This trip starts with a visit to Ketchikan, one of Alaska’s most popular port towns, then gives you the choice of chasing either Alaska’s spectacular wildlife or its rich culture and history as you continue your journey through Southeast Alaska.
Day 1 Ketchikan
Fly to Ketchikan in the morning. Ketchikan International Airport is an unusual experience, because it’s located on a different island than the town; a five-minute ferry ride gets you to Ketchikan proper. Once there, you can explore downtown attractions like historic Creek Street, the Tongass Historical Museum, the Southeast Alaska Discovery Center and the Great Alaskan Lumberjack Show. Ketchikan is famous for its many totem poles, so round out the day by visiting either Saxman Native Village or Totem Bight State Historical Park, both of which showcase a number of these iconic Alaska Native works of art.
Day 2 Ketchikan
Take a boat, plane, or mixed boat/plane tour to the incredible Misty Fiords National Monument. This 2.3-million acre wilderness area’s glacier-carved fjords climb 3,000 feet skyward from its protected waterways, and wildlife sightings—both on land and in the sea—are very frequent. Fill the afternoon with another half-day adventure of your choice: You can snorkel protected waters near shore, go ziplining, or go saltwater or freshwater fishing. Local processors will clean, package and even smoke your fish before shipping it home for you.
Day 3 Ketchikan
Spend the morning outdoors: Take part in a guided kayak outing, or visit popular hiking destinations like Deer Mountain and Lunch Creek. In the afternoon, board a jet or an Alaska Marine Highway ferry for any of the following destinations. Note: Depending on how far you’re going, ferry travel may require an extra day.
Option One: Culture and History in Sitka and Juneau
Day 4 Sitka
Sitka is home to a deep well of Tlingit traditions and more recent Russian history, set against a backdrop of lush coastal scenery. Spend your first day there exploring the Sheldon Jackson Museum, which contains an exquisite collection of Alaska Native artifacts, and the Southeast Indian Cultural Center, where you can visit and chat with world-class Native artisans as they demonstrate their crafts.
Day 5 Sitka
This afternoon, you’ll board a flight to Juneau. But before you go, take time to visit the many historic Russian buildings, dotted throughout town, that are now maintained as miniature museums. If there’s still time before your flight you can enjoy the shoreside walking path that runs several miles through town, view orphaned and rescued bears at the Fortress of the Bear, or tour the Alaska Raptor Center, where eagles and other birds of prey are rehabilitated for release back into the wild. Your flight to Juneau will get you there in time to have a late dinner and check into your hotel.
Day 6 Juneau
If you have local culture and history on your mind, you must visit both Juneau’s newly renovated Alaska State Museum, which takes an unflinching look at challenging periods in the state’s history, and the beautiful Walter Soboleff Building, where you can see world-class examples of fine art in the Alaska Native tradition. Of course, no visit to Juneau would be complete without a stop at Mendenhall Glacier—so sneak in a quick visit to this iconic attraction before you fly home.
Option Two: Wildlife-Viewing in Wrangell, Petersburg and Juneau
Day 4 Wrangell
Travel via ferry or jet to Wrangell, Alaska, where you can take an exciting half-day expedition to the Anan Creek Wildlife Observatory in the immense Tongass National Forest. Black bears are the main attraction here, although you may sometimes see them fishing side-by-side with massive brown bears. Once back in Wrangell, end the day with a relaxing stroll to Petroglyph Beach, where ancient petroglyphs carved into the rock are still visible at low tide. Spend the night in Wrangell.
Day 5 Petersburg
Take a jet or Alaska Marine Highway ferry to Petersburg, AKA “Little Norway,” a hard-working fishing community that was founded by Norwegian immigrants. The best wildlife viewing here is in Frederick Sound, where you may see dozens of humpback whales feeding, breaching and playing around your boat at any given time. You can pair this outing with a trip to the LeConte Glacier, a tidewater glacier so active that it sometimes chokes the mouth of its own bay with icebergs. Spend the night in Petersburg.
Day 6 Juneau
Take a jet or ferry to Alaska’s capital city, Juneau. This is the perfect home base for a guided day trip to Admiralty Island National Monument, which boasts one of the densest brown bear populations in the world. Once you get back to Juneau, end the day with either a trip to the Mendenhall Glacier or a ride up the Mt. Robert’s Tramway for a bird’s-eye view over town before you fly home.