Unforgettable Alaska: Top Ketchikan Shore Excursions

Ketchikan Alaska

Ketchikan was originally a salmon cannery site, established in 1885. It has grown from its fishing roots to become a hub of logging and tourism.

The city sits on forested slopes facing Tongass Narrows and is home to several streets lined with shops and houses perched on wooden pilings above the water.

Floatplanes, fishing vessels, ferries, and barges zoom around the harbour all day.

Downtown Ketchikan is built along the shore of Tongass Narrows, across which you’ll find booming harbours and cruise-ship berths that can handle number of ships simultaneously.

Ketchikan Downtown
Aerial shot of Ketchikan Downtown

Historic Creek Street is a boardwalk over Ketchikan Creek; it’s lined with quaint buildings converted into shops. For a leisurely waterfront stroll or jog, head south from downtown to the Waterfront Promenade (start at Second Avenue).

The Misty Fjords National Monument lies just 22 miles east of Ketchikan but is reachable only by boat or floatplane.

This preserve encompasses more than 2 million acres of wilderness — including rugged sea cliffs and fjords that plunge deep into the ocean — as well as hundreds of islands that are home to black bears, mountain goats, wolves and bald eagles.

Totem Bight State Historical Park

Totem Bight State Historical Park preserves several original structures from abandoned native villages along beaches near Ketchikan.

Totem poles — some newly carved by Tlingit and Haida carvers — were transported there in the ’30s. The park also includes a replica Native village with Clan House.

While exploring on your own is welcome at Totem Bight State Historical Park, it’s best to go with a guide who can provide context and share some of the totems’ fascinating stories.

Totem pole in Ketchikan
Totem pole in Ketchikan

In addition to viewing the totem poles, guests can explore the Clan House and discover more about what it’s like to be a family for the local indigenous tribes. You may see wildlife along the Tongass Narrows from an observation deck.

A visit to the historic Guard Island Lighthouse, a nature walks through the Alaskan rainforest to discover more about the native trees and flora of Tongass National Forest, or a combination of these activities can be added to a tour of the park.

Every day of the year, the park is open. Rain and light mist are possible at any time.
From early May to late September is high season. The driest months are often April and May, when there are the most chances to see wildlife.

If you intend to use the park’s nature paths, especially, make sure you wear sturdy, waterproof shoes appropriate for walking over uneven surfaces.

Saxman Native Village

Saxman Native Village is a place to celebrate all things Alaskan, Tlingit: totem poles, folklore and dance, lumberjack feats, and woodcarvers.

The village provides an introduction to the customs and culture of Alaska’s Indigenous population and boasts the largest collection of totems you’re likely to see.

It’s one of the best places in Ketchikan to learn more about Alaska’s Indigenous cultures. Visitors can tour the grounds on their own or sign up for a 2-hour village tour led by an Alaskan Native.

Saxman village native dance Ketchikan Alaska
Saxman Native Dance

These tours often include a tour of Totem Park, a visit to the carving shed, and a traditional drumming and dancing performance.
For those with ample free time (and good hiking boots), consider taking a pair of short walking paths through the rainforest offer glimpses of some of Alaska’s regional flora.

Saxman Native Village is also home to many artists who sell their hand-carved works here; it’s definitely worth browsing their shops if you are interested in art and Alaska Natives.

Creek Street

Every gold rush town in Alaska had a red-light district at one point, but Ketchikan is one of the few that still has its own version of the old bordello hub.

While you’re in town, take a stroll along Creek Street, which used to be home to 30 brothels operating above Ketchikan Creek.

Prostitution wasn’t outlawed here until 1954, and it was only illegal to transact business on dry land, so the elevated boardwalk built on stilts above the creek is technically legal.

Creek street Ketchikan Alaska
Creek Street

Today you’ll find shops and galleries behind these brightly painted buildings, including Dolly’s House Museum, which tells tales of Creek Street’s long-lost glory days.

The boardwalk is something of an icon for Ketchikan now, so it’s hard to think of any tour that doesn’t include a walk down it. A particularly popular way to enjoy the neighbourhood is on a guided pub crawl to some of Ketchikan’s favourite watering holes.

Visit Creek Street only in summer if you want to see spawning salmon from Salmon Ladder. June is generally warmest with fewest crowds. Check the cruise ship schedule and come when there are fewer ships docked if you want to avoid jostling shoulders with other travellers.Creek Street: It’s on every list of things tourists should do in Ketchikan for good reason.

Bring your camera—Creek Street may be the most picturesque spot in all of Ketchikan.

Ketchikan Duck Tour

Take this 90-minute journey around Ketchikan and learn about the city from your guide as you drive through Tongass Narrows.
Pass by many giant totem poles during your time in Ketchikan Catch glimpses of wildlife such as seals and porpoises from your vehicle.

Enjoy convenient pickup and drop-off at the cruise terminal, see many parts of Ketchikan that larger vehicles can’t access on this unique sightseeing tour.

Climb aboard a modern amphibian that can travel on both land and water for a half hour drive through the Tongass Narrows, then continue onto land for an extended tour of the city.

