Ketchikan cruise port is the ideal vision of an Alaskan town and offers a variety of things to do when taking a cruise to Ketchikan, Alaska. Ketchikan is known as the rainiest town in southeast Alaska, and mist arrives from the nearby fjords and settles over the sleepy, wood creek town, making early mornings quiet and dewy – perfect for a peaceful kayak ride through the Misty Fjords or an adventurous hike up Deer Mountain. Afternoons are best spent taste-testing the many local restaurants before perusing the adorable galleries and shops in town.
Next to the water, you’ll find the neat row of wooden buildings, known as Creek Street, which is in walking distance from the Ketchikan cruise port terminal. Today they are brightly painted boutiques, but their history tells a different story. Once Ketchikan’s red-light district, these used to house women who were available to gentlemen callers at all hours. A trip to the museum at Dolly’s House will give you a glimpse into the bawdy ways of frontier life that continued until the town’s red-light district was finally shut down in 1953.
Ketchikan is also home to the world’s largest collection of Northwest totem poles, each with its own recorded version of history through the use of visual art and carvings. Seeing totem poles is one of the top things to do in Ketchikan from a cruise ship, and there are many places in town to witness these fascinating story-telling works of art.
Visitors who cruise to Ketchikan on a Alaska cruise can find both the Visitor’s Bureau and the Visitor’s Center across from the terminal upon disembarkation. Both offer walking maps of the town if you prefer to explore on your own. Otherwise, there are many opportunities for discovering the town and surrounding fjords with local operators of kayaking, floatplane, and bicycle companies. It rains an average of 300 days every year in Ketchikan, so it’s recommended to bring rain-resistant clothing if you plan to go exploring.
The ideal way to see Alaska’s natural beauty, and possibly spot some native wildlife in their natural habitat is with a visit to the Alaskan rainforest. In Ketchikan, you’ll find the Wildlife Sanctuary and Eagle Center – home to black bears, bald eagles, birds, seals and more.
Experience some of the most spectacular landscape scenery in Alaska – including cascading waterfalls, majestic fjords, and towering granite cliffs hundreds of feet high.
Discover the exciting sport of wood-cutting, just like they do on ESPN. From chopping and chainsaw throwing, to relay races and speed climbing, this show is a must-see and fun for guests of all ages.
Although water temperatures only get as high as 65 degrees in the warmest part of winter, you’ll stay warm in your state-of-the-art 7mm wetsuit as you swim leisurely among diverse marine life and colorful sea species.
The Native American traditions that built and have defined Alaskan culture for decades are highlighted and celebrated at the Saxman Native Totem Village. The Totem Park here holds one of the largest gatherings of authentic totem poles in the world, and guests can watch a master totem pole carver at work on a masterpiece in the Village Carving Center. Enjoy a song and dance that depicts traditional tribal heritage in the Beaver Clan House.
When looking for things to do in Ketchikan from a cruise ship, you may want to get onto another boat. So is the case on the Bering Sea crab fishing shore excursion. You’ll board the Aleutian Ballad, where you’ll enjoy the view from your heated, sheltered seat and watch as the skilled crew haul and set lines and barrels and take in huge, 700-pound king crab pots.
Whether you’re a skilled fisherman or out for your first time, you can learn to fish like the Alaskan locals. With a Sheakespeare rod and Penn 320 reel in your hands, discover the techniques and local seasonal fish that make the Alaskan anglers some of the best in the world. The 15 to 30 pound “chicken” halibut are perhaps the most delectable catch in the area, but halibut that weigh over 100 pounds are also caught here.
Soar over the top of a rainforest canopy on an adrenaline-pumping ride over 6,000 feet of high tension cables and three aerial bridges. From your amazing vantage point over 135 feet in the air, witness the stunning beauty of the Alaskan rainforest, surrounding waterways and lush greenery.
Enjoy a serene kayak adventure among the islands in Tongass National Forest. As you paddle, you’ll learn about the naturally formed wonders that make up the temperate rainforest. Also, keep an eye out for sightings of bald eagles, minks, deer, seals, sea lions, porpoise, and even whales.
Deep in the heart of Ketchikan’s wilderness, discover the rush of driving a Tomcar Kart down a private road. Over the mountainous trails of the breathtaking Tongass National Forest, speed through the otherwise untouched and rugged outdoors in your open-air all-terrain vehicle. Your off-roading adventure will take you through the natural beauty of the Alaskan frontier, including winding and sometimes steep dirt road trails, as well as breathtaking vistas of the Inside Passage channel. Beyond the channel, snow-capped peaks line the horizon, offering you the ideal setting for your adventure. While you zoom down dirt roads, watch for local wildlife, including bald eagles, deer, and black bears.
George Inlet Crab Feast
Savor the world-famous flavors of fresh-caught crab at George Inlet Crab Feast.
Alaska Fish House
Perhaps the most well-known and finest fresh Alaskan seafood in Ketchikan, the Alaska Fish House is only a short walk from the cruise terminal. Taste a complimentary sample of delicious smoked salmon cornbread while perusing the menu of gourmet seafood, including alder-grilled salmon, crab, halibut and chips, and smoked salmon chowder. Purchase some smoked salmon to ship to yourself and enjoy when you get home.
Sourdough Cocktail Bar
Fun, friendly, and casual, the Sourdough Cocktail Bar is a great bar with a great atmosphere. Local bands come to play live while you eat, and many who work at or frequent the bar have stories to tell of local fishing adventures.
Annabelle's Famous Keg and Chowder House
Delicious food and friendly staff, as well as the generously large portions, draw crowds to Annabelle’s Famous Keg and Chowder House.
Cape Fox Lodge
With a diverse menu, delicious food, and plenty of fascinating local artifacts to peruse in the lobby, the Cape Fox Lodge appeals to all ages and travelers of all types.
