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Ketchikan Alaska, Things to do in the Cruise Port!

Updated: Apr 5

Ketchikan Alaska
Ketchikan Alaska

Ketchikan, Alaska, Alaska’s first city, is a vibrant city known for its rich history, stunning natural beauty, and thriving arts scene. Also known as the salmon capital of the world, and the southernmost entrance into the wilds of Alaska. On my visit to cruise port of Ketchikan Alaska, I fell in love with the place. I hope on your visit you agree with me and think this is a wonderful place too. Today I am going to talk a little about history. Plus, the best attractions, food, and places to lay your head if you are not on a cruise ship and actually spending a vacation in Ketchikan.


Cruise and Ketchikan Information:

Alaska cruises are typically summer cruises, but this past year started extending their time into October. Just be aware this is not peak season and temperatures have begun to drop. Lots of the tourist areas are not as vibrant and full of life, in fact some businesses can already be shut down. This past year the last week of cruises in October the seas were rough, and some cruise ships missed some port stops due to weather. Late fall cruises the weather can be crazy, and guaranteed October cruises will be chilly so you will need to dress in layers to stay warm. My preference for the best weather is in the summer months, and late July is when the Salmon really start to run, (August is best) making it more active for bald eagles catching the fish and bears in the creeks hunting their salmon dinner. My first Alaska cruise was the 3rd week of July, and I actually got a sunburn one day. In the Spring, April is usually when cruise season starts, I find the best cruise deals are for April. Just know that it will be chilly, as it is shoulder season.


Totem Poles in Ketchikan
Totem Poles in Ketchikan

My visits to Ketchikan have always been on an Alaska cruise, I highly recommend everyone visit Alaska at least once in their lives, and one of the best ways to pay Alaska a visit is a cruise. Cruising the Inside Passage is the only way to visit Ketchikan via a cruise ship. The Inside Passage is a common cruise for all cruise lines in Alaska, but I am most familiar with Norwegian Cruise Line, Carnival Cruise Line and Princess Cruise Line.


There are 2 port areas, the downtown area, which I am most familiar with, and then the cruise ship docks of Ward Cove area that opened in 2021, about 7 miles away from the downtown area of Ketchikan. Businesses have started to develop in the Wards cove area, but it is still a great place to jump right into nature with booking tours with the Mill at Ward Cove Ward Cove is definitely more of the outdoor enthusiast's port. So, if you are wanting Creek Street shopping and other Ketchikan activities you will have to travel south via some sort of transportation like a bus.  Ketchikan downtown area can still hold 4 cruise ships, but Ward Cove allows for 2 more. You will have plenty of time, if you want to spend some time downtown before an excursion in Ward Cove. Just keep track of time.


In the downtown port area, be sure to look at the rainfall gauge, as Ketchikan is the rainiest city in Alaska. This gauge is known as the Liquid Sunshine Gauge, and record rainfall for a year has been over 200 inches. So, for an Alaska cruise, you might want to pack some rain gear.


If you would like to watch a video of all my pictures of my time in Ketchikan, click here. There are more pictures in the video I made than in the blog.



History:

Ketchikan's history is intertwined with the stories of Native Alaskan communities, the Gold Rush, the fishing and logging industries, and the evolution of the city into a vibrant tourist destination. Exploring its historical sites and museums offers a glimpse into the past and the diverse heritage that has shaped Ketchikan into what it is today.


It all started with the Native Alaskan Communities, Later Russians came and started trading with the Natives. This led to more and more exploration of the Alaska area. Fur trading, and fishing helped with more exploration. Although Ketchikan did not have the influence of the Russian people as other areas of Alaska did. By the 1880's the gold rush started which brought tons of people from the United States, and many other countries.

Totem pole in Ketchikan Alaska
Totem pole in Ketchikan Alaska

By the early 20th century, Ketchikan had shifted its economic focus from gold mining to commercial fishing and logging. Salmon canneries sprang up along the shoreline, making it one of the largest centers for the fishing industry in Alaska. The logging industry also thrived, with vast forests supplying timber for construction and export.


During the Prohibition era in the United States (1920-1933), Ketchikan's Creek Street became a notorious red-light district. The area was lined with brothels and saloons, attracting visitors from all over.


