The Southeastern region of Alaska is known as Alaska’s Inside Passage since the ocean channels are protected by islands you pass through on your way up the coast. This region comprises dozens of islands and a thin stretch of mainland divided from Canada by the Coast Mountain Range. Admiralty Island is known for having the world’s highest concentration of brown bears. Alaskan towns are nestled in valleys along the coastline, backed by mountains and rainforests.
The most popular destinations in Alaska’s Southeast region are cruise ship ports, including Ketchikan, Sitka, Juneau, Icy Strait Point (Hoonah), Skagway, and Haines. Travelers looking for off-the-beaten-path destinations also visit Petersburg, Wrangell, Yakutat, and Gustavus. The region includes Glacier Bay National Park, famous for its glaciers and wildlife. Klondike National Historical Park, Alaska’s most visited national park, is located in Skagway, while Sitka has the Sitka National Historical Park. Much of Southeast is part of Tongass National Forest. With its sheer cliffs, waterfalls, and wildlife, Misty Fjords National Park is another national jewel.
The heritage of the Tlingit and Haida peoples heavily influences Alaska’s southeast areas. Their story-telling totem poles can be seen in many towns, especially Ketchikan and Sitka. Tours of Alaska Native villages are available from Ketchikan to Saxman Village, from Haines to Klukwan, and from Icy Strait Point to Hoonah.
The Alaska Gold Rush was also important in the region. Gold seekers founded both Juneau and Skagway. Gold mining remains a significant industry, as well as tourism, fishing, and the government’s capital in Juneau.
Because of the islands and mountainous mainland that make up the Southeast, there are very few roads in this part of Alaska. Visitors who wish to tour the Southeast Inside Passage by car can drive through Canada to Haines or Skagway. From here, state ferry service is available for passengers and vehicles to almost every community in Southeast Alaska.
Most visitors arrive on a large or small cruise ship in the Inside Passage. By cruising, travelers visit towns during the day and cruise between them at night. Most Inside Passage cruises also tour spectacular wilderness areas completely inaccessible by road, including Hubbard Glacier, Glacier Bay, Misty Fjords, and Tracy Arm.
Jet service is available to Juneau, Ketchikan, Gustavus, Yakutat, Petersburg, and Wrangell. Float and bush planes are also used to reach smaller communities not serviced by Alaska Airlines, with many flightseeing opportunities from Ketchikan and Juneau.