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  • welcome-to-Ketchikan-Alaska - Welcome to Ketchikan, Alaska's first city and the self-proclaimed salmon capital of the world.
  • log-rolling-Ketchikan-Alaska - Log rolling demonstration in Ketchikan, Alaska.
  • downtown-Ketchikan - Downtown Ketchikan, Alaska, on a typically soggy day.
  • fishing-bear-Ketchikan-Alaska - Fishing Mama-bear style in Ketchikan Creek, Alaska.
  • Totem-Heritage-Center-Ketchikan-Alaska - Totem Heritage Center in Ketchikan, Alaska.
  • bear-nap-Ketchikan-Alaska - A bear cub takes a little nap on a tree near Ketchikan, Alaska.
  • Ketchikan-Alaska-harbor - Boats tied to the dock in Ketchikan, Alaska.
  • reindeer-in-ketchikan.jpg - A reindeer at the Alaska Rainforest Sanctuary in Ketchikan, Alaska.
  • ketchikan-floatplane-1.jpg - Royal Caribbean’s “Private Journey“ options in Ketchikan, Alaska, include a float plane ride.
  • ketchikan-view-from-ship.jpg - View of Ketchikan, Alaska, from aboard ms Oosterdam docked in port.
  • reindeer-with-staff.jpg - Reindeer with a staff member at the Alaska Rainforest Sanctuary in Ketchikan, Alaska.
  • ketchikan-zipline.jpg - The scene during a zipline expedition through a rainforest canopy in Ketchikan, Alaska.
  • Coral-Princess-Ketchikan-Alaska - Coral Princess pulls away from the pier in Ketchikan, Alaska.

Ketchikan port guide: Top things to do & see

our guide

The vibe

Ketchikan lies at the southern end of Alaska's Inside Passage and at the meeting place of three Alaska native cultures: Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian.

Evidence of the rich artistic and dance traditions of the native cultures is apparent throughout town, most visibly in the totem poles scattered through the historic district and found in larger groupings in totem parks near town.  

Known as Alaska’s first city and the “salmon capital of the world,” Ketchikan’s historic downtown is wedged between salmon-rich waters and forested mountains. The don't-miss downtown shopping area is built into steep hills and partly propped on wooden pilings with boardwalks and totem poles throughout.

Ketchikan is on Revillagigedo Island and surrounded by the Tongass National Forest, the largest National Forest in the United States.

Cruise ships that call on Ketchikan

Top reasons to go

  • Bears, bears, bears. This is one of the best areas for viewing Alaska's native bears in their natural habitat, with sites accessible via airplane, boat and even car.
  • Ketchikan is the proclaimed salmon capital of the world. Whether you want to fish for salmon or eat it, you're in the right spot; we suggest the thrill of trying to catch it to start.
  • Totem poles. Ketchikan has the largest number of totem poles in Alaska, even the world, and seeing these towering carvings with the powerful Alaskan landscape as backdrop is how they're meant to be seen.
  • Misty Fiords National Monument. There's a reason this deeply inspiring mosaic of sea cliffs, fjords, soaring rock walls, waterfalls and verdant rain forests is protected as a national monument.

Top things to do & see in Ketchikan

Ketchikan offers many ways for visitors to experience Alaska's visual, cultural, natural, wild and artistic bounty.

Culture & history

Totem Heritage Center in Ketchikan, Alaska.
BrianAdams / Courtesy of State of AlaskaTotem Heritage Center in Ketchikan.

The top places to see totem poles are Totem Bight State Historical Park, Saxman Native Village & Totem Pole Park and the Totem Heritage Center. There's also Tongass Historical Museum, which focuses on the history, art and culture of Ketchikan and Southeast Alaska; and Southeast Alaska Discovery Center, where interactive displays interpret the land, people and culture of the region.

Exploring nature

There is no better way to get close to Alaskan nature and wildlife than on the water. Outfitters offer kayaking and fishing excursions and whisk passengers across the water to places within Tongass National Forest, including some bear-viewing sights, accessible only by boat.

On land, you can wander along walking trails in and around Ketchikan.  The U.S. Forest Service provides maps of trails you can download and print before your trip, but remember to ask for local advice on trail conditions before you set out. Deer Mountain trail, for example, takes experienced hikers through compelling landscapes, even if they don't complete the 3.5 mile trek to the top.

Shopping

After cultural immersion, get your shopping fix and search for mementoes in Ketchikan's many shops and galleries, especially those showcasing authentic Native American artwork such as jewelry, masks, carvings and baskets. Look for the Silver Hand emblem, signifying that the article was handcrafted by an Alaskan Native.

Downtown Ketchikan, Alaska, on a typically soggy day.
Brian Adams / Courtesy of State of AlaskaDowntown Ketchikan, Alaska, on a typically soggy day.

Fun facts

  • Ketchikan’s secondary post office box ZIP code 99950 is the highest ZIP code ever assigned in the United States.
  • If you've ever wondered how fast a slug is, visit Ketchikan during the annual Blueberry Arts Festival in August when zany residents race the slimy beasts to find out. They also weigh them to determine just how big they can get (answer: big).
  • Ketchikan used to have a red-light district, formally shuttered in 1953. You can still see remnants of the colorful history in the downtown historic neighborhoods. 

When you arrive

Docking information

Ships typically dock in the center of town. On crowded days, some ships may be required to anchor and tender passengers into town. Small ships sometimes dock a mile south of Ketchikan, and cruise lines typically provide shuttles to the downtown area in this case.

Getting around

Downtown Ketchikan is easily walkable but taxis are also available for those who want them. The city has a very good, inexpensive bus system that takes passengers from downtown to a number of Ketchikan's popular tourist sights, including the historical parks.

Free Wi-Fi

  • Ketchikan Coffee Company, 211 Stedman Street, Ketchikan
  • Refiners Roast Coffee Shop, 2050 Sea Level Drive, Ketchikan
  • Starbucks, 2147 Tongass Avenue, Ketchikan
  • The Point, 25 Jefferson Way, Ketchikan
  • Tribal House300 Front Street, Ketchikan

Need to know

Store hours: Stores in Ketchikan are open from about 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday to Sunday. Some stores may stay open later when cruise ships are in town.

Tipping: A 10% to 15% tip on the restaurant/taxi bill is customary. Sometimes a tip is automatically added to your bill; check your credit card slip before adding additional tip.

Weather & dress: Ketchikan is known as the Misty City, and locals are proud of the “liquid gold” that frequently falls from the sky. You should be prepared for showers at a moment’s notice, even when it's sunny out, as the weather can change quickly.

Safety: Ketchikan is considered a safe and peaceful town. As always, be aware of your surroundings and lock up your valuables.

ShoreFox contributed to this guide.

Your take

How about you? Have you been to Ketchikan, or planning to go? We'd love to hear about your experience or see your photos!

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Overheard

“Drop by Bar Harbor Restaurant for lunch for fresh cod tacos or halibut burgers, or splurge on king crab, sold by the pound.”

Porthole magazine

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