Exploring Ketchikan: Top Activities Revealed with Useful Area Info & Map

Ketchikan awed and delighted us. Though it was the last stop during our Alaskan Dream Cruises vacation, ironically, it's called Alaska's First City. We debarked our cruise here to explore the beautiful city for a few days in a post-cruise extension.

Our 49-passenger ship was one of the first two to arrive in Ketchikan that day. We had the town to ourselves for a little while until the next cruise ship came into town an hour later. However, staying in Ketchikan for multiple days allowed us to appreciate the city beyond a few hours in port.

Be that as it may, whatever time you can get in Ketchikan is worth it. We highly recommend visiting, whether it's a port of call during a longer Alaskan cruise or your destination for an extended few days. There's a lot to see and plenty of things to do in Ketchikan during your Inside Passage adventures.

Disclosure: This page has affiliate links, meaning we may earn a small commission if you click the link and proceed with a purchase at no cost to you. We thank the Ketchikan Visitors Bureau for hosting a portion of our stay. We recommend cruises, experiences, products, and services we personally use. As Amazon Associates, we earn from qualifying purchases.

🕐 Short on time? No Problem!

Our Top 3 Picks for Must-Do Experiences in Ketchikan

#1 Top Pick
🦀 Bering Sea Crab Fisherman's Tour
  • Hear incredible Alaska fishing stories from the fisherman who lived to tell the tales
  • Leaves from the same area where cruise ships dock
  • Have the opportunity to see wildlife, including marine life and bald eagles
#2 Pick
🤿 Snorkel Alaska
  • Discover that you're braver than you thought in the cold Pacific Ocean waters
  • Pick up and drop off near the cruise port
  • Wetsuits and gear provided
#3 Pick
🐟 Alaska Fish House
  • Walkable location from the waterfront and cruise ships
  • The BEST fried fish we've ever had (and we've had a lot)
  • Affordable quick-service option in Ketchikan
Find it

Where Do the Cruise Ships Dock in Ketchikan?

The cruise port is conveniently located in downtown Ketchikan. It's such a central area; it is the heart of the city. Several berths accommodate a multitude of ships.

Every day in town, we walked to a little guard shack in front of the cruise ships. We were anxious to see the whiteboard that stated what ships were expected that day and how many passengers were onboard. It was wild to think that the population grew by the thousands within minutes during peak season, then went back down at night when the ships left…until it all happened again the next day.

Our Favorite Tours in Ketchikan

Snorkel in Alaska

When this tour came on our radar, two thoughts popped into our minds: 1) Are you nuts?! Snorkeling in the cold Pacific Ocean waters? 2) HOW COOL IS THAT?!

We were sold once we found out that they provide wet suits, including booties, gloves, and headgear to keep you warm from head to toe.

Fred, one of the owners who runs the tours, was even kind enough to talk me down from my claustrophobia fears wearing all that gear. He was understanding and patient.

When you sign up for the Alaska Snorkel tour, which lasts approximately three hours, you're picked up right in front of the cruise ships and returned after the tour. All you need to bring is a towel, your swimsuit, and an extra pair of socks.

We saw colorful starfish, an octopus, urchins, and sea anemones. It was such a unique experience — we highly recommend signing up!

Bering Sea Crab Fisherman's Tour

If we had to sum up the crab fisherman's tour in one word, it would be, “Wow.” We've been on many tours, and this one was phenomenal.

Why, you ask? It wowed us because it was incredibly well-organized, the storytelling was incredible, the educational elements brought us into the world of Alaska crab fishing that is unlike anything we have ever experienced, and the boat was specifically retrofitted for tours.

What was once a crab fishing boat for years was transformed into a tour boat. This occurred after the owner decided to retire from crab fishing following a scary accident.

If the boat name sounds familiar and you watch Deadliest Catch, you may remember seeing it during Season 2, Episode 7. Dave, the owner of Aleutian, the ship the tours are on, had some footage of the windshield being broken by a rogue 60’ wave that was included in that Deadliest Catch episode. Scary stuff.

Luckily, everyone survived. Now, the boat's purpose is to safely give guests an incredible, educational experience.

Safely See Bears in the Wild

One of the coolest places that we saw black bears during our time in Alaska was at the Alaska Rainforest Sanctuary.

A tour with Kawanti Adventures is one of the best things to do if you want to see these magnificent creatures. The tour was phenomenal partially because the guides communicated with each other when they found the bears. That way, everyone touring at the time saw these creatures when they were spotted.

It was the best way to see bears up close and personal yet at a safe distance.

With our favorite binoculars in hand, we walked along the elevated boardwalk to see mama bears with their cubs lounging, finding food, and playing. Afterward, we saw the bald eagle being rehabilitated at the sanctuary, the old mill inside, and some beautiful totem poles.

Take a Ketchikan Walking Tour with Where the Eagle Walks

Joe Williams, Jr. is the perfect guide to show you around Ketchikan. As a native Tlingit and lifelong Alaska resident, he knows more about the local history and culture than we could have ever asked to learn. He's also a former mayor of Ketchikan and neighboring Saxman.

