17 of the Best Things to Do in Ketchikan Cruise Port: Complete Guide (2024)

17 of the Best Things to Do in Ketchikan Cruise Port: Complete Guide (1)

If you’re going to Ketchikan on a cruise, you’re in luck! If you tried to imagine an ideal Alaskan town, it would look just like Ketchikan.

With a backdrop of evergreen Sitka spruce trees, an ocean for a front yard, and historic homes on piles above the water, Ketchikan is a beautiful place to visit on a cruise vacation.

Ketchikan holds the titles of “The Salmon Capital of the World and “Alaska’s First City.” In the 1930s, it was the location of 13 canneries that packed 1.5 million cases of salmon a year, earning Ketchikan its Salmon Capital title.

Beyond this, you’ll find many things to do and see the Ketchikan cruise port.

In this post, I share the best things to do in Ketchikan, Alaska on a cruise, including shore excursions as well as inexpensive or free activities. I’ve also included the information you’ll need to know about visiting the Ketchikan cruise port for the day and answered some common questions.

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Ketchikan Cruise Port

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There are five cruise ports in Ketchikan. Four of the ports are within easy walking distance of downtown and Historic Creek Street, making Ketchikan a very walkable city.

In downtown Ketchikan, you’ll find restaurants, shops, and several museums within walking distance of the cruise ports.

The fifth port, Ward Cove, is used by Norwegian Cruise Lines and is located 15 miles (about 20 minutes) away from downtown. NCL has a free shuttle that will take you from the port to downtown, but keep the extra travel time in mind when choosing your excursions.

What Cruise Passengers Need to Know About Ketchikan Cruise Port

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Currency

Although close to Canada, Ketchikan is located in Alaska (USA). The official currency is the USD (United States Dollar).

Businesses in Ketchikan will accept cash, credit, and debit cards.

Language

In Alaska, the primary language is English. However, you might hear some funny word usage from locals, including “outside” (anywhere but Alaska) and “the bush” (interior of Alaska accessible only by plane).

Time Zone

90% of Alaska (including Ketchikan) is within the Alaska Standard Time Zone. Alaska Standard Time Zone is one hour behind Pacific Time and four hours behind the Eastern Time Zone.

Weather

In Ketchikan, the weather will range from the mid-50s to the mid-60s during Alaska cruise season. Ketchikan is one of the rainiest cities in America, with 140-160 inches of precipitation per year.

However, June and July are the driest months of the year (with around 7 inches of rain), making these months a good time to cruise to Alaska.

Packing a quality raincoat or poncho is an excellent idea for most Alaskan port towns, including Juneau, Skagway and especially Ketchikan.

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Getting Around Ketchikan

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On Foot

Ketchikan is walking-friendly and quite easy to navigate. It is a short walk from the cruise port to downtown, where you will find activities and attractions.

Public Transit

The city offers a free shuttle bus service that loops around downtown during the months of May through September.

If you need to go farther than the loop covers, adult bus fares are $2, children ages 12-17 are $1, and kids 11 and under are free with an adult rider.

Electric Bikes (EBikes)

Bicycle and eBike rentals are available in Ketchikan. Most eBike rentals are associated with a tour and include a hike.

Downtown Ketchikan can be tricky for biking when there are a lot of tourists, but locations like the Saxman Totem Park are a short 3-mile bike ride, mostly on a dedicated bike path.

Car Rentals

If you want to get away from the crowds and explore outside of downtown Ketchikan, there are several car rental agency options. Most have a shuttle that can get you from the port to your rental car.

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Best Ketchikan Shore Excursions

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From outdoor adventures to deep dives into Alaska Native history, Ketchikan has a large variety of shore excursions to appeal to everyone in your cruise party.

Here are some of the best places to visit while you are docked in Ketchikan during your Alaska cruise:

1. Southeast Alaska Discovery Center

Begin your Ketchikan cruise port experience by learning all about the area’s cultural and natural history at the Southeast Alaska Discovery Center.

With a $5 pass (16 and older), you can engage with interactive displays about the coastal rainforest, learn about the culture and history of the Natives, and read up on local wildlife and industries.

The National Park Service runs the Discovery Center, so if you have kids, they can earn a Junior Ranger badge.

Take advantage of the award-winning 30-minute film shown in the Discovery Center’s comfortable theater.

2. Sports Fishing

What could be better than a fishing excursion in the Salmon Capital of the World? During this excursion, you’ll board a fishing boat conveniently located within walking distance of the cruise ship ports.

