delicious. I loved it so much that we went back the next day for more king crabs, king crab bisque, and crab cakes. 

What to order: crab shack combo with 1 king crab leg, 8 oz bisque, and 4 mini crab cakes.

432 S Franklin St, Juneau, AK, kingcrabshack.com

 

2. Go on a Juneau Food Tour

Juneau Food Tours was started by Juneau food blogger Midgi Moore in 2015. Each tasting location was chosen to highlight the delicious food, intriguing culture and the beautiful scenery of Southeast Alaska.

We got to take a tour with Juneau Food Tours founder Midgi herself and she walked us around Juneau and took us to several restaurants and bars. Midgi told us all about the history of Juneau and ordered us off-the-menu items at the food stops.

  • Tracy’s King Crab Shack
  • Taste Alaska
  • McGivney’s downtown
  • Deckhand Dave’s
  • Imperial Saloon & Cafe
  • Alaskan Hotel & Bar
  • Alaska Fudge Company

167 Shattuck Way, Juneau, AK, juneaufoodtours.com

 

3. Buy a bottle at Amalga Distillery

Juneau’s own craft distillery that makes gin, vodka, and single malt whiskey. I took a bottle of gin home!

134 N Franklin St, Juneau, AK, amalgadistillery.com

 

Alaskan Luxury Yacht in Juneau Alaska

4. Whale watch from a luxury yacht

Alaska Luxury Tours provides the only exclusive whale watch and land tours in Juneau and Icy Strait Point, Alaska. They specialize in providing high-end experiences in comfort, style, privacy and safety. Alaska Luxury Tours is dedicated to making the marine industry and the world greener, and they are a proud participant in Whale SENSE which recognizes whale watching companies committed to responsible practices.

Juneau is a premier whale-watching destination from May to October. Since 1975, it’s been a hub for Humpback Whale research and conversation and BBC has selected Juneau, Alaska as the location for the show Wild Alaska Live. The luxury yacht tour with Alaska Luxury Tours was one of my favorite experiences and such a great way to watch the whales. You can book a private party for up to 8 people on their beautiful yachts Opus & Forge. 

alaskaluxurytours.com

 

5. Eat fish tacos at Deckhand Dave’s Fish Tacos

After spending several years fishing in Alaska and cooking dinner for his crew, Dave opened Deckhand Dave’s Fish Tacos. Experimenting with hundreds of recipes with the freshest available fish has allowed him to perfect the dishes on the menu. Deckhand Dave’s Fish Tacos works with local fish processors to source all of its fish to promote a local, sustainable food industry while ensuring the freshest, highest quality product.

I loved the taco trio with rockfish, halibut, and salmon tacos. We also shared the salmon tots and slutty fries. If you’re with a group, order the captain’s platter that comes with 3 halibut cakes, 3 blackened Rockfish tacos, 3 beer-battered halibut tacos, 3 breaded salmon tacos, rockfish chips, halibut n chips, and salmon n’ chips!

139 S Franklin St, Juneau, AK, deckhanddaves.com

 

Goldbelt Mount Roberts Tramway in Juneau Alaska

6. Ride the Goldbelt Mount Roberts Tramway

For the best view of Juneau, take the Goldbelt Mount Roberts Tramway for a panoramic view from 1,800 ft onto the Tongass National Forest. From the top, you can go on different hikes and/or enjoy an Alaskan specialty brewed beer at Timberline Restaurant. 

Tickets: $35

490 S Franklin St, Juneau, AK, goldbelttram.com

 

7. Eat Italian food at James Beard Nominated, In Bocca Al Lupo

You might be thinking why eat Italian food in Alaska? Well, James Beard Foundation nominated Beau Schooler, the chef at In Bocca Al Lupo, as a semifinalist for the Best Chef: Northwest category and the food was SO good. We had the thunderdome (this freshly pull-apart bread with garlic butter and parmesan cream) and several of their handmade pasta and wood-fired pizzas. 

What to order: thunderdome, meatballs, antipasto platter, garlic blasted Caesar salad, spaghetti pomodoro,  and margherita pizza.

120 2nd St Suite B, Juneau, AK, inboccaallupoak.com

 

8. Glacial ice cocktails at The Narrows

I was so impressed by this tiny bar in Juneau with 300 spirits, 150 whiskeys, beer, and wine but also a locally held secret – glacial ice. Try asking for your cocktail with a piece of glacial ice!

148 S Franklin St, Juneau, AK


Day trip to Haines, Alaska

 

Ferry from Juneau to Haines on Alaska Marine Highway System

9. Ride the ferry to Haines

Located 75 miles north of Juneau, Haines is one of the Inside Passage’s most scenic communities and a crucial link between the roadless communities of the Inside Passage to the Alaska Highway. Every summer, thousands of travelers, particularly RVers, pass through Haines on their way to Canada’s Yukon and Interior Alaska. Haines sits at the northern end of the Inside Passage and is an important port of call for the Alaska Marine Highway System, whose ferries deposit RVers and other travelers in Haines en route to the Alaska Highway to the north.

