Ketchikan is one of Alaska’s most popular destinations by cruise ship. While the local population is only about 10,000 residents, the port city will see over one million cruise passengers visiting annually.
As imagined, Ketchikan has a limited window for cruise ship visits due to the Alaskan climate. The period between May and September are open to cruise passengers, with those middle months (July & August) proving most popular. When compared to most Alaskan destinations, however, Ketchikan is much more moderate due to its positioning within a “maritime climate zone.” Winters are warmer and summers cooler than comparable Alaskan cities. However, when it comes to “rainfall,” Ketchikan is in a league of its own. The area gets more rainfall than anywhere else in North America. So expect some drops while visiting.
Ketchikan cruise port is relatively small and easily accessible. You’ll have plenty of shopping options just outside your terminal area and unlimited opportunities to experience Alaska’s beauty with organized trips from Ketchikan.
What to do in Ketchikan, Alaska
Ketchikan has a rich history which can be consumed through self-guided tours of the city or organized trips for the full effect. Either way, you’ll be astounded to learn of Ketchikan’s promiscuous past and contribution to the frontier times. Other very popular excursion options show off Ketchikan’s amazing landscapes. You’ll have many options to take in the cold waters, beautiful landscapes and surrounding rainforest.
We’ve all seen or heard of “The Deadliest Catch.” Now we can experience it for ourselves (well… not the “deadliest” part). There’s a reason that show is filmed here. The fishing is amazing. Jump on a chartered fishing tour to pluck out the delicious treats hiding under Ketchikan’s waters. Ketchikan has actually been dubbed “the salmon capital of the world.
Zip Line, Hike, Kayak, Mountain-Climb, or Explore via Horseback
For our more active cruisers, you’ll have plenty of chances to brake a sweat while exploring beautiful Ketchikan. Choose your favorite athletic mode of transportation and get deep into the Alaska wilderness and all that it has to offer.
When thinking about Alaska, it’s tough not to picture bears. Enough mental images - it’s time to see the real thing. This is a very popular excursion in Ketchikan. You’ll have multiple options to hang out with these big, beastly (but still majestic) creatures.
Fortunately, downtown Ketchikan is easy to access from your cruise port. You’ll immediately notice the frontier influence has been preserved throughout the century. The town is laid out in a long, narrow strip which makes it easy to consume all that the downtown area has to offer. You’ll find plenty of attractions to keep you busy while downtown, including the totem poles, welcome arch, historical museum and library, city park, fish bridge and more. You can find more specific attractions with details below.
Shopping in Ketchikan, Alaska
Shopping in Ketchikan is recommended for those looking to take home a genuine piece of Alaska. You’ll find unique and authentic artwork for local craftsmen, stamped with the “made in Alaska” insignia. If in the market for some jewelry, you’re also in luck. You’ll find numerous options to grab a shiny souvenir.
Here you’ll find more jewelry options than you will on Creek Street. There are literally dozens of jewelry stores lining the main retail area. You’ll also come across many souvenir items that are convenient, but possibly less unique and authentic versus the typical item on Creek Street.
Compared to downtown, Creek Street will have more authentic and “locally created” merchandise. The boardwalk has an added level of excitement knowing it was once lined with brothels. These have since been converted into shops where you’ll find art, textiles, jewelry, books, and local-food-items. Consider taking home a mini totem pole as a gift or keepsake!
Attractions in Ketchikan, Alaska
Ketchikan, Alaska is a city located in the southeastern part of the state, on the Revillagigedo Island. The city is known for its beautiful natural surroundings, with many forests, mountains, and rivers located in the area. Ketchikan is also a major hub for fishing and other maritime activities, with many fishing charters and other water-based activities available to visitors. In addition, the city is home to a number of historic landmarks and museums, as well as many restaurants, shops, and other attractions. Overall, Ketchikan is a popular destination for travelers looking for a unique blend of natural beauty, modern amenities, and rich cultural history.
Creek Street & Museum of Dolly’s House
During the frontier days, this is where frontier men would go for their “entertainment.” Creek Street was the “red-light district” area and brothels lined both sides of the street. These were shut down in 1953, but we’re still able to catch a glimpse into these exciting times at the Museum of Dolly’s House.
Tongass Historical Museum and Ketchikan Public Library
For a couple bucks, you can take a quick tour of Ketchikan’s history from a small fishing town, to a gold rush town, to a tourist mecca. The museum is within walking distance to your cruise ship and free buses are also available.
Alaskan Lumberjack Show
Located just a block from your cruise terminal, the Lumberjack Show is a must see. You’ll experience six-foot saws, tree climbing, axe throwing, log rolling, and much more. It’s an hour long and the arena is heated. Get ready for some jaw-dropping and hilarious “axe-tion.”
Ketchikan Visitors Bureau & Rain Gauge
This is a great jumping off point for your day in Ketchikan. Save any specific questions for the staff here and take in the historic info available at the info center. You’ll also find Ketchikan’s popular Rain Gauge here. The Ketchikan area gets more rain than any other city in North America. Don’t believe us? Check the gauge!
When performing any research about Ketchikan Cruise Port, you’ll read about totem poles. The city has the world’s largest collection of standing totem poles. Most of these are re-carvings of the originals. That’s what you’ll find at t Saxman Totem Park, Totem Bight State Park, and Potlatch Park. To see original totems, you can find these at the Totem Heritage Center.
Best cruise excursions in Ketchikan, Alaska
We've analyzed tens of thousands of cruise tours to find your ideal attraction while in port. Based on these reviews, here are the Best Cruise Excursions in Ketchikan, Alaska
If looking at a map of Alaska, think about that “panhandle” piece that extends south and east. Ketchikan is the most southeastern point in the panhandle (and actually the whole state). If coming up the coast from Seattle, Vancouver, or other southern areas, it’ll be first in to your Alaskan itinerary.
Ketchikan is actually located on Revillagigedo Island, just off the mainland. The island is tucked up into the channel so you’ll have a smooth ride and a magnificent view on the way in and out of Ketchikan.
Ketchikan, Alaska Cruise Port Terminals
Ketchikan has four cruise ship slips in the immediate downtown area. All are within a quick walk to shops, restaurants, and the many attractions found down town. If more than four ships are in port at the same time, those additional vessels will be berthed a mile south in Ketchikan Creek. If docked there, shuttles will quickly bus you up to the main city area.
There’s also a rare chance you’ll need to tender. On an extremely high-trafficked port day, there’s a chance you’ll be forced to dock off-shore and take a quick tender to port.