Ketchikan - Port Guide
Karen's Quick Guide
Where is the ship/how to get to the sights?
In Ketchikan 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!
What is it Known For?
Ketchikan is known as “The salmon capital of the world”. Salmon come here every summer, swimming up the river by Creek Street. This is a site to see and worth taking a look at. It is one of the rainiest cities in the world (300 days a year average rainfall). It is known for the incredible wildlife nearby. Bears, American Bald Eagles, otters, whales, dolphins and salmon are regularly seen nearby and sometimes even in or from the town itself.
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.
Kechikan is also the rainiest city in the USA, and one of the rainiest places in the world, with it raining on average 300 days per year.
Sights & Sights
Walking around town is lovely! The ships are docked right by it, so its super easy, and takes very little tome to get to all the main sights to see. The atmosphere here is great with friendly locals and interesting shops and food places. Even without going in anywhere and just walking, this is worth seeing.
Location: Right next to the dock.
Times: all day.
Bering Sea Crab Fisherman’s Tour:
My favourite tour in Alaska is this one. I’ve now done it seven times – at least once on every Alaska season I’ve worked in. More on it in my Top Tip section.
Location: At dock just behind ships, at ship Aleutian Ballad, the staff wear yellow jackets.
Times: Morning and afternoon tours available, times change based on ship docking times so check website or with ship tours.
Cost: Booking direct $, or take a ship shore excursion.
The Great Alaskan Lumberjack Show:
This is a great show, just five minutes walk from ship berths 1, 2 and 3, and ten minutes from berth 4. A rowdy fun show that showcases real Alaskan lumberjack athletes demonstrating the various events of this as a sport as well as giving information about the industry. Fun for all the family.
Location: Five minutes walk from the ship by town harbor.
Times: Vary depending on ships docking times, but at least three shows daily. Check online before for that day’s times, or on noticeboard outside venue that morning.
Cost: Crewmembers show your crew ID, as entry is complimentary for crew, space permitting. Guests: $29 at the venue, or take a tour from the ship.
There is a salmon ladder here where salmon swim up to during peak summer. The street is full of shops with local art, salmon to taste and buy, and information plaques about the history of the street and buildings in it. Look out for Dolly’s House – the original Ketchikan ladies of the night venue, and Simply Salmon for tastes of salmon.
Location: Creek Street – 5-10 minutes walk from the ships in towards town past main shopping area.
Times: All day.
Cost: Free to stroll.
Outside of town is the totem park. Take a local bus from outside the Tongas Museum and also see the Raven Totem pole between here and Creek Street exit.
Location: Outside town, take the bus from outside Tongas Museum, every 20 minutes.
Times: All day.
Cost: Park free, bus $1.25 each way.
Here you can learn about the national forest, and wildlife of the area as well as some history of its peoples.
Location: Five minutes walk straight in from ship docks on left hand side.
Times: 9am-5pm daily.
Tongas National Forest Visitor Centre:
For information on the national forest, this is the spot to talk to park rangers, and several local tours leave from outside here.
Location: Five minutes walk straight in from ship docks on right hand side.
Times: 9am-5pm daily.
One of my favourite tours here is the Snorkel Tour. Yes, it is cold snorkeling in Alaska, but you get a thick 7mm neoprene dry suit to help with that, and being underwater here to firsthand see the fish, starfish, crustaceans and possible otters if you’re very lucky makes it well worth braving.
Location: Outside town, you have to take a tour to get to it.
Times: Varies depending on docking times, but usually right after docking.
Cost: Check with cruise line shore excursions as they book up these tours while we dock.
Most of the tours from here are centered around seeing the wildlife in the area. The main animals the tours go to see are bears, puffins, humpback whales, and dolphins. 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
Cape Fox Hill:
Along Creek Street is a small cable car that takes you up Cape Fox Hill for some nice views of the town from above, and a nice little local café at the top.
Location: Creek Street.
Times: All day.
Cost: $2 each way.
Creek Street Cabaret:
This is a new spot for live music in Ketchikan. A jazz trio plays there on ship days and it’s a pleasant spot to grab a beer and enjoy the local talent. Free entry and Wi-Fi inside.
Location: Creek Street.
Times: Opens at 10am.
Cost: Free entry, just buy at least one drink.
Transfer money, send money home, snacks from the Philipines.
If you need any practical supplies, you can take the local bus out to Walmart from outside the Tongas museum out to Walmart for just over a dollar. Buses usually leave every 20 minutes and takes around 15 minutes to get there. Timetables at bus stop to double check.
My recommended independent tours
Below are a few great tours I would recommend doing in Ketchikan.