Walking through Ketchikan on a tour that lasted two hours and encompassed a 9-block radius was delightfully educational. We learned what it was like for Joe growing up in Alaska, how the city has changed over the years, and about present-day Ketchikan.

One of the fun things we learned is that Ketchikan is the “First city in Alaska” because it applied to be the first once the state was added to the United States, not necessarily because it's the first state many people reach on their cruise from points east. We also learned that the first paved road in Alaska is by the carved eagle near one of the main traffic lights in the city. These are just a few of a plethora of fun facts we learned from Joe.

He has been operating his tour business for over two and a half decades. He offers a 2-hour walking tour, a driving tour, or an extended 3-hour walking tour that includes additional Tlingit cultural information and a traditional Tlingit snack.

Be sure to reserve your Where the Eagle Walks tour in advance.

Visit the Tongass Historical Museum and Totem Heritage Center

If you like Native American culture, put this on your list to visit if you're in Ketchikan for a few days. It's also a great thing to do on a rainy day.

The museum serves to “…collect, preserve, interpret and creatively share the history and culture of the region to serve, educate, engage and enrich the community and its visitors.”

We enjoyed walking around for an hour or so, seeing the preserved totem poles from the 1970s and additional artifacts from the Tlingit people, like masks and regalia. It was also fascinating to see black and white photos that were many decades old, showing what Ketchikan and nearby cities used to look like.

See Majestic Misty Fjords National Monument

We were lucky to explore Misty Fjords National Monument during our Alaskan Dream Cruises trip. However, if you can't do so on a small cruise, you must explore it another way while in Ketchikan.

The splendor of Misty Fjords is breathtaking. Explore by boat tour or small plane ride for spectacular views.

The area is part of Tongass National Forest, “…the largest intact temperate rainforest in the world and the largest national forest in the United States,” as Travel Alaska states.

Go for a Wilderness Tour with Allen Marine Tours

If you have no other way of chasing whales, including humpback whales and orcas, during your time in Alaska, an excursion with Allen Marine Tours is particularly a good thing to do. If you've already seen whales, bald eagles, sea otters, and sea lions, prioritize other unique tours we mentioned over this option.

We wanted to take an excursion with this company because the families who own the small cruise company we traveled through the Inside Passage with own the tour company.

The families are the children of Betty and Bob Allen, who started Allen Marine Tours in the 1970s. It is a long-standing native-owned Alaskan business.

We signed up for one of their wilderness tours and dressed in layers to stay warm on the water. It was nice to spend a couple of hours scoping out the scene to spot wildlife; we were glad we brought our binoculars along to get up and close with things in the distance, like humpback whales.

Great Alaskan Lumberjack Show

The lumberjack show is a popular place for family fun. The hour-long show is in an open amphitheater with a roof covering.

During the show, you watch two teams of lumberjack athletes compete in 12 events. To the audience's delight, they perform activities with axes, six-foot saws, tree-climbing gaffs, and chainsaws.

There are multiple shows daily during cruise season. The location is right next to Alaska Fish House, just a short walk from where the nearest cruise ship docks. It's very easy to walk there from the waterfront.

Free Things to Do in Ketchikan

See Totem Poles

Did you know that Ketchikan is home to the world's largest collection of totem poles? They're part of the splendor of the Pacific Northwest. There are great places to see totem poles in Ketchikan, free of charge.

One is at the Cape Fox Lodge. Their Totem Park has several totem poles just in front of the hotel. Another location is just past Whale Park (a very small public park) at the end of Mission Street, where you can see the Chief Johnson Totem Pole.

Totem Park at Cape Fox Lodge
Saxman Totem Park

Saxman Totem Park is approximately three miles from the center of Ketchikan. It's a 6-minute car ride if you're keen on seeing as many totem poles as possible. As you can see in the photo above, there is also a traditional Tlingit clan house at Saxman Native Village.

Lastly, but certainly not least, as they say, we highly recommend Totem Heritage Center. There's a small entrance fee, but the center does a fantastic job of educating visitors about totem poles and several other native Tlingit crafts.

It's a 15 to 20-minute walk from the center of Ketchikan and less than one mile, but it gets hilly in some areas. It's a very short, less-than-five-minute car ride. This is a great thing to do if it's raining and also a great place to see preserved totem poles.

Walk Around Creek Street

Creek Street is one of the most photo-worthy areas in Ketchikan. Today, the small collection of colorful wooden structures on pilings over water consists of galleries, restaurants, and shops. But historically, it was the red-light district of Ketchikan, which is why the trail that leads to it is named ” Married Man's Trail.”

Visit Dolly's House Museum to learn more about this nefarious time period of Ketchikan's history. The former brothel educates visitors about the history of the city in a fun setting. Be sure to bring cash to pay the nominal entrance fee.

