Welcome to Ketchikan, Alaska, a beautiful city surrounded by even more beautiful nature. As soon as your cruise ship docks at the Ketchikan cruise port, get ready for an adventure full of fun things to do and experiences you’ll never forget.
Ketchikan has something for everyone, whether you like to go on tours or explore on your own. In this detailed guide, we’ll look at the best things to do in Ketchikan, including things to do near the Ketchikan cruise ship port, things to do for free, and things to do outside.
What to Do in Ketchikan Cruise Port
The cruise port in Ketchikan is a bustling hub with lots of things to do and see just steps away from your cruise ship. Explore the vibrant atmosphere and immerse yourself in the local culture and attractions. One place you must visit is Totem Bight State Historical Park, located near the Ketchikan cruise ship port. This park offers a fascinating glimpse into the rich Native American culture of the area. As you wander through the park’s lush trails, you’ll encounter towering totem poles adorned with intricate carvings that tell stories and depict symbols from the native cultures. Additionally, the park features a meticulously reconstructed tribal house, providing a unique insight into the traditional way of life of Alaska’s native people.
Another must-visit destination near the Ketchikan cruise ship port is Creek Street. This iconic boardwalk, nestled along Ketchikan Creek, was once the city’s renowned gold rush red-light district. Today, Creek Street exudes charm and character, with its charming restaurants, eclectic shops, and art galleries housed in historic buildings. Take a leisurely stroll along the boardwalk and soak in the picturesque views of the creek. If you visit during the salmon spawning season, you may even be treated to the incredible sight of salmon swimming upstream, a natural spectacle that showcases the region’s abundant wildlife.
Exploring Ketchikan on Your Own
Ketchikan, Alaska, is ideal for independent travelers, especially when visiting the cruise port. The city has lots to see and do at your own pace. Start by exploring Creek Street near the Ketchikan cruise port’s unique shops and lively atmosphere. Ketchikan’s charming boutiques and hidden gems sell authentic Alaskan crafts and souvenirs in the cruise port, making shopping a memorable experience.
Saxman Native Village, a must-see attraction near the Ketchikan cruise port, lets you experience Native Alaskan culture. This Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian cultural center celebrates their heritage. See captivating indigenous community dances. Talk to local artists about their work and culture. Totem carvers turn logs into intricate art. The authentic and educational Saxman Native Village is near the Ketchikan cruise port.
Top Attractions in Ketchikan
Ketchikan is home to several top attractions that showcase the city’s natural beauty and cultural heritage. Consider including these highlights in your itinerary:
Totem Bight State Historical Park is a treasure trove of Native Alaskan art and history. It is only a short walk from the cruise port. As you walk through the park’s green areas, you’ll come across majestic totem poles that stand silently and tell the stories and traditions of the native people. Look at the beautiful carvings and find out what each symbol means. The park also has a replica of a tribal house, where you can learn about the traditional ways of life and customs of Alaska’s native people.
2. Creek Street
You can’t go to Ketchikan without taking a walk down Creek Street. This old boardwalk, which is built on stilts over Ketchikan Creek, is full of charm and memories. During the gold rush, Creek Street was a thriving red-light district. Now, it is a busy place where lots of things are going on. Walk along the boardwalk and check out the unique shops, art galleries, and boutiques that are in the colorful buildings. Take in the sights and sounds of the creek, watch salmon swim upstream during spawning season, and learn about the colorful history of this famous street.
At Saxman Native Village, you can learn about the rich cultural history of the native peoples of Southeast Alaska. This real Native Alaskan village is only a short distance from the cruise port. It offers a fascinating look into the traditions, art, and rituals of the Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian people. Be amazed by the tall totem poles that are carved with symbols and stories from the past. Watch traditional dances that tell stories from hundreds of years ago. Engage with local craftspeople as they show you how to do things like carving and weaving. Saxman Native Village is a special place to learn about the history and culture of Alaska’s native communities.
If you want to learn about local ecosystems and wildlife, visit the Southeast Alaska Discovery Center. This hands-on museum near the cruise port features Southeast Alaska’s habitats and species. Engage with exhibits that show how land, sea, and air work together. Learn about the plants and animals that live in the area and the delicate balance that keeps them alive. Learn about the traditional ways of life and cultural practices of the native peoples of the area. The Southeast Alaska Discovery Center is a fun and educational way to learn more about the beautiful natural sights around Ketchikan.
If you have more time, you could take a day trip to Misty Fjords National Monument, which is awe-inspiring. Misty Fjords is known as the “Yosemite of the North” for its two million acres of untouched wilderness, tall cliffs, waterfalls, and calm fjords. Take a boat tour to see the fjords or a scenic flight tour to see how big the monument is. Look for wildlife, dramatic landscapes, and the thunderous roar of waterfalls plunging into calm waters. Outdoor enthusiasts must visit Misty Fjords National Monument to see Alaska’s wild beauty.
