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Alaska Scenic Drive: Marine Highway

Highlights of Marine Highway

Travelers on Marine Highway might see a humpback whale jump in Chatham Strait.
Travelers on Marine Highway might see a humpback whale jump in Chatham Strait.

Be sure to bring enough film for your camera when you're driving Marine Highway. Visiting the coastline of Alaska is like visiting the shores of a fantasy land. Traveling the coast by Alaska's Marine Highway transforms the adventure to a sea voyage, where the wonders of the North are waiting to be discovered.

From volcanoes to glaciers, a collection of natural wonders is visible from the decks. You'll see evergreen islands and majestic fjords. Overshadowing a peaceful fishing village, glacier-carved mountains rise up from the shoreline.


Each stop on the route takes you to towns and villages with displays of Alaskan history and culture. Parts of the scenery on the byway are found in the Russian Orthodox churches and the remnants of booming gold rush towns.

Snowcapped mountains in the background and the crisp Alaskan atmosphere only heighten the appeal of each place along the way. And within each city, you are likely to find rivers, trails, or bays, where eagles soar and seals still gather.

Alaska's Marine Highway takes you through a variety of towns (listed here from east to west) along the southern Alaskan coastline.

Ketchikan: Ketchikan is known as the Gateway to Alaska and is the state's salmon capital. The community is known for its historic Creek Street district and timber industry.

Petersburg: This town is known as Little Norway due to its Scandinavian roots. It has several festivals to celebrate the heritage of its residents.

Sitka: Numerous volcanic mountains rise out of the ocean and provide a stunning backdrop for this fishing community. Sitka was the Russian capital of North America in the 19th century, as well as the first state capital of Alaska. The community is also a center for Tlingit native culture.

Juneau: Juneau is the capital of Alaska and is a historic community with a range of tourism-oriented services and cultural events. The community was settled as a gold mining district and is now the service hub for southeastern Alaska. It is also the gateway to Glacier Bay National Park.

Skagway: Skagway is a community with a rich history that includes the Klondike Gold Rush. The history of that period is displayed by a National Historic Park site and by the city's historic architecture. The White Pass and Yukon Route historic railway traverses the 3,000-foot mountain pass to the Yukon, Canada.

Haines: Haines is a popular port community. The town is also known for its bald eagle population in the autumn. In October, the world's largest number of bald eagles gather in Haines to take advantage of the late salmon run. This amazing gathering of eagles is the basis of the Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve and annual Alaska Bald Eagle Festival held in their honor.

Valdez: Valdez is the terminus of the Trans-Alaskan Pipeline and the Richardson State Scenic Byway. The area is home to the World Extreme Skiing Competitions as well as many other outstanding winter activities. Don't miss the scenic walking trail.

Whittier: Located at the head of Passage Canal, a breathtaking fjord of Prince Williams Sound, Whittier is an important hub connecting the Marine Highway to the Alaska Railroad and to the rest of Alaska.

Seward: If you hear names such as Resurrection Bay and Marathon Mountain, you are probably at the romantic town of Seward. The town was named to honor William H. Seward, who helped the United States purchase Alaska from Russia. Near Seward, you'll find Kenai Fjords National Park and the Chugach National Forest headquarters. While in Seward, don't miss a visit to the Alaska SeaLife Center.

Homer: Homer is the homeport for a large fleet of halibut charter operators fishing the rich and scenic waters of Kachemak Bay. Both commercial fishing boats and leisure fishers gather at The Spit for boating and fishing. Also located in Homer is the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge. The refuge is home to seabirds, which find a habitat in the rocks and reefs of Alaskan islands.

Kodiak: Kodiak, the nation's largest commercial fishing port, was once the capital of Russian America. The community is located on Kodiak Island, a national wildlife preserve.

Unalaska/Dutch Harbor: Located in the Aleutian Islands, Unalaska/Dutch Harbor was the first Russian-American community.

With so many cultural, historical, and recreational sights to see, no wonder it can take a month to see all this scenic drive has to offer.

Find more useful information related to Alaska's Marine Highway:

  • Alaska Scenic Drives: Marine Highway is just one of the scenic byways in Alaska. Check out the others.
  • Glacier Bay National Park, Katmai National Park: These are two of the most pristine national parks in Alaska. Learn about visiting them.
  • Bellingham, Juneau, Kodiak, Unalaska: Find out what there is to do in these cities along Marine Highway.
  • Scenic Drives: Are you interested in scenic drives beyond Alaska? Here are more than 100 scenic drives throughout the United States.