7 Great Things To Do In Ketchikan, Alaska

7 Great Things To Do In Ketchikan, Alaska
Ketchikan is one of the Alaska’s most popular cruise ports of call. This southeastern town of less than 10,000 residents is set at the southern tip of the Inside Passage, which connects the Gulf of Alaska and Puget Sound.

Ketchikan is surrounded by the Tongass National Forest, America's largest national forest at almost 17 million acres in size. There are plenty of historic, cultural and nature-oriented attractions in and around Ketchikan, so make sure to plan ahead to make the most of your day.

Some cruise ships dock in the heart of Ketchikan, while others call at a new cruise terminal located seven miles outside of Ketchikan. This privately-owned Ward Cove terminal is used by several cruise lines including Norwegian Cruise Line, Oceania, and Regent Seven Seas Cruises. Cruise guests arriving at Ward Cove can enjoy onsite activities, take shore excursions from this location, or shuttle to Ketchikan for even more adventures.

Ketchikan visitors always enjoy strolling around Creek Street, one of the town’s most photogenic areas. Since Ketchikan is located in an intertidal zone, Creek Street's picturesque boardwalk area is built on wooden stilts and pilings over the water to prevent floods from tidal swings of over 20 feet. Cruise guests flock to Creek Street to take pictures of the historic buildings, dine, and shop at local boutiques.

Creek Street was a rowdy area during Prohibition and it also served as the city's Red Light District in earlier days. It's also a popular fishing spot in August when salmon make their run up Ketchikan Creek. Plan to walk up Married Man's Trail to see salmon jumping up the Salmon Ladder if you're in the area.

Ketchikan is sometimes referred to as the "Rain Capital of Alaska" due to its wet weather, so make sure to bring along some rain gear if you're planning to visit. It's also fun to sample plenty of Dungeness crab and local seafood at Alaska Fish House or Annabelle's Famous Keg & Chowder House while you're in town. If you're taking a cruise through Southeast Alaska, are seven great things to do while you're in Ketchikan.

1. View Breathtaking Misty Fjords National Monument. As part of Alaska's Tongass National Forest, Misty Fjords National Monument spans well over 2 million acres. The spectacular steep fjords found in this pristine wilderness area are gorgeous. Here you'll see massive sheer granite cliffs crowned with waterfalls, icy glaciers, crystal clear lakes, snowcapped mountain peaks, old growth rainforest and a wide variety of wildlife. Experiencing this area is often one of the highlights of an Alaska cruise vacation. Visitors can explore Misty Fjords National Monument by aircraft or boat. Some shore excursions combine both, and certain flightseeing tours include landing on a lake and a forest hike as well. Tongass National Forest helicopter excursions are also available. Ketchikan flightseeing trips are very popular, so make sure to reserve these well in advance if interested.

2. Fish for Salmon, Halibut and Sea Crabs. Ketchikan is well-known for its exceptional fishing opportunities. Many cruise vacationers enjoy going out by boat to reel in salmon or halibut. Fishing licenses are required. Both small group and private charter fishing options are available here and caught fish can generally be processed and shipped home. One of Ketchikan's most popular tours is the Bering Sea Crab Fishermen's Tour for those interested in a different kind of fishing. Cruise guests can board the Aleutian Ballad, featured on the Discovery Channel's Deadliest Catch show, meet its crew and sail with them inside the protected waters around Ketchikan. As the fishermen haul in their catch, guests can see a variety of marine life including halibut, rockfish, prawns, sea stars, and large Alaskan king crabs. Stedman Bridge at Creek Street is a popular fishing spot in mid-July and August when salmon make their run up Ketchikan Creek. Fishing gear rentals and required licenses are available along Creek Street for those wishing to fish while in town.

3. Learn About Alaska Native Culture. Ketchikan is home to the largest collection of totem poles in the world as well as the largest Clan House in Southeast Alaska. Cruise guests can view dozens of massive totem poles carved by Tlingit and Haida native carvers and learn about their significance at Totem Heritage Center, Saxman Totem Park and Totem Bight State Historical Park. There are a number of totem poles in the central area of Ketchikan as well. Some shore excursions combine a visit to Saxman Totem Park or Totem Bight State Park with wildlife viewing or the Great Alaskan Lumberjack Show, too.

4. Spot Wildlife by Boat or Kayak. The Tongass National Forest and the waterways around Ketchikan are excellent locations for wildlife viewing and taking in some of Alaska's most beautiful scenic vistas. Cruise lines and private tour operators offer a number of excursions that allow guests to experience this magnificent area by kayak, canoe and small boat. On these excursions, guests may see humpback whales, bald eagles, orcas, seals, sea lions, river otters, mink and deer. Black bears are sometimes spotted as well. Canoe and boat tours are often combined with nature hikes through the old-growth rainforest, seafood feasts, trips to Totem Bight State Park and other adventures. These trips can be well-suited for families as well.

5. Savor A Delicious Crab Feast. Enjoy an all-you-can-eat Dungeness crab feast at historic George Inlet Lodge. Set in a remote location along the George Inlet waterway, this excursion is a wonderful choice for those who enjoy seafood. The tasty meal features Dungeness crab, salad, a slice of cheesecake topped with Alaskan blueberries, and unlimited hot and cold beverages. One alcoholic drink is included with the meal as well. This excursion is sometimes paired with the Great Alaskan Lumberjack Show for a fun-filled experience.

6. Enjoy Thrilling Ziplines and Backcountry Adventures. Cruise guests looking for an adrenaline rush can find their fun in Ketchikan. Ketchikan's Rainforest Canopy & Zipline Expedition course lets cruise guests soar along eight different ziplines and work their way across three aerial bridges suspended up to 135 feet above the ground. An alternative Ketchikan zipline option at Southeast Exposure Outdoor Adventure Center features eight ziplines and an optional 50-foot climbing tower. Other adventure tours take cruise passengers hiking, biking, backcountry jeep or UTV touring, and on adventure kart expeditions.

7. Take A Bear Watching Flightseeing Excursion. The greater Ketchikan area is one of Southeast Alaska's best places to see black bears. If you're looking for tours with frequent bear sightings, Ketchikan has several flightseeing tours that fit the bill. Flightseeing excursions to Neets Bay commonly offer views of the black bears that live in this area. Other flightseeing tours take cruise guests to Traitor's Cove or the Prince of Wales Wilderness area where black bears are also found. Those wishing to possibly see both black and brown bears may want to opt for flightseeing excursions to Anan Wildlife Observatory or Misty Fjords National Monument where both types of bears may be seen. It's important to note that bear sightings are not guaranteed on any flightseeing tours. Bear viewing at Anan Wildlife Observatory is typically best from early July through mid-August, while the other locations are often best from late July to early September. Bears can also sometimes be seen around Herring Cove at the very south of Ketchikan during salmon spawning season. They're reportedly more likely to be spotted here in August and early September. This area can be accessed by road, making it possible to get here by vehicle. Bears can also be spotted at the Alaska Rainforest Sanctuary, a 40-acre reserve located at Herring Cove.

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