Efforts have been made to preserve Ketchikan's rich history. The city is home to several museums, including the Tongass Historical Museum and the Southeast Alaska Discovery Center. These institutions showcase artifacts, photographs, and exhibits that tell the story of Ketchikan's past. For the best look into Ketchikan history, even just general Alaska history, these places are worth a visit,


In recent decades, tourism has become a significant industry in Ketchikan. Visitors come to experience the city's unique history, natural beauty, Native Alaskan culture, and outdoor recreational activities such as fishing, hiking, and wildlife viewing.




Attractions:

The Ketchikan area has plenty of things to see and do. You will not have a problem keeping busy. You may have a problem trying to decide what you want to do. My list below is some of the top things to do, from tours, hiking, or just walking downtown, narrow down your list and make sure not to miss your cruise ships boarding time.


  • Totem Heritage Center: Explore the Totem Heritage Center to learn about the indigenous cultures of Southeast Alaska. View beautifully carved totem poles and traditional artifacts, and gain insights into Native Alaskan history and art.

  • Totem Bight State Park is a great place to visit and also is a historical park where you can explore the beautiful wilderness and old growth forests.

  • Misty Fjords National Monument: Embark on a scenic boat tour or flightseeing excursion to Misty Fjords National Monument. Marvel at the majestic fjords, towering granite cliffs, cascading waterfalls, and abundant wildlife.

Creek Street
Creek Street
  • Creek Street Boardwalk: Take a stroll along Creek Street, a historic boardwalk built on pilings over Ketchikan Creek, which is part of a network of waterways where you can fish for salmon at certain times of the year. This is a short walk from the cruise port, at the most it's 4 or 5 blocks away if docking in the downtown area.  Browse the unique shops, galleries, and restaurants housed in the colorful buildings of this former red-light district. Dolly's House Museum is the best, step back in time, a former brothel turned museum, offering a glimpse into Ketchikan's colorful past during the gold rush era. Dolly’s will even sell you a fishing license and let you rent a fishing pole. At times you can fish right off of Creek Street. I love this area, walking it and shopping then looking at the little creek that runs through it. You always see sea otters and sometimes some feisty salmon caught on a fishing pole line.

  • While on the way to Creek Street take a look at the replica of Chief Johnson Totem Pole, the most photographed totem pole in the world. The one in this spot is the replica, as the original was placed in the museum in the Totem Heritage Museum in the 1980’s.

  • Another spot near Creek Street to look for is a wooden boardwalk trail with a staircase that takes you into the woods. This is called Married Man’s Trail. Back in the Heyday of Ketchikan’s brothels and prostitution men would take this trail to enter in the houses from the back, so that way they would not be spotted. Take the trail and at the end you will spot a salmon ladder where the salmon jump the waterfalls of the fish ladder.

  • Saxman Native Village: Visit Saxman Native Village, located just outside Ketchikan, to witness traditional Native Alaskan cultural performances and view intricately carved totem poles. Saxman Totem Park is also what this area is referred to.

  • I did a different type of fishing boat excursion here. Bering Sea Crab Fishing Tour. The actual boat (The Aleutian Ballad) from the Deadliest Catch TV show on the Discovery Channel was refurbished and made as a tourist boat, and you take it out and learn how they crab fish in real life like they do on the show. You see the mechanics of it, plus see idyllic scenery, and get an up-close look at ocean creatures like sea stars and an octopus. You will also see hundreds of bald eagles. I even spotted a sea lion. You can buy some crab to eat that they sell on the ship.One of the best things I ate on my cruise was the crab from the Bering Sea Crab Fishing Tour. In my opinion and many people who I have talked to think this is the best boat tour in Ketchikan.

  • Southeast Alaska Discovery Center: Explore the Southeast Alaska Discovery Center to delve into the region's history, natural resources, and cultural heritage through informative exhibits and interactive displays.

  • Tongass National Forest- with over 5 million acres of wilderness, beaches and glaciers there are plenty of opportunities to spot wildlife, hike or do any other outdoor activity that you would like. The main office for the National Forest is located here in Ketchikan, but you can find out more info on attractions by going to their website. One of my favorites is traveling to Margaret Creek for Bear viewing opportunities. Black Bears and Brown Bears (Grizzly) live in the Tongass National Forest. Remember to always be precautious when out in the wilderness of Alaska. There are certain rules you should follow if going to a bear viewing area. Like no food, or flavored water should be on your person, as bears have a great sense of smell. The hiking near Margaret Creek is an easy trail to the bear viewing area, and bears have even been spotted on the trail. You may even spot bears catching salmon in August or September from the creek.