The ferry ride from Juneau to Haines is about 4-4.5 hours so bring a book or I had my Skyroam so I worked on my laptop!

dot.alaska.gov/amhs/

 

Chilkoot Lake in Haines Alaska

10. Hike Chilkoot River

Seeing all the blooms around the Chilkoot River was breathtaking. We also went to the American Bald Eagle Foundation to learn and see all of their raptors. 


Wrangell, Alaska

best things to do in Wrangell Alaska

Wrangell, known as the ‘Getway to the Sitkine River,’ is one of the most historic communities in Alaska and is the only town in the state to have been ruled by four nations – Tlingit, Russia, United Kingdom, and the United States. Wrangell also has the reputation for being the “friendliest little town in Southwest Alaska.” Located on the northern tip of 30-mile-long Wrangell Island, Wrangell is a community of about 2,300 people and set amind the forests and mountains of Alaska Panhandle along the scenic Inside Passage.

How to get here: Wrangell is an island so the only way to Wrangell is on Alaska Airlines or by state ferry on the Alaska Marine Highway System.

Best time to visit: June through early Sept for bear spottings 

 

Boat ride on Stikine River to the glacier in Wrangell Alaska with Alaska Vista's

11. Boat ride on Stikine River

The boat ride on the Stikine River with Alaska Vista’s was one of the top highlights of this trip – taking in the sight of the Stikine River where it meets the glacier was incredible. 

The Stikine is an international river, originating in British Columbia’s wilderness and flowing freely for 400 miles to its mouth just north of Wrangell. The magnificent Stikine’s vast ecosystem and abundant fish and wildlife are the reason the community of Wrangell is located where it is today and why many visitors come to visit. 

We also made it to LeConte but there was too much ice on the Stikine River. Shakes Glacier is connected to the same ice field that feds LeConte Glacier, but lies nestled in a scenic lake 30 miles up the Stikine River. 

City Dock, Wrangell, AK 99929, alaskavistas.com

 

A-Frame Cabin in Alaska

12. Stay in an A-Frame Cabin in Tongass National Forest

We didn’t get to stay in this A-Frame cabin in the Tongass National Forest but I want to on my next trip! Located within the Stikine-LeConte Wilderness, the Mount Rynda Cabin is a 16′ x 16′ A-frame cabin with sleeping loft and partially covered front porch for just $40/night!

Book here

 

Hike Rainbow Falls Trail in Wrangell Alaska

13. Hike Rainbow Falls Trail

Just across Zimovia Highway from Shoemaker Bay camping areas is Rainbow Falls Trail, which offers a self-guided hike through the pristine Southeast Alaska rainforest. This magical hike through the forest is just under one mile to Rainbow Falls and has a beautiful view of Chicago Pass, Zimovia Strait, and surrounded Islands. 

Zimovia Hwy, Wrangell, AK

SEE ALSO: 14 Best Hiking Trails In Austin TX

 

Petroglyph Beach in Wrangell Alaska

14. Search for petroglyphs on Petroglyph Beach

Petroglyphs are stone carvings that are located through Southeast Alaska and British Columbia. The largest group of carvings are located on Wrangell Island on the north end of the island at Petroglyph Beach. 

 

Other things to do in Wrangell

  • Wrangell Golf Club (Muskeg Meadows) – 9-hole course with a 250-yard driving range
  • SUP, kayak, or canoe on Wrangell Island
  • Hike Mt. Dewey
  • Alaska Bearfest – this five-day festival that always starts on the last Wednesday of July. The must-see excursion is the Anan Bear and Wildlife Observatory to view black and brown bears feasting on pink salmon. 
  • Zak’s Cafe – we had halibut n chips here before we departed at this plant-filled cafe

Ketchikan, Alaska

Ketchikan Alaska

Ketchikan is Alaska’s first city and the salmon capital of the world with all five species of salmon are found here – king (Chinook), Silver (Coho), Pink (Humpie), Red (Sockeye) & Chum (dog). Ketchikan also has the largest collection of totems anywhere in the world, with more than 80 poles throughout the Ketchikan area. 

How to get here: Ketchikan is an island so the only way to Wrangell is on Alaska Airlines or by state ferry on the Alaska Marine Highway System.

Transit options: taxis, bus, and car rentals. The Ketchikan International Airport is on Gravina Island so you have to take a five-minute ferry from the city on Revillagigedo Island.

What to eat: Alaskan salmon, halibut, crab, shrimp, oysters and clams.

 

Floatplane ride to the Misty Fjords in Ketchikan Alaska

15. Floatplane ride to the Misty Fjords 

The Misty Fjords National Monument is a 2.3 million-acre preserve of glaciers, fjords, and forested land known for whale watching, and wildlife viewing. The deep canals and inlets of Mistry Fjords National Monument were carved by glaciers thousands of years ago. Some people call this granite grandeur the Yosemite of the North.

