The highway system in Alaska is extensive and there are a lot of places you can road trip to discover, but some travelers won’t stop when the pavement ends. For them, these cool towns in Alaska offer salty breezes, fresh seafood, and lots and lots of boats. Many Alaskans access the more than 6,000 miles of coastline using the Alaska Marine Highway and other ferries to travel throughout the state. These small towns are not to be missed by the true Alaskan adventurer. From the scenic Inside Passage to the Aleutian Islands to the islands of the Bering Straight, Alaska has great places to visit off the beaten, and paved, path.
1. Sitka (Southeast)
Sitka is located on Baranof Island, on the outer coast of Alaska's Inside Passage. Accessible year-round by the Alaska Marine Highway ferry system, it's a breezy 9 hour ride from Juneau. Sitka has been the home of the Kiksadi Tlingit Indians throughout the ages, and more recently was influenced by Russian occupation prior to statehood. This small town boasts a cultural melting pot of totem poles, historic Russian churches and modern life.
2. Kodiak (Kodiak Island)
Kodiak is the main city on Kodiak Island and
maintains cool temperatures and lots of rain year round. The mild climate is perfect for viewing the wildlife in the area, as Kodiak is known for being literally covered in bears. Salmon, halibut, the unique Kodiak bear, elk, Sitka deer (black tail), and mountain goats are all in abundance and much of the tourism centers around viewing these Alaskan creatures. Join in adventure sports, marathons and eating king crab, the local pastimes.
3. Ketchikan (Southeast)
Far to the southeast is the quirky town of Ketchikan. A town of 8,000 on a small island, it is the southeasternmost Alaskan town. Verdant rain forests surround the town located right on the water. Ketchikan has the largest number of standing totems poles in the world. The first Alaskan stop on the ferry from Washington state, this cool little town is not to be missed.
4. Unalaska (Aleutian Chain)
Unalaska is the largest city in the Aleutian chain and has over 4000 people. The seemingly contradictory name stems from the Unangan language, who were the first to inhabit the island. They named it "Ounalashka", meaning "near the peninsula". This town is home to the infamous "Dutch Harbor," the largest crab fishing port in Alaska and the location for the television show "Deadliest Catch." The dramatic views and the fresh king crab are unparalleled in Alaska, and the world.
5. Adak (Aleutian Islands)
Located far into the Pacific Ocean on the Aleutian Island chain, the town of Adak lies on Adak Island. Adak is the southernmost city in Alaska and the westernmost in the U.S. This small village of about 300 people once housed over 6000 servicemen and women. The base closed in 1997, but the town remains for those who love living by the ocean. With frequent ocean squalls and over 260 days of rain a year, you have to love water to survive. But on a clear day, the view is worth it all.
6. Gustavus (Southeast)
Gustavus boasts a large beach and has been a gathering point for Alaskans to pick berries and fish salmon for hundreds of years. Formerly known as Strawberry Point, this picturesque small town features rich, tart wild strawberries all over the area. The town of 400 is surrounded on three sides by Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve, and on the fourth side by ocean, a humpback whale feeding ground. Visit during high summer in June and July for the best in berries, salmon and summer days on the beach.
7. Yakutat (Southeast)
Yakutat lies on the Gulf of Alaska and 700 people call it home. The area is rich with wildlife and fish, and many of the residents subsist on the fat of the land. This progressive community is seeking to be fully powered by an abundant renewable energy source: the ocean waves! Take the Alaska Marine Highway ferry from Cordova to explore Yakutat.
8. Cordova (Gulf of Alaska)
Cordova is widely touted as a rare treat to visit. This booming village of over 2000 residents at the mouth of the Copper River is a portal to Prince William Sound. Natural wonders abound and you can head up the river towards McCarthy or out into the Orca Inlet to see the the untouched beauty of the area. A central port for the summer fishing season, the town becomes a thriving port city with saloons and live music for the fisherman fresh off the boat.
9. Little Diomede (Bering Straight)
About 100 people live in Little Diomede on the Island of the same name in the Bering Straight. The island consists of tall hills and dramatic cliffs plunging straight down into the sea. The island is a mere 2.4 miles from Big Diomede, a part of Russia. This unique little town on the edge of world is a cultural mixture of Alaska and Russia.
10. Juneau (Southeast)
Juneau, the capital of Alaska, is the only state capital in the U.S. not accessible by road. What it lacks in easy accessibility, Juneau more than makes up for in striking beauty. The severely steep mountains plunging into the crystal blue sea and the lush rainforests that line the shores make this easily worth the extra effort to get here. Juneau is a fun mix of politics, tourism, fishing, and entertainment. It's easy to get stuck in Juneau when boats or planes are grounded by the weather, but it's so much fun I don't think you will mind.
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