Vast swaths of raw wilderness untouched by man, picturesque mountains capped in snow, rugged coastlines alive with the roar of the oceans and the songs of shorebirds—there’s a good reason Alaska is known as the Last Frontier. With national parks larger than many European nations, flora and fauna thriving in their natural habitats, and charming port towns filled with adventurers and frontiersmen, Alaska is a place unlike any other on Earth.
Our onshore experiences bring you beyond Alaska’s misty ports and into the heart of the wild. Showcasing Alaska’s unique, thriving spirit and culture, these shore excursions offer something for everyone—from history buffs and hikers to foodies and fjord fanatics.
At each port of call throughout your trip to Alaska, there is adventure waiting to be had. Looking for a little inspiration? Here are a few of the incredible experiences you can try during your journey into the heart of the Last Frontier.
A WILDERNESS SAFARI IN HAINES
Known as “The Valley of The Eagles,” the town of Haines is considered by many to be one of Alaska’s true adventure hubs. After all, it has long been a jumping off point for outdoor enthusiasts looking to make their way into the 49th State’s great unknown. And you can make that journey for yourself on the Glacier Point Wilderness Safari.
This Azamara shore excursion offers something for everyone, including a cruise through the Lynn Canal—North America’s deepest fjord. Here, whales breach the water’s surface, though you may miss them as you become transfixed on the towering mountains that surround you. You’ll see beautiful beaches and lush rainforests—two things that may not immediately come to mind when you think of Alaska—as you make your way toward the Davidson Glacier at Glacier Point. Best of all, a canoe trip through the glacial lake below gets you even closer to this large valley glacier.
Before you make your way to the Davidson Glacier at Glacier Point, we recommend learning a little more about these incredible natural wonders. Alaska Public Land Information Center has an excellent glacier primer worth checking out—where you can learn how glaciers form, what makes Alaskan glaciers so unique, and more.
SEA KAYAKING THROUGH A STATE PARK NEAR HOMER
If Alaska is The Last Frontier, then Homer is the last stop—literally! Nestled at the end of the Sterling Highway, surrounded by mountains on one side and the Kachemak Bay on the other—Homer is a destination alive with pioneer spirits and wild hearts. And just across the water, your next adventure awaits on a sea kayaking journey in Kachemak Bay State Park—Alaska’s first state park.
Fridtjof Nansen, one of the world’s greatest polar explorers and a Nobel prize winner, once called the kayak “Far and away the best one-man boat in existence.” Of course, you can choose between a solo or tandem kayak on your journey along the shores of Kachemak Bay State Park. As your guide shares fascinating insights on this remote part of the world, be sure to keep your eyes peeled for the wildlife who call Kachemak Bay State Park home—including majestic moose and black bears bigger than any you’ve seen in The Lower 49 (Alaskan lingo for the contiguous United States).
Kayarchy is an excellent resource for those interested in learning more about the thrills of sea kayaking, and we highly recommend their detailed look at this versatile boat if you’re interested in learning more before you take to the waters.
TRY YOUR HAND AT ALASKA’S STATE SPORT
Dog mushing (also known as dog sledding) is more than Alaska’s official state sport, it’s a statewide obsession—one that is celebrated every year during the Iditarod. This 1,150-mile sled dog race takes racers from Anchorage to Nome every March in an unforgettable test of endurance. When you travel to Juneau with us, you can experience what it’s like to be a racer in the legendary Iditarod as you hop aboard a dog sled for a journey across the Mendenhall Glacier.
Now, one does not simply walk to the Mendenhall Glacier. This nearly 14-mile long glacier, originally known as Aak’wtaaksit (the Glacier Behind the Little Lake), is hidden within the Tongass National Forest—and the best way to get there is by helicopter.
Upon arrival, you’ll have the opportunity to learn the reigns from some of Alaska’s professional mushers. You’ll also find yourself in the company of hundreds of huskies ready to take you on the ride of a lifetime. Whether you want to take control of the team yourself, or simply sit back and enjoy the thrill of it all, this excursion brings you closer than ever to one of Alaska’s most enduring and iconic traditions.
