Make the most of a long weekend by taking the Alaska state ferry from Washington state to Ketchikan, where you can enjoy some of Alaska’s best flightseeing, the state’s largest concentration of totem poles, and a bear-viewing adventure before you catch a quick flight home.
Day 1 Bellingham
If you really want to maximize your time in Alaska, you can catch one of several daily flights from Seattle to Ketchikan. But the two-day sailing from Bellingham, Washington to Ketchikan is one of the world’s best—and most affordable—sightseeing cruises. Space allowing, the Alaska Marine Highway ferries also allow you to bring your own RV, car, kayak, bicycles and other adventure gear with you. Riding the ferry is also a great way to meet locals, who use the ferry system to reach the secluded towns and islands they call home.
The ferries are fully equipped with dining rooms and cafeterias, movies, onboard naturalists and even small gift shops. Spend the next two nights in a private cabin (must be reserved in advance) or bring along a small tent or sleeping bag to set up in one of the various lounges on board or directly on deck.
Prepare to relax for the next day and a half cruising the green and misty Inside Passage. Ferry vessels are fully equipped with dining rooms and cafeterias, movies, onboard naturalists and small gift shops. Spend the night in a private cabin (must be reserved in advance) or bring along a small tent or sleeping bags to set up in one of the various lounges on board or directly on deck.
Day 2 At Sea
The Inside Passage boasts spectacular natural beauty. Spend the day aboard the ferry and enjoy scenic vistas of the Pacific Northwest’s heavily forested islands, coves and fjords. Bring binoculars to look for wildlife: marine species such as humpback whales, orcas, sea otters, seals and sea lions are all common sightings from the ferry, as well as bald eagles and other shorebirds. You’ll want to have your camera out, too: The snow-capped peaks and glittering glaciers you’ll see during your trip are just a few of the reasons cruising the Inside Passage is the most popular way for visitors to explore Alaska.
Day 3 Ketchikan
The Bellingham ferry usually arrives at Ketchikan in the morning: Perfect timing to pick up a walking tour map and explore downtown at your leisure. Ketchikan is very pedestrian-friendly, with an easy-to-navigate bus system and bicycle rentals available. Don’t miss a chance to explore historic Creek Street, a series of boardwalks built over Ketchikan Creek and dotted with local shops and galleries. Other key attractions in Ketchikan include the Tongass Historical Museum, Southeast Alaska Discovery Center and the Great Alaskan Lumberjack Show, all of which showcase different angles of Ketchikan’s colorful history.
Day 4 Ketchikan
Book a flightseeing or boat excursion to the spectacular 2.3-million-acre Misty Fjords National Monument. You’ll see the sort of steep, dramatic fjords that every visitor to Alaska dreams of. After mid-July, day trips are also available to several nearby bear viewing areas. Or, if you’d rather relax, seize the chance to visit Rotary Beach, Refuge Cove State Park or Settler’s Cove State Park and hike, beachcomb and or enjoy a picnic. Once back in town you’ll board a jet to Bellingham or Seattle or, if you have two more days to spare, take the ferry back south.