Start your drive by heading south from Anchorage along the Seward Highway, a nationally designated Scenic Byway. This coastal roadway showcases the gleaming waters of Turnagain Arm on one side and forest-clad mountains on the other; use the plentiful pullouts for photo ops.
You'll travel through the Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel, the longest shared rail-vehicle tunnel in North America (be sure to check the schedule for tunnel openings). The tunnel offers the only land access to Whittier, a small coastal community with a fascinating World War II history, set against stunning scenery on the shores of Prince William Sound. Grab a quick seafood lunch in one of the local cafes before you board an Alaska Marine Highway ferry for the six-hour trip to Valdez, where you'll spend the night. [Car berths on the ferry fill up quickly, so make sure you reserve your ticket well in advance.]
Valdez is one of Alaska's premier destinations for fishing and outdoor recreation, all set against a mountain backdrop that's earned it the nickname "Little Switzerland." The area is also rich in history: It figured prominently in the earliest gold rushes, the 1964 Good Friday Earthquake, and is the southern terminus of the trans-Alaska oil pipeline. Consider booking a full or half-day fishing charter for your chance to catch a monster-sized halibut or salmon and possibly win a prize in the local fishing derbies. Or you can take a full-day cruise to the Columbia or Meares glaciers, viewing marine life along the way. Overnight in Valdez.
Start the five-hour drive from Valdez to the Mat-Su Valley community of Palmer. Make sure you stop for photo opportunities at Bridal Veil Falls, Horsetail Falls, and Worthington Glacier, all on the first 30 miles of road on your way out of Valdez. Another must-see stop is the Matanuska Glacier, where you can hire a guide to take you trekking or even climbing on the ice. Once you reach Palmer, consider touring the local musk ox or reindeer farms, or learn more about this area's agricultural roots at the Colony House Museum before continuing on to Anchorage.
If you are looking to spend more time on the road exploring some of Southcentral Alaska, make sure to check out this full itinerary.