A Cruise Passenger’s Guide to Ketchikan

Alaska cruise ports - Ketchikan Shopping
Alaska cruise ports – Ketchikan Shopping

Top Things to Do in Ketchikan, Alaska: A Cruiser’s Guide

Ketchikan is typically the first or last stop in Alaska for cruise ships traveling the Inside Passage. And, it’s a busy one with up to 5 cruise ships docking in Ketchikan each day during cruise season! Yes, that means there can be WELL over 10,000 visitors in Ketchikan each day! For that reason, we STRONGLY suggest you book a tour to experience more of this area, outside the touristy confines of Creek Street and the waterfront. You’ll want to secure your tours here early, and plan for a fun, but touristy experience!

We’ll help you explore the best activities in Ketchikan, Alaska, from scenic hikes to cultural tours. Learn what to wear based on the weather and make the most of your cruise stop in this vibrant city.

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Ketchikan, Alaska, often referred to as the “Salmon Capital of the World,” is a vibrant gateway to the natural beauty and cultural depth of the Alaskan wilderness. For cruise ship visitors, this charming town offers a perfect blend of history, art, and outdoor activities. Here’s your guide to making the most out of your visit, complete with tips on what to wear to stay comfortable in Ketchikan’s variable weather.

Discover Ketchikan’s Rich Culture and History- Totems & Creek Street

  • Activity Description: Explore the Totem Park on a Guided Tour! During this incredible Ketchikan totem pole park excursion, explore the lush green Tongass National Forest, our nation’s largest national forest, and enjoy the peacefulness away from the crowds. Following the rainforest walk you will take a break for a delicious snack of smoked salmon dip, crackers, and bottled water, then it’s off to Totem Bight State Historical Park. Gaze up at the elaborate carvings on the totem poles and visit the Clan House while your guide shares their compelling history and native heritage with you.
  • What to Wear: The weather can be cool and damp. Wear layered clothing with a waterproof jacket.
  • Activity Description: Visit Creek Street Once the red-light district, Creek Street is now a charming historic boardwalk lined with shops, galleries, and restaurants. Don’t miss Dolly’s House Museum, which tells the story of Creek Street’s colorful past. To visit, simply follow the signs, or ask a local!
  • What to Wear: Comfortable walking shoes and a light raincoat will keep you cozy and dry.
Alaska cruise ports - Ketchikan Totem
Alaska cruise ports – Ketchikan Totem

Bering Sea Crab Fisherman’s Tour

Activity Description: Easily one of the most popular tours in Ketchikan, the Bering Sea Crab Fisherman’s Tour is HIGHLY ranked, and suitable for all ability levels.

Come aboard the Aleutian Ballad for the adventure of a lifetime! The Aleutian Ballad was made famous in season two of Discovery Channel’s award-winning TV series “Deadliest Catch.” There are no rough seas here! You will set out in the calm, protected waters of the Inside Passage to witness first-hand the amazing way of life of commercial fishermen. Marvel at the scenic beauty that surrounds you on this Ketchikan shore excursion from the comfort of the heated and sheltered stadium-style seating lower deck or the open-air top deck. Watch as the skilled crew haul and set long lines, barrel pots, and huge 700 pound king crab pots to reveal the catch of the day. 

What to Wear: Layers of clothing, with the top layer being waterproof. We also suggest comfortable walking shoes that may get wet. Rain gear will be provided, as needed.

Ketchikan Duck Tour- you GOTTA ride the duck!

  • Activity Description: GREAT for first timers to Ketchikan, The Duck Tour offers a unique and entertaining way to explore both the historic city streets and the picturesque harbor. This amphibious adventure uses a World War II-style vehicle to provide a combined land and sea tour. Participants get a vivid glimpse of Ketchikan’s culture, history, and scenic landscapes as the vehicle transitions from rolling through the city into splashing down into the water.
  • What to Wear: Dress in warm layers and consider a hat and gloves, especially if you’re taking a boat tour, as it can get chilly on the water.

It’s advisable to book in advance, especially during the peak tourist season, to ensure availability.

Alaska cruise ports - Ketchikan Duck Tour
Alaska cruise ports – Ketchikan Duck Tour

Take a Floatplane to Misty Fjords

  • Activity Description: Misty Fjords National Monument A boat tour or a floatplane trip to the Misty Fjords National Monument offers breathtaking views of pristine nature. This area features dramatic cliffs, waterfalls, and abundant wildlife. Book these tours through your ship for the best experience.
  • What to Wear:  Wear sturdy hiking boots and moisture-wicking clothing. Pack a rain jacket and extra layers.

Explore Local Art and Shopping

  • Activity Description: Ketchikan is home to a vibrant arts scene. You’ll find everything from handmade knives and ulu’s to contemporary art. Visit local galleries featuring Native Alaskan and contemporary art, or check out the many shops for unique souvenirs and handcrafted jewelry. HOT TIP: Leave some time for shopping before or after your tour in Ketchikan.
  • What to Wear:  Casual wear is appropriate, but keep a light jacket handy for sudden weather changes.

Experience Ketchikan’s Culinary Delights

  • Activity Description: Taste Local Seafood Ketchikan’s waters provide some of the freshest seafood in Alaska. Sample local delicacies like salmon, halibut, and crab at one of the many waterfront restaurants. HOT TIP: Locals recommend these restaurants – The Alaska FishHouse (try the fish tacos or AK Sampler), Burgers at the Burger Queen, a sugary treat at Jelly Fish Donuts, and a Duck Fart at ANY bar you can find!
  • What to Wear:  A smart-casual dress code is fine for most places, but always have a light sweater.

