Discover Alaska's WWII History
Remnants of World War II fortifications are scattered throughout coastal communities in Southcentral and Southwest Alaska. Experience this history in person on an eight-day excursion through Unalaska/Port of Dutch Harbor, Anchorage, Seward, and Kodiak.
Travel by plane to Unalaska/Dutch Harbor in Alaska’s Aleutian Chain. (The town itself is called Unalaska, while “Dutch Harbor” applies to just the harbor—but the two names are often used interchangeably.) Take a tour of World War II sites with a local guide to get your bearings, which will include a visit to Fort Schwatka on Mount Ballyhoo.
Round out your exploration by visiting the Aleutian World War II National Historic Site visitor center and museum. Consider adding a sportfishing charter to your day: there’s a reason the Port of Dutch Harbor is the No. 1 commercial fishing port in the United States, and visitors are often eager to bring home giant halibut, black cod, and other species of wild Alaska seafood during a visit to the area.
Fly back to Anchorage and rent a car. Before hitting the road to Seward, stop by the Anchorage Museum to learn more about Alaska history, then spend a leisurely afternoon exploring the shops and other visitor amenities in downtown Anchorage before you set out for Seward. The drive is 120 miles of beautiful coastal and alpine scenery, and usually takes about three hours. With plenty of summer daylight, don’t rush—you’ll want to stop frequently for photos, and you might even see wildlife along the way. Spend the night in Seward.
Day 4: Seward
Take a paddling tour or a water taxi to North Beach in Caines Head State Recreation Area. From there, it’s about two miles of easy hiking to the WWII-era Fort McGilvray, which is still open to exploration. Once you return to town, consider a visit to the Alaska SeaLife Center, an animal rehabilitation facility where you can have close-up encounters with seals, sea lions, seabirds, sea otters, and other aquatic wildlife native to Alaska. If you can extend your trip, consider taking another day in Seward for a day cruise into Kenai Fjords National Park, where you will see other WWII ruins along the coastline, and a visit to nearby Exit Glacier.
Day 5: Kodiak
Your next stop is Kodiak, and you have two options for getting there. The fast method is driving back to Anchorage and taking a quick jet flight to Kodiak. The longer, more adventurous route is making the four-hour drive from Seward to Homer, followed by an 11-hour ferry ride to Kodiak. Alaska’s ferry system accommodates cars (along with bikes, kayaks, and RVs), and also offers cabin berths for sleeping. If the timing works out right you can spend the afternoon exploring Homer, then take the ferry overnight.
Day 6: Kodiak
Kodiak has two treasures of World War II history, and they’re located right next to each other. The first is Fort Abercrombie State Historical Park, 182 acres of temperate rainforest dotted with WWII fortifications joined by rustic footpaths. The second is the Kodiak Military History Museum, a volunteer-run project that contains a number of military artifacts dating as far back as World War II, many of which are still in working order and meant to be handled.
Day 7: Kodiak
Round out your Kodiak visit by following the recommendations of local commercial fisherman Toby Sullivan found in A Local's Guide to Museums & Sightseeing in Kodiak, or by booking a fly-in trip to Katmai National Park, where you can view massive brown bears feasting on salmon they pluck right out of the rushing rivers.
Fly back to Anchorage or, if you took the ferry, sail back to Homer and make the five-hour drive back to Anchorage.
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