Juneau - Port Guide
Karen's Quick Guide
Where is the ship/how to get to the sights?
In Juneau the ships dock right next to the town. There are four berths and all are within just a couple of minutes walk from the town’s main sights, so no tender boats or shuttle buses required. Very occasionally if there are more ships, that last one to dock will have to tender (but I’ve only experienced this once since 2005).
What is it Known For?
Juneau is the capital city of Alaska, was founded in the gold rush era, has the second largest population (34,000) and administrative headquarters for the state, and no roads connect to it. You can only get into or out of the city by air or sea. The town has fun rowdy local bars, Alaskan eateries and historic buildings, and is good for shopping for souvenirs and practical items. Nature is easy to access and close, just head up Mount Roberts by cable car or hiking, out to Mendenhall Glacier just a few miles away or hop on one of the many nature-centric tours available.
Spring: (April-May): 12-17 degrees Celsius (about 54-70 degrees Fahrenheit).
Summer: (June-August): 15-25 degrees Celsius (about 60-80 degrees Fahrenheit.
Autumn: (September. No ships are in Alaska from October-March). This is the start of Autumn with snow sometimes and temperatures general dropping a lot by the end of the month and cruise ship season to around 5-10 degrees Celsius (40-50 degrees Fahrenheit).
The weather in Alaska can seem to have four seasons in one day, so bring layers.
It can rain in any season, on any day, even days that look very sunny when you head out, but April and September are usually the rainiest. Expect the unexpected with weather in Alaska and never leave the ship without your umbrella and a rain jacket just in case.
Sights & Sights
Walking around Juneau gives you a good taste of Alaskan life. It is full of shops with souvenirs, local crafts, and some practical stores. There are great rowdy local bars to enjoy the drinks and company of locals, and some fantastic local seafood. The character-filled Red Dog Saloon is always a hit with guests, while the Viking Bar is a crew favorite.
Location: Right next to the dock.
Times: all day.
Mount Roberts Tramway
Located right next to the docks, its easy to spot the tramway to glide up to the 1,800ft (549m) level of Mount Roberts quickly and in comfort. The ride up in itself is fun as, along with gorgeous views of the Gastineau Channel, your ship, the town and forests beyond as you go up. The company is owned by an Alaska native corporation, the staff will entertain you on the way up telling you stories of their culture, or if you’re lucky, sing or play native drums. Crewmembers, show your ID when buying tickets, as they offer a discount for just $10, space permitting. When you get to the top, check out the theatre where films and live shows about Tlingit culture. There is a shop selling native arts, and a restaurant with panoramic views of the area here too. Make sure to check out the outpost of the Juneau Raptor Center and say hi to Lady the American eagle, who lives in an enclosure before heading out to hike. She can’t fly anymore following an accident, so greets visitors.
Location: Right by where the ships dock.
Times: Tramway runs from 9am until 9pm, leaving every few minutes.
Cost: Booking direct $33, or visit as part of a ship shore excursion.
Hiking Mount Roberts
Downtown Juneau lies in the shadow of Mount Roberts and it is a great place to engage with Alaskan nature and is easy to get to.
If you’re feeling energetic, you can hike up the path to the top, its a two-mile steep hike and takes around 40-60 minutes, or hop on the Mount Roberts Tramway and get there in seven to the 1,800ft level (549m).
Once you’re there, there are several hiking trails you can follow to explore at this height. Just beyond the nature centre there are flower-filled alpine meadows. Walk half a mile more to see the wooden cross landmark, where you can get great views of Juneau and neighboring town Douglas.
Or venture further up towards the top of the second mountain peak – Mount Gatineau, crossing the ridge and walking to its peak, which sits at 3,819ft 1,164m. Timings and routes are shown so pick what you fancy based on how much time or energy you’ve got. You can take a short walk around the main loop in about 20 minutes, or head along the Golden Ridge trail to the subalpine and alpine habitat spending hour or two exploring the area’s flora and fauna looking out for porcupine, bears and mountain goats that frequent the area. If you have lots of time you can follow the Mount Roberts Trail, which takes you back down the mountain to the northeast ridge of downtown about 4.5 miles (7.2km) away. Stay on the marked paths when out walking.