Depending on the month of your Alaskan cruise, you’ll have the opportunity to catch king salmon, silver salmon, halibut, lingcod, and rockfish. The fishing companies will also arrange to process your catch.

3. Flightseeing at Misty Fjords National Monument

Misty Fjords National Monument is located 40 miles East of Ketchikan. The best way to see the “Misties” is with a floatplane tour.

This spectacular monument is known for 3,000-foot granite rock walls, fjords carved from glacial ice, remarkably blue lakes and glaciers, and dramatic waterfalls.

You’ll also have the chance to see wildlife from above, including bald eagles, mountain goats, bears, and possibly marine animals like sea lions, humpback whales, and orcas.

4. Off-roading and Canoe Adventure

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Adventure and wildlife await you on an exciting 4WD off-roading and kayak excursion. You’ll begin with a Jeep Wrangler ride through Tongass National Forest, the largest rainforest in North America.

Once you arrive at Lake Harriet Hunt, you’ll climb aboard a Native American-style 20-person canoe. Wildlife is abundant here, so keep your eye out for moose, deer, bears, and lots of eagles.

5. Off-Road Adventure Kart

If you love being behind the wheel, an Adventure Kart excursion in Ketchikan is the way to go. You’ll explore the lush green Tongass National Forest in a two-person off-road vehicle. The tours take several stops as you climb through the forest to glorious views.

Driving through a rainforest will likely involve precipitation, so these tours provide raincoats and helmets. An adult must accompany children under 18, and drivers must show a valid driver’s license.

6. Alaska Rainforest Sanctuary and Totem Park

Eight miles outside of Ketchikan and nestled along the edge of the Tongass National Forest, the Alaska Rainforest Sanctuary is a 40-acre private preserve.

On this excursion, a naturalist will take you on a .75-mile guided hike through the sanctuary, identifying plants and wildlife.

The sanctuary is also home to totem poles, a historic sawmill, an estuary, and a creek often filled with spawning salmon (and occasionally bears and seals).

7. Mountain Point Snorkeling

Snorkeling in cold Alaskan waters might sound crazy, but this excursion is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity!

Mountain Point is five miles from downtown Ketchikan and the location of this unique excursion. After donning full-body hooded wetsuits and gloves to keep you warm (water temperatures range from 45-65 degrees F), you’ll have the opportunity to see intertidal marine life, including sea urchins, jellyfish, crabs, and maybe even a humpback whale.

8. Alaska Firearms Adventures

If you are interested in firearms, archery, or knife and axe throwing, the port of Ketchikan offers a unique opportunity to try them out.

At Alaska Firearms Adventures, several packages will give you first-hand experience with everything from an 1866 Yellowboy to a 9 MM semi-automatic pistol.

Alaska Firearms Adventures is only a few minutes from the cruise ship docks. Certain packages require firearms experience and proof of hunter’s safety course completion.

9. Ketchikan Duck Tour

If you’ve never experienced an amphibious vehicle (Duck) tour, Ketchikan is a great place to try it out.

The excursion begins on land, driving past the salmon ladder on Ketchikan Creek, the fish hatchery, Whale Park, and Historic Creek Street. Y

ou’ll be amazed as your vehicle seamlessly transitions into a boat as you enter the harbor. You’ll get a close-up view of fishing fleets, sea life, and Ketchikan’s waterfront while the captain shares local history and humorous stories.

10. Bering Sea Crab Fisherman’s Tour

Do you love watching the show “Deadliest Catch?” In Ketchikan, you can hop aboard the “Aleutian Ballad” ship featured in Season 2 and have your own, more tame, crabbing adventure.

The crab ship is docked on the same pier as the cruise ships, so you can easily walk to this excursion. You’ll be able to hear commercial fishing stories, observe the crew as they prepare king crab pots, and then watch as they dump their catch in the hold.

You’ll see king and box crabs, prawns, rockfish, octopus, and more as they’re hauled on deck, and wildlife like whales, bald eagles, sea lions, and sea otters as you sail through the beautiful waters of the inside passage.

Regular price: $27 Now just $17!

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11. Ketchikan Museums

The Tongass Historical Museum and the Totem Heritage Center are under one Ketchikan Museum Pass. For $6 per adult, $5 for Seniors, and free for kids under 17, you’ll get admission to both museums.

Tongass Historical Museum

The Tongass Historical Museum is a quick 10-minute walk from the cruise ship down Dock Street. It hosts a collection of interactive exhibits, photographs, and memorabilia highlighting Ketchikan’s history and heritage.

