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The picturesque port town of Seward lies at the end of Resurrection Bay, a sheltered fjord on Alaska’s forested Kenai Peninsula. The views here are vast, where you’ll witness mile upon mile of dense forest of spruce and hemlock, jagged mountains, capped with snow, and endless skies.

Seward is the gateway to the misty beauty of the Kenai Fjords National Park and to the west, the 700-square mile expanse of the Harding Icefield. As such, the town is a magnet for lovers of the outdoors and a base from which to try everything from sea kayaking to dog sledding.

The town itself is buzzing with activity, whether you choose to stroll around the bustling harbor, watch life on the water, or explore the craft breweries, galleries, and historic buildings of the scenic downtown area. Here are 11 unforgettable things to do in Seward.

1: Stroll Along the Waterfront

Beautiful view of Seward harbor

Seward Boat Harbor

The Small Boat Harbor bustles with constant activity in the summer months, when it’s crammed with sailboats, fishing vessels, and charter boats, a line of snowy peaks in the distance. Close by, you can wander along five miles of the stony beach of Waterfront Park, looking out for sea otters bobbing in the water, rafted up on their backs, or basking sea lions and even the blow of whales out in the bay.

Various points of interest line this Alaskan beach, from the Founder’s Monument, marking the spot where the first settlers landed in 1903, to the marker for Mile 0 of the famous Historical Iditarod Trail, which used to serve the wild interior of Alaska.

Back at the harbor, the waterfront is lined with restaurants and cafes where you can take a seat in the sunshine, dine on authentic Alaskan food, and people-watch. Stroll along to Harbor Street Creamery for homemade ice cream, sundaes, brownies, and smoothies.

Plate of crab cakes

Crab cakes

If it’s lunchtime, check out Chinooks, a local institution famed for its fine views, local seafood, and seasonal ingredients. Try Thai-style salmon, chunky crab cakes, or freshly caught halibut with fries.

2: Explore the Exit Glacier

Couple walking towards Exit Glacier

Exit Glacier

Some 40 slow-moving rivers of ice edge slowly down from the vast, white expanse of the Harding Icefield to the sea.

Hiking to Exit Glacier, one of the best things to do in Seward, is a trek for the hardy. You’ll be walking uphill for just over four miles, the Alaskan hiking trail marked out on the glacier’s pebbly moraine, an icy stream rushing out of the tongue of the ice over the rocks nearby.

Keep an eye out for mountain goats, and take time to stop and listen to the silence. You’ll hear the wind in the trees, but you can also catch the sound of the glacier creaking and crackling. Sometimes, it’s hard to imagine that this great river of ice is actually moving.

Things to do in Seward - trek to Exit Glacier

Exit Glacier

When you reach the top, the views out over the blue-white icefield and surrounding spiny peaks of the Kenai Mountains and forests are astounding—a picturesque setting perfect for couples on an Alaskan honeymoon. Then, it’s time to take a deep breath and set out on the thigh-trembling four-mile trek down again.

If you’re a true adrenaline junkie, there’s also the option of ice climbing on the glacier. You’ll fly in by helicopter—a thrill in itself, soaring over the water and the forest canopy—and trek across the sparkling, serrated ice to bottomless, deep-blue crevasses and drop-offs into which you can descend. You’ll be escorted every step of the way by highly trained glacier guides, and no experience is needed.

3: Take a Hike on Mount Marathon

Things to do in Seward - hike Mount Marathon

Mount Marathon

Seward is famed for the grueling, annual Mount Marathon race, which takes place every year on July 4. Essentially, it’s straight up the hulking Alaskan mountain, which rears up behind the downtown area, and straight down again, competitors ending the event plastered in mud and scratches.

For a more tranquil experience, you can take a combination of three separate trails for a refreshing four-and-a-half-mile hike through the dappled shade of spruce forests up to the top. The trail is wide, but steep in sections, with some respite on the way up as you pick your way through a lush, green glacial valley tumbled with boulders left behind by the glacier.