Location: Up Mount Roberts. The mountain is right by the ship and takes about 40 minutes to hike up, and seven minutes on the tramway.
Times: All day, but don’t hike away from lights after dark.
Cost: Hiking free.
Red Dog Saloon
The Red Dog Saloon is a character-filled bar which has been an old-favourite since gold rush times. This popular cowboy style bar always offers entertainment, including dancing saloon girls, guitar playing and singing cowboys. It gained notoriety as somewhat of a sinner’s haven in days of old and continues to be frequented for its local beer, entertainment and souvenir shop.
Location: Corner of South Franklin Street, right next to docks.
Times: Open from 10am-midnight.
Cost: No fee to enter, but you must buy drinks and/or food.
Mendenhall Glacier is 13 miles long from its base, and its face is half a mile wide. It is one of the must-see things in Juneau. When sunny, the ice gleams and the snow-capped mountains behind it are perfectly framed. On gloomy days – which there are more of – it can be even more striking with the ice showing many shades of blue.
Its Visitor Centre is fantastic. It is small museum showing the glacier’s formation, history and path as well as giving information about the local wildlife. There is a short 11-minute film on how the glacier was formed, and you can even touch a piece of it. There are various trails that you can take that start outside the centre, with maps available inside.
The shortest is the Trail of Time, which is a half a mile loop if you don’t have much time there. The East Glacier Loop is a 2.8 mile loop that takes you to the top of Nugget Falls to look down on the waterfalls, plus a good vista of the glacier on the way, and is worth taking if you have the time.
Lots of wildlife live around here, and I’ve personally seen porcupines, owls and bears on the trails here.
My top tip: Talk to one of the rangers before starting your walk here, and ask them if there’s been any wildlife sightings today – particularly bears. I experienced my best bear sighting here, getting to see a brown bear munch away on salmon just about 15ft away from me. I was on the trail on a small bridge crossing the river above the bear, so was quite safe. The reason I managed to have this close experience – with no other tourists around except my family I was with – was after asking a ranger about bear-sightings, and she radioed other rangers and told me the perfect spot to go to. So ask the rangers – they are very knowledgeable and friendly!
To get there, you can visit as part of a ship shore excursion, or take an independent tour that you can arrange on the dock, or take the local bus. Local bus goes there leaving about every 20 minutes and costs $12 return, dropping off by the Visitor Centre.
Location: 6000 Glacier Spur Road
Times: Trails, open while it is light. Visitor centre 8am-7.30pm daily.
Cost: Free for centre and trails, just pay for transport to get there.
Juneau is one of the best places in the world to go whale watching. If you are a whale fan, this is the activity for you.
Humpback whales spend much of the summer months in the nearby Stephens Passage feeding on the abundant fish with their calves. You can take a ship or independent tour to see the whales. Tours are usually around 3-4 hours, and if you have a late sail, you can take an evening tour near sunset for gorgeous views over the passage and Auke Bay. Many companies offer refunds if you don’t see at least one whale during the height of whale season as they are pretty much guaranteed to see then, but check if you’re there at the end of the season check dates with local whale watching sites for when whales are expected to be around as they start to migrate over to Hawaii in September.
I’ve always loved whales – and humpbacks were always by favourite – and I saw them in the flesh for the first time in Juneau in 2009. I went on a whale watching tour on a small boat, and a mother and her calf came right up to us. The pair were so close the boat had to back away from them to keep the 30ft rule. The mother was happily eating krill, and her baby seemed fascinated with this little boat bobbing about by them. The baby seemed to be playing for us, splashing his huge fins, diving then jumping and crashing out of the water in a carefree way. It was absolutely magical.
Location: All tours leave from Auke Bay. Ship tours you’d join from the ship, local independent tours leave from the dock, just to the left (towards town) from the ships.
Times: Times match with port docking times, which vary, so check onboard or with local tour operators.
Cost: Varies from who you book with, but from about $90.
Husky dog sled camp
One of my favourite tours in Juneau is to visit the Husky Dog Sled Camp with the ship shore excursions.