Free Things to Do in Ketchikan from a Cruise Ship
If you’re looking for budget-friendly options, Ketchikan offers several free activities that allow you to soak in the city’s beauty without breaking the bank. Here are some recommendations:
1. Stroll Along the Waterfront
One of the easiest and most relaxing things to do in Ketchikan is to take a stroll along the waterfront. As you walk, you’ll be able to see the whole harbor, which is surrounded by beautiful mountains and clear water. Look at all the boats and seaplanes taking off and landing, as well as fishing boats. Take pictures of the beautiful scenery that would look good on a postcard and breathe in the fresh coastal air.
2. Explore Downtown
Downtown Ketchikan is full of hidden gems that are just waiting to be found. Take your time to look around the unique shops, art galleries, and local boutiques that line the streets. From handmade jewelry to real Alaskan crafts, there are many souvenirs and keepsakes that capture the spirit of the Last Frontier. Talk to the people who make things in your area and find out how they do it. Downtown Ketchikan is a lively, friendly place that shows what the city’s heart and soul are like.
3. Tongass Historical Museum
The Tongass Historical Museum is a must-see for people who like to learn about the past. This museum is right in the middle of downtown Ketchikan. It tells about the rich history and culture of the area. Find out how Ketchikan went from being a small fishing village in the middle of nowhere to a thriving center of business and culture through artifacts, photographs, and displays. Find out about the native people who have lived here for thousands of years, the gold rush that shaped the early days of the city, and the growth of the fishing and logging industries. On certain days, you can get into the museum for free, which is a great way to learn about Ketchikan’s history without spending any money.
4. Salmon Ladder
The salmon ladder is one of the most interesting natural sights in Ketchikan. This set of steps near the cruise port makes it possible for salmon to swim upstream during the spawning season. As you watch this amazing journey, you’ll see how strong and determined these beautiful fish are as they swim against the current and jump from one step to the next. The salmon ladder gives people a unique chance to see how these famous Alaskan fish live their lives and learn more about the delicate ecosystems of the area.
5. Parks and Trails
Ketchikan is lucky to have a lot of parks and trails that show off the natural beauty of the area. From quiet lakeshores to lush rainforests, there are many places to connect with nature. The Ward Lake Recreation Area is only a short drive from the cruise port. It has beautiful hiking trails and a beautiful lake where you can fish or have a picnic. Start a slow hike through the Tongass National Forest, which is the largest temperate rainforest in North America. Take in the peace and quiet of this untouched wilderness. Look out for native plants and animals and enjoy the peace and quiet.
Outdoor Adventures and Excursions
For people who like to try new things, Ketchikan has a lot of outdoor activities and trips that let you connect with nature in different ways. Here are some exciting things to think about:
Start a kayaking trip and paddle through the calm bays and fjords of Ketchikan. Immerse yourself in the rough coastal landscapes and feel the breeze on your face. Be amazed by the tall cliffs that rise dramatically out of the water, and keep an eye out for the different kinds of marine life that live in these waters. With the help of experienced guides, you’ll be able to learn about the local ecosystem and get a better sense of the delicate balance that keeps this amazing ecosystem going.
Fly through the lush rainforest canopy on a thrilling ziplining adventure to get your heart racing. Put on a harness, take a leap of faith, and glide through the treetops to see the surrounding forest from a bird’s-eye view. As you zip from platform to platform, you can feel the wind on your face and take in the beautiful scenery below. Ziplining gives you a unique view of Ketchikan’s natural beauty, and it will be the highlight of your trip for sure.
3. Fishing Charters
Alaska is known for having some of the best fishing in the world, and Ketchikan is no different. Join a fishing charter and see if you can catch the biggest fish of your life. Whether you have fished before or not, the experienced captains and guides will make sure your fishing trip is memorable and successful. You can cast your line out to catch prized salmon, halibut, or rockfish, and it will be exciting to fight these strong fish. Not only will you have the opportunity to catch your own Alaskan trophy fish, but you’ll also learn about sustainable fishing practices and the importance of preserving these valuable resources for future generations.
4. Wildlife Tours
Ketchikan is a way to get to the rich wildlife that lives in the water and forests around it. Take a wildlife tour and go out to look for the beautiful animals that live in this area. Keep an eye out for bald eagles soaring above you. The size of their wings shows how strong and graceful they are. Watch seals sunbathing on rocks, where their smooth bodies shine in the sun. You might even see whales breaching in the distance, and their huge size and beauty will leave you speechless. Wildlife tours give people a chance to get close to nature and learn about the variety and beauty of Alaska’s ecosystems.
Ketchikan, Alaska, is a great place to visit because it has a great mix of natural beauty, rich culture, and exciting things to do near the Ketchikan cruise ship port. There are lots of things to do and see, from checking out the sights near the cruise ship port to going off on your own and finding hidden gems. No matter if you’re interested in history, nature, or outdoor activities, Ketchikan is sure to give you memories you’ll cherish for the rest of your life. So, step onto this Alaskan gem and watch Ketchikan’s wonders unfold in front of you.