What to do in Ketchikan, Alaska on a Cruise
Spending the day in Ketchikan
So you’re sailing along on your 7-day Alaskan cruise and you are about to come up to your first port… Ketchikan!
There’s something truly exciting about watching the town of Ketchikan roll into view that first day.
If this is your first cruise, make sure you are out on your balcony (another GREAT reason to have a balcony room) or one of the decks as the ship comes into port. You’ll get some really great views of the entire town and will want to snap a whole bunch of pictures.
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Ketchikan docks early. You’ll be in port this day from 6:30 am to 3:30 pm. So you want to get an early start to make the most of your day!
TIP: Cruise ships want you back on the ship anywhere from an hour to a half an hour before sail time. So when it says 330pm… they really want you back on board by 2:30 pm
I highly recommend getting up nice and early and getting off the ship right at 6:30 am. This is by far the shortest day and you have a lot to do and see! Don’t get too worried about being an early riser, the sun rises around 4:00 am so trust me… you’ll be up!
The buffet also opens up at 6:00 am so we got up, got ready, ate a big breakfast at the buffet, and walked off the ship right at 6:30 am. We also grabbed a few pieces of fruit for our backpacks while at the buffet.
The Town of Ketchikan
The town itself is not very big. Outside of Creek Street (which I’ll get to in a minute) the town is mostly made up of tourist type shops that unfortunate are not that appealing. But, the town does rely a lot on tourism so maybe just give them a good half hour of your time to buy a tee shirt or two.
We did happen to come across this beauty though…
Creek Street is one of the more well know stops for Ketchikan and probably the most visited. I would definitely put this on your list of things to do. It’s not only a uniquely situated little street (all on stilts over the creek), but it has an amazing history to it too.
Even better, shopping on Creek Street is great! We had some samples of smoked salmon that were AMAZING and ended up having some shipped home. You will definitely find the more unique gifts here.
Where to eat in Ketchikan
You won’t be in this town for very long since you have to be back in the boat by 2:30 pm. What I recommend you do is pack some snacks from the buffet before you leave the cruise ship and snack your way through Ketchikan. Save your appetite for the cruise ship where the food is FREE!
If you do find yourself starving and want to enjoy some good local Alaskan fish, check out the Alaskan Fish House. We hade a great lunch here and a flight of beer while looking out over the ocean and all the Ketchikan fishing boats.
What to do in Ketchikan
Like I said before, the town itself won’t offer you more than about an hour’s worth of shopping. But outside of the town are a TON of things to do.
We decided to ‘see Alaska’ and head out on a hike.
There are two popular trails right in Ketchikan. The Deer Mountain Trail, which is more for your seasoned hikers, and Rainbird Trail, an easier and family-friendly trail.
We decided to be adventurous and go on the Deer Mountain Trail. It’s known for its gorgeous scenery and views and it did NOT disappoint. I will warn you though, the first mile is straight up. It’s like climbing stairs for an hour straight.
Now, I’m like in mediocre shape and I was able to do it just fine (with some sweat, some breaks, and a lot of huffing and puffing) but you will most certainly need a good pair of hiking shoes for this trail. I personally recommend this pair because they are comfy, affordable, waterproof (yes, it’s wet on those trails!), and cute!
If you can make it to the top (the trail goes on for many miles, but 1 mile up is a great place to stop and turn around) you will be greeted with the BEST views. Check out some photos from our hike…
The Best Ketchikan Excursions
We chose to ‘see the town’ and spent most of our time on Deer Mountain Trail and walking through Creek Street. Even with lunch, there was still a few hours left in our day before we had to head back to the ship.
If I could do Ketchikan again, I would skip the town (maybe spend an hour in Creek Street), and either try to hit another trail to hike, or try out one of these other excursions.
*We did not go on these excursions, but talked to other passengers on the ship and these are the ones they RAVED about.
- The Great American Lumberjack Show. You can book this on the ship or once you get in town (cheaper!). The price is fairly inexpensive and the show is a lot more enjoyable than people expected. This would be a great option for kids or older people who can’t walk around too much.
- Rainforest Skybridge and Zipling. I’ve been ziplining before so chose to pass on this excursion but the skybridge looked pretty cool and now I regret not trying this out.
- The Coastal Wildlife Cruise. A great option if you want to get out to sea and have a boat ride with wildlife viewing. I was told the hosts bring food and dozens of bald eagles circle your boat.
- Misty Fjords Flightseeing Tour. If you have a good budget for your Alaskan cruise, then THIS is a good place to spend that extra money! Taking a seaplane over to the misty fjords (something you cannot access any other way) would be a magical excursion. And will for sure be on my list of things to do the next time around.
Final Travel Tips
Even though it’s a short day, there are still plenty of things to do. But don’t wait too long. Get up early and make the most of your day. Even when the shops don’t open right away, you can still get out and visit the totem poles or get some good photos of the town and Creek Street.
You’ll be back on the boat early enough to have a late lunch and dinner so save your money on town and eat on the cruise ship.
Wear layers! We started our day feezing our butts off and stripped down to tee shirts by the noon. Bring a foldable lightweight backpack (easy to put in your luggage!) to carry water, snacks, and as a place to put your shedding layers.
Ketchikan is the salmon capital of the world so don’t leave without seeing the salmon, or at least eating some!
And most of all… Don’t miss the boat! It WILL leave without you, lol!
- What it’s Really Like on an Alaskan Cruise
- What to do in Juneau on a Cruise Port Day
- What to do in Skagway on a Cruise Port Day
If you have any questions about your upcoming trip to Ketchikan, don’t hesitate to reach out and ask! Drop it in the comments below or shoot me an email at [email protected]
Thanks for the articles on ‘what to do in Ketchikan’ and Juneau. We’ve been to Alaska before but want yo do different things on a trip we have planned in July. Your articles were very informative.
The Lumberjack show was one of the best things we did on our first cruise. I’d do it again in a heartbeat!