Ketchikan, a mix of Alaska and the PNW with plush green coastal islands and an abundance of rain, is a splendid place to visit in the summertime. Located on Revillagigedo Island, Ketchikan is the first city to greet you along the Inside Passage. You’ll see signs celebrating being the “First City in Alaska” and the “Salmon Capital of the World.”
In the summer months, you’ll find cruise ships lined on its docks and locals making sure you’re not going to miss the boat on the way out of town. Didn’t come in on a cruise ship? The best times to explore is early in the morning or in the evening after all the passengers return to sea and the locals remain.
A 2-hour flight from Seattle makes it a perfect long weekend trip for anyone that wants a vacation. People flock to the warm weather destinations in the winter, I migrate to cool weather destinations in the summer, especially since Seattle has been hot week-over-week.
Flying into the Ketchikan airport, ride the ferry from Gravina Island to Revillagigedo Island and pay the $6 for a one-way ticket to town. Do the same on the return. Payment is taken on the airport side both ways.
I normally like to have a list of attractions or things to do when I’m traveling somewhere, but summer activities have kept me from planning. I was excited for the locals’ tips on what to do.
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Southeast Alaska Discovery Center
Learn more about the area’s ecosystem. The $5 admission (or free if you brought an Interagency Annual Pass) walks you through the wilderness, vegetation, wildlife, and industry, including fur-trading, fishing, mining, timber, and tourism. A perfect stop on a rainy day!
Hiking in Tongass National Forest
Tongass National Forest is the largest in the U.S. (16.7 million acres) and spans many of Alaska’s southeast islands around the Inside Passage. Hiking in the national forest can offer wildlife sightings and unique terrain, including muskeg (or bog). Don’t forget your waterproof hiking boots. A drive outside of Ketchikan, consider the Perseverance, Minerva Mountain, or Carlanna Lake trails. More accessible trails from town include: Deer Mountain, Rainbow, and Rainbird.
Misty Fjords National Monument
Designated as a national monument and wilderness area, Misty Fjords makes up a little less than 2.3 million acres within Tongass National Forest. Allen Marine Tours take passengers on a 4.5 hour cruise through the Inside Passage and along the narrow waterways carved out by glaciers. The schedules tend to align with cruise ship times. If you’re lucky, you’ll see a humpback whale spout water or dive for food.
If you have time, be among the few that camp overnight in the park. Seaplane flights and overnight kayak tours are also available.
Discover the history of three of the native tribes: Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian. Decorative totem poles (and artifacts) are displayed at both the Totem Heritage Center and Totem Bight State Historical Park (north of the city) and also is incorporated throughout the town.
Fishing Charters at Knudson Cove Marina
Reserve a fishing charter where captains navigate the waters to troll for pink (humpback or humpy), silver (coho), and king (Chinook) salmon. Having a local on the boat that knows how to read the tides and is on the water most days will increase your chances. After, fillet and package the catch and arrange for logistics for stocking your fridge at home.
I highly recommend booking with Andrew, Captain of Fifty-Fifty. who spent the morning hours with my crew. I joke that I wasn’t fishing since Andrew was the one baiting and setting the lines.
Transporting fish: I’ve shipped and flown with fish on both of my Alaska fishing adventures. I’d say if you can fly with the fish, it is cheaper but make sure to check your airline’s policies. I froze mine after catching and carried them on the plane in a cooler bag. The Safeway in town sells dry ice which will keep your fish cold for multiple days and most stores sell wax boxes to transport (or ship) the fish.
A historical boardwalk lined with shops and restaurants (geared for tourists) that sits on pillars on the Ketchikan River. Watch seals or fish swim in the river as you stroll along the wooden planks. Walk the length and see old salmon ladders used to help salmon migrate to spawn.
Located at the southend of town, see bears and eagles fishing the rivers at low tide. Pay for Alaska Rainforest Sanctuary tours or walk along the South Tongass Highway or Power House Road. Don’t forget that the animals are feeding and should not be approached.
The Great Alaskan Lumberjack Show
I grew up with a brother in forestry and lumber–men with dirt stained jeans and work boots. When I heard about the Lumberjack show, I knew I couldn’t miss it. Events like log roll, axe throw, speed climb, springboard chop, underhand chop, and single buck with lumberjack banter makes it hard to miss if you’re looking for some entertainment. Cost of the show is $37 for adults and is walking distance from town.
Where to eat and drink in Ketchikan
- New York Cafe (211 Stedman St.) – Within walking distance from downtown, the cafe offers delicious beer battered fish and chips, along with Mediterranean/American options.
- The Alaska Fish House (3 Salmon Landing) – Offers fish and chips and fish tacos. A casual dining experience with open tables on the water. Occasionally has live music from local musicians.
- Cape Fox Lodge (800 Venetia Ave) – Serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner options. Order from the meat or fish menu, including crab options. Ride the The Cape Fox Funicular up the hill and eat dinner overlooking the city. The lodge is decorated with Native American totem poles and artifacts.
- Bawden St. Brewing (300-372 Bawden St.) – I always like to find locally brewed beer when traveling. In most restaurants, you’ll find Alaskan Brewing Company or Denali Brewing Company. Check the hours and sample some of the batches of beer and pick up some swag while you’re at it.