11 things you absolutely cannot miss in Seward this summer
Written by Maya Hunger
If you’re thinking of traveling to Seward this summer, you’re right on the mark. Seward has access to glaciers, mountains, wildlife (including humpback whales!) and salmon and halibut fishing, making it an ideal adventure-travel destination in Alaska. There is also a cute downtown with shops, restaurants and a local favorite: the Sealife Center.
Traveling in Alaska can be overwhelming because the state is so expansive and visitors always want to see everything within their vacation window. Due to its wide variety of activities, proximity to Anchorage via the highway and breathtaking landscapes, Seward is a great candidate for anyone looking to cross off many of their Alaska bucket list items in one stop.
If the sea otters playing right in the Seward small boat harbor aren’t enough to make you want to travel down from Anchorage, the Seward Adventure Station has compiled a list of the 11 Seward adventure experiences you absolutely should not miss.
11. Get personal with glaciers
Exit Glacier is just a 15 minute drive north of Seward and can be easily viewed from a walking trail that ends not far from its toe. The glacier is slowly flowing ice that extends off of the Harding Icefield (300 square miles of ice that covers the Kenai Peninsula’s interior!) While driving out to the Kenai Fjords Visitor Center at Exit Glacier, be sure to stop and behold the sight of the glacier from afar, but don’t miss the opportunity to get up-close and personal with Exit Glacier. It is really one of the biggest perks of coming to Seward. There is a guiding service that will outfit visitors with gear and a guide and give them the unique experience of walking on the glacier. To be able to touch the ice, see the electric blue pools of water, and climb down into a crevasse is an unique experience that anyone with a mind for adventure will enjoy.
10. Meet sled dogs near the historic start of the Iditarod Trail
Dog Sledding! Let’s be honest, every person who visits Alaska wants to meet sled dog puppies. We don’t blame you, we love them too, and we love their full-grown parents whose athletic abilities are a sight to behold for any dog lover. These amazing, tough, and absolutely adorable members of our community would be thrilled to show you the perks of this historic mode of travel. They might even let you snuggle up to a puppy or three and take a few photos!
9. Have a whale of a time
Resurrection Bay (the body of water Seward sits on) leads straight out to the Pacific Ocean, making it prime grounds for migrating whales of all types, most commonly: humpbacks and orcas. Humpback whales migrate into Seward area by early May; they arrive hungry and will stay for months until they are full of bait fish. If you’ve never seen one before, feeding whales are very fun to watch. Their behavior is complex, sometimes including breeching, tail splashing and pectoral fin splashing. From time to time we also see humpback whales feeding in large groups (eight to 10 whales) and working together to school fish to feed off of; it’s called bubble netting and it is VERY, very cool.
Our local orca pods tend to follow the salmon and are seen often throughout the summer. Many of the orcas we see fish the same waters for their entire lives, giving captains and crew a great chance to get to know them and their behaviors and giving you the best shot of spotting the whales if they are passing through while fishing, playing or traveling. As the apex predator of our ocean, killer whales will impress you with their speed and agility, as well as woo you with their charisma and intelligence.
8. Paddle with icebergs
If you’re looking for a personalized and exciting adventure that will give you the opportunity to experience the tidewater glaciers of Kenai Fjords National Park, then kayaking or stand-up paddleboarding is the activity for you. While it’s not generally strenuous, it does require active participation — and we believe that the effort is worth the reward. Imagine hearing glaciers thunder, watching seal pups play, and seeing the coast line at your own speed; not to mention the photo opportunities if you bring a GoPro or other weather-proof camera (or you can keep a normal camera or phone in a dry bag and take it out for photos if you promise to be careful— promise?).
Outfitters in Seward are accustomed to Alaska’s climate and can help you dress appropriately for conditions and generally provide you with anything additional you may need for layering as well as all safety gear and paddling equipment. In the case of paddleboarding, you’ll also need a drysuit, but not to worry, you’ll be equipped with those too. We tend to call drysuits ‘superman suits’ because they’ll be your suit of armor against any cold that might try to fight its way in.