Adventurous Activities for Thrill-Seekers

  • Activity Description: Zipline Through the Rainforest, and go home with bragging rights!  For a dose of adventure, zipline tours through the lush Alaskan rainforest offer an exhilarating experience with fantastic views. This adrenaline-pumping tour features eight heart-racing zip-lines and an awe-inspiring aerial bridge suspended amidst towering spruce and hemlock trees along the border of the magnificent Tongass National Forest.
  • Activity Description: Take the Adventure Kart through the backcountry! One of our all time favorite tours in Ketchikan, you’ll navigate a course in a custom designed Polaris RZR 1000 that tests your ability to traverse through the wilderness. A comfortable pace is maintained as you thread your way around steep curves, climbing to reveal unparalleled views of the Tongass National Forest, Behm Canal and Alaska’s fabled Inside Passage. Stops are made along the Ketchikan excursion way to soak up the grandeur and beauty of this lush land. Afterwards, drivers and passengers will have the opportunity to switch positions for the return trip. Keep a lookout for wildlife along the route.
  • What to Wear: Athletic, snug-fitting clothing that can handle a bit of mud and rain is ideal.

Plan a Hike

  • Activity Description: Plan a hike through the Tongass National Rainforest. During this Ketchikan hiking tour, you’ll hike on the USDA Forest Service trail and be surrounded by beautiful Alaskan wilderness. Whether you’re traveling alone, with family or with friends, this is an enjoyable experience for all. Book your Ketchikan excursion tour now. This fun trek covers about 3 miles of the forest. It’s an easy walk that travelers of all ages can take part in. The tour is limited to no more than 12 people to ensure a personalized, high-quality experience. Your guide will take you across meadows, through groves and past waterfalls in search of the forest’s wildlife & critters including bears, deer and salmon. It’s a photographer’s dream. If you’ve never been to Tongass National Forest, you’re in for a treat. The nation’s largest national forest is full of sights that will leave you with many lasting memories.
  • What to Wear:  Binoculars are a must, and dressing in layers will keep you adaptable to quick weather shifts. Waterproof hiking boots, bug spray and a light rain jacket are also recommended.

Ketchikan’s Typical Weather Conditions

Ketchikan is known for its moist maritime climate. Summers are cool with average highs in the mid-60s°F (around 18°C), and it’s not uncommon to experience rain showers. Packing waterproof gear and dressing in layers will allow you to comfortably explore the outdoors and adapt to fluctuating temperatures.


Ketchikan, Alaska, often referred to as the “Salmon Capital of the World,” presents a captivating blend of natural beauty and rich cultural heritage. Whether you’re wandering along Creek Street, flying over Misty Fjords, or watching salmon leap up waterfalls, Ketchikan offers an unforgettable experience for every cruise traveler.

The warm hospitality of its residents, combined with the breathtaking scenery and abundant wildlife, ensures that a visit to this charming port is more than just a stop; it’s a journey into the heart of Alaska’s vibrant spirit. As your cruise ship pulls away from the docks, you’ll carry with you not just photographs, but memories of adventures and stories that feel uniquely Alaskan. Until next time, Ketchikan will wait, quietly nestled between the forest-clad mountains and the sparkling waters of the Pacific.

FAQ About Ketchikan, Alaska

Q: What are the best activities to do in Ketchikan? A: Ketchikan offers a variety of activities for visitors, including visiting the historic Creek Street, exploring the Totem Heritage Center, hiking in the nearby wilderness, enjoying a seaplane tour over the Misty Fjords, and watching wildlife such as eagles, bears, and salmon.

Q: How can I see the Misty Fjords National Monument? A: The most popular way to see Misty Fjords National Monument is by booking a seaplane tour, which provides stunning aerial views of the deep fjords, towering cliffs, and waterfalls. Boat tours are also available for those who prefer to experience the monument from the water level.

Q: Are there opportunities for wildlife viewing in Ketchikan? A: Absolutely! Ketchikan is a great spot for wildlife enthusiasts. You can see bald eagles, black bears, and orcas. Specific tours are designed for wildlife viewing, including bear-watching excursions to nearby areas during salmon spawning season.

Q: What cultural experiences are available in Ketchikan? A: Ketchikan is rich in Native Alaskan culture. Visitors can explore several totem pole parks, such as Saxman Native Village, Totem Bight State Park, and the Totem Heritage Center, which houses one of the world’s largest collections of unrestored 19th century totem poles.

Q: What are the best souvenirs to bring back from Ketchikan? A: Popular souvenirs from Ketchikan include local Native art, such as carved totem poles, handcrafted jewelry, and items made from local materials like cedar and spruce. Salmon products are also a great choice, available in various forms like smoked, canned, or even in gourmet preparations.

Q: Is Ketchikan accessible for cruise ship passengers? A: Yes, Ketchikan is one of the most accessible ports for cruise ship passengers in Alaska. The city’s downtown area is conveniently located within walking distance from the cruise docks, allowing easy access to the main attractions.

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Sheri and her family are cruise content creators focused on providing practical tips and advice to new and seasoned cruisers. CruiseTipsTV’s audience enjoys following Sheri and her family as they travel the world by ship creating travel films. Sheri has visited destinations like Japan, Mexico, Alaska, Europe and the Caribbean, and has experienced 33 cruises on 6 cruise lines. She was named one of Porthole Cruise Magazine’s 10 Travel Influencers Changing How We Vacation in 2018 and 2019. Sheri has been quoted in the New York Times, CNBC, Forbes, Prevention, and Business Innovator Radio. Her YouTube Channel, CruiseTipsTV has over 87,000 subscribers and 17 million views.