There’s a reason why Alaska is frequently described as one of Earth’s final frontiers. Covering vast amounts of land and remote wilderness largely untouched by humans, the USA’s largest state will leave you breathless.
Alaska is Mother Nature in her rawest form: immense glaciers, deep fjords, soaring mountains, impenetrable forests, and a long, craggy coast interspersed by tranquil sounds and bays. While its territory is dominated by extreme environs, its famous Inside Passage is a glorious network of waterways that are best explored on a cruise.
When cruising Alaska through the Inside Passage, history buffs and culture vultures will regale in visiting remote towns, while wildlife lovers can delight in breathtaking glaciers, fjords and an abundance of wildlife including humpback whales, sea otters, porpoises, harbour seals, black bears, mountain goats and bird life.
Cruising Alaska’s Inside Passage on board an expedition ship is an altogether different experience than you’ll find on a mega-liner. You’ll be moored in quieter bays, have up-close-and-personal encounters with wildlife such as humpbacks and brown bears, you’ll hike through forest and kayak along scenic coastlines.
Denali National Park (four hours’ drive north of Anchorage) is a staggering 2.4 million hectares of protected wilderness that is prime habitat for grizzly bears, moose, caribou, Dall sheep and wolves.
You can take a guided tour to see grizzly bears in the wild (some of the best go from the town of Homer).
Dog sledding in Skagway and Juneau is an iconic Alaskan experience for the whole family. You’ll have the chance to cuddle up to 16 beautiful Alaskan huskies before hopping into a sled and being pulled along at lightning speed. During winter, you can enjoy the traditional dog-sledding experience on the snowfields. If you’re visiting during summer, however, the sled ride takes place in a purpose-built summer sled at a musher’s camp, where trained dogs lead you down a forest trail.
You may have heard of heli-skiing, but what about heli-biking? This one-of-a-kind experience (at Icy Strait Point) includes a scenic helicopter flight over jagged mountains, deep valleys, lush alpine ridges and vast waterways. You will land on a secluded mountaintop of Chichagof Island, a rugged atoll mostly uninhabited except for a large population of brown bears! Unload your bike and start the incredible downhill ride through this untouched wilderness, finishing at the beach where you will sample some traditional Tlingit foods.
A summertime RV adventure is another great way to see the best of this geographically and culturally detached state. Start in Anchorage and hit the road to see too-cute-for-words Talkeetna township and big-ticket, accessible gems like the jaw-dropping Denali National Park and the massive 7800-square-kilometre Kenai National Wildlife Refuge.
A plastic chair at Tracy’s King Crab Shack – just a short drive out of Juneau – is one of the hottest seats in Alaska. Owner Tracy LaBarge is an example of the old adage, ‘do one thing and do it well’. Crab is the only choice on a menu that hasn’t changed since she started the business in 2006. Varieties of crab include snow, king and, if in season, local dungeness. As our reviewer said “the food quality is exceptional. A meal at Tracy’s is enough reason to visit Juneau when travelling to Alaska.”