O Ketchikanie (Tlingit: Kichx̱áan)
Because of its location on the southern tip of the island, Ketchikan is known as Alaska's "First City."Internal passage— It's the first town you reach when sailing north, and for many guests it's their first glimpse of the beauty and grandeur of Alaska.
Just 90 miles north of Prince Rupert, British Columbia, Ketchikan nestles on the bluffs that form the coastline along the southwest corner of Revillagigedo Island. Ketchikan stretches 31 miles but is never more than 10 blocks wide and is located on Tongass Avenue. On one side of the avenue, many shops and houses are built on stilts over the water, while on the other side they cling to steep slopes, often leading to their front doors via winding wooden stairs.
TheTlingit, Haida and TsimshianPeople have lived in Southeast Alaska for over 10,000 years, and their art, culture and history can be seen throughout Ketchikan. Founded in 1885 as a manufacturing base for canned salmon, the city of Ketchikan has been known for years as the "World Canned Salmon Capital." Logging also became an important industry, and as cruise ships began to explore the waters of the Inside Passage, Ketchikan naturally became a popular port of call.
Arrival to Ketchikan
Ketchikan is not on the road network and is therefore only accessible by sea and air. Most visitors come to big and smallcruise ships, with Ketchikan being the first port of call in Alaska on most northbound routes. Independent travelers can reach Ketchikan viaAlaska Sea Highway, a state ferry system that operates in and out of Bellingham, WashingtonAleutian Islands. Ferry passengers can board a car or RV. The drive from Bellingham, WA to Ketchikan takes 36 hours and is easily connected to other popular destinations includingJuneau,Wrangla,Petersburg,Haines,Sitka, IWhittiera.
For a quicker trip, Ketchikan is also accessible by air with daily scheduled flights. Direct Alaska Airlines flights connect Ketchikan International Airport to Seattle,Juneau,Sitka, IWrangla, with easy connections to the rest of Alaska and the Lower 48.
Attractions in Ketchikan
KETCHIKAN IN THE CENTER OF TOWN
Downtown is the main commercial area and is home to several major portsCruise shipHarbor and many of Ketchikan's top attractions including historic Creek Street, a scenic stilted boardwalk overlooking Ketchikan Creek. By 1954, Creek Street was Ketchikan's famous red light district. Today, this street is home to art galleries, souvenir shops, bookstores, and restaurants, and is a photographer's paradise.
The most popular home on Creek Street in the 1930s was Dolly's House, the drawing room of the town's most famous lady, Dolly Arthur. Today it is a museum dedicated to this infamous era. Inside, you'll be guided through the brothel, learn about Dolly's exciting life in Alaska, and see, among other things, his bar, which was located above a trapdoor that led to a creek for a quick disposal of illegal whiskey.
Downtown is best viewed from the Ketchikan Waterfront Promenade, which runs along the bustling shoreline and features historical markers and whale tail banks where visitors can relax and admire the seascape. The boardwalk begins near Waterfront 4, skirts Harbor View Park, skirts the cruise ship dock and then meanders around Thomas Basin.
HIKING, CAMPING AND SEEING NATURE
Ketchikan's road network extends both north and south of the city, leading to several parks, attractions, and lodging. Motorhomes often leaveAlaska Sea Highwayand drive north to several campsites inclSettlers Cove State Recreation Areaat the end of the road, 18 miles north of Ketchikan. The 38-acre State Recreation Area includes 14 campgrounds amidst lush rainforest and overlooks a scenic coastal area and a quarter-mile trail to the waterfall and observation deck. To the south, South Tongass Avenue leads to the boroughs andHikeWays.
Ketchikan also serves as a base for several side trips to Prince of Wales's Annette Islandwatch bearsMonuments and one of the most impressive attractions of the area:Nationaldenkmal der Misty Fjords. This wild, 3,570 square kilometer desert is a natural patchwork of sea cliffs, sheer fjords and rock faces that rise 3,000 feet straight out of the sea. Excursions to the monument, respectivelyexcursion boat,small plane, LubKayakoffers opportunities for wildlife viewing of seals, otters, bald eagles and whales.