For thousands of years, sled dogs and humankind have been working together in the coldest regions of North America. You can learn all about the history of this wonderful relationship in this brief history of Dog Sledding put together by Outdoor Dog World. Or, if you’re fascinated by the Iditarod, ThoughtCo. has an informative overview of the history of the race, how it works today, and the dogs who take center stage—or perhaps center sled—each year.
STEP FOOT INSIDE ALASKA’S WILDEST KITCHEN
Alaska has always been heralded as a foodie hot spot, with the area’s unique gastronomy culture yielding some exciting dishes—ranging from unmissable to unbelievable. They’re also renowned for their seafood—and you can learn for yourself how they prepare these culinary delights when you step foot inside Alaska’s Wildest Kitchen during your time in Icy Strait Point.
Learn preparation secrets from local fishers as they share stories of life on the Alaskan waters—a conversation that is certain to work up your appetite. Luckily for you, once you learn how to prepare fresh Alaskan seafood, you can try some for yourself!
While you’re here, don’t miss the opportunity to do some fishing of your own! Icy Strait Point is a fisher’s paradise—especially if you have your heart (and line) set on halibut or salmon. Food Republic has put together a great guide to Alaskan salmon—including a look at all five different types you’ll have the opportunity to try and catch when your visit.
FJORDS AND FOOD—A PERFECT PAIR
Near the southern tip of Alaska, you’ll find Ketchikan—a community awash in indigenous heritage and towering totem poles. It’s also just west of the striking Misty Fjords National Monument. A mix of towering fjords and jagged sea cliffs, the Misty Fjord National Monument is a sight to behold, especially when—true to its name—it’s enveloped by mist.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that there are no roads to the Misty Fjords, but our Misty Fjords Flightseeing shore excursion can get you there! On this guided tour, you’ll have the opportunity to see this breathtaking natural landmark from the air as you make your way through the mist for an up-close view—complete with expert insights from a local expert. Keep your camera handy, because at 3570 square miles, there’s a lot to see.
For many, sightseeing is the perfect way to work up an appetite—which is why a stop at the George Inlet Lodge is a must. Here, enjoy an all-you-can-eat feast of Dungeness crab—known for its distinct sweet flavor. While Dungeness crab is found throughout the Pacific Ocean (as far south as Mexico) Alaskan Seafood knows—and we’re inclined to agree—that the most flavorful Dungeness crab you can try is hauled in from along the shores of Alaska.
WALK THROUGH AN ALTERNATE HISTORY IN KODIAK
In Kodiak, you’ll find interesting nods to Russian heritage around every corner (or should we say dome?), a variety of museums, and a lot of fishing boats. Over 600 in fact—making Kodiak Alaska’s largest fishing port. It’s also home to a fascinating piece of American military history, one that serves as a reminder of what could have happened during World War II.
Fort Abercrombie State Park was once a fortified military installation ready to fend off an Axis attack. Of course, that attack never came—partially due to inclement weather—and after the war, it became an attraction towering on the cliffs of Monashka Bay. You can explore the fort for yourself, as well the rest of the state park, on a nature walk with us.
This shore excursion pairs you with a local guide who will take you through the colorful state park, pointing out highlights of the natural landscape and elusive wildlife along the way. Your expert guide will also share insights on Kodiak’s history as a military outpost as you make your way toward the Miller Point Gun Placement and Kodiak Military History Museum.
Long before it was a point of defense in World War II, the region surrounding Fort Abercrombie State Park was already a wealth of historical significance. History buffs will love this detailed look at the region put together by Alaska’s Department of Natural Resources.
