9 Best Excursions in Ketchikan
Updated: Aug 19, 2020
Welcome to Ketchikan! Here you can find amazing shopping, fishing, and wildlife! Let’s explore some of what makes Ketchikan so special and then talk about some popular excursions!
Ketchikan located on the southeastern tip of Alaska and is known as the salmon capitol of the world. It is a whopping 5.9 square miles (you read that right – 5.9 miles) and it is one of the largest cities in Alaska. It is also one of the most densely populated cities at 8,000 people. When you are cruising northward into Alaska, Ketchikan is your first city!
Ketchikan was incorporated in 1900 and named after the Ketchikan Creek that runs through the city. The main economic activities are fishing, tourism, and timber. It has warm winters and cool summers. It is surrounded by millions of acres of Tongess rainforest and is almost always covered in clouds. It is the fourth wettest place in the world getting over 160” of rain a year. It rains more than 300 days a year, so dressing in layers is wise. I also recommend a good pair of Frogg Toggs and a hat with a brim to keep rain off of your face.
The most popular things to do in Ketchikan are walking around and shopping. Shopping here is a very popular activity (and if you go in September, you can get some really great deals because the tourist season is coming to a close!). What is there to buy? Canned salmon, of course! And authentic totem pole souvenirs, quilts, and clothing are other popular items. A note about those Totem Poles, the tribes used the Raven and the Eagle as their symbols, and each house had a totem pole with its tribal symbol (eagle or raven) atop it or the carving is over the door of their homes to tell their heritage. The tribes could not intermarry, so a raven had to marry an eagle to avoid genetic issues within their tribes.
Everyone has to eat, right? So, what is popular here? You guessed it – salmon! Be sure to try the pink salmon or sockeye salmon. If that isn’t your thing, go for the fish finger chips and chowder, halibut, snapper, or king crabs! (a word about king crab legs – because this is a tourist city – crab legs can be very expensive, and they usually aren’t “all you can eat” -so ask on your ship if they plan to do a crab leg dinner for an additional cost!)
Ketchikan is home to five species of salmon – and they are so abundant that the Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian Indians all made their homes here because of the abundance of salmon. In summer, you can watch the salmon swim upstream and jump into the other side of the creek. Where the creek crosses the river is known as the salmon ladder and this is where the salmon cross.
Now onto popular excursions for this port: (This port is a good place to visit the Visitor’s Bureau. You can sometimes find excursion there for ¼ of what you would pay on board the ship. But if there is something you really want to do, book ahead in case it sells out!) The excursions listed below are not guaranteed and the prices are a *starting from* point to give you an idea of what they may cost.
1. The Great Alaska Lumberjack Show and Crab Fest. This is good, fun, wholesome show for the family to enjoy. It is a competition between local Alaskan lumberjacks to test their strength and agility. It can feel a little hokey, but who doesn’t enjoy a good hokey show every now and then? After the show, you can meet the lumberjacks and then sit back and enjoy all you can eat crab! Expect to pay about $132 per person
2. Small Group hike in the Alaskan Rainforest – Learn about the medicinal plants that natives have used for years, see the Sitka spruces and cedars up close! You may also get the chance to see bald eagles, salmon, and bear on your hike. This is a 3-mile hike on mostly unpaved roads, so make sure you are able to do it! Expect to pay about $99 per person
3. Black Bear Experience – Begin your Expedition Black Bear from Ketchikan’s waterfront in close proximity of the piers. Black Bear viewing is located 26 miles north of Ketchikan in Margaret Bay/Traitors Cove, this area is accessible on a forty-five minute boat ride (could be up to sixty minutes). Your guide will drop you at a dock, and from there it’s a 1¼ -mile walk. From there, your guide will give you an adventurous ride on your private motor vehicle that is located at the dock. This short ride takes you to the viewing platform that rests next to the stream and at the top of the fish ladder. On your way to Margaret Bay/Traitor’s Cove be sure to keep on the lookout for both killer whales and humpback whales since this area is prime location for them. Quite often you will be able to observe their captivating behavior — breaching, and tail-slapping. We'll explore stunning bays and inlets, revere bear trails and admire salmon streams. It’s not only bears feeding; you just might see Bald Eagles feeding on salmon leftovers from the bears foraging. Expect to pay about $329 per person
4. Saxman Native Village – Ride to Saxman Native Village where you will find your own electric buggy waiting for you to explore. You will learn about the history, culture and flora and fauna as you make your way to the wilderness camp. Sit around a campfire, roast a marshmallow, eat some pancakes, and drink some hot chocolate while you learn about the vibrant community of Saxman Native Village and its rich culture. When you are ready, meander up a gravel road to an amazing vista of Nichols Passage for a great photo opportunity. Then head down another trail and enter Saxman Totem Park for a great tour of the totems and learn about their significance, view the carving shed where they are made and round it off with a visit to their authentic native village store. Expect to pay about $195 per person
5. Hovercraft Eco Adventure - Get ready for the adventure of a lifetime! Board a Black Bird Hovercraft for an epic eco-friendly tour throughout the Tongass Narrows and surrounding islands of Ketchikan. Your pilot will take you flying 20 inches over water, as he hovers over gentle waves and rocky shore sides. The hovercraft will transition from sea to land as you pull up 20 to 30 meters onto a remote beach. After beaching combine and learning of the Tongass National Rainforest, venture off looking for marine wildlife and learn about the historic highlights of Ketchikan. Expect to pay about $149 per person
6. Misty Fjords Floatplane Tour - The best way to experience the stunning beauty of the Misty Fjords National Monument and view some of the most spectacular scenery in Alaska is from the window seat of a floatplane. Sail through the sky and take a peek at Ketchikan's lush forests, snowcapped mountains, and abundant wildlife. Expect to pay about $269 per person
7. Ketchikan Black Bear Neets Bay - Embark on an adventure to Neets Bay! Your experienced captain will guide you on a saltwater safari through the Tongass Narrows, Clover Passage, and temperate rainforest to Neets Bay, navigating the vessel on a path of scenic sanctuaries, stunning bays and inlets, past a majestic lighthouse, seeking marine and coastal wildlife viewing opportunities along the way. Expect to pay about $369 per person
8. Love the Deadliest Catch? - Ever wanted to see what real crab fishing is like? Well now's your chance to experience it first-hand with the crew from the Aleutian Ballad who were featured on the Discovery Channel's TV series, Deadliest Catch! Look out for King and snow crab, octopus, prawns, and more on your adventure! The catch of the day will be displayed on board in a live tank on-deck before being released. Expect to pay about $199 per person
9. Ketchikan Zodiac Experience - This two-hour trip will take you on a journey through Alaska's Inside Passage in your own personal watercraft. Your pilot will share knowledge and personal stories about the region and wildlife you may encounter. Inhale the fresh air, experience the true Alaska, and enjoy the escape. Expect to pay about $179 per person
Looking for cheap or free?
Walk down Creek Street and check out the shops and scenery!
Hike through Tongess National Park
Visit the Totem Poles
Rainbird Trails – hiking through Tongess on a 2.6 mile walk 20 minutes away from port to see wildlife and stunning scenery
Southeast Alaska Tourist Center
Go to The Point, a local coffee shop where you may find some delicious treats, art, and even some live music
Spooky history your thing? If so, visit Guard Lighthouse to learn some creepy history from the gold rush era
Visit Dolly’s House Museum (Dolly was an entrepreneur of sorts during the Gold Rush era providing a “red light district” distraction for the miners who were in town). Here you can see a lot of photographs and artifacts from that era.
There is a lot more to say about Ketchikan, but if you see something here that you're interested in doing, message me and let’s get it set up for you!