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