Ketchikan is the southeasternmost city in Alaska, and it’s also arguably the most beautiful city in the state. Known for being the “Salmon Capital of the World,” this city on a hill is also one of the most walkable you will find. Tourists will delight in the countless things to do in Ketchikan Alaska. This guide to Do-It-Yourself Alaska land excursions features 9 places and activities to visit that will be a big help for folks hoping to do Alaska shore excursions cheap.
Go for a walk
The city is home to many streets made of steep wooden staircases. Start your excursion by the city’s newest boardwalk, the Waterfront Promenade.
From here you will have some of the best views of the city and be able to visit Harbor View Park. This park is comprised of boardwalks and stairs. An absolute favorite for visitors and locals alike.
Keep on walking! Ketchikan Walking Tour
The Ketchikan Historic Society has created a fabulous Free Ketchikan Walking Tour Map. If you fell in love with downtown during your first outing and prefer self-guided Alaska land excursions, this map will be a favorite among things to do in Ketchikan Alaska. The map includes 64 points of interest, all located in Downtown Ketchikan or on the West End. You can visit the Ketchikan Visitor’s Bureau along your travels to get your own copy or it can be downloaded ahead of time.
Misty Fjords National Monument
The Misty Fjords National Monument is a natural wildlife lovers paradise and is one of the things to do in Ketchikan Alaska the should not be missed! Stunning beauty will surround you from every direction, as Misty Fjords covers nearly 3 million acres. Residents of Misty Fjords include killer whales, all 5 Pacific salmon species, wolverines, moose and sea lions to name a few. A popular spot for bird watching and photographers, the area boasts waterfalls, lush rainforests and sea cliffs.
The area is only accessible by kayak, however, 12 Forest Service cabins may be reserved in advanced. The Big Goat Lake Cabin and 4 more Adirondack shelters are also free to visitors on a first come-first served basis.
Cost: Free Cabin or Adirondack Shelter Use, $35 per day per kayak rental
Visit Ketchikan’s Totem Poles
Totem Poles are sculptures carved into wooden poles or posts. The poles are not religious in nature, but rather represent characters in a story or events in history, such as legends or affirming a cultural belief.
Another opportunity if you’re hoping to do Alaska shore excursions on your own, Ketchikan is home to the largest collection of totem poles in the world, many of which are a close walk or taxi ride from the 6 cruise ports, which makes checking out these amazing cultural resource one of the not-to-be-missed things to do in Ketchikan Alaska! These hand-carved Ketchikan treasures are located throughout the downtown and in the nearby Saxman Totem Village. At the Village, visitors will find 29 poles carved by Tlingit and Haida native tribes that have been in the village since being moved here in 1930’s.
Cost: Unguided Visits $3
(If you’re looking for a lengthier guided tour, you may want to check out the Totem Bight Historical Park and Rainforest Canoe Adventure)
This beautiful trail through the Tongass National Forest, among the least costly Alaska land excursions you’re likely to find, is recently renovated and ready for you to explore. The trail, among locals’ favorite things to do in Ketchikan Alaska, is just 2.6 miles long and 20 minutes from your cruise dock, making it a great way to spend a leisurely afternoon stroll. Protected by the rainforest, this trail gives you the opportunity to feel as though you are truly in the Alaskan Wilderness! But don’t worry, there are still plenty of spots where the forest opens up and you can catch some great views of Ketchikan.
Be ready to spend the day enjoying what the Tongass National Forest has to offer. It is the largest of its kind in the nation. The forest surrounds the famed “Inside Passage,” and offers visitors a chance to see wildlife, such as eagles, bears and of course, plenty of salmon in their natural habitat.
Southeast Alaska Discovery Center
If you are seeking education, culture and a great place to bring the kids, look no further than the Southeast Alaska Discovery Center. One of the most ideal DIY Alaska land excursions for resourceful and budget-savvy explorers, the aquarium has salmon observation exhibits and there is also a sure-to-please walking tour through the rainforest. Other features include interactive exhibits related to the people and culture of Southeast Alaska, a life-size smokehouse, and hand-carved canoe.
Don’t forget to catch a film at their Discovery Center theatre and visit the bookstore before ending your visit. On your way in (or out), you will find various authentic Totem Poles and the opportunity to learn more about them. Admission is only charged May-September and the price is nominal enough for families to afford. It’s one of the superb educational things to do in Ketchikan Alaska!
Cost: May-September Adults $5 per person; Kids under 15, Free
A little bit artsy, a little bit coffee: The Point
Looking for a relaxed, casual break from Alaska land excursions? The Point is a stellar Ketchikan café. Set on the waterfront with lovely maritime views, visitors to the point will enjoy freshly baked bread and delicious pasties and have a chance to view some local art.
On Wednesdays and Fridays, The Point Band performs from 11am to 1pm. The menu changes daily, and offerings include home cooked favorites like Navy Bean & Ham and Fat Burning Cabbage soup (on Thursdays) and a variety of sandwiches. The owner, Terry Pyles, is a local artist and his work fills the space beautifully along with sculptures, ceramics and other paintings.
If art and delicious food isn’t enough to hold your attention, The Point also has a large collection of board games. They encourage patrons to play while they eat.
Cost: Under $20 for lunch for 2
Guard Island Lighthouse
Located about 12 miles north of Ketchikan close to the beginning of the Tongass Narrows is the Guard Island Lighthouse. The lighthouse has been working since 1924 and was taken over by the U.S. Coast Guard in 1969.
They have some spooky history for the horror buffs out there. During Prohibition, a double murder was discovered in a drifting vessel close by. Other notable facts about the monument include its importance during the Klondike Gold Rush as it kept ships safe while traveling through the Southeast Alaska Inside Passage. During your visit expect to see seals swimming close by as they favor the spot.
The grounds are now permanently closed to official Alaska land excursions, but the site is still accessible and viewable by driving north through downtown Ketchikan. It’s one of the more spooky and spine-tingling things to do in Ketchikan Alaska!
Dolly’s House Museum
In search of educational Alaska land excursions? This fascinating museum is the home of Dolly Arthur who, during the gold rush, worked on Creek Street offering a “red light district” distraction to miners and fisherman, along with entertainment galore.
Vintage photographs, videos, and memorabilia will show you what life was like in Ketchikan from 1900-the 1950’s.
Cost: $10 per person