SAIL THROUGH RESURRECTION BAY IN SEWARD
Bustling and beautiful, Seward wraps around the edge of breathtaking Resurrection Bay—providing picture perfect panoramic views that will make you fall in love with this part of the world. Animal lovers will adore Seward, especially the Seward Sealife Center—Alaska’s beloved marine mammal rehabilitation facility.
Not far from here is the Kenai Fjords National Park—home of the Harding Icefield and Bear Glacier—where you can explore more of Seward’s majestic beauty and wildlife on an Azamara shore excursion that takes you across Resurrection Bay and into the park. As your boat navigates its way between gorgeous glaciers and towering fjords, be sure to keep your eyes open for a closer look at Alaskan wildlife, including sea otters, killer whales, massive humpbacks, and more.
Words can hardly do the Kenai Fjords National Park justice. Luckily for all of us, the adventurers at The Greatest Road Trip have put together a fantastic photo gallery of their time spent in the park (along with plenty of useful tips for visitors). Take a look and get ready to ramp up your feelings of wanderlust!
EMBARK ON AN ANIMAL ADVENTURE IN SITKA
Less than 200 years ago, Alaska wasn’t a state. It wasn’t even an American territory—it was Russian. And the capital city of Russian Alaska was New Archangel, known today as Sitka. Russian influence is teeming throughout this city—one of the oldest non-native settlements in Alaska—from the atmospheric Russian Cemetery to the Russian Bishop’s House museum on Lincoln Street.
Beyond its cultural history, Sitka is also a popular destination for spotting some of Alaska’s most beloved wildlife—many of which you can catch a glimpse of on an Azamara shore excursion. Take a northern wildlife safari out to sea, where you’ll catch glimpses of sea otters playing, whales breaching the water’s surface, and curious bears patrolling the shores. From here, return ashore and make your way to the Alaska Raptor Center. No, this isn’t a secret dinosaur facility. It’s a beloved rehabilitation center for birds like the mighty bald eagle who have been injured in nature to heal and learn to soar the skies once again.
Over time in Alaska, changes to the ecosystem have resulted in a diminished natural territory for bears. An unfortunate side effect of this shift is an increase in sick or abandoned bear cubs. Typically, these cubs would have a nearly impossible time surviving in the wild, which is where Fortress of the Bear comes into the picture. This not-for-profit sanctuary—that you’ll visit as part of this Azamara shore excursion—recuses bears and rehabilitates them back to health, giving them a second chance to live a full life.
RIDE THE RAILS IN SKAGWAY
Skagway, the fabled gateway to the Klondike, is home to a wealth of history. If the walls of its colorful buildings could talk, they’d tell the story of men and women who arrived seeking their fortune during the gold rush—and who managed to make the legendary Wild West look pretty tame by comparison.
Now you can follow in the tracks of these adventurers who made their way up north in hopes of striking it rich on our Azamara shore excursion that takes you along the White Pass and Yukon Route Railway. An engineering marvel to this day, this narrow-guide railroad is rich with history. Climbing nearly 3,000 feet in just 20 miles, the train weaves through evergreen forests and mountainside tunnels while providing you with stunning panoramic views along every mile of the track. The end of this line brings you all the way to Canada’s Yukon territory, where you’ll switch from riding the rails to riding the roads on the way back to Skagway. Along the way, you’ll be treated to stories from the days of the gold rush, as well as opportunities to see iconic Klondike landmarks for yourself.
ARE YOU READY TO CONQUER THE LAST FRONTIER?
Is your pioneer spirit starting to stir at the thought of a voyage to Alaska?
It’s time to embrace your inner frontiersman and experience this northern beauty for yourself. While we’ve highlighted some of the exciting adventures you can have in Alaska, the truth is we’ve only scratched the surface. There is so much to see and do in Alaska, and with our expertly curated shore excursions, you’re sure to find something new, marvelous, and unexpected on every stop of your journey. The Last Frontier awaits! It’s time for you to answer the call of the wild and forge your own path
By Azamara Club Cruises on Thursday, December 27, 2018
Original Blog can be found here