A Cruise Passenger’s Guide to Haines

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Alaska cruise ports - Haines
Alaska cruise ports – Haines

Discover the Charm of Haines, Alaska: A Cruise Visitor’s Guide

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Not many cruise ships visit Haines, so if you’re scheduled to stop there on your cruise, consider yourself one of the lucky ones! It’s SUCH a cute little town, and if the weather is good, you’ll want to get off the ship and walk around. Of course, booking a shore experience in Haines is ideal, because there is SO much to see. Home to just over 1500 people, the town of Haines is small and very walkable. The Fort William H. Seward military fort is rich in history and provides a FREE, easy thing to do if you don’t have extra money to spend on excursions.

Nestled along the picturesque shores of the Lynn Canal, Haines, Alaska, is a hidden gem for cruise ship visitors seeking a blend of breathtaking scenery, rich history, and outdoor adventures. Whether you’re a nature lover, history buff, or adventure seeker, Haines offers a variety of activities to enhance your Alaskan cruise experience. Let’s dive into the top things to do in Haines, including tips on how to dress for the typical weather conditions you’ll encounter.

Haines, Alaska: A Brief Overview Haines is often referred to as the adventure capital of Alaska, thanks to its stunning natural landscapes and the array of outdoor activities it offers. From watching bald eagles at the Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve to hiking in the surrounding wilderness, there’s something for everyone in this quaint town.

Top Activities in Haines, Alaska

Here are the must-try activities in Haines, along with tips on what to wear to stay comfortable during your adventures:

Tour Fort William H. Seward

  • Activity Description: This former military fort offers a glimpse into the U.S. Army’s presence in Alaska during the early 20th century. The fort’s well-preserved buildings now house art galleries and shops. What’s GREAT about the fort is you can simply walk off your ship, and walk through the area. It is visible from and immediately accessible off the cruise ship dock in Haines.
  • What to Wear: Comfortable walking shoes and casual wear are perfect for exploring the fort. Pack cash and credit cards for shopping and dining in Haines too!

Mountain Explorer ATV Tour in Haines Alaska

This is definitely one of our favorite things to do. It’s a family adventure, and we took our 8 eight year old son and my 77 year old mom. Both had a terrific time. Check out the Takshanuk Mountain Trail ATV tour.

  • Activity Description: An ATV tour in Haines, Alaska, offers a unique and exhilarating way to explore the rugged terrain and breathtaking scenery of this remote area. Participants should expect a thrilling ride through forested trails, alongside rivers, and across open landscapes. These tours offer the chance to see local flora, fauna, and wildlife, while learning about the area’s history, and enjoy stunning views of mountains and waterways. Check out Sockeye Cycle for more information.
  • What to Wear: A warm, waterproof jacket for unpredictable weather. Long pants and long-sleeved shirts to protect against scratches from branches and underbrush. Sturdy, waterproof boots for safety and comfort while navigating rough terrain. Gloves and a helmet (often provided by the tour operator) for safety. Sunglasses or protective goggles to shield your eyes from dirt and debris.
Alaska cruise ports - Haines ATV excursion
Alaska cruise ports – Haines ATV excursion

Explore Haines by Bicycle

  • Activity Description: Biking in Haines, Alaska, is a captivating experience that caters to both avid cyclists and casual riders. The town offers a variety of trails that range from gentle coastal rides to more challenging mountain paths, providing stunning views of glaciers, lush forests, and local wildlife. The routes often feature scenic overlooks and historical sites, making each journey a blend of physical activity and cultural exploration.
  • What to Wear: For biking in Haines, it’s essential to wear comfortable, weather-appropriate clothing. This includes moisture-wicking layers to keep dry, a windproof jacket to combat the chilly breezes, padded cycling shorts for added comfort on longer rides, sturdy shoes, and, most importantly, a well-fitted helmet for safety.
Alaska - Haines Bicycling
Alaska – Haines Bicycling

Explore the Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve

  • Activity Description: The preserve is one of the best places in the world to spot bald eagles, especially from October to February during the annual bald eagle gathering. Try the Bald Eagle Rafting & Lunch Excursion. How fun does this sound? “After a thorough safety talk, climb aboard your raft for a downstream exploration through the iconic Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve. This tranquil float trip, distinct from the thrills of whitewater rafting, meanders along swift and invigorating waters. No paddling is necessary, freeing your hands to capture the breathtaking scenery with binoculars or camera. Your skilled guide expertly navigates the raft through the ever-changing channels, sharing insights into the preserve’s crucial role in safeguarding the survival of bald eagles.”
  • What to Wear: Wear layered clothing, including a waterproof outer layer. Don’t forget a pair of binoculars strapped around your neck for the best eagle-watching, and always remember your sunglasses for shore days in Alaska!
Alaska cruise ports - Bald Eagle
Alaska cruise ports – Bald Eagle

Visit the Sheldon Museum and Cultural Center

  • Activity Description: A short walk from the cruise ship terminal, this fun museum is a great educational stop on your visit to Haines. Typically open from 10am to 5pm on days when cruise ships visit, you’ll learn about the rich history of the Tlingit people and the development of the Haines area. The museum features artifacts, photographs, and exhibits that tell the story of Haines’ cultural heritage.
  • What to Wear: Casual attire is appropriate here. However, always carry a rain jacket as the weather can change quickly.

