There are so many things to try when visiting Alaska that its hard to narrow them down to make sure you have a once-in-a-lifetime experience in the last frontier. While it’s important to weigh your options and activity levels carefully, it’s also important to determine what experiences you would not want to miss out on. For us, there were a few things offered in Alaska that we have experienced elsewhere (such as dogsledding) and other things we knew were “must-do’s”. Based on our experiences, here’s our top three excursions to try in Alaska!
Floatplane! Many of us fly regularly, but how fun is it to have the runway be a body of water!?! When going in a floatplane, you get to experience takeoff like you are jetting down a lake in a high-speed boat.
The ride is incredibly smooth and the whole idea of a floatplane is really charming! If luck is in your favor during your flight from Ketchikan, you might even be able to land on a pristine lake mid-flight and get out of the plane to stand on the pontoons for a bit!!
These flights are a great way to see the rugged mountains, bodies of water, and views of town and the harbor. As an extra bonus, I got to sit in the cockpit and help “co-pilot” our flight! So much fun!
Whale Watching! This just can’t be beat! Whale watching brings a variety of feelings including suspense, excitement, awe, and respect. The locals really love whales and they make sure you learn about them as a species, their environment, and things you can do to help protect them. As they are a protected species, you always have to stay a certain distance from them. But, in Juneau, they are abundant so spotting them isn’t difficult. We saw a dozen or more whales in just a few hours. There are other wildlife spotting opportunities such as the super cute harbor seals, with their soulful, puppy-dog eyes! The surrounding scenery is spectacular too. You can see everything from distance mountains to glaciers, including the Mendenhall Glacier.
Maybe I like things like this so much because I’m from a completely landlocked area, or maybe its just the siren call of the ocean and all it encompasses.
Ocean Rafting! If the thought of climbing onto a pommel horse style seat on an open, high-speed raft and jetting down the freezing waters of the fjord outside Skagway doesn’t sound fun to you, you’re really missing the boat! Pardon the pun! Seriously, this was incredibly fun!! You will get suited up in a floating, orange jumpsuit that makes you feel like the Pillsbury doughboy, and will get you a few good laughs, but it serves its purpose by keeping you warm and dry.As you speed around the fjord, you’ll be impressed by the countless cascading waterfalls, soaring eagles, and will also learn so much about the local area.
You will have a blast practicing your rodeo skills as the raft skims the shoreline, bounces over the waves, and throws you around during the 360 donut turns. Don’t plan on looking pretty when you’re done with this wild ride. Yeehaw!!
Other things we tried that should receive honorable mention were the Mt. Roberts Tram in Juneau and the White Pass/Yukon Route Railroad Tour in Skagway. If you are looking for low activity level experiences, try these.
We must admit, we overlooked an excursion opportunity and we are kicking ourselves for it… Getting off the boat in the Tracy Arm Fjord and going to the Sawyer Glacier. Other than poor advertising, we aren’t sure how we missed this option, but were really bummed when we found out it was a possibility. I guess that means we will have to return to Alaska at some point.