Seward is the southern terminus of the Alaska Railroad. The picturesque harbour with its colorful wood-frame houses and background of soaring cliffs looks out on Resurrection Bay. From downtown Anchorage you can view two active volcanoes, the highest point on the continent of North America (Mount McKinley), and six major mountain ranges.
The busy city and port of Anchorage is the most northerly city in the United States and the largest in Alaska. Moose are frequently seen within the city boundaries, with frequent wildlife-viewing tours from Anchorage to Kodiak Island and Brooks River to see bears, and Beluga Whales around Cook Inlet. The Wells Fargo Museum exhibits native artefacts and the work of local artists.
At the northern end of the Inside Passage, College Fjord has some of the best glacial scenery on the Alaskan coast. There are five tidewater glaciers which calve large chunks of ice into the sea, and dozens of smaller ones named after Ivy League colleges by the Harriman Expedition which discovered College Fjord in 1899. In the summer, humpback whales feed in the waters.
Denali National Park
Denali National Park and Preserve is a sub-arctic wilderness area of 6 million acres dominated by 20,000-foot Mt McKinley, North America's highest peak. Crossed by broad rivers and lakes and with hardy plant life, the scenery is spectacular. The variety of wildlife which can be spotted includes grizzly and black bears, moose, wolves, golden eagles, snowshoe hares and dall sheep.
A Biosphere Reserve and UNESCO World Heritage Site, Glacier Bay National Park protects a unique ecosystem of plants and animals within a changing glacial landscape of deep-water fjords, freshwater lakes, all backed by the snow-capped mountains of Mount St Elias. When ice blocks tumble from the glacier into the sea the sound is like thunder and the impact shoots water hundreds of feet into the air. Glacier Bay has more actively calving tidewater glaciers than anywhere else in the world.
The 76-mile long Hubbard Glacier is the longest tidewater glacier on the American continent, and is one of Alaska's few advancing glaciers. 'White Thunder' is the Tlingit name for its creaks and groans as it calves huge ice blocks into the sea and moves forward. Its sheer edges rise up to 400ft above the sea and 300ft below, and ice floes carry along resting seals and sea otters.
Juneau is the capital of Alaska, and has the Alaska State Museum, rustic shops and excellent restaurants, but it is the scenery which is the main attraction. Located at the foot of grand mountain peaks on the Gastineau Channel, the massive, 12-mile long Mendenhall Glacier and the immense Juneau Icefields are at Juneau's back door. Inland is the lush Tongass National Forest, and the Mt. Roberts Tramway which takes passengers up to mountain hiking trails.
Ketchikan is situated inside Tongass National Forest, and its charming wooden boardwalk, Creek Street, is one of America's finest, housing restaurants and galleries exhibiting work from local artists. The town is known for its totems, and Totem Bight State Park and Saxman Village give interesting insights into traditional native culture. Misty Fjords National Monument is a pristine stretch of saltwater surrounded by towering cliffs and waterfalls where the wildlife includes black bear, mountain goats, killer whales and porpoises.
Sitka began as a Tlingit Indian village. It has a distinctive Onion-domed church, St Michael's Orthodox cathedral, a reminder of the days when Sitka was a Russian fur-trading port. Totems line the trail through Sitka National Historic Park. Its gift shops sell native arts and crafts and Russian giftware and restaurants serve up a varied cuisine, including Russian, Mexican, Italian and Chinese. The coast is the habitat of hump-back whales, sea otters and puffins, and brown bears are a common sight on land.
Skagway is a busy port at the northern end of the Inside Passage, well-known for the historic Klondike Gold Rush National Park, the Arctic Brotherhood Hall, decorated with driftwood and founded by gold prospectors, and the White Pass and Yukon Route Railroad. The route climbs 3000 feet in 26 miles and was carved out of the mountains to serve the Gold Rush during 1898 in a remarkable feat of engineering. The Klondike National Park has restored buildings housing lively saloons and dance halls harking back to the Gold Rush era.
The long fjord of Tracy Arm is one of Alaska's major sights, dominated by the twin, blue-tinged Sawyer Glaciers which calve large chunks of ice into the fjord with dramatic effect. Seals bask on large icebergs, and kittiwakes, Arctic terns, seals and sometimes humpback whales can be spotted, along with bears and mountain goats which live around the granite canyons, waterfalls and forest where the ice has retreated.