Summer is almost here and that means tourist season in Alaska. Whether traveling to our 49th state by plane, car, ferry, train or cruise ship, here’s a quick look at some interesting destinations.
Anchorage – A must is the six-hour Alaska Railroad trip to their newest whistle stop, Grandview. The train meanders through alpine meadows and offers stunning views of the Trail, Bartlett and Spencer Glaciers. There are photo ops galore along one of the most scenic areas of the railbelt. The 1.5 hour return trip via motorcoach parallels the Seward Highway, a National Scenic Byway. Sunset is at approximately 10 p.m. during the summer in Alaska so, after you arrive back to town, there is time to explore nearby shopping, attractions, dining, etc. For further information logon to www.alaskarailroad.com and www.anchorage.net.
Homer – The best way to see this picturesque town is by taking the Hop-On, Hop-Off Trolley, www.homertrolley.com. Its route includes stops at the Pratt Museum, Islands & Ocean Visitor’s Center, downtown, Old Town, Farmers Market (Wed. & Sat.), Homer Spit, gift shops, restaurants and a bald eagle’s nest. The Two Sisters restaurant, a local favorite, is worth a visit. www.homeralaska.org.
Icy Strait Point/Hoonah – Go on the ATV and ZipRider Adventure tour and hold on to your hat. Off-roading trails lead to a short hike to the world’s 2nd. longest zip line. It is breathtaking; starting with a 1,300 foot vertical drop and then plunging a total of 5,330 feet. Speeds hit 60+ mph during this heart-pounding thrill ride. The aptly named Landing Zone Bar and Grill is located where the zip-line ends. The Icy Strait Point Company Store is a combination museum and gift shop; restaurants and shops are nearby. Take time to walk the Beach Trail Promenade. www.icystraitpoint.com.
Juneau – For an unforgettable outing, sign up with Above & Beyond Alaska, www.beyondak.com, and kayak to the base of majestic Mendenhall Glacier. It is truly a remarkable experience. After that, head to the Mt. Roberts Tramway, www.mountrobertstramway.com. Perched 1,800 feet above the city there is a nature center, restaurant, gift shop and hiking trails. After coming down the mountain, take time for nearby shopping and siteseeing. At www.traveljuneau.com, there is a useful “Juneau in a Day” tab.
Ketchikan – Although cold weather is to be expected, here’s a contra-intuitive suggestion: go diving. Snorkel Alaska, www.snorkelalaska.com, specializes in helping visitors take the plunge to get a look at the island’s kelp beds, tide pools and marine life, including starfish, jellyfish and sea cucumbers; all this as bald eagles circle lazily overhead. Back in town, www.visit-ketchikan.com, grab the free shuttle that stops at the SE Alaska Discovery Center, Deer Mountain Tribal Hatchery and Eagle Center, infamous Creek Street and the Totem Heritage Museum. For fishermen this town claims to be the “Salmon Capitol of the World.”
Kodiak – Take a scenic drive along the lush Chiniak Highway with Kodiak Island Van Tours, www.kodiakislandvantours.com. There are panoramic views of the ocean, bays, rivers and, sometimes, bears and other wildlife. The 80 mile roundtrip excursion includes stops along the way at Pasagshak Bay and Narrow Cape. At the mid-point of the trip there is a lunch stop at Olds River Inn. More about the area can be found at www.kodiak.org.
Sitka – Another rip-roaring escapade is the four-hour Kruzof Island 4×4 Wilderness Adventure tour. First, there is a boat ride around the islands in Sitka Sound to the destination. Next, drive a Yamaha Rhino through the rain forest for the first stop at the Iris Meadows Estuary. Finally, off through magnificent old-growth forests to the black sand North Beach for beverages, snacks and a photo op before heading back to town. www.sitka.org.
Victoria, British Columbia, Canada – This is the only non-Alaska locale to report on and it is a good one. The Grand City Drive & Empress High Tea bus tour takes you through several exclusive neighborhoods and along Marine Drive to Mt. Tolmie for a view of the city. After that, back to the historic Empress Hotel for an elegant high tea. For a completely dissimilar outing, don’t miss the pub crawl available via the water-taxis of Victoria; it is an unusual, highly enjoyable escapade. For more information, go to www.victoriaharbourferry.com and www.tourismvictoria.com.
Travel Products – Smart travelers’ mantra is “pack light and wear layers.” Magellan’s packable rain jacket/windbreaker fits that description (www.magellans.com). Keen’s Denver Canvas from their Boulevard Collection was my choice for casual footwear and Ambler Mesh from their Trailhead Selection was perfect for hiking. Their right/left marked socks are perfect companions to the shoes (www.keenfootwear.com). Headwear is a travel necessity, more so in Alaska; sun, rain and/or cold. Two models from Tilley, www.tilley.com, accompanied me; the Outback hat and the TTMC cap – both did their job. On the plane, Magellan’s noise cancelling headset kept engine and passenger sounds to a minimum.
Safe travels and enjoy the journey…
Thanks to the various websites for information, etc.