Welcome to the picturesque coastal town of Ketchikan, located in the heart of Alaska’s Inside Passage. Known as the “Salmon Capital of the World,” this charming cruise port offers a wealth of activities and attractions for visitors to enjoy. From exploring historic sites to immersing yourself in the breathtaking natural beauty of the surrounding wilderness, Ketchikan has something for everyone.
As your ship docks in Ketchikan, you’ll be greeted by the pristine waters of the Tongass Narrows and towering mountains that frame the town’s skyline. Whether you’re an adventure enthusiast, nature lover, or history buff, you’ll find yourself captivated by the diverse range of experiences available in this coastal gem.
This article will guide you through the top things to do in Ketchikan, highlighting both the must-see attractions and the hidden gems that will make your visit unforgettable. So, put on your explorer’s hat and get ready to embark on an adventure of a lifetime in this remote, but rewarding, Alaskan port.
Exploring the Historic Creek Street
One of the most iconic and historic attractions in Ketchikan is Creek Street. Nestled along the shores of Ketchikan Creek, this vibrant boardwalk lined with colorful buildings was once a thriving Red Light District during the heyday of the city’s fishing industry. Today, it has been beautifully preserved and transformed into a hub of local shops, art galleries, and restaurants.
As you stroll along Creek Street, you’ll be transported back in time to the early 20th century, when the town was booming with salmon canneries and raucous nightlife. Take a moment to appreciate the striking architecture and marvel at the fishing-themed artwork that adorns the buildings.
Don’t miss the opportunity to visit Dolly’s House Museum, the former residence of Dolly Arthur, a legendary Alaskan madam. Step inside this historic landmark and gain insight into the colorful history of Creek Street. Admire the antique furniture and photographs that depict life during Ketchikan’s bustling past.
While exploring Creek Street, keep an eye out for the resident bald eagles that are often perched in the nearby trees. These majestic birds are an integral part of the Alaskan ecosystem and spotting them in their natural habitat is a truly awe-inspiring experience.
For the nature enthusiasts, a short walk from Creek Street will lead you to the beautiful and tranquil Rotary Beach. Take a moment to relax on the sandy shores and soak in the breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains and waterways.
Whether you’re interested in history, shopping for unique souvenirs, or simply immersing yourself in the charm of Ketchikan, a visit to the historic Creek Street is an absolute must.
Visiting Totem Heritage Center
Immerse yourself in the rich cultural heritage of the indigenous people of Alaska by visiting the Totem Heritage Center. Located just a short distance from downtown Ketchikan, this museum is home to one of the largest collections of totem poles in the world.
The Totem Heritage Center showcases the artistry and craftsmanship of the Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian tribes, who have been creating these monumental wooden sculptures for centuries. These intricate totem poles are not only impressive in size but also tell stories of ancestral legends, clan histories, and cultural traditions.
As you enter the center, you’ll be greeted by knowledgeable guides who are passionate about sharing the history and significance of these intricate works of art. They will take you on a journey through the cultural importance of totem poles, explaining the symbolism behind the carvings and the stories they represent.
Aside from the totem poles, the Totem Heritage Center houses a vast collection of Native Alaskan artifacts, including ceremonial masks, woven baskets, and regalia. These artifacts provide a glimpse into the daily lives and traditions of the indigenous people, offering a deeper understanding of their rich cultural heritage.
For those interested in hands-on experiences, the center also offers cultural workshops where visitors can learn traditional Native Alaskan arts, such as carving and weaving. These workshops provide a unique opportunity to engage with the culture on a more personal level and create your own piece of Native Alaskan artwork to take home as a cherished memento.
Visiting the Totem Heritage Center is not just a chance to admire beautifully crafted totem poles, but also a way to gain a deeper appreciation for the diverse and enduring culture of Alaska’s native populations. It is an enriching experience that should not be missed during your time in Ketchikan.
Embarking on a Wildlife Viewing Adventure
Ketchikan is surrounded by breathtaking natural beauty, making it the perfect destination for wildlife enthusiasts. From majestic bald eagles soaring through the skies to curious seals and sea lions basking in the sun, there is an abundance of wildlife waiting to be discovered.
