Before moving to Alaska, we cruised to Alaska three times. My favorite port is Ketchikan, Alaska. Since it’s such a staple on Alaskan Cruises and a favorite place of mine, I figured it’s a good place to start this Alaska Blog.
A Little About…
Ketchikan, Alaska is located along the inside passage in southern Alaska, which is a slender arm of islands and land that extends along the west coast down from the main land body of Alaska bordering British Columbia in Canada. Ketchikan is actually an island. It is the largest southernmost city in Alaska. It is also called the “Salmon capital of the world”.
Ketchikan is named after Ketchikan creek that flows through town. Ketchikan is a Tlingit (native Alaskan tribe) word and is correctly spelled Kitschk-hin which is believed to mean “the creek belonging to Kitschk”. The other thought is it means, “Thundering Wings of an Eagle”. Not really close in definition, but I’m liking the Eagle version myself.
The climate is wet with approximately 229 days a year of precipitation and most of that is rain. The temperature highs range from an average 39 degrees in January, to average highs in the summer of 65 degrees. Don’t let those scare you off as I’ve had the temperature about 75 degrees two of the three times I’ve been. And hey, it’s Alaska! Wear a raincoat and jacket and enjoy the liquid sunshine.
When cruising there…one day in town
One of the neat things about Ketchikan is that the majority of shops and attractions are fairly easy to walk to from the port area. In fact, the lumberjack show and demonstration are right there. These guys are insane with the sharp tools, climbing and log rolling! I would have been in the drink with my leg cut off after about 5 seconds. This is a great option for kids, as it’s not too long and close to hustling them back to somewhere warm. Also, check out the gift store there. I bought a sourdough cookbook and have used it frequently. If you are in town browsing and you like unique jewelry, look at one of the many shops for gold nugget or gold quartz pieces. Guarantee, it’s a look you don’t see many other places.
Ketchikan is home to the world’s largest standing collection of totem poles. There are several tours that will take you to the three spots where they are concentrated and guides will describe the stories that are depicted on the poles. Fascinating! I have an enormous respect for the native people of Alaska and exploring their history is a must to appreciate what makes Alaska “The Last Frontier”.
To really explore? It’s all about the great outdoors and the options are limitless. Think plane trips to a Glacier, fly fishing, deep sea fishing, bear watching, nature hikes, whale watching, boat tours of the bay and town area, a trip to Misty Fjord, sea kayaking: the list goes on and on.
My Top 3 Ketchikan Experiences…
If there’s an ocean, I have to go underwater and….you can do that in Ketchikan! Snorkeling that is. They give you a 7mm wetsuit, booties, hood and gloves that you couldn’t sink in if you wanted to. (I had 20lbs of wt on and I couldn’t surface dive more than 15 feet.) In fact my biggest worry was that an Orca would mistake me for a seal and I’d wind up as dinner. The sea life is fascinating and very similar to the northwest coast of the USA. I would highly recommend it and it’s a great dinner party story to say you’ve snorkeled in Alaska.
One of the other things I have done with kids is the Salmon Bake. It’s cheap and close to the port. It is some of the best Salmon I have ever tasted with some type of a maple glaze that I’ve been trying to duplicate for years now and can’t do it! It’s served with salad, sourdough rolls, dutch oven potatoes, and berry cobbler. Now that will warm you up.
My favorite thing I have done in Ketchikan and actually in my top five ever, was a fishing trip out into the bay where just Jeff and I were guests on the boat. It was a small boat and the target fish weren’t deep. After about two hours of pulling in Salmon, rock-fish, and something that looked like it was off Aliens, we headed to a private camp along the shore. There, we gutted the fish, (I watched but can do it) and the cook put the fresh fish into a bouillabaisse base to simmer with fresh potatoes, carrots, and some local greens. It was definitely in my top ten foods I’ve ever eaten! Along with the dutch oven biscuits and berry cobbler, I promise it doesn’t get much better than that. The boat trip back was a tour of the town from the water. It was a great day!
And that’s a Quick Stop in Ketchikan, Alaska…Make sure to catch Ketchikan if you can, and I hope you love it as much as I do.1