Hiking Trails in Ketchikan
Hiking trails in Ketchikan
  • Great Alaskan Lumberjack Show- is a great experience and if you have kids, they will enjoy watching the lumberjacks perform. This is also one of the cheapest cruise line excursions, if you are paying for an excursion on the ship. But in my opinion buying the tickets on Viator will be cheaper, and usually there are several shows a day. Just make sure the performance is not happening while your cruise ship is leaving the port. They do all the tricks, from Axe throwing to log rolling, it is an enjoyable experience.

  • Baranof Fishing Excursions- If you love fishing this will be a treat but can be one of the most expensive excursions in Ketchikan. Choose from Private fishing charters, salmon fishing, halibut fishing or a combination charter. You can even pick the excursion where you get to cook what you catch.

  • From Whale Watching Tours, where you could see humpback whales or Orcas.  Kayaking in Orca Cove, is a great experience if you want to be one with nature. Or ride the trolley, which is a fun relaxing way to see the sites of the city and hop-on and hop-off when and where you like. There are just so many things to do here.

If you would just like to hike the trails of Ketchikan, you will have plenty to choose from. Here is the list of trails: Click here for some more information on these trails.

  • Ward Lake- 1.3 miles (1 hour)

  • Whitman Trail- 1.4- 2.2 miles (1 hour)

  • Rainbird Trail 2.6 miles (1-2 hours)

  • Coast Guard Beach- 2-mile round trip (1 to 2 hours)

  • Dude Mountain- 3 miles (2-4 hours)

  • Connell Lake- 4-mile round trip (3 hours)

  • Ward Creek upper and lower- 5 miles (2-3 hours)

  • Lower and Upper Silvis Lake- 4-6 miles (3-4 hours)

  • Perseverance Trail- 5 miles (3-4 hours)



Food:

Seafood is a favorite in Ketchikan, here is a list of some of the best, which most include seafood. You can hit one if you want from the cruise ship. But you could hit them all if you are staying in Ketchikan. If you want to try something local, look for these items on menus, reindeer sausage, razor clams, or locally foraged berries.

Creek Street area
Creek Street area
  • Alaska Fish House-Great fish tacos, but they even offer cook your catch options. So, bring your fish here to cook after you catch it.

  • Alaska Crepe Company- I just love crepes, check out the salmon crepe. If salmon is not your thing, hopefully Nutella is, because that is my favorite crepe.

  • George Inlet Lodge- amazing crab, but his is more of an experience/excursion. This will be a little bit pricey, but it is crab, so you are expecting that. I personally have not done this, but know someone who did, and they raved about it.

  • Burger Queen-If you have the hunger for a burger this is the best, plus it is budget friendly. Known for its quick bites this is the perfect place to stop for a quick snack.

  • Annabelle's- I love this place, the crab wontons, but mostly for the Clam Chowder, it is one of the best I have ever tried. Delicious!!!

  • Jellyfish donuts- they are amazing with many varieties. Not your typical donut either. If you like Pina Colada. (remember the song) they had a pina colada donut when I was there that was life changing. lol

Check out a Salmon Bake if you would like. Personally, the one Salmon bake I did, I thought was the best experience. Experience an authentic Alaskan salmon bake where you can enjoy grilled salmon, traditional side dishes, and often live music in a picturesque outdoor setting. Check out this place, a wildlife tour with Salmon Bake.


Accommodations:

Inn at Creek Street nearby
Inn at Creek Street nearby
  • Gilmore Hotel by Wyndham is an historical, cute boutique hotel in downtown Ketchikan. A very popular choice for people staying in Ketchikan. Convenient access to attractions, restaurants, and shopping.

  • Black Bear Inn is a waterfront Inn with a Bed and Breakfast options. It truly is a beautiful place to stay.

  • Inn at Creek Street is several different restored historical buildings on the creek located in Downtown. There are many others to choose from in the area, but these 3 were the top favorites.

Waters near Ketchikan Alaska
Waters near Ketchikan Alaska

Ketchikan offers a wealth of attractions, accommodations, delicious food options, and intriguing historical sites to explore. Whether you're interested in nature, culture, or history, this Alaskan gem has something for everyone. I hope you have enjoyed this little blog about this wonderful city, and you enjoyed reading what I think is the best of the area. Visit by cruise ship or plan a trip and stay a few days. Either way you are sure to enjoy your time in Ketchikan Alaska.




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19 sept. 2023
Noté 5 étoiles sur 5.

Cool travel info sis. I hope I can go some day.

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