Ketchikan is dubbed the Salmon Capital of the World and it is for this reason that anglers flock to the city.charter fishing excursionsThere are many opportunities to fish for all five species of Pacific salmon. Other species available are halibut, red snapper, lingcod and rock cod. Numeroushostels and resortsThey are located along the Tongass Narrows and cater to visiting anglers. Guides lead charter fishing trips out to sea for sea fishing or take guests to remote locations for freshwater and saltwater fishing.
Ketchikan serves as the base for some of the best disheskayakingwInternal passage. Kayaks can be rented in town. Options range from simple paddling on the water to a week-long excursionNationaldenkmal der Misty Fjords. Betton Island and several smaller islands nearby are great for day paddlers.
ZIP LINE TOURS
Ketchikan has everything it needszipperthe capital of Alaska: lush rainforests and highlands. There are two ziplines, one of which takes you 4,600 feet down the mountainside via eight ropes and three suspension bridges.
Alaska Native American culture
Just a short walk from downtown KetchikanTotem Heritage Center, established in 1976 to preserve 19th-century totem poles excavated in uninhabited areasTlingit i Haidasurrounding villages. These magnificent original poles are displayed in the center with detailed descriptions of their history and iconography as well as other works of Alaskan Native art. In the center, 17 totems are displayed in an almost spiritual setting that illustrates their meaningAlaska Native American culture. Several totem poles are on display outside and the entire center is surrounded by Sitka spruce trees, with Ketchikan Creek bubbling nearby.
Located ten miles north of KetchikanTotem Bight State Historic Park, an 11-acre park filled with restored and resculpted totem poles and a colorful community house. Just as impressive as the totem poles are the park's lush rainforest and rocky coastline along the Tongass Narrows.
South of Ketchikan is Saxman Native Village and Totem Park. At the heart of the park is Saxman Totem Park, which features an extensive collection of replica totems, as well as a replica clan house and carving center. Scattered throughout the park are 24 totems that come from the abandoned villages in the areaInternal passagebuilt in the 1930s and restored or rebuilt. The collection includes a replica Lincoln Pole (the original is inAlaska State MuseumWJuneau), which was cut in 1883 from a picture by Abraham Lincoln. Many visitors take a 2-hour village tour led by Alaskan Natives that includes a Tlingit language lesson, a traditional drum and dance performance, a narrated totem pole tour, and a visit to a sculpture hut.
TheTongas Historical Museumis home to a permanent collection of local artifacts that tell the fascinating history of the Ketchikan, including Alaska Native art, historical photographs, and artifacts from industries that played significant roles in the development of the region. The museum also features rotating exhibits about the Ketchikan and Southeast Alaska, past and present.
come inSoutheast Alaska Discovery Centerand three large totem poles greet you in the lobby, while a school of silvery salmon hanging from the ceiling invites you into a replica rainforest. Upstairs in the exhibit hall are areas dedicated to Inside Passage ecosystems and Alaska Native traditions. You can even spot wildlife here. There's a telescope on Deer Mountain geared towards hunting mountain goats, and underwater cameras at Ketchikan Creek let you watch as thousands of salmon swim upstream to spawn.
If you spend enough time in Ketchikan, chances are it will rain at least once. The average annual rainfall is 162 inches, but more than 200 inches are also known. Locals call it "liquid sunshine" and umbrellas are rarely used. Come rain or shine, the beauty of the Ketchikan landscape is immediately apparent. Pack warm, waterproof layers and be prepared for rapidly changing weather conditions.
Accommodation and meals in Ketchikan
There are many differentOvernight in KetchikanFrom hotels in the heart of downtown to rustic cabins overlooking the water. You will also find a range of inns, guesthouses, hostels, B&Bs and holiday homes. There are also several campsites and RV parks on the outskirts of town. Ketchikan is home to several restaurants, many serving fresh, locally sourced seafood, as well as cafes, bars, and two local breweries.
Looking for more?Read on for the 7 best things to do in Ketchikan.