The Misty Fjords National Monument is best viewed by floatplane; it is the only way to truly take in its majesty – soaring cliffs, saw-tooth ridges blanketed in trademark mists, sky-blue lakes, endless waterfalls, icy saltwater fjords and miles of glacier-carved gorges. Southeast Aviation took us on a flight around the Misty Fjords and then a quick landing on a private island. 

1249 Tongass Avenue (Near Berth 4), Ketchikan, Alaska, southeastaviation.com

 

16. Shop along Creek Street

It’s hard to believe the colorful houses along Creek Street used to be the red light district back in the day. Named as “Married Man’s Trail was the trail that married men used to visit Creek Street (the brothels) so their wives wouldn’t see them. 

 

Sea kayaking in the Tongass National Forest in Alaska

17. Sea kayaking in the Tongass National Forest

Kayaking on the Pacific Ocean in the Tongass National Forest around Clover Pass and Eagle Island was breathtaking. We saw several seals, starfish, and bald eagles on our paddle. 

37 Potter Road, Ketchikan, Alaska, southeastexposure.com

 

Saxman Native Village in Ketchikan Alaska

18. Visit Saxman Native Village

Saxman Native village boasts a world-class totem collection and a traditional clan house. Nearly a fifth of residents trace some lineage to the Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian tribes of Alaska. We got to meet with totem carver Kelly White, who told us all about the area’s rich cultural history, totem carving, and personal stories about the area. 

 

19. Stay at the Inn At Creek Street

Adding Inn At Creek Street on this list because it was so cute and I loved waking up to a view of the pier every morning and walking over to New York Cafe for coffee. The Inn At Creek Street is convienietely located on Creek Street from all the local shops.

133 Stedman St, Ketchikan, AK, creekstreet.com

 

Other things to do in Ketchikan

  • City tour of Ketchikan – enjoy residential homes mixed in with commerce dating back to 1890s. View the legacy, stairways, and presence of native heritage, notorious Creek Street, and harbors
  • Saxman Native Village and Totem Park – the largest collection of authentic totem poles in a park-like setting with a scenic overview of Tongass Narrows, nearby islands, and channels to the Pacific
  • Rainforest/beach walk – stops within the largest temperate rainforest in North America to view flora, fauna, and marine life
  • Herring Cove – the cove’s mix of fresh and saltwater provides opportunities to see a unique mix of seasonal wildlife like sea lions, harbor seals, eagles, salmon, and black bears
  • Beaver Falls/Rainbow Falls – dropping from a 1,312 foot granite mountainside, the waterfall directs the rain and snow melt down into the ocean below
  • Potlatch Park – a family own Totem Park with poles carved by a local carver, a clean house, native art, and tribal houses. 
  • Totem Bight State Park – beautiful 11 acre State Park offers a unique accessible trail to walk amongst the rainforest and view over 14 totems, clan houses, and scenic boardwalk to the shoreline 
  • lunch at Foraged & Found

Juneau

From Ketchikan, we flew back to Juneau to fly back to Austin the next day so we went on a morning hike to the Mendenhall Glacier.

 

Reindeer dog in Juneau Alaska

20. Eat reindeer hot dog

Another unique thing that you can eat in Alaska is a reindeer hot dog! The place to go is Alaskan Fish N Chips and they also make a really good halibut fish n chips. 

If you get hungry late at night like we did, go to Pel’meni (located in the same building) for Russian dumplings.

2 Marine Way

SEE ALSO: 7 Things To Do In Terlingua Texas

 

Mendenhall Glacier in Juneau Alaska

21. Hike to Mendenhall Glacier

The Mendenhall Glacier is one of many major glaciers that connect to the vast Juneau Ice Field, a 1,500 square mile remnant of the last ice age, cradled high in the coast mountain’s lofty peaks.

From the parking lot, it’s a quick 15-minute hike on a paved path to Mendenhall Glacier and waterfall. You can also kayak on Mendenhall Lake near the icebergs and arctic nesting cliffs. Kayaks and gear can be rented from the Alaska Boat & Kayak Center.

Fee: $5 entrance fee for 16 & over at the visitor center during summer months (May 1 to September 30) when the visitor center is open from 8am to 7:30pm daily. 

Best time to visit: May through October

6000 Glacier Spur Rd, Juneau, AK


Are you planning a trip to Southeast Alaska? Comment below!

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WRITTEN BY:

Jane Ko is the Austin blogger behind A Taste of Koko, Austin's top food and travel blog featuring the hottest restaurants and weekend getaways. Jane has been a speaker at South by Southwest (SXSW), Texas Conference for Women, BlogHer, and more on entrepreneurship and social media. She lives in Austin Texas with her dog and cat.

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