Located out of town, you’re taken up there on a 30 minute drive, and you’ll hear the 200 dogs before you see them. The camp shows how the dogs are looked after, trained, where they live. You’ll be given information on Alaska’s famous Iditerod race, shown equipment used and the route along with stories about this tough sport, then you get to go on a buggy and be pulled around by a team of huskies.
My favourite part is getting to meet the enthusiastic and friendly dogs afterwards. The guides let you know which dogs like to be petted and which are shy, but most of them love the attention. Being surrounded by 200 beautiful dogs and petting as many of them as time allows is my idea of a wonderful day.
Location: 30 minutes outside town, you have to take a ship tour to get to it.
Times: Varies depending on docking times, but usually right after docking.
Cost: Check with cruise lines shore excursions as may vary slightly.
Most of the tours from here are centered on seeing the wildlife in the area. The main animals the tours go to see are humpback whales, dolphins, bears, puffins, porcupines and eagles. Check what the likelihood of sightings are at the time of year you’re booking for before you book, and if there are any refunds or partial refunds if you don’t see anything too if you wish to double check.
Location: On tours either with ship or independently.
Times: Vary depending on docking times, but usually right after docking.
Cost: Vary depending on tour but generally from around $30-150
If you need any practical supplies, Juneau Drug is the closest spot in the downtown area. If you need any over the counter medical supplies, sun lotion, make up, toiletries or snacks, this is the closest good spot.
Larger supermarkets are about 15 minutes drive outside of town. There used to be a Walmart, but it was kind of run out of town by locals who wanted to support smaller local businesses in favor of the mega-corporation. Now there is a Fred Meyer and a couple more smaller - but bigger than in town – stores. You can take the local bus out to the area if you want more options for practical items like toiletries and laundry detergent and foodstuffs. The bus goes from the Downtown Transit Center on Egan Drive, central Main Street. Bus costs $2 each way, exact change needed.
The Post Office is located on South Franklin Street and is a small and cute mom and pop style shop worth visiting even if you don’t need to post anything. As well as usual post office services, it has a pretty shop with locally designed greetings cards, prints by local artists and small gift items.
Rainy Retreat Books
If you like reading, this character-filled bookshop will be a great stop for you. They sell new and used books, with some rare books and early or first editions. It supports local writers too with local writers selling their tomes there and often having book-signing events when ships are in. Located on Seward Street next door to the Rookery restaurant.
My recommended independent tours
Below are a few great tours I would recommend doing in Juneau.
Juneau sells all manner of Alaskan souvenirs.
You can find Native Alaskan items, such as native style Ulu knives, Native paintings and carvings in some of the locally run stores. There are fur coats, rugs, and even bikinis in some stores.
Mainstream souvenirs with Alaska or Juneau printed on them including magnets, T-shirts and hoodies are plentiful. I like The Alaska Shirt Co for souvenir shopping as they have the largest variety and offer a 25% crew discount. (They also have a store in Skagway if you go there.)
Also if you’re into jewelry, there are Diamonds International and similar stores galore. Many of these stores offer a free charm or pendant for going in or returning a coupon. They have lots of great deals and different types of stones to suit every price point.
If you only have two hours
If you are crew that doesn’t have too much time off in port here, or if you’re a guest with a little time after or before an excursion, here’s some suggestions of things to do.
Since the dock in Juneau is right in downtown, you can do a lot in a short time here.
Souvenir shops are all over, as well as jewelry stores, shops selling local arts and crafts. The drugstore is useful for practical items nearby.
Mount Roberts Tramway:
Hop on the Mount Roberts Tramway to get great views of the town and see some nature. Crew, remember to show your ID to get a discounted ticket ($10).
See the food and drink section for my top picks of places to eat.
If you need to connect with home or get some work done, most bars, restaurants and cafes have WiFi. Check Internet section for tips on places.