Totem Heritage Center

You can hop on a free shuttle bus for an 8-minute ride or walk about 15 minutes from the Historical Museum to the Totem Heritage Center.

The Totem Heritage Center has one of the world’s largest collections of unrestored 19th-century totem poles. It also has an educational movie about totem poles and displays arts and crafts from the Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian people.

12. Saxman Totem Park Native Village

This village has 25 standing replica totems (the most in any location). For a $5 fee, you can tour the village on your own or take an organized guided tour that will give more of the history behind each totem pole.

You can also purchase tickets for Native dancing exhibitions and watch Native carvers use traditional techniques to work on commissioned totem poles.

Hop on the free downtown shuttle to get to Saxman, which is about two miles south of downtown Ketchikan.

13. Great Alaskan Lumberjack Show

It’s hard to miss the Great Alaskan Lumberjack Show because it is right on the pier, just one block from the cruise ship docks. This is one of the most popular Alaska cruise shore excursions!

This exciting one-hour show features a competition between athletes wearing spiked boots and hard hats and wielding sharp saws, axes, and chainsaws. You’ll learn about the history of logging in Utah and get to cheer on your favorite competitors.

The show is outdoors, and most of the seats are covered. There are between 1 and 6 shows daily, so if you plan to participate in this excursion, check on tickets and showtimes as you walk into town.

14. Dolly’s House Museum

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Get a peek into Ketchikan’s “red-light district” at this historical home belonging to Ketchikan Madam Dolly Arthur. Dolly lived and worked at this house on Creek Street from 1919 to the 1940s.

For a $10 entry fee, you’ll learn all about Dolly and her trade from a tour guide. Then, enjoy a self-guided tour through the house, seeing artifacts and photographs from this time period. Look closely at the shower curtain decorations and note the Married Man’s Trail that came to a special entrance at Dolly’s house.

15. Alaska Fish House

If you have time, you won’t regret grabbing a quick bite from Alaska Fish House. It often has a long line, but there are a large number of indoor tables that allow for plenty of seating.

Besides the gorgeous ocean and mountain views, Alaska Fish House has excellent fresh halibut fish and chips and delectable salmon chowder. Eating here is a great way to pass the time in Ketchikan.

Best Free Things To Do In Ketchikan Cruise Port

16. Historic Creek Street

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Creek Street lies at the edge of town and at the foot of Deer Mountain. It’s an easy 10-15 minute walk from most cruise ships that are docked downtowm.

This historic boardwalk has a seedy past as the former “red light” district. Now, the colorfully restored buildings are occupied by quaint souvenir shops. The buildings and wooden boardwalk rest on wooden stilts (or piles) above the creek and are very picturesque.

During July and August, be sure to look for salmon spawning in Ketchikan Creek. Watching these fish doggedly ascend a salmon ladder is amazing!

17. Uncharted Alaska Distillery

If you enjoy gin and vodka, stop by the Uncharted Alaska Distillery a block away from the downtown cruise docks. They offer free tasting and create tasty custom drinks for purchase (try the “Bees Knees”).

Ketchican Cruise Port Frequently Asked Questions

What is the best time of year to visit Ketchikan?

Ketchikan is most active (and slightly less rainy) during the months of July and August. If you visit during these months, you’ll find all of the tourist shops and destinations in full operation and a chance of some sun on the typically rainy days.

That said, May tends to be drier and although weather is cooler, the still snowy landscape is just beautiful! Every month of the Alaska season has it’s advantages.

Read more: The Best Time to Cruise Alaska: A Month-by-Month Guide

How far is downtown Ketchikan from the cruise port?

Downtown Ketchikan is about a 15-minute walk from the farthest cruise port. You can also catch a free shuttle from the dock that loops through downtown.

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Regular price: $27 Now just $17!

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17 of the Best Things to Do in Ketchikan Cruise Port: Complete Guide (11)

Final Thoughts On Things to Do in Ketchikan Cruise Port

Ketchikan is an Alaska port town that will capture your heart. With unique excursions like snorkeling, flightseeing, and riding in an amphibious vehicle, you’ll make unforgettable memories with a gorgeous backdrop.

In this post, I shared a complete guide to the 17 best things to do in Ketchikan, Alaska, when you’re on a cruise.

Have you been to Ketchikan yet? Which excursion did you (do you) want to try? Please let me know in the comments below.

Happy Cruising!

Stephanie

If you found this article helpful, please pass it along. Please feel free to share on Facebook or PIN to your favorite Pinterest board (share buttons at the top). Thanks so much!