7. Get into your photography groove with a circus of puffins
Just outside of Resurrection Bay there are thousands of puffins who come to nest and fish throughout the summer. These goofy football-shaped fliers are stellar fishermen and great photography models. There are two species that migrate to our coastline in the spring and summer: tufted and horned, their difference in markings make them fairly easy to tell apart, but most people still have trouble picking a favorite because they’re both just so fun to watch. And, to answer your question, yes, a group of puffins are called a circus— we’re certain you’ll understand why once you see them.
6. Unplug and feel connected to wilderness
When you come to Alaska, wilderness is just a few paces away no matter where you go. Unfortunately, not everyone takes advantage of the opportunity to unplug from a faster-paced world and embrace the quiet and solitude that is of immeasurable value to anyone looking to experience a more authentic Alaskan adventure. Most locals would encourage visitors who are comfortable skipping a few of the amenities (cell service, mainly) to experience a night away from it all in any one of the wilderness lodges or retreats that are available in our area. Take some time and read a book, drink some wine with your sweetie, kayak around a secluded lagoon, or go for a hike to a serene vista.
5. Reel in a big one
You can’t talk about traveling to Alaska without talking about fishing. Many Seward locals love our small seaside town because of the great Alaska fishing and visitors return year after year to reel in their big catch. With a fleet of experienced captains, energetic deckhands, and decades of knowledge, Seward is an awesome place to experience Alaskan fishing. Most commonly, visitors want to go salmon or halibut fishing, however rockfish and lingcod can also be caught and offer tasty white meat. Many visiting fishermen have their days’ catch packaged and sent home so that they may fill their freezer and eat Alaskan salmon long after their travels are over.
4. Catch an Alaskan Wave
For those with an adventurous spirit, who are looking to experience cold water surfing in Alaska, you can ride the six-mile long bore tide wave along the Turnagain Arm, explore the rugged coastline surf, or stand up paddle remote beaches along Alaska’s Gulf.
Cold water surfing is becoming popular thanks to technology advancements, like modern wetsuits which make swimming in the brisk waters enjoyable. Surfing Alaska’s waves offers opportunities for thrill seekers of all skill levels. Whether you want to sit beyond the break with your feet dangling off your board into the water or ride down the line with mountain views whizzing by, it’s hard to go wrong.
While surfing is the focus of these excursions, it’s almost certain that the personal connection with glaciated mountains, diverse wildlife and remote beaches will be the among many highlights of the day.
3. Smile at a Sea Lion
The Alaska Sealife Center is filled with aquariums, touch tanks and atriums showcasing creatures that live above and below the Alaskan sea. It’s accessible for anyone and designed for all ages. You can stand with your forehead pressed against the glass and watch the Steller sea lions swim around, go into the grotto and visit the octopus, learn about the different colors and shapes of our salmon species, and see what stranded animals are being cared for by the facility. The Sealife Center is the only marine mammal care facility for the entire state of Alaska, so many cool animals pass through our tanks including baby sea otters, young harbor seals, baby beluga whales, and even a baby walrus a few years ago!
2. Hike your heart out
Hiking in Seward can seem intimidating because of potential wildlife encounters and the difficulty of many of our trails, but don’t let that stop you from moving your legs! There are guides and maps that will show you the best trails for your skill level and different outfitters to buy bear spray. There are opportunities to stroll through the forest and see salmon swimming in the streams, as well as guided hikes with yoga sessions on beautiful mountain tundra.
If you are looking for a challenge, look no further than Seward’s most famous attraction: Mount Marathon. The race trail is a fairly grueling and steep ascent of the mountain nearest to town and host to the Mount Marathon race each 4th of July. The Mount Marathon Race is one of the oldest footraces in North America and attracts many high caliber and Olympic athletes. Don’t let that stop you though! There is also a more accessible trail nearby, called the Jeep Trail. With either route, once you reach the summit you are greeted with breathtaking views in every direction. Locals agree, it is worth the effort.
1. Leave the roads behind
Alaska is big, but it doesn’t have many roads. So, it shouldn’t surprise you that visitors and locals prefer to travel across and explore the state by bush plane, and more recently, There is no way to explain the sights of pristine wilderness until you have seen them for yourself. The scale of Alaska’s mountain ranges climbing straight out of the North Pacific will certainly take your breath away and give you a sense of awe that cannot be duplicated by any other activity. Flight seeing is a wonderful way to get views of the 300 square-mile Harding Ice Field, or look for wildlife in far-off valleys, and soar over knife-ridge mountains dotted.