Hiking Mount Ripinsky

  • Activity Description: For the more adventurous, hiking Mount Ripinsky offers rewarding views of Haines and the Lynn Canal. It’s a challenging hike, and you’ll want to rent a car to get there. Suitable for those in good physical condition. Here’s how to get there if you have the time, and stamina: From town, follow the signs for the Ferry Terminal/Lutak Road. You’ll travel about ½ mile and then turn left onto Young Road. Follow this steep road, which eventually turns to dirt. Continue to drive uphill, veering left whenever given the choice. The road dead ends and you can park here. The trailhead is on the left side of the road. To include 3920, set up a shuttle and hike to 7 Mile Haines Highway.
  • What to Wear: Sturdy hiking boots are a must, along with moisture-wicking clothing, a warm jacket, and a rain shell.

Kayaking, Rafting, and Canoeing

  • Activity Description: Paddle the serene waters of Chilkoot Lake or the Chilkat Inlet for stunning views and wildlife encounters, including seals and waterfowl. You can find a variety of activities to choose from HERE.
  • What to Wear: Opt for quick-drying clothing and layer with a waterproof jacket. Neoprene gloves and waterproof footwear can also enhance your comfort.

Fish for Salmon and Halibut

  • Activity Description: Charter a fishing boat for a chance to catch salmon or halibut. Experienced guides can offer both half-day and full-day excursions. Check your cruise ship’s shore excursion offerings for fishing tours.
  • What to Wear: Layered clothing with a waterproof outer layer will keep you warm and dry. Sunscreen and a hat are also recommended on brighter days.

Typical Weather Conditions in Haines

Haines experiences a subarctic climate but is moderated by the ocean, resulting in milder temperatures than the interior of Alaska. Summers are cool, with temperatures ranging from 50°F to 60°F (10°C to 15°C), while winters are cold and snowy. Rain is common, so dressing in layers and preparing for wet conditions is essential.

Conclusion

Remember, Haines is VERY easy to walk around! The Port Chilkoot (PC) Cruise Ship Dock is directly in front of the historical Fort William H. Seward and is less than a half-mile from downtown Haines. This proximity makes it easy for YOU to explore the town and enjoy shopping and sightseeing. Visiting Haines, Alaska, by cruise ship opens up a world of adventure, culture, and natural beauty. Regardless of the activities you choose, preparing for the weather and dressing appropriately will ensure that your experience in Haines is comfortable, enjoyable, and memorable.

From the thrill of spotting bald eagles soaring above to the rich tapestry of Tlingit culture, and the adrenaline rush of outdoor adventures, Haines encapsulates the spirit of the Alaskan wild. Whether you spend your day kayaking beside glaciers or exploring historic sites, each moment in Haines is a step further into the heart of the Last Frontier. As your ship sails away from this quaint, charming port, you’ll carry with you not just souvenirs, but a renewed awe for the world’s natural wonders—a true hallmark of any great travel experience.

FAQ About Haines, Alaska

Q: What is the best time of year to visit Haines by cruise ship? A: The ideal time to visit Haines is during the summer months, from May to September, when the weather is milder and the days are longer, providing ample opportunity for wildlife sightings and outdoor activities.

Q: Are there any specific attractions or activities that should not be missed while in Haines? A: Absolutely! Don’t miss the opportunity to visit the Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve, where you can see one of the largest gatherings of bald eagles in the world. Additionally, the Sheldon Museum and Cultural Center offers fascinating insights into the local Tlingit culture and the region’s history. For the adventure seekers, river rafting and hiking opportunities abound.

Q: What are the dining options like in Haines? A: Haines offers a variety of dining options, ranging from casual eateries to more upscale restaurants. Seafood is a local specialty, with dishes featuring freshly caught salmon and halibut. Be sure to try some local craft beers at the Haines Brewing Company as well.

Q: Is Haines suitable for family travel? A: Yes, Haines is very family-friendly, with plenty of activities suitable for children and adults alike. Families can enjoy nature walks, wildlife spotting, and visiting local parks and museums that offer educational programs about the Alaskan wilderness and culture.

Q: How do I get around in Haines once my cruise ship docks? A: Haines is relatively small and can be easily explored on foot. However, for longer distances, there are rental cars and bicycles available. Some local tour operators also offer shuttle services to major attractions.

Q: What should I pack for a day in Haines? A: Dressing in layers is key, as the weather can change quickly. Include a waterproof jacket, comfortable walking shoes, and a pair of binoculars for wildlife and scenic viewing. Don’t forget your camera to capture the stunning landscapes and a backpack for any souvenirs you might collect.

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