Read: A Guide to the Best Glaciers in Alaska

Picturesque view from Mount Marathon

Mount Marathon

Once you’ve conquered the final section of the Skyline Trail, you’ll be rewarded with magnificent views out over Resurrection Bay, the water sparkling as far as the eye can see, the buildings of the town and yachts in the marina below like toys.

Eagles and ravens soar overhead, high above the treeline. Check out Race Point, at 3,022 feet above sea level, and imagine how the competitors might feel after having run all the way up here.

4: Get up Close to Marine Life

Couple looking at a sea lion in a big aquarium

Alaska SeaLife Center

The Alaska SeaLife Center is more than a way to get up close to seals and puffins—although there’s no shortage of opportunities to do that. It’s one of the best things to do in Seward on a rainy day, and a fun and educational visit for families.

This marine research center is the only cold-water marine science facility in the Western Hemisphere, devoting much of its effort to rehabilitating injured marine animals. There’s a tide pool, where kids can handle creatures like sea stars, and even a salmon ladder.

Observe the behavior of seals in a vast tank, and marvel at the grace of giant octopuses. Head to the puffin encounter, where you can get close to these comical, sweet-faced birds at feeding time, and join a session with the sea otters, learning all about their feeding habits and remarkable adaptability to the cold waters of the North Pacific.

5: Cruise the Kenai Fjords

Things to do in Seward - cruise along Kenai Fjords National Park

Kenai Fjords National Park

Take to the water on a day boat to cruise the tranquil waters of Kenai Fjords, all the time watching out for humpback, gray and minke whales, seals, bald eagles, and the distinctive dorsal fin of powerful orca.

Read: Alaska Whale-Watching Cruises

Pristine forest edges right down to rock-strewn beaches, where you may spot foraging brown and black bears, while mountain goats scamper effortlessly over steep rock faces high above the water.

Spire Cove located in Kenai Fjords National Park, Alaska

Spire Cove, Kenai Fjords National Park

You’ll pass Spire Cove, which looks like it’s straight out of a fairytale, with spindly, sheer-sided rock stacks tufted with greenery on top, making it one of the most beautiful places in Alaska. Sail right up to the mighty Holgate Glacier and get close enough to pick out the sapphire-blue streaks in the ice and hear the gunshot crack and rumble as chunks calve off into the milky turquoise water.

Read: Incredible National Parks to Visit in Alaska

6: Paddle a Sea Kayak

Kayaking near Aialik Glacier

Aialik Glacier

The closer you are to the water, the more at one with nature you’ll feel. The calm, protected fjords and inlets around Seward lend themselves perfectly to sea kayaking, with the added bonus of getting right up to the towering, icy face of a glacier. Of all the things to do in Seward, kayaking should be high on your list.

One of the most popular kayak tours is to Aialik Glacier, an easy day trip. You’ll ride from Seward to Aialik Bay via water taxi, looking out all the time for whales, porpoises, and Steller sea lions.

Calving of Aialik Glacier

Aialik Glacier

You’ll then clamber into your kayak and spend the day paddling along rocky shorelines, getting as close as safety permits to the mighty, blue-white ice wall of the Aialik Glacier, a particularly active tidewater glacier that calves regularly with a roar and a cracking, splitting sound.

As such, there are big chunks of ice floating around near its face, and it’s not unusual to spot a basking seal hitching a ride on one of them. Curious seals might pop their heads out of the water, too. While kayaking in Seward, keep your eyes peeled for bears shuffling along the beaches, and bald eagles perched on the cliffs, watching out for prey.

7: Feast on Local Smoked Salmon

Fishes caught in Seward

Seward Boat Harbor

You’ll see anglers from all over the state in season, battling enormous, thrashing king salmon. In fact, the annual Silver Salmon Derby is regarded as the prime fishing derby in Alaska. You can try it yourself—there are plenty of day fishing charters on offer, with experienced captains who will know where to find halibut, king salmon, and silver salmon.

If you’d prefer to sample Seward’s culinary wares rather than catch your own, there’s no shortage of places to explore. You can have your salmon broiled, smoked, in a burger, in a sandwich, with fries—there’s no end to the permutations.