One of the best ways to experience the thriving wildlife of Ketchikan is by embarking on a wildlife viewing adventure. Hop aboard a guided boat tour or kayak expedition and venture into the pristine waters of the Tongass National Forest, the largest temperate rainforest in North America.
Keep your camera ready as you glide through the calm waters, as you might encounter pods of playful orca whales breaching the surface, elegant humpback whales showcasing their acrobatic skills, or even the elusive Dall’s porpoises riding the bow waves of passing boats.
For bird enthusiasts, a visit to the nearby Deer Mountain Hatchery and Eagle Center is a must. This facility rehabilitates injured and orphaned bald eagles, providing a safe haven for these magnificent creatures. Learn about the conservation efforts and get up close and personal with these powerful birds as they spread their wings and take flight.
If you prefer to stay on land, take a guided hike through the lush forests of Ketchikan. As you traverse the trails, keep your eyes peeled for black bears, deer, and moose, which can often be spotted foraging for food in their natural habitats. The knowledgeable guides will provide insights into the local ecosystems and offer tips on wildlife spotting.
Remember to observe wildlife from a safe distance and respect their natural habitats. Follow the guidance of your experienced guides to ensure a memorable and responsible wildlife viewing experience.
Embarking on a wildlife viewing adventure in Ketchikan is an unforgettable opportunity to connect with nature and witness the incredible diversity of Alaskan wildlife. Whether you’re a nature enthusiast, a bird lover, or simply seeking a serene escape, Ketchikan offers a truly immersive and awe-inspiring wildlife experience.
Taking a Scenic Flightseeing Tour
Prepare to be amazed as you take to the skies and embark on a spectacular scenic flightseeing tour in Ketchikan. With majestic mountains, pristine glaciers, and breathtaking fjords, this aerial adventure offers a unique perspective of the region’s unparalleled natural beauty.
Board a small aircraft or helicopter and buckle up for an unforgettable journey. As you soar above the vast expanse of the Tongass National Forest and the mist-shrouded peaks of the surrounding mountains, you’ll have a bird’s-eye view of the stunning Alaskan landscape that will leave you in awe.
One of the highlights of a scenic flightseeing tour is the opportunity to witness the magnificent glaciers that are scattered throughout the area. From the aerial perspective, you’ll be able to marvel at the immense size and intricate formations of these ancient ice formations. Keep your eyes peeled for the ethereal blue hues and the mesmerizing cracks and crevices that adorn these icy wonders.
Another sight to behold during the flightseeing tour is the famous Misty Fjords National Monument. As you navigate through the narrow channels and steep cliffs, you’ll be rewarded with breathtaking views of cascading waterfalls, tranquil fjords, and an abundance of wildlife that call this pristine wilderness home.
The knowledgeable pilots will provide insightful commentary, sharing fascinating facts and stories about the region’s geology, wildlife, and Native Alaskan history. They will help you spot wildlife from above, such as black bears foraging in the forest or pods of whales breaching in the waters below.
Whether you choose to take a short flightseeing tour or opt for a longer adventure that includes landing on a glacier, a scenic flightseeing tour is a once-in-a-lifetime experience that showcases the awe-inspiring beauty of Alaska from a unique perspective.
Don’t forget to bring your camera to capture the jaw-dropping landscapes that will surely leave a lasting impression. The memories of this thrilling aerial adventure will stay with you long after you’ve landed back on solid ground.
Experiencing the Misty Fjords National Monument
Prepare to be transported into a world of captivating natural beauty as you embark on an unforgettable journey to the Misty Fjords National Monument, a pristine wilderness located just outside of Ketchikan. This remote and untouched paradise is a testament to the raw power of nature, with its towering granite cliffs, cascading waterfalls, and serene fjords.
There are several ways to experience the Misty Fjords National Monument, each offering a unique perspective of this awe-inspiring landscape. One popular option is to take a scenic boat tour that navigates through the narrow channels and calm waters, allowing you to get up close and personal with the dramatic cliffs and serene fjords.
As you cruise through Misty Fjords, keep an eye out for the abundant wildlife that call this area home. Bald eagles soar overhead, while seals and sea lions bask lazily on the rocky shores. Dolphins and whales occasionally make appearances, adding to the sense of wonder and excitement.