Food & Drink
Tracy’s Crab Shack
I am a huge seafood fan and my one of my favourite places to eat king crab in the world is here. What started as a small shack-like joint and was that when I first visited it in 2009 is now a large seafood eatery complete with its own gift shop! This is the place for crab lovers. My top tip is to get the combo meal, which comes with a king crab leg (or two if they’re smaller), creamy crab bisque, four sumptuous crab cakes and with hot buttery rolls. This is a feast for one, or a decent meal for two as well if you add another crab leg in (mainly so you don’t fight over it, and half a leg just isn’t enough). Crew, show your ID to get a 15% crew discount. Located right by the dock. Note: There is no Wi-Fi here.
Korea Garden Pho Noodle
This unassuming small eatery has a good menu of various Asian cuisines, with a few dishes offered from Korea, Vietnam, Thailand and Japan. The food is tasty and reasonably priced, and they have free Wi-Fi for customers. The sushi made from local catches, Pad Thai and Thai iced tea are my top picks. Located on First Street.
You might not think of good pizza as being something you’d find in Juneau, but this place would say otherwise. The hangar is a converted old small plane hangar and serves up the best pizza in town. Popular with crew who are visiting the city all season, and serving up local beer and offering take away food, this is always busy. Located on Egan Drive by Marine Park.
Upscale sandwiches, good coffee and good local ingredients in a casual atmosphere make this a popular spot. It is an intimate joint with friendly staff. They have Wi-Fi, but do switch it off during peak meal hours so people concentrate on the food and conversation. Located on Seward Street next to Rainy Retreat Books.
Internet is available in quite a few of the bars, restaurants and cafes in town, for free with a purchase. If your purpose is to get WiFi, ask if they have internet, if it’s working, and how long you can use if for before ordering. As Juneau (and all Alaskan ports) are quite far away from the rest of the world, connections can go out, especially after or during bad weather, so double check first. Some places will be happy to offer free WiFi if you’re a paying customer without limiting your time or megabytes, but some will give you a voucher for just 30 minutes of an hour, so ask first if you need to do something for a while.
My favourite haunts for Wi-Fi are;
Heritage Coffee: One small shop location is on South Franklin Street close to the ship, and the other on the corner of Seward and Front Streets. Good coffee and usually good Wi-Fi. Check for potential time limits for Wi-Fi coupons before ordering though if you’re there to get some Wi-Fi done as the time amount they offer can vary.
The Viking: Located on the street perpendicular to South Franklin Street, this is really a spot for crew and it can get rowdy. It is a local bar with local characters and pool tables upstairs. You can even order pizza and have it delivered here, as they don’t serve food. This is my favorite spot to hang out and meet friends from other ships docked. I recommend drinking a Dark & Stormy (dark rum, ginger and angostura bitters). *Top pick for crew. Free Wi-Fi when buying any drinks.
The Triangle: Located in the triangle of the three roads convening on South Franklin Street, this bar, which used to be a local dive bar (I mean that in a nice way, I love dive bars) has recently had a fancy makeover. It is now an upmarket cocktail bar, which, while a little pricey (around $12 a drink) does have an excellent cocktail menu, nice service and Wi-Fi. Try the Spicy Lady (vodka, lime, passion fruit, Serrano) for a tasty drink with a fruity kick.
The Alaskan Hotel: On South Franklin Street is the antique-filled Alaskan Hotel. Filled with old Juneau flavor and charm, the bar and reception area has Wi-FI with purchases.
Korea Garden Pho Noodle: This mixed Asian cuisine place has great food and good Wi-Fi with food purchases.
The Rookery: Out-with main dining hours (usually from 12-2) this small local spot offers Wi-Fi for customers choosing coffee, cakes, or snacks.
There’s a Wells Fargo branch right in town with an ATM around the corner for it.
Karen’s Top Tip
Head up Mount Roberts and enjoy the trails, nature centre and views of the Gastineau Channel and mountains beyond from here. Whether you go up by hiking or the Mount Roberts Tramway, it’s a great experience.
Get up close to the Mendenhall Glacier touring or local bussing there then walking the trails to see local wildlife residents such as porcupines and even grizzly bears! Ask the park rangers for up to the minute info on wildlife sightings so you don’t miss out.
Then if you’re a seafood fan, stop at Tracey’s King Crab Shack for some incredible local crab before you get back onboard.
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