Juneau: Alaska Adventure

| September 3, 2008

Our 36-hour stay in Juneau offered enough excitement to qualify as an Alaska adventure on its own.

Juneau -- What you Can See from the Cruise Ship Juneau has a generous cruise ship dock capable of handling four vessels at once. Another ship can anchor in the bay and tender to the dock. Next to the dock area is the main shopping area of Juneau including the famous Red Dog Saloon opened in the days when the Alaska-Gastineau Mine was the source of one of the richest gold strikes in world history.

A short walk from the dock is the cable tram that takes you to the top of Mt. Roberts. The tram offers a panorama of nearly the entire Juneau area - a view that encompasses hundreds of miles. The Mountain Station at the top of the tram ride has a movie theater showing �Seeing Daylight�, the story of the Tlingit native history in Juneau, an injured eagle on display because it cannot return to the wild, a gift shop and a restaurant featuring delicious barbecue and the locally brewed Alaska Ale.

click on pictures below for larger images:

Princess Ship at Dock   Mount Roberts Mountain Station   Celebrity Ship - Juneau Dock

If shipping the finest Alaska seafood is your goal, the Taku Smokeries outlet is also just off the cruise ship gangway. Taku gets its daily catch fresh from the local fishermen, smokes it or packs it in dry ice, and makes it ready to ship anywhere in the world on the same day.

Some of the best food in town can be found nearby in the small wooden stalls just off the dock. At Tracy's Crab Shack you can get a pound of freshly steamed King Crab legs (cooked the minute you place your order) for a $20 bill. The crab bisque, crab cakes and whole dungeness crabs are equally delectable.

The Alaska State Museum, a ten-minute walk from the pier, features artifacts of the native culture from around the state. The native clan house shows how the abundant natural resources and the tribes' ability to adapt to the surprisingly temperate climate made for arguably one of the most prolific Native American lifestyles anywhere in North America.

In all, a walk through Juneau is fine way to spend the day without spending much money. Downtown Juneau is full of gift shops and small restaurants. The brewery offers free samples and the state museum charges a mere $5 entrance fee. You can walk the stairways of Juneau, which serve as the only access to the mining era homes with mailing addresses that only specify the name of a staircase.

But there is so much more to Juneau and all you need is a little pre-planning. You can book these once-in-a-lifetime experiences directly with the providers in advance, even if you are only here for a one-day visit by cruise ship. We visited Juneau as a prelude to a weeklong cruise on America Safari Lines, an amazing experience in itself, but even if our trip had been limited to just what we saw in Juneau it still would have been worth the trip to Alaska.

What you Don't See in Downtown Juneau The Juneau area has a temperate but very humid rain forest climate with an average summer high of 60 degrees and an abundance of rainfall all year long. While the downtown comprises the business and government district, the bulk of the 30,000 population lives to the north in the areas of Douglas Island, Mendenhall Valley and Auke Valley.

The main road to Mendenhall Valley, Egan Drive, leads to the Mendenhall Glacier, the Macaulay Salmon Hatchery and the Temsco helicopter flight-seeing tours that land atop Mendenhall Glacier for sightseeing and even dogsledding. Juneau and Skayway are the only two cities along the Inside Passage cruise ship route that offer glacier helicopter flightseeing tours. IN additon to Temsco going to Mendenhall Glacier, another helicopter company in Juneau takes visitors to the Taku, Hole in the Wall, and Norris glaciers.

click on pictures below for larger images:

whale watching Dolphin Tours   Mendenhall Glacier   Temsco flightseeing Juneau
Mother Bear at Mendenhall Glacier   Bear Viewing Platform   Bear Cubs follow Mom

Video of wild bear chasing salmon in Mendenhall Glacier Park   Highly recommended video! This is a wild black bear living in Juneau that we spied chasing salmon near Mendenhall River.

The small-boat marina in Auke Bay is the departure point for the local whale-watching tours and deep-sea fishing vessels. If you enjoy botany or geology, Glacier Gardens was created after the devastation of a massive mudslide in 1984 was cleared away and the newly exposed ravine became the setting for an elaborate botanical garden.

One can also visit the Alaska Ale brewery, about six miles from downtown Juneau -- with plenty of free samples, of course. This once small and local brewery managed to find a recipe good enough to make it marketable in 10 western states, as well as qualifying as the official beer of Alaska Airlines and almost every restaurant in the state.

You can find transportation to all of these attractions a few minutes away from the cruise ship dock by foot. Any one of these tours; helicopter flightseeing, dogsledding, whale watching or deep-sea fishing is available from the cruise lines. But you can easily make your own reservations directly with the tour operators before you arrive.

All in all, we were simply astounded by what we were able to see in our pre-cruise 36 hours in Juneau. There are things you can only see in this city, including some of the best opportunities we had to see bears and eagles during our entire time in Alaska. If you are taking one of the small adventure cruise lines that home-ports in Juneau (American Safari Cruises or Cruise West) we highly recommend that you arrive a few days early and take advantage of everything Juneau has to offer.

Continue Article >> Other Juneau Attraction Details (Part 3)

Page 1 | 2 | 3 | 4

Recommended Articles