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Best Alaska Shore Excursions of 2024

If you’re wondering which are the best Alaska shore excursions to enjoy during your well-deserved cruise, look no further. Alaska is a region unlike anywhere else in the world. With glaciers that go on for miles, atmospheric towns ripe for exploring, and more wildlife than you can shake a stick at, when your ship docks, you’ll know you’re in for a serious adventure. Whether you’re considering exciting Alaska helicopter tours or you want a whale-watching experience to remember, we’ve got you covered. 

If your cruise itinerary calls at Juneau, Skagway, Ketchikan, or Sitka - or all four! - in this article, we’ll share our team’s favorite Alaska shore excursions of 2024.  

Juneau Shore Tours

Alaska’s capital city, Juneau, is one of the state’s most visited cruise ports. Although the city has a lot to offer, to see the best of the region, you’ll need to head away from civilization. 

One of the most popular sights is the breathtaking Mendenhall Glacier, a 13-mile long behemoth in a beautiful forest location. Getting to see the scale of a glacier is quite an experience, whether you’re viewing it from the water on a canoe adventure or from the air on a helicopter flight

The weather in Juneau can change quickly. Check out this helpful article: Your Guide to Inside Passage Weather in Juneau, Skagway, and Ketchikan so you know what weather to expect here and in other Alaskan port towns. 

Here are some of the best Juneau shore excursions around. 

Whale Watching & Mendenhall Glacier Tour

If you’re looking for Alaska shore excursions that will check off two of Juneau’s most important sights, this Whale Watching and Mendenhall Glacier tour is perfect. After being collected at the cruise port, take a seat in the toasty-warm whale-watching boat - or embrace the invigorating cold on deck - and get ready to experience guaranteed sightings of humpback whales. These majestic creatures can reach lengths of up to 60 feet, so getting up close is an exciting prospect and a memory you’ll cherish forever.  

On disembarking the boat, next stop is Mendenhall, famous for being the world’s only drive-up glacier. There are scenic trails crisscrossing the park, one of which leads to Nugget Falls, a gorgeous waterfall over 300 feet tall, that will top off a beautiful day of exploring. 

Helicopter & Dogsled Glacier Excursion

If you’re looking for a high-octane Juneau shore excursion, then this thrilling Helicopter and Dogsled Glacier Excursion is everything you could want. Start the day with a high-speed helicopter flight, taking in sweeping vistas over the Juneau Icefield, which is one of the largest in the world. As you approach Herbert Glacier, get ready for part two of your adventure to begin. 

On exiting the helicopter, you may hear the excited howls of the sled dogs, impatient to take you on a high-speed sled ride across the ice field. Have a seat and let the mushers control the dogs, or take this opportunity to ride the runners yourself. This is a huge part of Alaska’s history and taking part in it is something really special. 

Fly-in & Glacier Pack Raft (New offering!) 

For true adventurers, the 3-part Fly-In and Glacier Pack Raft excursion will provide an unbeatable adrenaline burst from the start, and the pace doesn’t slow throughout the 5-hour trip. 

You’ll begin your excursion with a flightseeing ride in a floatplane - an iconic mode of transport in itself. Heading for Norris Glacier, you’ll take in the Taku Inlet, a spectacular area surrounded by snow-covered peaks. Keep your eyes peeled as you may spot moose along the way. On landing at Norris Glacier, you’ll enjoy an exhilarating hike across glacier terrain before being kitted out ready for pack rafting. As you paddle past icebergs in the still, glacial waters, your breath will be taken away by the sheer scale of Norris and Taku glaciers, which you’ll then get to explore on foot. 

After paddling back to shore, you’ll be returned to your cruise ship, where you can ponder the (literally) awesome sights you’ve seen that day.

Skagway Shore Tours

Skagway is home to some top shore excursions that offer intriguing glimpses into Alaska’s checkered history. Alaska Shore Excursions from Skagway cruise port include a cycle excursion in the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park where you can learn all about the infamous Gold Rush of 1898. Or you could travel by train along the White Pass mountain railway, taking in the staggering views as you ascend almost 3,000 feet to its peak. 

Here, we share some of the team’s best-loved Skagway tours. And you can check out even more examples in this article, The 5 Best Skagway Shore Excursions.

Skagway Glacier Discovery Helicopter Tour

Skagway is lucky to have glaciers close to its center, and if you join this Glacier Discovery Helicopter Tour, your pilot will have access to three: Ferebee, Chilkat, and Meade. This is a big deal, as few Alaska helicopter tours can visit multiple glaciers. As you’re in the air for 40 minutes, you’ll see all the sights, darting over craggy mountain peaks, taking in the miles of crisp, white ice and, of course, those mind-blowing glaciers. 

Your expert guide will land the helicopter on a glacier and you’ll experience an on-foot tour of the giant ice plain. Learn about how glaciers formed, take in the surprisingly bright-blue ice, and see glacial waterfalls during a detailed walk around. For the photographers among you, this is a pretty unbeatable tour where you’ll snap photos that are sure to make your friends and family envious.

Yukon Discovery

If you want to explore inland Alaska and cross the border into Canada’s Yukon, then consider this Yukon Discovery tour. Not only will you be able to check out the famous White Pass Summit, but you’ll also travel the Klondike Highway, following in the footsteps of the gold rushers who eagerly traveled to the Yukon ready to make their fortune.