Man grilling Alaska salmon


Alaskan seafood is the star on every menu, but you’ll also find wild game and locally foraged ingredients, from edible wildflowers to alpine berries, wild mushrooms, and even spruce tips. Try Ray’s Waterfront, with splendid views over Small Boat Harbor. You’ll find king crab dripping with butter and lemon, wild sockeye salmon with a tangy mango salsa, or salmon served on a cedar plank with a creamy garlic mash.

Alternatively, if you’re hiking the Exit Glacier, check out the nearby Salmon Bake Restaurant, ignoring its self-deprecating promise of “cheap beer and lousy food,” and reward your efforts with a hefty salmon burger with fries, washed down with a chilled local craft beer.

8: Discover Downtown Seward

Things to do in Seward - explore downtown

Downtown Seward

As the southern terminus of the Alaska Railroad, Seward is one of Alaska’s oldest settlements, with a colorful history from the early fur trade through its heyday as a supply port for Alaska’s interior, thanks to the ice-free shelter of Resurrection Bay.

Local scenes and historical events are depicted on a series of 12 giant murals painted by local artists, many of which are found in the downtown area. The Exit Glacier, Mount Marathon, the original Iditarod Trail, and the railroad are all featured.

Street view of Downtown Seward

Downtown Seward

There’s plenty to see in the colorful, quirky downtown area, which is laid out in a compact grid. On 4th Avenue, you’ll find the Train Wreck, a collection of refurbished railcars from the Alaska Railroad. If you’re hungry, visit the Smoke Shack for a hearty brunch with a Tex-Mex atmosphere in the setting of a 50-foot train carriage. All the pork and chicken here is smoked in-house.

As you wander around, stop by the Resurrect Art Coffeehouse and Gallery on 3rd Avenue and Church Street, set in an enchanting old shingled church, offering fresh-baked pastries and displaying the work of local artists on the walls.

Back on 4th Avenue, visit the Seward Brewing Company for a flight of locally brewed craft beers. The building itself is packed with history, having started as a bar in 1904 and subsequently serving as a theater during Prohibition, the offices of the Alaska Steamship Company, and a private club.

9: Ride a Dog Sled Through the Wilderness

Dog sledding on a snowy path in Alaska


As the original starting point for the famous Iditarod Trail, you’d expect Seward to be the place to go for dog sledding in Alaska. Sure enough, the Seavey family, whose kennels and homestead lie at the base of Resurrection Mountain, represent four generations of mushing champions and have won seven Iditarod races.

While winter is the racing season, you can visit the kennels in summer to cuddle adorable, fuzzy-haired puppies, and even take a sled ride out through the wilderness. The summer sleds are wheeled, of course, and the powerful team of dogs will pull you along forest-lined trails along the base of Resurrection Mountain and through Box Canyon Creek. These summer runs are an important part of race training and keep the dogs in peak fitness.

10: Fly Over the Forest at Stoney Creek

Woman on a zipline

Stoney Creek Zipline

You’ll need a head for heights for the Stoney Creek zipline, but the views are outstanding as you soar over the spruce forest with an eagle’s-eye perspective of the canopy below.

Make your way across three swinging suspension bridges on this tree-top Alaskan adventure. Clip onto the line and fly at exhilarating speeds, landing on wooden platforms high up in massive spruce and hemlock trees between each zip.

Some zips fly lower, so you’re just beneath the treetops with views of rushing streams amid the green of the undergrowth below.

11: Get Close to Wildlife on a SUP

Even if you’ve got no stand-up paddleboarding experience, there are short tours from Seward to get you accustomed to the admittedly strange sensation of “walking” on water. Staying close to the shore on glass-calm water, you’ll perfect the technique.

View of Bear Glacier in Seward

Bear Glacier

Once you’ve found your confidence, start admiring the mountain vistas and looking out for popular animals in Alaska such as seals, sea lions, and sea otters floating on their backs, snacking on clams. Experienced paddleboarders can join tours to nearby Bear Glacier for the otherworldly sensation of paddling amid gleaming, sculpted icebergs, so close you can reach out and touch them.