See the Fish at Salmon Ladder Vista

Witnessing salmon swimming is one of the wonders of being in Alaska during summer. We saw them spawning in August, jumping upstream along the ladder vista in Ketchikan. It's easy to reach the lookout by foot and spend ten to fifteen minutes admiring the fish.

By the way — Ketchikan is known as the Salmon Capital of the World!

Walk Along the Waterfront

We loved taking a morning walk to explore the waterfront the day we disembarked from our Alaskan Dream Cruises ship. A boardwalk extends well beyond the main berths, past restaurants and bars. It's a lovely walk that you should allot about thirty minutes for.

Shop at the Various Souvenir and Jewelry Stores

When there are cruise tourists, there are often souvenir shops and jewelry stores. Our guide, Joe, from Where the Eagle Walks, made a joke that made us laugh regarding jewelry stores. There are so many diamond advertisements in Ketchikan's cruise port that Joe said something like, “Diamonds are not from Alaska. The diamonds are here because of you,” referencing us, the tourists!

Regardless, there are many opportunities for fine jewelry shopping in Ketchikan. Some shops even allow guests of Princess Cruises to use their Princess Medallion to shop!

We enjoyed looking at the souvenirs too. There are mostly things for sale you'd expect, like sweatshirts, jackets, and t-shirts that say “Ketchikan,” but also some more special local items.

Recommended Restaurants and Bars in Ketchikan

Many people look forward to fresh seafood and comfort foods while in Alaska. There are great restaurants in Ketchikan to satisfy these desires. Though we can't name them all, we suggest a few that we tried and stood out.

Alaska Fish House

This is our #1 recommendation in Ketchikan. When the cruise ships are in port (daily during summer months), and the lunch rush comes, expect to wait in line to place your order. The wait wasn't too bad the two days we went for lunch, and it was nice to strike up conversations with other visitors waiting in line.

You order and pay a cashier, then get a number for your table and find a seat. The food is delivered to your table shortly after. They have a varied menu, but the most popular item is their fish & chips. You can get a variety plate of fried fish, which includes a piece of Alaskan salmon, halibut, and cod. We loved the halibut so much that we got all halibut for our fried fish meal the next day instead of the variety plate.

The smoked salmon chowder soup is outstanding and not to miss!

Eagle's Nest at Cape Fox Lodge

Sometimes, after a week and a half in Alaska without pizza, you crave a good one. If you're a pizza lover, you definitely know what we mean! Eagle's Nest has delicious personal pies made in a brick oven that delivers on texture and flavor. We enjoyed the fresh air as we sat on the outdoor deck and washed down each bite with local beer.

The view from the patio, where there is ample seating, is stunning!

Heen Kahidi Dining Room at Cape Fox Lodge

If you're looking for an indoor restaurant with a killer view in Ketchikan, this is the place to eat. It's a similar view you experience at Eagle's Nest, but the restaurant is enclosed with huge glass windows that allow you to eat indoors and simultaneously admire the scenery.

We dined here for breakfast and dinner; both were delicious. Don't miss the Mud Pie for dessert with dinner.

108 Taphouse & Burger Bar

We went to this restaurant one night, long after the last cruise ship left for the day. The streets of Ketchikan were quiet, so imagine our surprise when we walked in to find the place was packed and there was a little bit of a wait. “This must be the place to eat!” we thought.

We tried nachos and a burger. Both were good, and it was a lovely yet casual and cozy setting.

Bawden Street Brewing Company

A little garage opens up to reveal a small brewery in Ketchikan. If the garage is open, the brewery is open for visitors. It's a low-key place with a fun vibe. If you love trying local brews when you travel, this is your place.

Uncharted Alaska Distillery

We wanted to try so many drinks here we could have stayed for hours! Alas, our alcohol tolerance is much lower than that, so we each relished a cocktail while talking to the bartenders and enjoying a quiet evening in Ketchikan. Undoubtedly, this is one of the best places to get a cocktail in Ketchikan, if not the spot.

Three former public safety officers own the bar, housed in an old firehouse. It's also Ketchikan's only distillery, crafting vodka (regular and flavored), agave, whiskey, and three kinds of gin.

Best Place to Stay in Ketchikan

The number one place to stay in Ketchikan is Cape Fox Lodge. We absolutely loved staying here. The vibe is Alaskan, and the onsite restaurants (which we mentioned above) are yummy. Furthermore, every room has a view of the mountains or the sea. Our view was outstanding!

The Tlingit artifacts around the hotel's public areas were a bonus of staying here. We also appreciated the form line details (a Native American art form) in our room's bedding and shower curtain.

Flying To Ketchikan

Getting to Ketchikan by airplane is easy if you're not already there via cruise. People who start or end their Alaska cruises there likely fly in or out of the Ketchikan airport. The closest shoreside road to the airport is a 10-minute drive from the cruise port. Then, the airport is a brief 5-7 minute ferry ride across the water from Ketchikan.

It's a very small international airport that's easy to navigate. Many flights that leave from Ketchikan connect in a Pacific Northwest airport, like Seattle or Vancouver.

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