Take in the stunning landscape surrounding you on this scenic drive, catching sight of bears and other wildlife that call this fascinating wilderness their home. Your inland travels go as far as Carcross, one of the most well-known Gold Rush towns, via Emerald Lake, named for the glorious green hues of its water. And the icing on the cake? Petting husky puppies at Caribou Crossing Trading Post - you can’t ask for more than that. 

Ketchikan Shore Tours

Ketchikan is famous for its Native American totem poles and is also known as the salmon capital of the world. This area is home to all kinds of wildlife, including prime black bear territory that you can enjoy on a Neets Bay Bear Watch. Don’t miss soaring over the stunning lakes and mountains of the Misty Fjords National Monument in a once-in-a-lifetime flightseeing excursion. Whether you’re looking for a sedate tour or something more adrenaline-inducing, you’ll find a shore excursion to suit you here.

Find out more about the best Ketchikan shore tours, personally recommended by our team at Alaska Shore Tours. 

Mahoney Lake UTV

If you’re a fan of off-roading, then this Mahoney Lake UTV Offroad Safari is a great way to combine your need for speed with discovering one of Ketchikan’s most beautiful lakes. As you make your way through the Tongass National Rainforest, past George Inlet Fjords, and towards remote Mahoney Lake, you’ll get to appreciate the phenomenal beauty of Alaska’s natural landscape.

One moment, your ears will buzz with the sound of your UTVs as the ‘pack’ makes its way around the forest trails. Then, as you cut the engines, all you’ll hear will be wind in the trees, birds calling from on high, and perhaps the sound of water cascading from Mahoney Falls. Your guide will share fascinating information about this little-explored corner of Alaska that will enhance your experience even further. This is truly one of the beast Alaska shore excursions for getting away from the crowds! 

After a thrilling ride, stimulate your taste buds by sampling reindeer sausage, served with warming chili to replenish your energy, before returning to port and onto your next Alaskan adventure. 

Bering Sea Crab Fishermen’s Tour

Join a brave sea-faring fishing crew - who are stars of Discovery Channel’s Deadliest Catch, no less! - for an Alaskan fishing experience to remember. During the Bering Sea Crab Fishermen’s Tour, you’ll step aboard the F/V Aleutian Ballad, a 100-foot steel ship kitted out with fishing gear, and head to the Inside Passage for an exciting excursion with genuine Alaskan fishing experts. 

The list of animals you can expect to see is huge, reflecting the biodiversity in this part of the US. You’ll spot whales and orcas, king crabs, American bald eagles, and all manner of other creatures on your cruise. And you’ll be pleased to hear that waves are unusual here, so you can expect a nice, smooth ride - ideal for taking in the beautiful islands all around you. If you want to get closer to the catch of the day, you’re welcome to join the crew at the live tank, picking up an iconic (and huge!) king crab for the ultimate fishing photo opp. 

Neets Bay Bear Watch

You can’t think about Alaska without imagining a giant black bear with a salmon in its mouth. So, when you visit Ketchikan on your cruise, why not join a Neets Bay Bear Watch tour for the opportunity to see these burly bears in their natural habitat as they skilfully catch their dinner? 

This trip begins with a scenic boat tour past the beautiful islands surrounding Ketchikan and with views of the Tongass Rainforest - which boasts trees over 1,000 years old! Keep your eyes peeled for wildlife as you take a short hike through an ancient national forest, which will bring you to a popular black bear hangout. This is where the long-anticipated bear-watching will begin. Snap as many photos as you like, while watching the bears interact with each other and the salmon leap out of the water. It’s an exceptional sight to behold on one of the best Alaska shore excursions for bear viewing.


Sitka Shore Tours

Sitka is located off the Alaskan mainland on Baranof Island. It was once a part of Russia, and retains visible reminders of its past, including a Russian Orthodox Cathedral, which dates back to the 1800s. 

While a Sitka scenic tour will provide you with the opportunity to photograph the highlights of Sitka city, you may also be keen to visit Sitka’s natural wonders up close - and who could blame you? So why not visit Sitka Sound for some kayaking or a catamaran cruise? You’ll be able to spot all kinds of wildlife, as well as soak up those incredible views.

Here’s more on our favorite Sitka shore tour.

Sitka Sound Paddle

If you choose to venture out on a Sitka Sound Paddle, you’re in for a treat, because you’ll get to experience a full 90 minutes on the water. This allows you to travel quite some distance, taking in more of your stunning surroundings, as well as the amazing variety of wildlife. 

You’ll explore in 2-person kayaks that are strong and stable - ideal if you don’t have the most experience. Plus, you can expect a smooth ride, as the Inside Passage is famously wind-free. The lack of waves also means you can gaze down through the mirror-flat waters to spot all kinds of underwater life, including otters, seals, and porpoises.

After your kayak adventure, you'll be right back at the cruise terminal for a convenient return to your cruise ship!


We hope this has given you food for thought on the best Alaska shore excursions for your upcoming cruise. And remember, this is just a taste of the amazing activities you can experience in this most exhilarating of places. For more inspiration, check out our Alaska Shore Tours blog or see the full tour lists for Juneau, Skagway, Ketchikan, and Sitka.   

Written by: Haley

All of our content at Tourbase is written by experienced travel writers who have visited all of the locations we recommend. And our review board of local tourism experts ensure that all the information we provide is accurate, current and helpful

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