For a more adventurous experience, consider taking a kayak or canoe tour. Paddling through the calm waters of the fjords provides a sense of tranquility and allows for a more intimate exploration of the hidden coves and secluded inlets. Glide past towering waterfalls, watch as the mist blankets the towering cliffs, and listen to the sounds of nature that surround you.
Another popular way to experience the Misty Fjords is by taking a scenic flightseeing tour. Soar above the rugged landscape and be greeted by breathtaking panoramic views of the fjords, glaciers, and snow-capped peaks. The aerial perspective offers a unique and awe-inspiring way to fully appreciate the vastness and beauty of this natural wonder.
Regardless of how you choose to experience the Misty Fjords National Monument, prepare to be captivated by its untouched wilderness and awe-inspiring grandeur. This remote paradise is a true testament to the power and beauty of nature, and a visit to Ketchikan would not be complete without immersing oneself in the majestic wonder of the Misty Fjords.
Trying out Alaskan Salmon Fishing
When visiting Ketchikan, the self-proclaimed “Salmon Capital of the World,” one activity that should be high on your list is trying out Alaskan salmon fishing. With pristine rivers, bountiful streams, and an abundance of salmon species, this is a true angler’s paradise.
Whether you’re an experienced fisherman or a novice looking to try your hand at this iconic Alaskan activity, there are plenty of options available to suit your skill level and preferences. Join a guided fishing charter or rent your own boat and set off on an adventure to reel in the catch of a lifetime.
The waters surrounding Ketchikan are teeming with various species of salmon, including chinook (king), coho (silver), sockeye (red), and pink (humpy) salmon. Depending on the season, you may have the opportunity to target a specific species or experience the thrill of catching multiple types during your trip.
Guided fishing charters provide all the necessary equipment and knowledge to make your fishing excursion successful. Experienced guides will share their expertise, teaching you the techniques needed to attract and hook these powerful fish. They will take you to prime fishing spots, where salmon congregate during their migration upstream.
The rush of adrenaline when you feel the tug on your line and the exhilaration of landing a prized salmon is an experience like no other. Not only will you have the opportunity to fish for salmon, but you’ll also witness the stunning natural beauty of Ketchikan’s surrounding waters.
For those looking to immerse themselves in the complete salmon fishing experience, consider participating in a fly-fishing excursion. Fly fishing allows for a more interactive and hands-on approach, as you learn the technique of casting a fly and enticing the salmon to strike. This challenging yet rewarding method provides an intimate connection with nature and offers a unique angling experience.
Keep in mind that fishing regulations and seasons are strictly enforced to preserve the sustainability of the salmon population. It’s essential to check the local regulations and obtain the required fishing licenses before heading out on your fishing adventure.
Trying out Alaskan salmon fishing in Ketchikan allows you to not only test your angling skills but also experience the thrill and beauty of the breathtaking Alaskan wilderness. So grab your fishing gear, prepare for an unforgettable adventure, and get ready to create memories that will last a lifetime.
Discovering the Tongass National Forest
Immerse yourself in the awe-inspiring beauty of the Tongass National Forest, a true gem of the Alaskan wilderness. Spanning over 16.7 million acres, the Tongass National Forest is the largest national forest in the United States and a treasure trove of natural wonders.
Located in the southeastern part of Alaska, just a short distance from Ketchikan, the Tongass National Forest is a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers alike. With its towering old-growth trees, crystal-clear rivers, and abundant wildlife, this vast forest offers endless opportunities for exploration and discovery.
Embark on a guided hike through the forest’s network of trails, allowing you to immerse yourself in the tranquil beauty of the surroundings. As you wander through towering stands of ancient Sitka spruce and western hemlock, keep an eye out for wildlife such as black bears, Sitka deer, and bald eagles that call this forest home.
For a more immersive experience, consider venturing deeper into the Tongass National Forest by embarking on a multi-day camping or backpacking trip. As you set up camp beneath the dense canopy, you’ll have the chance to truly disconnect from the outside world and embrace the pristine wilderness that surrounds you.
One of the highlights of exploring the Tongass National Forest is the opportunity to witness the natural wonders that exist within its boundaries. Visit cascading waterfalls, gaze upon glaciers as they carve their way through the landscape, and marvel at the sheer beauty of the fjords that dot the coastline.