12: Take a Historical Walking Tour

Explore downtown, one of the best things to do in Seward

Downtown Seward

By far one of the best things to do in Seward is a guided or self-guided walking tour. Seward City Tours offers both one-hour and five-hour guided visits of the downtown area.

The latter includes a visit to the Alaska SeaLife Centre, as well as some of the most popular attractions in Seward. The Historical City Tour, meanwhile, covers everything from the history of the state flag to the Iditarod, the world’s most famous dog sled race.

For travelers who prefer to stick to their own schedule, the Seward Historic Preservation Commission’s free self-guided walking tour is a terrific option. Swing by the Seward Community Library & Museum to pick up your complimentary map.

Alternatively, there’s a website listing all 46 sites and the history behind them. Keep an eye out for the 26 signposts with information stationed all over downtown.

View of Seward Mariners’ Memorial

Seward Mariners’ Memorial

A few of the featured spots on the tour include the Woodlawn Cemetery, which dates back to 1916, the Seward Mariners’ Memorial, and a 1930s cottage. Visitors can also check out the 1925 home of Jan Van Empel, a renowned Alaskan painter.

Interestingly, the tour includes a couple of trees with fascinating stories. Both the Sitka spruce and Norway maple are majestic to behold.

Read: Best Museums in Alaska

13: Discover the Alaska Railroad

Ride Alaska Railroad, one of the best things to do in Seward

Alaska Railroad

With a history dating back to 1903, the Alaska Railroad is one of the most magnificent forms of transportation in the United States. President Warren G. Harding himself drove a golden spike into the ground to celebrate its debut in 1923. For many travelers, the Coastal Classic Train route is a prime example of how travel is really about the journey rather than the destination.

Running between Anchorage, Girdwood, and Seward, this train ride is packed with awe-inspiring scenery. It runs most of the length of Turnagain Arm, passing densely forested mountain slopes and open water.

Quite a few travelers ride the Alaska Railroad simply for the thrill of it. Even if your trip doesn’t have quite enough room for a rail journey, you still may wish to check it out. These stately blue-and-yellow train cars make for striking photographs. Check the official website for train times to catch them as they roll in and out of Seward.

14: Learn About the Indigenous History of the Area

Seward was home to thriving communities long before European colonists and traders set foot in the area. For more than 7,500 years, the Alutiiq people, also known as the Sugpiaq, have fished here.

Today, the Qutekcak Native Tribe is represented by an organized non-profit in the area. The Seward Museum features a small collection of Indigenous artworks and crafts.

15: Feast on Alaskan Crab

Alaskan crab on a plate

Alaskan crab

For many visiting gourmands, nothing beats a heaping platter of Alaskan crab legs served with drawn butter and a squeeze of lemon.

King crab, Dungeness crab, and snow crab all thrive in these icy waters and more than merit the splurge. The best place in town to try this delicacy is the Crab Shack, an unpretentious local eatery. In addition to enormous portions of steamed crab, the restaurant offers unusual variations on these tasty crustaceans, from crab mac n’ cheese to crab curry.

16: Search for Beluga Whales

Beluga whales spotted in Seward

Beluga whale

The 120-mile coast-hugging road between Anchorage and Seward is one of the most scenic drives in all of Alaska. It also happens to run along the Cook Inlet, home to a population of wild belugas.

This is one of the only places on the planet where you can spy these charismatic white cetaceans from the road. Even if you’re not actually driving to Anchorage, it’s worth the hour-long drive to soak in the scenery. The road along Cook Inlet also leads to the popular Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center.

Currently, the local population of the Cook Inlet belugas is considered endangered, with less than 400 individuals. In recent years, however, the population has grown slightly and conservationists are cautiously optimistic about its future.

Even within the whale family, belugas are highly unique creatures. They’re most closely related to narwhals, the unicorn-horned underwater predators, as well as dolphins. Highly intelligent, friendly, and social, these playful creatures feature prominently in pop culture.