Author Bio:

StephanieYrungaray grew up in gorgeous Eagle River, Alaska and now calls Utah her beUtahful home. She enjoys traveling and exploring with her husband and five kids any way she can, from cruising to RV camping and everythingin-between! When she’s not out exploring, you’ll find her writing about travel, finances and parenting as well as gift ideas on her website,www.TheGiftyGirl.com.

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17 of the Best Things to Do in Ketchikan Cruise Port: Complete Guide (2024)

FAQs

17 of the Best Things to Do in Ketchikan Cruise Port: Complete Guide? ›

Most major cruise lines dock in downtown Ketchikan. If your cruise ship docks downtown, then you can walk everywhere downtown directly from the cruise ship! There are 4 berths downtown, and the one that's furthest away is a 15 minute walk to the main area of downtown.

Can you walk around Ketchikan from a cruise port? ›

Most major cruise lines dock in downtown Ketchikan. If your cruise ship docks downtown, then you can walk everywhere downtown directly from the cruise ship! There are 4 berths downtown, and the one that's furthest away is a 15 minute walk to the main area of downtown.

Can you walk to Saxman Village from cruise port? ›

Saxman Village is three miles south of of the port. Enjoy a walk along the waterfront to the village, take a free shuttle bus or an organized tour.

Is Ketchikan a walkable city? ›

Our downtown area is pretty compact and easily walkable. That said, we have a free shuttle bus service that runs the downtown loop from May through September.

Can you walk to Creek Street Ketchikan from Cruise Port? ›

Creek Street is about 10-15 minutes walk from the terminal.

Can I explore Ketchikan on my own? ›

SELF-GUIDED TOURS

For those who like to explore on their own... If you're the more meandering type, pick up a copy of our Ketchikan Arrival guide and the walking tour map (available free at one of our Visitors Information Centers) and set out to see the sights.

How much does it cost to go to Saxman Village? ›

You can tour the open-air park on your own for a $5 fee, or take an organized guided tour and learn more about each pole's story.

Which is better, Totem Bight State Park or Saxman Village? ›

The tour schedule is different each day, depending on the ships. Buy tour tickets in the gift store on the right as you enter the park. If you're not interested in the tour and just want to see the poles, Totem Bight is a better stop—it has a more inspiring location and better interpretive materials.

Where is the best place to see totem poles in Ketchikan? ›

Ten miles north of Ketchikan is Totem Bight State Historical Park, an 11-acre park that is packed with restored and re-carved totems as well as a colorful Clan House. Providing a stunning backdrop to the totems is park's lush rainforest setting and the rocky coastline along Tongass Narrows.

How do you get around Ketchikan from a cruise ship? ›

The city of Ketchikan offers a free shuttle service in the downtown area. The shuttle will make a stop at all 4 cruise docks, Creek street, Thomas Stedman, Totem Heritage City Park and Plaza Mall. The shuttle should come by every 15 minutes.

What is the famous street in Ketchikan Alaska? ›

Creek Street is a historic area of Ketchikan, Alaska. The street is actually a boardwalk mounted in stilts on a high slope on the east side of Ketchikan Creek, east of the city's downtown. Creek Street was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2014. NRHP reference No.

Is there a free shuttle in Ketchikan, Alaska? ›

By Alaska standards, Ketchikan has a great transportation system. There's lot of coverage to popular destinations, including Ward Cove, Totem Bight, and Saxman Park. Fares are cheap (just $1) for bus service, and two free shuttles run from May to September between the cruise ship docks and key downtown locations.

What's the best excursion in Ketchikan? ›

The best excursions in Ketchikan are:
  • Misty Fjords National Monument Tour.
  • KetchikanTrolley: Wildlife, Totems & City Tour.
  • Mahoney Lake UTV Off-Road Safari.
  • Great Alaskan Lumberjack Show & Culinary Showcase.
  • Saxman Totem Village & Totem Heritage Center.

Can you explore cruise ports in your own? ›

Due to factors such as accessibility of local transportation, condition of roads, terrain, and the amount of time your ship is in port (which can range from 4 or 5 hours to 10 or more), some ports are easy to explore independently, others less so.

Is Ketchikan Alaska worth visiting? ›

Acclaimed as the “Salmon Capital of the World” and a center of Haida and Tlingit culture, this lively port town engages visitors with everything from historic Creek Street attractions (galleries, saloons, lumberjack shows, fresh-from-the-sea fish and chips) to extraordinary totem pole parks and Alaska heritage centers ...

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