Additionally, the Tongass National Forest is rich in Native Alaskan cultural heritage. Take the time to learn about the traditions and history of the indigenous tribes that have inhabited this region for countless generations. Visit cultural sites, such as totem parks and ancient village sites, to gain insight into the deep connection between the land and its original inhabitants.
Whether you choose to explore the Tongass National Forest on a day trip or fully immerse yourself in the wilderness on a longer adventure, this pristine forest offers a glimpse into the unspoiled beauty of Alaska. Discover the wonders of nature, connect with the rich indigenous heritage, and create memories that will last a lifetime.
Enjoying the Great Alaskan Lumberjack Show
Get ready for an action-packed and entertaining experience at the Great Alaskan Lumberjack Show in Ketchikan. This unique and lively show celebrates the rich history and traditions of the rugged men and women who worked in the Alaskan timber industry.
As you take your seat in the outdoor arena, you’ll be transported back in time to an era when loggers battled the elements and braved the forest in their quest for timber. The show features a series of competitive demonstrations that showcase the skills and athleticism of the lumberjacks.
Prepare to be amazed as you witness high-speed log rolling, where athletes balance and spin on floating logs, trying to unbalance their opponents. Thrill at the sight of axe throwing, as the lumberjacks expertly aim for the target with precision and accuracy. Cheer on the competitors participating in the intense springboard chop and the jaw-dropping standing block chop events.
Throughout the show, the lively emcee will provide insightful commentary, sharing stories about the history of the timber industry and the challenges that lumberjacks faced in Alaska’s harsh and unforgiving wilderness. You’ll gain a newfound appreciation for the strength, skill, and determination required to tame the wild forests of the region.
One of the highlights of the Great Alaskan Lumberjack Show is the opportunity for audience participation. You may be selected to try your hand at log rolling or axe throwing, adding an interactive element that is sure to create laughter and memorable moments for all.
Aside from the thrilling lumberjack competitions, the show also features a mix of humor, music, and storytelling to engage and entertain visitors of all ages. The high-energy performances and dramatic demonstrations will keep you on the edge of your seat throughout the entire show.
After the show, take the time to meet and greet the lumberjacks, snap photos, and even purchase unique lumberjack-themed souvenirs to commemorate your experience.
The Great Alaskan Lumberjack Show is a must-see attraction in Ketchikan, offering a fun-filled and energetic experience that showcases the rich history and traditions of the Alaskan timber industry. It’s a perfect way to spend an afternoon or evening, creating memories that will leave you with a newfound appreciation for the skill and bravery of the legendary lumberjacks.
Going on a Kayaking or Canoeing Excursion
Immerse yourself in the serene beauty of Ketchikan’s waterways by embarking on a kayaking or canoeing excursion. This outdoor adventure allows you to explore the pristine coastal landscapes, navigate through calm waters, and get up close to the abundant marine and birdlife that call this area home.
Whether you’re a seasoned paddler or a beginner, there are options available for all skill levels. Join a guided tour that will provide you with the necessary equipment, safety briefing, and expert instruction, ensuring a safe and enjoyable experience.
As you paddle through the tranquil waters, take in the breathtaking views of lush green forests, snow-capped mountains, and crystal-clear streams. The calmness of the water allows for a peaceful and leisurely exploration, providing ample opportunities to connect with the surrounding nature.
One of the highlights of a kayaking or canoeing excursion in Ketchikan is the chance to encounter a variety of wildlife. Keep your eyes peeled for seals and sea lions lounging on rocks, playful otters frolicking in the water, and bald eagles soaring above, scanning the shoreline for their next meal.
For those seeking a more adventurous experience, consider taking a kayaking or canoeing tour that ventures into the mesmerizing sea caves and narrow channels of the area. Paddle through hidden passageways, marvel at the sculpted rock formations, and immerse yourself in a unique coastal environment that few get to witness up-close.
Throughout the excursion, knowledgeable guides will share their expertise about the local ecology, history, and cultural importance of the waterways. They will point out interesting landmarks, explain the significance of the flora and fauna, and offer fascinating insights into the rich heritage of the region.
