Ketchikan, Alaska

As one of the southernmost cities in Alaska, Ketchikan is a popular starting point for many Alaskan cruises and the gateway to both beautiful natural wonders and fascinating indigenous history.

6 hours in… Ketchikan

If you’re visiting Ketchikan for the first time, make sure you book an excursion to one of the surrounding area’s fascinating totem parks. Bight, Potlatch and the Saxman Native Village are all popular choices and a tour to either will certainly prove rewarding. Though it’s possible to visit on your own, it’s always advisable to book a pre-planned excursion with a guide as they’ll not only know the best route to take but will also be able to fill you in on the folklore and history behind each totem and those who created it.

Another must-do for all cruise ship visitors is historic Creek Street, which certainly lives up to the mental image that its name creates, being a boardwalk running along a creek lined by authentic timbered buildings. It’s an area that’s certainly aware of its tourist-centric nature and you’ll find all manner of quaint shops open and eager for business. Indeed, it was infamous for the business which once took place there of a different kind, in that it was once a red light district. Take the Married Man’s trail and you’ll learn more about the port’s chequered past but also be able to take in some altogether more wholesome views of the beautiful scenery, too.

Ketchikan's historic Creek Street

Ketchikan’s historic Creek Street

Another very popular excursion which needn’t take up all your day is a boat tour and there is a good choice available. On quite a number of these tours, you’ll take a scenic bus ride to a secluded lake and board a native-American style canoe to travel through stunning rain forest to take in the spectacular flora and fauna of the region. Other tours include a forest hike as part of your excursion and the chance to try some of the famous local salmon, with knowledgeable guides pointing out native trees and their uses.

Been before?

If you’ve visited Ketchikan previously, then you’ll have ample opportunity to explore its biggest attraction, something which you probably won’t have the chance to do during your first cruise ship visit. The Misty Fjords National Monument offers you a great opportunity to see the region’s stunning wildlife in its beautiful natural habitat, including seals, sea lions and a host of sea birds. Boat and plane tours are available so it’s up to you from which perspective you want to see this breathtaking area of natural beauty.

The South East Alaska Discovery Center is certainly worth a visit if you missed it the first time round and is within easy reach from the cruise port. Informative exhibits and films mean you can spend an hour or several inside, depending on whatever else you want to see and you can learn about everything from Native American heritage to the history of the town’s fishing industry.

If you’ve strolled the boardwalk of Creek Street before but want to discover a little more about the salubrious local history, a visit to Dolly’s House is a fun and informative experience. This was once the town’s original brothel and has now been turned into an informative museum, with authentically attired ladies helping bring the atmosphere of the place to life. Certainly not one for the children though!

The quaint Alaskan port of Ketchikan

The quaint Alaskan port of Ketchikan

Can’t keep away?

If you can’t get enough of Ketchikan’s beautiful scenery, the Alaska rainforest sanctuary experience offers you a completely different and certainly exhilarating way to see it, with an unforgettable zip line experience. You’ll get an amazing view of the rainforest and the icy Alaskan backdrop, as well as the chance to spot a host of indigenous wildlife thanks to your expert guides.

Secluded Revillagigedo Island is the place to go if you love Ketchikan so much that you want to explore a little more of it before you set sail. This remote retreat is popular with visitors and locals alike and offers a wonderfully contrasting natural experience, with everything from beaches to rainforests to enjoy.

Don’t even bother!

Even in authentic Ketchikan, there are decidedly unauthentic products to be found in some of the totem park gift shops, so always be sure to check before you buy if you’re looking for an souvenir to take back home.


Emma Smith
Emma has more than seven years' experience as a writer and has been in the travel industry for nearly five years. She loves learning about new places and cruise ships coming to market, as well as discovering fun and exciting activities to do while you sail. She has cruised with Princess Cruises, Cunard, Celebrity Cruises, Virgin Voyages, Avalon Waterways and Royal Caribbean and is looking to get something in her diary for 2024! Her favourite things to see on a ship include excellent entertainment, a delicious cocktail menu and extraordinary dining venues.

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