Ketchikan, AK, USA cruises

Tiny Ketchikan is just three miles long and three blocks wide, but here you can be sure to find Alaska’s busiest waterfront buzzing with boat planes, fishing boats, pleasure craft, and busy fishermen.

Ketchikan port guide.

Once colonized by Tlingit and Haida tribes, Ketchikan is a thriving fishing town with colorful stilted houses, a rich Alaskan culture and a throng of trawlers hauling in fresh crab and salmon.

Arts thrive here and museums celebrating the town’s history are abundant. Some of the best seafood you’ll sample in the Great Land will have been plucked directly from Ketchikan’s waters and served in its restaurants just hours later. A detail that only magnifies the appeal of this enchanting port call on your Alaska cruise.

While other towns have their origins firmly rooted in the region’s gold rush years, Ketchikan’s connection with its native population is still at the heart of its community. You’ll find Alaska’s largest collection of totem poles among its many welcoming attractions, along with heritage experiences expanding on the beliefs, customs and pastimes of Alaska’s earliest settlers.

Top landmarks and sights in Ketchikan.

Nestled among some of Alaska’s most arresting scenery, Ketchikan’s location is one to both admire and leverage. Hikers will love the trails that seem to venture out in all directions, while those who enjoy the thrill of fishing will find the waters here bountifully stocked.

Many visitors to Ketchikan use the city as a base from which to visit Misty Fjords National Monument, just 22 miles east of the city. Part of the Tongass National Forest, Misty Fjords is one of Southern Alaska’s most beautiful natural wonders, combining sheer sea cliffs, towering rock faces and expansive fjords. Seaplane offers one of the best ways to take in this magnificent scene, and is sure to provide a memorable highlight of your Alaska vacation.

Further top Ketchikan landmarks include the Deer Mountain trail (although the 2.5-mile ascent is not for the inexperienced), while the city’s infamous Creek Street, which operated as red-light district until the 1950s, is a Ketchikan institution not to be missed.

Things to do in Ketchikan Alaska.

Take in an Alaskan lumberjack show, snorkel among Ketchikan’s friendly marine life, or simply soak up the art, history and shopping in town. Ketchikan offers an abundance of entertaining activities to occupy thrill-seekers and culture enthusiasts alike. 

On Creek Street, you’ll find welcoming independent galleries offering collections of native Alaskan art, as well as Dolly’s House museum where Ketchikan’s most famous resident, Dolly Arthur, once resided. Creek Street itself is populated by colorful stilt buildings jutting out of the water. It’s one of the city’s prettiest sights and a hive of local culture that lies within short walking distance of the cruise terminal.

Kayaking expeditions, guided floatplane tours and Tomcar karting in Tongass National Forest may all appeal to those looking for more adventurous pursuits in Ketchikan, while a number of fishing charters are available for guests who might like to try their hand at landing halibut or king crab.

Ketchikan also offers the chance for some exciting wildlife encounters, not least of all at its Wildlife Sanctuary and Eagle Center, where black bears, eagles and seals all reside.

Eating and drinking near Ketchikan cruise port.

The advantage of living alongside a thriving stock of freshwater salmon and crab isn’t lost on Ketchikan’s kitchens. Around half of the city’s restaurants specialize in fresh seafood and you’ll find some of the most popular establishments just a short walk from Ketchikan cruise terminal.

Freshly caught crab is a delicacy you’ll come across on countless menus, chowder (a New England and Nova Scotia favorite) offers a hearty way to warm-up with a dollop of sourdough or cornbread, while smoked and grilled fish also feature strongly among Ketchikan’s excellent seafood options.

Besides its reputation for serving up some of the freshest seafood in Alaska, Ketchikan also offers diners dishes inspired by the U.S and Canada. Pizza parlors and hamburger bars, as well as a handful of cafés selling fresh baked goods and coffees, are among the alternative choices you’ll find in Ketchikan if you’re looking to swerve fish on your visit.

Shopping in Ketchikan.

Ketchikan might not be the first place that springs to mind when you think about souvenir shopping but it’s actually a great place in Alaska to source Native crafts, canned seafood and locally made jewelry you can’t find elsewhere on your travels. In other words, if you’re looking for that cherished Alaska keepsake, Ketchikan may yet come up trumps.  

It’s this nature of product that you’ll find first and foremost in the independent galleries, museums and gift shops around town, along with items that celebrate Alaska’s native heritage and history.

Where products claim to be locally made, look for the tell-tale ‘made in Alaska’ symbol to confirm this, also donated by a silver hand emblem. Ketchikan has a few souvenir shops dotted along Creek Street together with a small community shopping center on Tongass Avenue.

Ketchikan culture and history.

Ketchikan’s culture is some of the richest and most varied in Alaska, and the city has done a fantastic job in preserving the legacy of its Tlingit heritage. A port call here offers myriad ways in which to immerse yourself in this side of Alaska, not least in Ketchikan’s collection of totem poles, which is renowned for being the largest display in Alaska and one of the best examples the world over.

Purchase a combined ticket to gain entry to both the Totem Heritage Center at Ketchikan cruise port and Tongass Historical Museum, where you can experience totem poles being carved in front of your eyes, together with many fascinating exhibits expanding on Tlingit culture.

For a more interactive experience, seek out Saxman Native Village and Totem Row Park or Kasaan Totems Historic District. Both locations offer the chance to embark on a guided tour through a thriving native community and deepen your appreciation for the traditions and practices that underpin Tlingit life.

Ketchikan port facilities and location.

Ketchikan has four berths for cruise ships. Berths one and two are located on Front Street and the waterfront promenade, and are the most centrally located. Three and Four are just a few minutes’ walk into town. You’ll find a visitors’ center offering information and maps, opposite berth two. A self-guided walking tour begins from here, which you can follow at your leisure. If all four berths are occupied your ship will tender and transport you from your ship to shore by shuttle.