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Two brown bears in Alaska

Wild Encounters From Anchorage to Seward

Wild Encounters From Anchorage to Seward

Get up close and personal with Alaska wildlife in this three-day itinerary. The trip includes birdwatching near Anchorage, a glacier and wildlife cruise out of Seward, and behind-the-scenes encounters in three wildlife conservation facilities.

Day 1: Anchorage

Arrive in Anchorage and pick up a rental car. The city offers many great experiences for visitors, but our focus is animals—so your first stop on this itinerary is the Alaska Zoo, where you can participate in behind-the-scenes and animal encounter tours to help feed and learn more about the zoo's wildlife including moose, reindeer, porcupine, and black bears.

Once that adventure is complete, grab lunch at one of Anchorage’s excellent restaurants and start your 40-mile drive south to the funky ski town of Girdwood. Stop at Potter Marsh, part of Anchorage Coastal Wildlife Refuge, just south of Anchorage. This wetland features extensive boardwalks and viewing platforms. It’s a great place to view and photograph the many birds that pass through the area, including bald eagles, horned and red-necked grebes, northern harriers, Arctic terns, and trumpeter swans. Sometimes you’ll get lucky and see other wildlife like bears and moose, too.

Keep your eyes peeled as you resume your drive south along the shore of Turnagain Arm—Dall sheep are often spotted on the rocky cliffs above the highway. Sometimes you’ll also see small, white beluga whales in the water, chasing fish as they travel up the inlet. Spend the night in Girdwood.

Day 2: Girdwood to Seward

Start the day with breakfast in Girdwood, then take a short drive to the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center, located about a dozen miles further south on the Seward Highway. Here, you can see wildlife including brown bears, black bears, elk, moose, wolverines, wolves, and porcupines in natural habitats. Time your visit right and you can take one of the center’s behind-the-scenes tours, animal encounters, or watch the animals being fed.

Your next stop is Portage Glacier and the Begich, Boggs Visitor Center, where you can learn about Chugach National Forest, which stretches from Prince William Sound to the Kenai Peninsula—an area larger than the state of New Hampshire—and take a short cruise to the glistening face of the glacier. Keep an eye out for black bears, eagles, and moose in the Portage area. After your visit, drive the rest of the way to Seward and spend the night.

Day 3: Seward

Seward is the ideal place for learning about Alaska’s diverse marine wildlife. Start the day with a glacier and wildlife cruise through Kenai Fjords National Park, where you’ll have good chances of seeing humpback whales, orcas, harbor seals, sea lions, sea otters, and numerous seabirds.

Once you return to Seward it’s time for a visit to the Alaska SeaLife Center, a combination research, rescue, and rehabilitation center where you can get up-close views of Alaska's marine life. If you have the time, book one of the center's behind-the-scenes tours or wildlife encounters for opportunities to learn more and even feed some of the animals. Overnight in Seward and prepare to either return back to Anchorage or continue your driving trip west along the Kenai Peninsula to the communities of Kenai, Soldotna, and Homer.

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