Whether you choose to explore the nearby lakes, coastal waters, or even venture into the secluded fjords, a kayaking or canoeing excursion in Ketchikan provides an intimate and immersive experience with the natural wonders of this Alaskan paradise.
Remember to practice Leave No Trace principles, respect wildlife and their habitats, and adhere to safety guidelines to ensure a responsible and enjoyable adventure.
So, grab a paddle, embrace the serenity of the water, and prepare to create lifelong memories as you navigate through the stunning landscapes of Ketchikan on a kayaking or canoeing excursion.
Sampling Local Cuisine and Shopping in Downtown Ketchikan
No visit to Ketchikan would be complete without exploring the vibrant downtown area and indulging in the local cuisine and shopping scene. As you stroll through the charming streets, you’ll discover a myriad of options to satisfy your taste buds and find unique souvenirs to take home.
Ketchikan is known for its seafood, and you’ll find an array of dining options offering fresh and flavorful Alaskan seafood dishes. Savor succulent king crab legs, melt-in-your-mouth halibut, or perfectly grilled salmon. Whether you prefer a casual seafood shack or an upscale waterfront restaurant, you’ll find a variety of establishments to suit your culinary preferences.
As you explore the downtown area, you’ll come across numerous shops and boutiques offering a wide range of Alaskan-made products and locally sourced items. Browse through Native Alaskan art galleries to admire intricately carved totem poles, delicate jewelry, and beautifully crafted traditional crafts.
Don’t miss the opportunity to sample the local delicacies such as smoked salmon, Alaskan wild berry jams, and homemade fudge. Additionally, be sure to look out for unique Alaskan souvenirs, such as hand-knit mittens, locally made soaps, and intricate beadwork.
For a taste of local history, visit the quaint Creek Street, a historic boardwalk lined with shops and galleries. Take a step back in time as you stroll along the wooden buildings, once a bustling hub of activity during the early days of the fishing industry. Learn about the colorful history and pick up a memento or two along the way.
Take a break from shopping and indulge in a cup of freshly brewed coffee or a sweet treat from one of the local cafes or bakeries. Sit back, relax, and soak up the charming atmosphere of downtown Ketchikan.
Be sure to visit the bustling Ketchikan Fish Market, where you can witness local fishermen unloading their catch and select from a wide variety of seafood to bring back to your ship or enjoy a meal right there at the market.
Downtown Ketchikan also hosts a vibrant arts and crafts market during the summer months, providing an opportunity to support local artisans and find one-of-a-kind treasures to bring back home.
Exploring downtown Ketchikan is not just about the food and shopping; it’s a chance to immerse yourself in the local culture, connect with the community, and bring home a piece of this unique Alaskan experience.
So, make sure to save some time during your visit to Ketchikan to wander the charming streets, indulge in local delicacies, and find that perfect Alaskan souvenir to cherish the memories of your journey.
Ketchikan is a captivating destination that offers a wealth of experiences for travelers seeking adventure, natural beauty, and cultural immersion. From exploring historic sites to embarking on thrilling wildlife encounters, there is something for everyone in this charming Alaskan cruise port.
Visiting attractions like the historic Creek Street and the Totem Heritage Center provides a glimpse into Ketchikan’s rich history, while scenic flightseeing tours and excursions to the Misty Fjords National Monument offer breathtaking views of the region’s natural wonders.
For those looking for outdoor pursuits, kayaking and canoeing in the serene waterways allows for a peaceful exploration of the coastal landscapes and wildlife encounters, while trying your hand at Alaskan salmon fishing provides an exhilarating experience in the “Salmon Capital of the World.”
After a day of adventure, exploring downtown Ketchikan offers an opportunity to sample the local cuisine, browse through unique shops and galleries, and connect with the vibrant community.
As you bid farewell to this enchanting cruise port, you’ll take back memories of awe-inspiring landscapes, exhilarating activities, and a deeper appreciation for the natural beauty and cultural heritage of Alaska.
Whether you choose to embark on thrilling adventures, immerse yourself in the rich cultural history, or simply soak in the captivating beauty of the surroundings, Ketchikan promises an unforgettable experience for every visitor.
So, when you plan your next cruise to Alaska, make sure to include Ketchikan in your itinerary and prepare yourself for an extraordinary journey into the heart of this stunning coastal paradise.