Closeup view of a beluga whale

Beluga whale

Perhaps the most curious anatomical feature of the beluga whale is the distinctive bulge on its forehead. Known as the “melon,” this adaptation makes the whales masters of echolocation. Thanks to the melon, belugas can precisely direct and control their sound waves for navigation and communication.

17: Search the Skies for Birds of Prey

Look for bald eagles, one of the best things to do in Seward

Bald eagle

Bird-watchers will be in heaven in Seward. Alaska is home to more bald eagles than any other state in the nation. Their snowy-feathered heads are a common sight as they swoop and soar directly over downtown. Ospreys are also often spotted here. These powerful predators are adept at plucking salmon and other fish directly for the water.

And while the ravens found all over Seward may not inspire the same level of awe, they’re equally compelling creatures in their own right. According to some scientists, ravens may be almost as intelligent as certain species of apes. These clever scavengers are capable of solving puzzles, using tools, and even imitating human speech on occasion.

The ravens also carry special significance for many Alaskan Native nations. In Tlingit and Haida mythology, for instance, these cunning Alaskan birds are responsible for bringing daylight.

18: Dine on Wild Alaskan Seafood

Cooked halibut on a plate


Seward has an especially long, proud history within the fishing industry. In the early part of the 20th century, this city drew fishermen from around the world each season. Scandinavian fishermen moved here in droves for the highly lucrative salmon run, in which a man could make a small fortune within a few months.

To this day, it remains one of the most important fishing port cities in the nation. In other words, there’s a high chance that whatever’s on your plate was caught right here, maybe only a few hours ago.

Freshly caught fish in Seward

Freshly caught fish in Seward

Alaska also has a well-earned reputation for serving some of the world’s tastiest seafood. It also happens to be some of the most sustainable. Decades of careful regulation and responsible fishing practices have helped maintain healthy populations of most species. Virtually every restaurant in town specializes in seafood. And if you go on a fishing day trip, some restaurants such as Apollo will even cook your catch for you.

Wild Alaskan halibut, known for its firm, meaty flesh, is particularly prized here. This versatile fish is superb grilled, seared, or poached. Many of the restaurants here transform it into an especially luxurious version of fish and chips.

Rockfish is another local option that’s equally delicious, but less well-known outside of Alaska. Chefs here also frequently favor flaky, mild-tasting Pacific cod, as well as buttery, sweet local scallops.

Alaskan cod on a plate

Alaskan cod

Keep an eye out for sablefish, sometimes referred to as black cod or Alaskan cod. Often served simply seared or glazed with miso, this rich, meaty fish is beloved by high-end restaurants all over the world.

Read: Best Places to Fish in Alaska

19: Explore the Local Arts Scene

For such a small city, Seward has a surprisingly vibrant cultural scene. Spend an hour or two strolling between some of the local art galleries.

At Nakao Ceramics, artist Jenny Nakao makes beautiful, one-of-a-kind pottery with locally inspired designs. She also teaches occasional pottery classes, for anyone interested in making their own souvenir.

The Ranting Raven offers an eclectic assortment of prints, tchotchkes, and small works, plus cappuccinos at the café.

Meanwhile, artist Susan C. Swiderski is an oil painter whose work is rooted in the cultural history and geographic splendor of Alaska. At her eponymous gallery, she sells a mix of landscapes and intimate portraits.

20: Drink Craft Beer Near Seward Harbor

Craft beer in Alaska

Craft beer

Alaskans love their craft beer and locals in Seward are no exception. The Stoney Creek BrewHouse is an excellent spot to sip a Squirrel’s Den Hazy IPA.

The taproom also has a rotating list of draft options, such as their signature Caines Head Coffee Stout. The place has a laid-back, family-friendly vibe that makes it an especially popular local hangout.

Seward Alehouse has a similarly unpretentious vibe. Regulars come here for the free pool, chatty bartenders, and regular community events. The bar organizes everything from storytelling open mics to drag performances.

