Juneau Port Guide: Inside Alaska’s Quirky Capital
Alaska’s remote and picturesque state capital is the perfect place to dive into nature
Alaska’s state capital Juneau is the port of call for almost all Alaskan cruises.
Often referred to as ‘The Last Frontier’, the city boasts a picturesque downtown, sitting snuggly between Mount Juneau, Mount Roberts and the Gastineau Channel.
With more hiking trails than roads, Juneau is unique in that it the only state capital in the US inaccessible by car— you have no choice but to arrive via cruise ship, air, or ferry. But once you do, majestic views and rich culture await you at every corner.
Hop on a helicopter to glacier trek by morning, board a boat to view humpback whales by afternoon and end the day at a chef’s table, noshing on freshly caught seafood. The world really is your oyster in unspoiled Juneau.
Alternatively, visitors can spend some time uncovering the maze of narrow streets that run past a mix of Gold Rush-era buildings, art galleries and quaint houses, not to mention the waterfront, bustling with cruise ships, fishing boats and floatplanes zipping in and out.
Best sights in Juneau
Most often seen in pictures or on postcards of the city, Mendenhall Glacier is a sight not to be missed. Begin your trek from the visitor centre and head towards Nugget Falls, where, if you’re lucky enough, you’ll spot black bears fishing for king salmon. Several hiking trails also await you, the most popular being the Photo Point Trail and the Nugget Falls Trail, which leads to a belting waterfall.
Alaska State Museum
Next up is Alaska’s State Museum, featuring more than 25,000 historical objects spanning the state’s entire multicultural heritage. Think Gold Rush and mining memorabilia, as well as various tools, weapons, and documents shedding light on the historic Russian colonial era. These illuminating exhibits are separated into mining, fishing and forestry sections, as well as a focus on WWII. Our highlight? The discovery room where you can climb aboard a replica of an early sailing ship.
Glacier Bay National Park
Covering more than three million acres, Glacier Bay National Park is a key highlight of Alaska’s famed Inside Passage. The view of the bay itself is breathtaking, sitting between two promontories, with eight glaciers reaching down to meet choppy tidewaters. The spot is also a major feeding ground for humpback, minke and orca whales, but keep your eyes peeled for moose, bears, wolves, mountain goats and sea birds, too.
Best bars in Juneau
Keep warm amidst Juneau’s colder climate in Amalga Distillery, famous for making the best locally foraged gin in the state. Sip a tipple in their stylish tasting room and choose from a rotating list of house-designed cocktails. The perennial ‘Sea Donkey’ is our personal favourite – a gin take on the classic Moscow Mule.
With one of the most extensive wine and cocktail lists in the entire city, you don’t want to miss the array of specialty-crafted spirits at Salt. For a buzz-worthy night, we recommend ordering the Bufala Negra, featuring bourbon, balsamic vinegar, basil and ginger beer, or the signature French 75, comprising gin, St. Germain, sweet and sour, sparkling wine and a lemon twist. You won’t regret it.
Best restaurants in Juneau
Tracy’s King Crab Shack
For an establishment that has been in business for less than 10 years, Tracy’s King Crab Shack has made an impressive mark on Juneau’s food landscape. Born out of a love for crabs, sports, and people, the spot serves hot, locally-sourced crab legs with butter, as well as tasty crab cakes, mouth-watering crab rolls, crab bisque, and a plentiful selection of seafood appetisers. Needless to say, Tracy’s is perfect if you’re looking to sample fruits of the nearby Alaskan sea.
As the name suggests, Twisted Fish pays tribute to the freshest daily catch from Alaskan waters, with dishes such as sweet potato shrimp cakes, warming clam chowder and sautéed Alaskan black cod on the menu. Take a stroll down as the sun sets before enjoying a plate of the freshest fish at dusk. Book ahead if you can, the eatery is popular with both locals and tourists.
Best Alaskan buys
Matryoshka dolls originated from Russia in the 1800s. Traditionally, these wooden collector’s items were painted with explosions of colour, sold as a set of eight. Today, the arrangements vary in size, shape and design; some are even decorated to look like animals. If you’ve got a niece or daughter in mind, these timeless pieces never go out of fashion.
Alaska is blessed with a plethora of wild berries, which locals have lovingly turned into jams for centuries. Need souvenir inspiration? This sticky produce offers a sweet way for you to reminisce about your trip to Juneau every single morning. Drop by the farmers’ market to make sure your jam is as wild as they come.
Alaskan hand-blown glass is a striking arty alternative to paintings and photography, which makes it an inspired choice when it comes to buying gifts or souvenirs. Just be sure to pack some bubble wrap in your suitcase to avoid this one-of-a-kind piece returning as a mosaic.
What to expect
When to go
The best time to visit Juneau is between May and August, as the days are long and sunny. It’s also peak whale migration season, meaning you’re almost guaranteed a sighting of these magnificent mammals.
Juneau experiences cool summers, fairly cold winters and heavy rainfall throughout the year. July and August are the warmest months to visit, while January is often the coldest time of year.
Juneau uses the US dollar and ATMs are scattered around the city: at banks, gas stations, supermarkets, airports and even some visitor centres. Be aware of the small fee for withdrawing cash, though.
The Visa Waiver Programme allows citizens of the UK to enter the US for 90 days without a visa. You will need to register online with the Electronic System for Travel Authorisation (ESTA) before travelling however, as well as showing proof of a return trip, or an onward ticket.
“One of my favourite walking trails is right by the NOAA, which is a short, easy route that opens up to beautiful cliffs and the ocean. When it’s hot, take a dip and celebrate with a nice cold brew.” Krista NC Barril, Videographer
“Bernadette’s Filipino Barbecue is the best street food in Juneau. It’s simple and fast, serving BBQ chicken or pork with heaps of rice. They have egg rolls and a couple of delicious side dishes, too.” Logan Lott, Gym Owner
“Juneau is without a doubt one of the best spots in the world to go whale watching. Make sure to book direct with a local company as you’ll save quite a lot on ticket prices!” Serene Hutchinson, Tour Guide
Get on board
7-night ‘Alaska Dawes Glacier’ cruise from Seattle to Vancouver via Ketchikan, Endicott Arm, Juneau, Skagway, Alaska Inside Passage and Victoria, departing 11 Sept 2020 from £830, celebritycruises.com
8-day ‘Alaska’s Inside Package’ voyage from Ketchikan to Tracy Arm Fjord via Juneau, Skagway and Haines, departing 5 August 2020 from £5,140, tauck.co.uk
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