If there’s one town that embodies all that Alaska has to offer, it’s Seward. Framed by the Kenai Mountains on one side and Resurrection Bay on the other, Seward is a picturesque base camp for all your Alaskan adventures. Whether you arrive by cruise ship, train, or car, Seward is the place to experience Alaska.
The town of Seward was founded in 1903 though it was used as a port by Russian fishermen for well over 100 years. The non-freezing Resurrection Bay made a perfect port for shipping supplies into and out of the interior. In 1964, the Good Friday earthquake hit, exploding oil tanks and sending tsunamis inland destroying 90% of the town. Seward has since rebuilt and flourishes as a fishing, shipping and tourism hot spot without too much tourism hype. Here are 10 fun things to do while you’re in town:
#1- DOG SLEDDING: Go dog sledding any time of the year. Ididaride is run by legendary musher Mitch Seavy. Even in summer, these over eager dogs must exercise and prepare for the 400 mile competition between Anchorage and Nome held in February every year. The original Iditarod began at mile marker 0 (zero) by the Alaskan Sea Life Center at the end of 4th Ave. During the summer, these Iditarod sled dogs are weight training with a 500 pound metal cart that can hold 7 people, and in the winter, you can ride an actual sled. During the competition, 16 dogs pull a 35 lb. sled with a musher, and maybe an extra 150 pounds. If you’re lucky, puppies might be available to hold or play with. www.ididaride.com
#2- EXIT GLACIER: Named by explorers because of its suitable “exit” from Harding Ice Fields, Exit Glacier is a fabulous example of how our climate has changed. Driving up to Exit Glacier, signs are posted to show how far the glacier has retreated in the last few hundred years. With the increase in pollution and global warming, the glacier has receded the most in the last 75 years. Nature guides are available to point out the different plant species and answer questions about wildlife in the area. Hint: There’s always a possibility of seeing a moose. Exit Glacier is located at Mile 3.7 of the Seward Highway.
#3- SMALL BOAT HARBOR: This is the place for all fishing and wildlife excursions. On perfect weather days, take advantage of the many wildlife tours offered from Seward. You never know what you may see, but the captains are experts at knowing where some of the favorite hangout spots are for Dall’s porpoises, Stellar sea lions, sea otters, orcas, eagles, and whales. Restaurants, cafes, tourist information, and fish prep areas to filet and ship your fish home are also available here.
#4- MILLER’S LANDING: Paddling tours from one day to multiple days are launched from here away from the big boat traffic.
#5- FOX ISLAND: Fox Island at the opening of Resurrection Bay is a great place to camp, hike, and paddle or relax with a book at Kenai Fjords Wilderness Lodge. Tours can be arranged through wwwkenaifjords.com or http://www.millerslandingak.com/.
#6- HIKING: Seward has plenty of hiking trails with excellent views. South of Seward there are two hikes that are exceptionally beautiful. The Tonsina Point hike is 5.5 miles south in Caines Head State Recreation Area. You’ll travel through the woods, over a stream with salmon swimming up, and if it’s low tide, out to the beach. We sat on some driftwood and had a picnic lunch, and then wandered back through a dead forest and fireweed (tall purple flowers). The other hike is Lost Lake Trail, a mountain hike with 2 different paths, located at mile 5.3 of the Seward Highway. The summer path has the views of the mountains and canyon, but the winter trail has all the blueberries. Other nearby hikes include Mt. Marathon, Exit Glacier, and trails along the Seward Highway.
#7- ALASKA SEA LIFE CENTER: Something wonderful did come out of the Valdez oil spill. The Alaska Sea Life Center is a $56 million marine life and rehabilitation center that is the only cold- water marine science facility in the western hemisphere. Many of their residents are temporary, as they rescue abandoned, sick or injured animals from all over the coast of Alaska. Large aquariums display the many aquatic cold water habitants of Alaska’s waters, and a 21-foot deep exhibit with tall windows allows us humans to marvel at the speed and grace of puffins and rehabilitating harbor seals as they dive and glide underwater. Scientists are studying wild populations, climate changes, metabolics, nutrition, and other factors that affect Stellar sea lions, sea otters, and other native species. www.alaskasealife.org
#8- SEWARD MUSEUM: For history buffs, the Seward Museum houses exhibits and relics from Iditarod, Good Friday Earthquake, the 1989 oil spill and the USS Alaska. It also showcases a rare 49- star American flag.
#9- CAMPING: Alaska is very camper friendly, but probably one of the best spots to camp is at Seward Waterfront Park because of its beachfront property and central proximity to all Seward attractions. A bike path runs through it and leads you to Small Boat Harbor to the North and Alaska Sea Life Center to the south. Other accommodations are located south of Seward at Miller’s Landing, near Exit Glacier and throughout town. If your idea of “roughing it” requires heating and indoor plumbing, hostels and hotels are scattered throughout the town.
#10- NIGHTLIFE: Seward is a beer guzzling town, and bar hopping is easy to do with everything so close by. Live music can be enjoyed at Yukon Bar, or listen to DJ music at the New Saloon. Note: Smoking is allowed in Alaska’s bars, and jeans, overalls, and sweaters are the formal attire. Check bar schedules for entertainment. If you really want a taste of a true locals bar, head out to Mile 3.5 on Seward Highway for the Pit Bar, but really, it’s nothing special.
So there you have it…locals, culture, wildlife, and nature all rolled into one neat little package called Seward, Alaska.