Read: Best Breweries in Alaska

21: Visit the Lowell Creek Waterfall

Majestic landscape of Lowell Creek Waterfall

Lowell Creek Waterfall Photo by Enrico Blasutto on Wikimedia Commons, licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

Located a short stroll from the Alaska SeaLife Center, this man-made waterfall is a lovely detour. While the Lowell Creek Waterfall makes for a terrific photo-op, it also serves a highly practical purpose.

Prior to 1940, when the  U.S. Army Corps of Engineers created the landmark, Lowell Creek frequently flooded Seward’s downtown. Creating a tunnel through Bear Mountain to divert the creek was a herculean effort, to put it mildly.

Today, this cascade roars consistently throughout the year and Seward is safe from water damage. There’s a small bridge here, which makes for an ideal spot to admire the falls.

22: Go Wildlife-Watching in Resurrection Bay

Orca spotted in Resurrection Bay

Resurrection Bay

Seward is nestled along the crystalline waters of Resurrection Bay. The Russian merchant Alexander Baranov named this spectacular fjord in the 1700s. After a furious tempest in the Gulf of Alaska all but capsized his ship, Baranov sought sanctuary in the bay.

On Easter morning, the heavens cleared. Feeling an immense sense of gratitude for his escape, he declared the area “Resurrection” in honor of the holiday.

Steller sea lions spotted in Kenai Fjords National Park

Steller sea lions

As the gateway to Kenai Fjords National Park, Resurrection Bay is an incredible haven for wildlife and whale watching in Alaska. Circuses of puffins, colonies of Steller sea lions, and rafts of sea otters all call these waters home.

Pods of orcas have also been known to pass through here, along with humpback whales. While many people sail right through the bay en route to the park itself, there’s so much to see right here. Take a day trip cruise through the bay, with a stop at the popular Fox Island, located 11 miles from Seward.

23: Get Up Close to Alaskan Wildlife

Visit Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center, one of the best things to do in Seward

Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center

From grizzly bears to moose, imposing megafauna are one of the main reasons visitors come to Alaska. Realistically, spotting all of these creatures in the wild requires a considerable amount of luck. For a chance to see all of them in one go, visit the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center.

This wildlife sanctuary is not to be confused with a zoo. Virtually all of the animal inhabitants came here due to being orphaned or injured. For instance, Hugo, the center’s lone grizzly bear, was found malnourished and with thousands of porcupine quills in her paws.

Although she lacks the ability to fend for herself in the wild, she is happily living out her days here. Other stars here include gray wolves, wood bison, reindeer, and a great-horned owl.

Reindeer spotted at the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center

Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center

Located a 90-minute drive from downtown Seward, the center makes for a great afternoon detour. It’s suitable for all ages, but especially educational for children and teenagers.

Knowledgeable staff give talks on friendly critters like Twix, a porcupine, and Adonis, a bald eagle who had to have his left wing amputated.

Read: Amazing Animals in Alaska to Spot on Your Next Trip

Check Out the Local Café Scene

Coffee from a cafe


Seward’s walkable downtown is dotted with third-wave coffee shops—some of them in rather unusual settings. By far one of the most charming is Coho Joe’s Dockside Coffee, which serves strong brews with a killer view of the waterfront.

This coffee shop caters especially to the fishermen who rise before heading out to sea. Baristas start pouring espresso shots at 5.45am to help get all of the boat crews caffeinated.

For a taste of Seward’s bohemian side, head to The Sea Bean Cafe, a friendly local spot with Wi-Fi and plenty of vegan and gluten-free options. It also happens to boast one of the best breakfasts in town.

Croissants and other baked goods are made in-house, while the menu features an array of rotating specials. These range from baked oatmeal with fresh fruit to eggs Benedict with smoked salmon, and buttery Nutella bread.

The Mudd Hutt, meanwhile, is ideal for a quick cup on the go before an afternoon boat trip. Should you find yourself craving chocolate truffles and ice cream after your latte, head to Sweet Darlings. This family-run business makes all of its decadent treats from scratch.

Couple taking a picture in Alaska

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