If you drive to Alaska and don't take the ferry you'll miss a spectacular part of the State. The ferry takes you through the Tongass National Forest and the Inside Passage, to more than a dozen communities that are not accessible by road. Also, traveling on the ferry from Bellingham to Haines or Skagway will save you about 1,500 miles of driving so you can sit back, relax, and enjoy the scenery.
Ferry from Bellingham to Ketchikan (+)
Ferry from Bellingham to Ketchikan (-)
The first part of your adventure will be getting to Bellingham, Washington. Let the Alaska Marine Highway take care of everything for you. Your car, RV, motorcycle or bicycle will be safely stowed on the car deck while you relax in the main cabin. During the thirty-eight-hour voyage from Bellingham to Ketchikan relax and enjoy the scenery. Reserve a passenger cabin if you would prefer some privacy, or unwind in the recliner lounge or observation lounge. For the more adventurous, set up your own tent on the back deck. Step outside for some fresh air, the covered solarium is heated and provides spectacular views of the passing landscape. Food and beverage service is available, including hot and cold options.
Ketchikan — Salmon Capital of the World (+)
Ketchikan — Salmon Capital of the World (-)
Arrive in Ketchikan in the morning. Pick up the official Ketchikan walking tour map at the Visitors Bureau conveniently located downtown. Routes can be walked in as little as 60 minutes, but plan extra time to appreciate the sights and for visiting attractions. If you've not brought your own, you can rent a bicycle to explore the area. Be sure to fly and/or cruise to Misty Fjords National Monument. After mid-July, tour one of the many bear viewing areas. Go salmon fishing with an experienced charter boat captain to see why Ketchikan is called the "Salmon Capitol of the World." Visit Saxman Native Village or Totem Bight State Park to learn about the Native culture of the area. You can also go hiking, kayaking, snorkeling, or ziplining.
Ferry from Ketchikan to Juneau (+)
Ferry from Ketchikan to Juneau (-)
Board the ferry and continue north to Juneau. Depending on the ferry you choose, your trip could range from nineteen hours to a day and a half; the mainline ferry routes visit the communities of Wrangell, Petersburg, and Sitka. If time allows, spend a day or two in one of these communities or simply stay on the ferry for the trip to Juneau. Relax and enjoy the passing scenery of the Inside Passage, bond with your travel companions, meet local Alaskans, and make some new friends along the way.
Juneau — Alaska’s Capital City (+)
Juneau — Alaska’s Capital City (-)
Spend a couple of days exploring Alaska's capital city. Visit one of the local museums and the Macaulay Salmon Hatchery. Juneau's most popular attraction is the mighty Mendenhall Glacier, the only glacier accessible by road in Southeast Alaska. Go to the Visitor Center for interactive displays and hike one of the many trails in the area for different views of the glacier. Several helicopter and fixed-wing aircraft companies offer unique opportunities to see and experience the Juneau Icefield from the air. Whale watching is something you won't want to miss in Juneau. Humpback and orca whales congregate in the calm waters around Juneau and put on quite a show in the summer. Also, try fishing, hiking, rafting, kayaking and even ziplining.
Ferry to Haines or Skagway & On Up the Road (+)
Ferry to Haines or Skagway & On Up the Road (-)
Board the ferry in the morning for a four- to six-hour ride to Haines or Skagway. Both Haines and Skagway connect to the highway system, so it's easy to include the Inside Passage as part of a longer road trip.
If you are headed north, include Haines in your itinerary. Head out to the Native village of Klukwan and visit their cultural museum. The past comes alive at the Sheldon Museum & Cultural Center, and for a different experience, visit the Hammer Museum, the only one of its kind in North America. The American Bald Eagle Foundation gives you a great opportunity to learn more about these amazing raptors and a chance to meet them up close. For more wildlife, venture out to Chilkoot Lake where brown bears and many species of birds are often seen along the road and in the Chilkoot River feasting on salmon. As you depart Haines, you'll drive along the Haines Highway through the Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve.
If you are headed south, include a stop in Skagway, a well-preserved frontier town lined with historical buildings. At the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park Visitor Center, join a ranger-guided walking tour. Catch a fun theatrical skit about local history, like the gunfight that killed Soapy Smith. Visit one of the local attractions that focus on gold rush history to pan for gold. Then, visit the old Skagway Gold Rush Cemetery, an interesting, ghostly side trip. Take a hike along one of the local trail systems, go dog sledding, horseback riding, glacier flightseeing, rock climbing, ziplining, kayaking, rafting, fishing or enjoy a train ride on a historic narrow-gauge railway.
After exploring Haines or Skagway for a couple of days, continue on your driving adventure north to Anchorage or Fairbanks, or south again to the Lower 48. This itinerary can be completed in reverse, board the ferry in Haines or Skagway and head south to Bellingham.