Salmon is the most popular souvenir from Ketchikan. You can buy it in many shops around the town, including Salmon Market near the ships and Simply Salmon on Creek Street. You can buy it fresh to eat now, in cans or freeze-dried to take home as gifts.
Local crafts and art is available in many small stores around town.
Sweet treats to shop for here are chocolate from Ketchikandies and Orca Corn (see food section next).
Also if you’re into jewelry, there are Diamonds International and similar stores a plenty.
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 Ketchikan is right downtown, you can do a lot in a short time here. Shopping is very close by.
The Great Alaskan Lumberjack Show:
This is just a few minutes walk from all four ship berths, and as they have 3-4 shows per day when ships are in and the show lasts approximately one hour, you could take in a show (crew, show your crew ID for free entry, space permitting).
All manner of Alaskan souvenirs are very close to the ship, and there is a crew shop called Port of Call just behind the Welcome to Ketchikan sign.
See the food and drink section for my top picks of places to eat.
Right behind the Welcome to Ketchikan sign is a small shop designed fro crew, where you can send money home, transfer money, buy snacks from around Asia and use the WiFi.
Food & Drink
The best burgers in Alaska are here! The fish burgers are great, made from fresh catches, but the favourite (and my favourite) is the BBQ bacon cheeseburger. Paired with fries from locally grown hand-cut potatoes and fresh made ice cream milkshakes, this is the crew favourite spot. If you’re in the bar Asylum next door or the Arctic Bar across the street, they can even deliver it to you there.
This is a great local Asian restaurant with a mix of dishes from various Asian countries. They use local fresh fish and have good sushi and my favourite dish is “monkey brain”. It is an avocado filled with crab where the stone was, deep-fried and covered in a delicious secret sauce.
Tasty Alaska popcorn is made fresh here. Try it then buy if you like. Various flavours are available, such as sweet, salty, and my favourite, caramel crisp.
Ketchikan’s local chocolate store makes homemade chocolates, with many varieties including chocolates, turtles, and mints. My favourite are the peppermint dark chocolate dipped Oreos.
Salmon Market near the ships, and Simply Salmon on Creek Street give free samples of smoked salmon, salmon paste and jerky. If you want to buy any as gifts they have them in jars, cans and freeze-dried options.
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 Ketchikan (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;
Alaska Coffee: Small outside coffee spot next to Salmon Landing shop on street next to ships, with good local coffee and Internet in the back at tables outside. Also can get very busy with guests so signal be poor, so check with people there, how it is before ordering.
Mermaid Café: Small cute café near the ship with good coffee and nice surroundings. Good if you just need to check a few things as you receive a 30-minute Internet voucher with purchase. *Top pick for guests.
The Asylum: Next to Burger Queen. This is really a spot for crew and it can get rowdy. Local bar with local characters and pool tables upstairs. You can even order Burger Queen food next door and have it delivered there. This is my favorite spot to hang out and meet friends from other ships docked. *Top pick for crew.
Sourdough Bar: Right outside the dock: Very convenient and close to the ship. Good spot if you need to get things done online and decent cheap coffee and local flavor. Wi-Fi should be back on but check first.
Fat Sam’s: In small mall by Harbor and Lumberjack show – this spot is usually popular with guests so Wi-Fi signal can be slow with many people on it, so check strength before ordering. You have to buy food to use it, not just a drink.
Warning: Be wary when downloading TV shows etc, as the rules in Alaska on downloading are strict, and are strictly monitored. The Sourdough Bar – which is the one closest to the ships – recently had their WiFi cut off for a while as a ship crewmember downloaded a copy of a movie still only in theaters from their server, and they are facing trouble for this. Anyone misbehaving online could cause issues for local businesses, as well as yourself, and also potentially cause more businesses to withdraw offering WiFi at all to ship visitors, so play nice!
There’s a Wells Fargo branch right in town with an ATM around the corner for it.
You can send money home and make wire transfers from Crewmen.
Karen’s Top Tip
Go on the Bering Sea Crab Fisherman’s Tour! It is my favourite Alaska tour - as well as the number one rated tour in Ketchikan - and is fantastic if you’re a fan of The Deadliest Catch, fishing, Alaska wildlife, or just great storytellers. It is available as a tour on every cruise line that stops here or booking directly with the lovely COO Shauna Lee on their website.
Seeing the wildlife of Alaska out on the Bering Sea Crab boat while listening to the tales from the experienced fishermen of what life out on the tough Bering seas were like sums up Ketchikan for me. Head out on the tour, and if Captain Terry is there, telling his personal tales, you’ll be very lucky to hear these. Bring tissues you’ll need them.
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