Ketchikan is full of the heritage and traditions of Native Americans and Native Alaskans – from Chief Johnson’s Totem Pole in the town’s center to designs on colorfully-painted city buses.
Totem Heritage Center
Ketchikan is home to the largest collection of totem poles in Alaska, and one of the largest in the world, featuring some that were added very recently and some carved over 100 years ago. While in the Ketchikan cruise port, you can discover the unique history and traditions of the natives to this area at the Totem Heritage Center, where you can take classes in Native arts and peruse the extensive collection of native artifacts, including button robes, cedar bark baskets, ancient totem poles, beaded regalia, and many other exquisite hand-crafted works of art reflecting the heritage of the local native tribes. Fascinating tours offer a more in-depth dive into the traditional art and culture of the surrounding native tribes.
Tongass Historical Museum
In the heart of Ketchikan, visit the Tongass Historical Museum to view incredible exhibits that feature photographs, works of art, and artifacts while learning about the fascinating history of Alaska's first city.
Saxman Native Village
A visit to Saxman Native Village and Saxman’s Totem Row Park is a completely unique experience in that you can discover a captivating collection of traditional Alaska native carvings while visiting a thriving Alaska native community. You can also get to know about the Tlingit culture and learn more about the native traditions through presentations and tours of Saxman Native Village.
Organized Village of Kasaan
Explore Náay Í'waans (Chief Son-i-Hat Whale House) and the Kasaan Totems Historic District on your own or take advantage of one of the tribe’s owned and operated Tribal Tours. Visit the Totem Trail Café and the Discovery Cabins close to the trailhead.
The Ketchikan cruise port can hold four cruise ships. At times, the port will be full of ships already docked and your ship will need to tender into Ketchikan. If your ship does send you by tender, you will be dropped off in downtown Ketchikan.
Ketchikan has great local transportation. During the summer months (May to September), two shuttles run between the port terminals and various key locations in downtown Ketchikan. These stop at each location many times a day and are free to the public. The bus service through town runs all year round, stopping at popular destinations including Saxman Park, Totem Bight, and Ward Cove. Fares are very inexpensive at only $1 USD per person, per ride, and every bus in town is wheelchair accessible.
Look for the two buses in the fleet that are also mobile works of art painted by Ray Troll and Oliver Martin. Depicted in the murals on the buses are colorful salmon – the primary industry of the area and the heart of Ketchikan’s economy.
Taxis are also available, but it is recommended to call a taxi service ahead of time to reserve, as the taxi company may have limited hours and vehicles running on any given day.
Ketchikan is a great place for souvenir shopping. The best area to find souvenirs you’ll love is Creek Street, where you’ll find trinkets with historic value as well as unique local treasures like hand-carved totem poles.
While the ruggedness and natural untouched wilderness is the primary reason why many choose to cruise to Ketchikan, Alaska, the area is not without its modern-day conveniences and comforts. With regular deliveries from major shipping companies and barge services, you’ll find everything you need here, from fresh produce and home and auto goods to basic necessities.
If you’re looking for souvenirs for you or your loved ones, taking home a hand-carved totem pole, hand-painted drum, or a rare, hand-woven cedar bark basket is the perfect Ketchikan souvenir – if you have room in your suitcase, that is. If you’re opting for something smaller and more lightweight, look around for authentic Alaska native art such as masks, paintings, prints, small sculptures, fine jewelry, glassware, or ivory and jade carvings of all shapes and sizes. Additionally, you’ll find one-of-a-kind local treasures, such as locally canned smoked salmon, antiques, and other unique Alaskan goods.
To make sure you buy authentic Alaskan goods, be sure to look for the easily-recognizable official “Made in Alaska” symbol on your new souvenirs. This ensures that the item you’re buying was made in Alaska by a resident artist, craftsperson, or manufacturer. You’ll also find the well-known “Silver Hand” emblem on many items, signifying that they were handcrafted by an Alaska Native.
The official currency in Ketchikan is the United States dollar (USD or $). ATMs can be found in various places in the port and around town. All major credit cards are widely accepted, even for small transactions. It is common for small vendors to either accept ONLY cash or ONLY credit cards. For this reason, it’s best to have both on hand, just in case. The tagged price of an item does not reflect tax and gratuities, so be prepared for prices to go up at checkout.
Each state in the U.S. has the authority to set its own taxation rates, and the state sales tax in Alaska is currently 0%. As a general rule in the U.S, most states do add a sales tax between 2.9% and 10% of the retail price (4% to 6% is the typical range for most states) but it is rarely included in posted prices. Instead, it is calculated and added to the total when you pay.
It is generally considered customary to tip in the US. Although there is some debate about the correct tipping customs, and most of the time, it is a case-by-case basis, some generally-accepted standard rates are as follows:
A general guideline to tipping:
Restaurants: 15% to 20% of total bill before tax
Bar Tenders: $1 to $2 per drink or 15% of total
Bellhops: $1 to $2 per bag
Hotel Doorman: $1 per bag, 1$ for calling a cab
Taxi Drivers, Hairdressers, personal services: 10% to 15%
Shuttle bus drivers: $2 to $5
Private Car drivers: 15% to 20%
Housekeeping in Hotels: $1 to $2 per day
To explore further into Alaska and the Canadian Rockies, you can extend your cruise with a Cruisetour. This allows you to travel inland via motorcoach and railway exploring Anchorage, the largest city in Alaska, Talkeetna, Girdwood (Alyeska) and Denali National Park, taking in the views of the highest mountain peak in North America. Cruisetours include the finest hotel accommodations, a local dedicated Alaskan/Canadian Tour Director, luxury transportation, and some activities.