Wrangell, AK, USA cruises
Wrangell port guide
There are many facts and features that make Wrangell unique. Not least because over the years, this town has been ruled by four different nations – the indigenous Tlingit people, Russia, England, and the U.S. Evidence of Tlingit culture can be seen all over Wrangell, from the traditional, tribal Shakes Community House to the many totem poles scattered throughout the town.
During your time here, learn more about this ancient way of life, and perhaps spend time exploring the surrounding mountainous landscape, local beaches, glaciers, rivers, and wildlife.
Top landmarks and sights in Wrangell
With thousands of years of Tlingit history, and centuries of colonial influence, Wrangell is home to all sorts of interesting things to see – not to mention the natural beauty it’s made up of.
Mt. Dewey Trail
Be rewarded by one of the best views in the city after a short climb up the Mt Dewey Trail. At the top you’ll see not only the town below, but also the looming mountains and surrounding water. While the route is less than half a mile of wooden boardwalks and stairs, the trail is very steep and can be slippery in wet weather – so take care.
Totem poles can be found dotted in different areas of Wrangell, and if you’re interested in this aspect of indigenous culture, perhaps go along to the small totem park on Front Street. Here stand four traditional totem poles, one of which depicts images of frogs, which are the symbol of the Kiks.ádi people. Another popular site is the Chief Shakes Grave, where a totem pole featuring an image of a killer whale stands tall.
With mountains, rivers, beaches, and glaciers found in and around Wrangell, it will come as no surprise to learn that the natural scenery is certainly a highlight when it comes to things to see here. Take endless photos of the views and take time to spot the native wildlife. The waters here are home to seals, sea lions, otters, humpback whales, and orcas, and the skies are known for birdlife, especially in spring when the population of bald eagles thrive.
Things to do in Wrangell
Time spent in Wrangell can be as active or as slow-paced as you like. From walking trails and hikes to museums and cultural sites, find an array of different options to suit all needs and preferences.
Petroglyph Beach State Historic Site
Just outside the main town of Wrangell is Petroglyph Beach State Historic Site. Here you’ll find more than 40 petroglyphs on the rocks along the shore, the oldest of which are thought to date back around 8,000 years. The carvings depict birds, fish, whales, faces, and spirals among other shapes. Be aware, however, that most are underwater at high tide, so it’s wise to get advice locally about when to explore the site.
Chief Shakes Island
In the boat harbour is Chief Shakes Island, accessible by a pedestrian bridge. This calm and peaceful space can offer a welcomed relief from the hustle and bustle of the rest of the harbour, and you may find you want to stay and relax for a few hours. Photograph totem poles, beautiful trees, and perhaps eagles sitting atop them if you’re lucky. Chief Shakes Island is also home to the Shakes Community House – a replica Tlingit tribal house that contains an exhibition of cultural items including tools, blankets, and other trinkets.
Spend an enriching afternoon in Wrangell Museum, where you can learn more about Tlingit culture, as well as the Russian colonisation of Wrangell and the flourishing gold mining industry that followed. You’ll also find an exhibit focussed on English settlers. Among the treasures are more than 3,000 photographs, some 18th century hand-carved Tlingit houseposts, and traditional baskets weaved using spruce and cedar wood.
Eating and drinking near Wrangell
As a relatively small town, Wrangell offers a select number of cafes and restaurants that are sometimes only open for limited hours.
Dishes to try include plenty of local seafood, of which there is plenty to choose from. Yellow eye, Ling Cod, and Black Bass are particular favourites when it comes to a hearty meal of fish and chips and, when in season, fresh salmon, scallops, halibut, and Dungeness crab are all readily available.
If you’re not a lover of seafood, this part of Alaska is also known for delicious, juicy burgers – you could even try a reindeer burger if the mood strikes - washed down with a locally brewed beer. There are also many different international restaurants to try if you prefer, from Italian to Thai.
Shopping in Wrangell
The geological composition of Wrangell makes it an ideal location for mining garnet gemstones. Having formed millions of years ago, these were mined for many centuries but today can only be procured by local children and their families, without the use of power tools. Such families have turned this unique hobby into a small business, selling garnets of mixed sizes from small tents close to the cruise port.
As well as garnet-themed gifts, you can also find a range of other souvenirs in shops in Wrangell, from paintings to handmade trinkets – many of which are based on Tlingit culture and traditions.
Getting around: Wrangell transport.
Wrangell has a population of less than 2,500, and the town itself is of a modest size. This makes it easy to navigate as a visitor, and thankfully the most popular landmarks and attractions are all walkable. For example, the Mt Dewey Trail is around a 10–15-minute walk from the cruise port.
Wrangell port facilities.
Wrangell cruise port is small and simple and offers only basic facilities such as toilets. It’s such a short distance to the main town, however, that all the amenities you could need are within reach.
Top tips for Wrangell.
Wrangell, like the rest of Alaska, uses US Dollars (USD). Most shops, restaurants, and museums do accept card payments, but it might be helpful to carry some cash on you for smaller purchases in cafes or any souvenir stalls. You can purchase USD on board your ship, or there are several ATMs in the town.
In cafes and restaurants, it’s customary to tip between 15 and 20% of your bill in Alaska, which is generally the case throughout the US. Many people choose to tip local guides and hosts that are particularly helpful too.
The summer months between May and September are generally the warmest in Wrangell when the temperature averages highs of 15-18 degrees Celsius. The coldest months are December to February, when you can expect around 0 degrees Celsius. This part of the world is known for rain, which occurs throughout the year.