Alaska Travel – Southeast Alaska (Region 1)
Southeast Alaska, The Panhandle, or The Inside Passage. The region goes by many monikers, but whatever you call it, the narrow strip of coastline beside British Columbia serves up an exciting cultural landscape, warm hospitality, and the untamed splendor of the great outdoors.
Southeast Alaska is home to the major cruise ports of Junea, Sitka, and Ketchikan, along with the smaller hidden gems of Wrangell, Petersburg, Skagway, and Haines. The Alaskan towns are steeped in the history of their Tlingit, Tsimshian, and Haida ancestors, who’ve left their mark with the region’s many totem poles and rock engravings. More modern movements including the Russian settlement, gold rush, and the rise of fishing and tourism industries add to the color of this Alaskan region.
The cities of Southeast Alaska are diverse, but the sprawling Tongass National Forest unites them. Given its enormous area it’s unsurprising to learn this natural haven is the biggest national forest in the United States, and the largest contiguous temperature rainforest on the planet. The forest provides excellent opportunities for hiking, wildlife spotting, and camping out under the stars, no matter which Southeast Alaskan city you make your base.
Southeast Alaska is also characterized by its majestic glaciers and icy fjords. The glaciers shaped this land millions of years ago, and they still flow slowly in the waters of the Inside Passage. Sea kayaks, tourist ships and chartered flights take visitors from Southeast Alaska’s townships to these magnificent natural wonders. It’s debatable whether the views of these frozen marvels are more impressive from the water or the air!
Southeast Alaska offers a range of seasonal employment opportunities for travelers wanting to take a working vacation. Tour companies often hire short-term guides to cope with the demand over the peak summer season, and in winter there’s always opportunities on the ski fields. Southeast Alaska’s massive fishing industry also employs many seasonal workers prepared to get their hands dirty on the docks and charter vessels. The region’s hotels and resorts also regularly look for kitchen hands, housekeepers, and front desk clerks. The opportunities for seasonal work in Southeast Alaska are diverse, and a great way for travelers to earn the cash they need to live like a local.
Visitors to Southeast Alaska should prepare for rain, as between 100 and 300 inches falls on the region each year. These showers keep the forest and gardens looking green, but they can also dampen the spirits of unsuspecting visitors. It’s best to adopt the attitude of the ever optimistic locals, who call the falls “liquid sunshine.” However a positive outlook is no match for a light waterproof jacket and umbrella!
The protection of the surrounding mountains sees Southeast Alaska enjoying a slightly warmer climate than many Alaskan regions. However temperatures can drop unexpectedly, particularly once the sun goes down. Dressing in layers, such as pairing a light top with a thicker coat, can help the region’s visitors feel prepared for whatever the weather serves up.
Southeast Alaska’s towns have a range of accommodation options, from simple camping grounds and RV parks for the budget conscious to well-appointed resorts and boutique hotels. Bed and breakfasts are some of the region’s most common and popular establishments, as they help travelers connect with the locals. It’s hard to beat the personalized service and piping hot breakfasts these establishments serve up each morning.
The rugged mountainous landscape and waterways isolate most towns of Southeast Alaska from the rest of the state. Rather than using a traditional road network, most travelers arrive by air or sea. Alaska Airlines has regular flights connecting the major towns of Southeast Alaska to the rest of the United States and Canada. Most luxury Canadian cruise ships include Southeast Alaska’s major cities on their itineraries, while the Alaska Marine Highway offers a less opulent way to travel from town to town. This ferry travels from Bellingham in Washington to Prince Rupert in British Columbia, making stops at the Inside Passage ports along the way.