There are so many options for creating your own Alaska itinerary. I’m sharing where we went because we saw everything that we wanted to see and so much more. I highly suggest that you do a lot of research before you go and narrow down the experiences that are important to you. Everyone wants something different, so simply use this as a suggestion for what could be a great trip.
Day 1: Fly into Anchorage from your home city, rent a car and spend the night
- Anchorage isn’t a very beautiful city, but it’s not a bad place to start your trip. Pick up any last minute necessities, as this city has a Target and other stores we are familiar with in the Lower 48.
- Recommended B&B: Alaska Frontier Garden Inn; about 20 minutes from downtown.
Day 2: Drive from Anchorage to Seward
- This 115 mile scenic drive takes about 2.5 hours, but be prepared for it to take much longer.
- Here you’ll get your first glimpse of glaciers (Spencer and Portage), beluga whales if you’re lucky and mountains as far as the eye can see. If you have time, drive to Exit Glacier and take the short hike to the base.
- Recommended B&B: Alaska Paddle Inn; located off a dirt road at the end of town, this gem is definitely worth the drive. The inn overlooks Resurrection Bay, which is breathtaking.
Day 3: Seward, Alaska
- Kenai Fjords Boat Tour. Take the motion sickness medication no matter what they say; you go out to open sea and it can get rough. This tour gives you the opportunity to see many glaciers, most noteworthy is Northwestern Glacier. During the cruise you also look for whales, seals, eagles, puffins and more.
Day 4: Seward to Talkeetna
- We spent the morning hiking to the Harding Ice Field, which is possibly one of the hardest hikes I’ve ever completed. The first four miles are straight up, with lots of climbing natural stairs. At the top you are greeted with ice and snow as far as the eye can see, as the Harding Ice Field supplies 40 glaciers with ice/snow.
- After that we got on the road and made a pit stop in Anchorage at the Moose’s Tooth, a great little pizza place.
- Recommended B&B: Denali Overlook Inn. They have fabulous breakfasts every morning and if you are lucky you will actually see Mt. McKinley from their living room windows.
Day 5: Talkeetna, Alaska
- If you are going to fly around Mt. McKinley, do it out of Talkeetna. We flew with K2 Aviation and landed on Ruth Glacier during our flight. It costs a small fortune, but it is not something that you will ever live to regret. It’s stunning.
- We spent most of this day relaxing outside and then dining in “downtown” at the Wildflower Cafe.
Day 6: Talkeetna to Healy, Alaska (Denali National Park)
- This was our base for going to Denali National Park, which we visited once we got into town. We saw moose during the first 14 miles that you are permitted to drive in the park. We also took a short hike at Salvage River.
- Recommended B&B: Denali Dome Home. Just make sure you request a room that attaches to the main part of the house. Some of them have a separate entrances that are only accessible from the outside.
Day 7: Healy, Alaska
- Take the shuttle bus into Denali National Park. There are two options for doing this; the national park’s shuttle buses (which are green and cost about $50) that go all the way into the park or the tours (which are tan buses and cost about $150). I would recommend the park shuttle buses for $50 because they still give you narration and stop for wildlife just like the other tour buses. The national park was beautiful and we saw grizzlies, caribou, moose and sheep.
Day 8: Healy, Alaska to Anchorage
- This is a heavy driving day (it takes about 5 hours), so we broke it up by stopping back in Talkeetna for dinner at the Denali Brewing Company.
- Definitely a gorgeous drive and keep your eyes out for wildlife. Or you could be like us and not see any until we got back into Anchorage where a mom and two baby moose were right at the end of the street where we were staying.
- Recommended B&B: Alaska Frontier Garden Inn. It was really great starting and ending our land portion of the trip at the same place. Plus we had the added perk of being able to do our laundry at the B&B before boarding the cruise ship.
Day 9: Board Cruise Ship
- We returned our rental car and took a bus from Anchorage back down to Seward. We booked it through the cruise ship so that we wouldn’t have to worry about our luggage. There aren’t any rental car returns in Seward, otherwise we just would’ve drove ourselves.
- We chose Holland America for our cruise line. It was nice enough, but not really for me. However, I feel like you need to take a cruise to see certain parts of Alaska. Keep in mind that the average age on these cruises is around 75 years old.
Day 10: Day at Sea
- It takes a while to get to Glacier Bay National Park. The whole day was at sea, where I attempted to not feel seasick.
Day 11: Glacier Bay National Park
- Holland America and Princess Cruise lines are the only ships that can go into Glacier Bay National Park. A ranger from the park boards the ship for the day as you travel from glacier to glacier, pointing out wildlife and other important areas of the park. It was a really beautiful experience and the boat turns around many times while at Margerie Glacier so everyone has a good view of the calving glaciers.
Day 12: Haines, Alaska
- Perhaps my favorite stop on the cruise ship and for good reason; I got to see a grizzly bear eating salmon in the river. So let me back up. We rented bikes for $20 from a shop right off the cruise dock and biked 9 miles to Chilkoot Lake. This is where we saw bald eagles soaring up above and a grizzly bear. Highlight of the trip for sure. Plus the bike ride was stunning and there was very little traffic on the road so it was relatively safe.
Day 13: Juneau, Alaska
- I didn’t really get to see very much of Juneau because I booked an excursion with Above & Beyond Alaska to hike to Mendenhall Glacier, hike on the glacier, and then visit the beautiful ice caves that exist beneath the glacier. I can’t guarantee that the ice cave will continue to exist after this year due to the melting glacier, but for now it is breathtaking.
Day 14: Ketchikan, Alaska
- I would say that this was my least favorite port but that is only because this was the one day that it rained on our vacation. Otherwise we were extremely lucky. It’s actually a really adorable town with colorful buildings built on wooden stilts. We spent the day taking it easy and exploring the town. Some people we know went fishing out of Ketchikan and loved it.
Day 15: Cruising on the Inside Passage
- Having one final day on the boat to relax and pack is a great idea. We felt totally relaxed and ready to go when the time came. Plus we saw orca and humpback whales on the Inside Passage, although not as many as we had anticipated. It’s a good idea to do an actual whale watching trip if you want to get up close and personal with these magnificent creatures.
Day 16: Vancouver, B.C.
- I’ve already marked Vancouver as a place that I need to return to. It is such a cool city. We took a big pink bus tour, just to get a general sense of the city. Plus they delivered our luggage to the airport so we wouldn’t have to deal with it during our visit. Definitely check out Granville Public Market and Gastown. I’m sure there are other great areas, but that is all we had the opportunity to see.
- I would recommend staying a day or two there if you can, but 16 days is already kind of a lot. We had to fly home that evening, so that is why we choose what we did.
This concludes my mini travel series on Alaska. This week, back to Cleveland!