Alaska is cruising paradise for nature fans, landscape photographers and those wanting to explore pristine wilderness areas. Known for its impressive mountains, numerous glaciers and many hiking trails, it’s a cruising destination like no other. You can kayak iceberg-filled fjords, go whale and bear watching in summer, or visit later in the season for the Northern Lights.
Whichever month you visit, don’t miss our top must-see Alaska cruise destinations:
3. Inside Passage
Stretching for over 500 miles from Puget Sound into the Gulf of Alaska, this seemingly never-ending passage is a photographer’s dream. It is packed with stunning scenes at every turn and abundant wildlife.
Shaped by glaciers, the landscapes constantly change and include imposing mountains, crisp blue icebergs, deep fjords and over 1000 islands. It’s a must-do for wildlife fans and active cruisers alike.
Be sure to visit in spring for the wildflower blooms, or summer to spot seals and whales. Either way, remember to bring your raincoat. The Inside Passage is renowned for high rainfall all year.
4. Glacier Bay National Park
Some Alaska cruises spend their entire itinerary at Glacier Bay National Park and understandably so. This UNESCO Biosphere Reserve is the largest in the world, home to dramatic glacier scenery and wildlife watching opportunities.
Cruise there and you can enjoy kayaking, visiting local villages or just admire the non-stop parade of glaciers passing by. Be sure to keep your eyes peeled for calving glaciers and have your camera ready.
Summer is the best time to visit for warmth, with April to June being the driest months. That said, a visit in winter gives you the chance to capture fog-shrouded landscapes ideal for moody photography.
5. Tracy Arm Fjord
At 30 miles long, this narrow fjord is smaller than others but equally as spectacular. It is home to some of Alaska’s largest glaciers and the waters are dotted with blue icebergs. Forest-covered shores are home to impressive waterfalls and the fjord hosts numerous harbour seals, whales and eagles. You can relax into the scenery or get active with some hiking and kayaking.
If you want to see humpbacks and orcas, the area just north of Tracy Arm is the place to go during the summer months. Be sure to keep searching for their distinctive blows as you pass by.
6. Chicagof Island
Love bears? Don’t miss a visit to Chicagof Island if so. Home to the largest population of bears per square meter in the world, you have a great chance of spotting bears there in late summer.
Once you’ve had your fill of bear-spotting, you can take in the plunging fjords from a kayak whilst searching for porpoises, seals and whales. Hikers are spoilt for choice too, with guided hikes along the coast and more hiking options further inland.
7. Baranof Island
Just a hop across the Peril Strait from Chicagof Island, Baranof Island is home to Sitka. There are small islands dotted along the coast and hidden coves waiting to be discovered.
Hiking on Baranof is popular, with nature spotting hikes, community visits, lake hikes and bathing in hot springs on offer. Don’t miss the Tongass National Forest while you’re there. If you’re lucky you might see Sitka deer and bears.
Sitting on the southern part of Baranof Island, Sitka is visited by relatively few cruise ships but a stop there is well worth it.
This picturesque town has plenty of cultural activities, a rich Russian heritage and many historical attractions to discover. There are also numerous scenic hiking trails to enjoy.
9. Misty Fjords National Monument
East of Ketchikan, this national monument is Alaska’s second largest wilderness destination. A visit there will see you exploring flourishing rainforests, snow-capped mountains and huge glacial lakes.
10. Brothers Islands
These rocky islands are two of the best for Alaska wildlife spotting. A popular choice with cruisers, you can spend time there spotting a variety of whale species, porpoises, sea lions and birds.
11. Admiralty Island
Admiralty Island is another great place for bear-spotting during July and August, plus Sitka deer, bald eagles and more. If you want to spot the eagles, head to the islands’ dense forests. You can also discover a series of lakes, a mine and lighthouse on the island.
12. Prince of Wales Island
The USA’s fourth-largest island, Prince of Wales Island is home to the biggest cave in Alaska – El Capitan Cave. Take a guided-hike through the expansive cave system and you’ll be marveling at impressive rock formations and learning about the cave’s history.
If you’re a fan of fishing, don’t miss this salmon capital of the world. You can go on an adventure fishing cruise, taste the different local fish delicacies and learn more about the local way of life.
Dating back to the 1880s, Ketchikan is a popular choice for culture-hungry cruisers and hosts the largest collection of standing totem poles in the world. Visit in summer and you’ll also have the chance to see humpback whales off the coast.
The capital of Alaska, Juneau is surrounded by mountains and vibrant green landscapes. You won’t be short of things to do as you explore the town and discover its eateries, shops and history. The Alaska State Museum is ideal for learning more about Alaska’s history.
Be sure to Hike up Mount Roberts for panoramic views across the city or take the Mount Roberts Tramway to the top if you’re short on time.
13. Hubbard Glacier
This isolated glacier may be less well-known than Tracy Arm or Glacier Bay, but it is unmissable. It is the largest tidewater glacier in North America and is still advancing to the sea, unlike many other glaciers.
This huge glacier is very active, calving all summer long, and towers over passing cruise ships.
If you want to see an authentic mining town, be sure to visit Skagway. The town’s historic district hosts 100 buildings from the gold rush era and is truly fascinating.
The White Pass and Yukon Route narrow-gauge railway is a popular excursion from Skagway. The railway reaches up into the mountains, following the route taken on foot by Klondike gold prospectors as they searched for gold.
Also Read: When is the Best Time to Cruise Alaska?
15. The Northern Lights
Whilst not a destination, we couldn’t miss the Aurora Borealis. There is nothing quite like gazing at the night-sky to see it filled with green lights arcing across the sky.
Whilst the best months for Northern Lights viewing don’t match the Alaska cruise season very well, you can maximize your chances by visiting at the start or end of the cruise season. Early May or late September both offer longer darkness hours than summer and a chance to see the lights on a clear night. If you can visit in April, that’s even better.