This kind of vehicle can bring you to more parts of town than other, larger vehicles can reach. Your guide will provide you with commentary about the city’s history and culture along the way.

Halibut and Salmon Fishing Charter

Get out on the water during this fun fishing adventure Use provided gear so you don’t have to buy or pack your own. Tackle halibut and four types of salmon during this trip.

Small-group or private charter ensures personalized service Convenient pickup and drop-off at Ketchikan cruise terminal included Take advantage of fishing in Alaska’s waters by booking this tour were you fish for halibut and different species of salmon.

salmon fishing Alaska
Salmon Catch

Even if you’re not comfortable baiting your line or reeling in your catch, your experienced captain can show you how it’s done so you won’t miss out on catching something delicious for dinner.

Eagle Island Sea Kayaking

Take a guided shore excursion by kayak around Eagle Island, which is located within the Tongass National Forest, while your ship is moored in Ketchikan.

As you paddle around the island in the sheltered waters of Clover Pass, you may see bald eagles, seals, salmon, and maybe even humpbacks and orcas.

The calm waters offer a great chance for both novice and expert kayakers to experience the Alaskan environment.

Misty Fjords National Monument Floatplane Tour

Come fly the mystic skies of Misty Fjords National Monument on this one-hour flight tour.

Climb into a floatplane and glide above the lakes, cliffs, and waterfalls of Misty Fjords, a piece of Tongass National Forest that blankets over two million acres (900,000 hectares) of alpine wilderness.

Your pilot uses your headset to provide commentary while you’re in the air. Fly past Ketchikan and over the Tongass Narrows, an area of sea between Ketchikan and Gravina Island.

misty-fjord tour alaska
view from floatplane

About 40 miles (64 km) east of town, at Misty Fjords National Monument, you can soar above Revillagigedo Island and gaze in awe at the beauty of Tongass National Forest.

Admire vistas of fjords, cliffs, and sheer rock walls rising out of the water while passing through the low-lying mist that lends the area its name.

Spruce and hemlock trees cover the steep slopes, while waterfalls tumble down slender granite passageways. Flying over Rudyard Bay, the floatplane provides an amazing view of New Eddystone Rock, which is a remnant of the early volcanic activity.

Mahoney Lake Off-Road UTV Tour

Venture the off-beaten path while driving a utility-task vehicle (UTV) on the way to Mahoney Lake. Traverse up mountainous off-road trails along George Inlet Fjords, Tongass National Forest, and Mahoney Lake which is located north of Beaver Falls.

Along the journey take breaks to enjoy views spot wildlife and have lunch that consists of smoked reindeer links on a bun with hot chocolate or coffee.

Get into your UTV and go off-roading; it offers a comfortable and adventurous combination. As you enjoy the scenery, take the wheel and pass the reins to your other explorers.

UTV offroad tour Alaska
UTV tour

Take in the lively downtown of Ketchikan, which is home to totem poles, eateries, and historic sites, as you drive by. Then, make your way over rocky paths and take in the Tongass National Forest, Mahoney Lake, and the George Inlet Fjords.

As you travel between each location Lastly, keep an eye out for the Ward Cove Pulp Mill, which has been converted into Southeast Alaska’s newest cruise line destination.

There are lots of independent stores and eateries, historic sites, Creek Street, local artwork, totem poles, and other things to see in downtown Ketchikan. Discover the town’s past, the various industries that have existed over time, and other amusing tales from small towns.

Conclusion: Crafting Memories that Last a Lifetime

One thing is for sure in Ketchikan – it doesn’t disappoint when it comes to tours and activities! With so many different options you’re sure to find one that fits what you’re looking for.

Unravel the mystery behind our Totem poles, Paddle through hidden coves or soar above our beautiful fjords – whatever you choose we know you’ll leave here with an unforgettable memory from our unique Alaskan town.

Once you embark on your journey from Ketchikan, you’ll have more than just stunning memories to hold onto. A newfound respect for Alaska’s untamed beauty and rich cultural heritage will also be in tow.

Ketchikan is calling you to come back; urging you to take the plunge into its wonders, uncovering the hidden gems that are biding their time until you visit them.

Frequently Asked Questions:

What is the best time to visit Ketchikan?

Ketchikan enjoys a mild climate year-round. The summer months (June-August) offer pleasant temperatures and long daylight hours, perfect for outdoor adventures. Shoulder seasons (May and September) boast smaller crowds and comfortable weather. Winter (December-March) transforms Ketchikan into a winter wonderland, with opportunities for viewing the Northern Lights.

How do I get to Ketchikan?

Ketchikan is a popular cruise ship destination. Several cruise lines offer itineraries that include Ketchikan as a port of call. Alternatively, you can reach Ketchikan by plane via Ketchikan International Airport (KTN).

What is there to do in Ketchikan besides shore excursions?

Ketchikan offers a variety of activities beyond organized tours. Explore the downtown area, with shops selling locally-made crafts and fresh seafood. Learn about Ketchikan’s rich history at the Ketchikan Museum. Indulge in fresh seafood at a waterfront restaurant, savouring the bounty of the Alaskan seas. Ketchikan offers something for everyone, ensuring an unforgettable visit.

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