We flew into Anchorage late in the evening and immediately headed to the Anchorage Downtown Hotel for some beauty sleep in preparation for a bunch of activities the next day. Anchorage Downtown Hotel is a nice, average and cheap hotel in a brilliant location. It’s a bit dated but honestly, for the price, it was perfect. Anchorage is an odd town. It is a tourism hub where the cruise ships come in and depart and is rather spread out and rather unattractive. However, it was a great place to explore for a few days before heading off to see what Alaska really has to offer. It is home to some awesome craft breweries, in particular, Midnight Sun Brewing Co. and 49th State Brewing Company’s Brewpub, the latter has a restaurant overlooking the water – gorgeous! Definitely head to 49th State for dinner and delicious beer.
We were in Anchorage at the start of Autumn, which turned out to be a great time to visit. Everything is less crowded, cheaper and the weather is still pretty good. We were lucky to catch the Saturday Summer Market in downtown Anchorage where we wondered around tasting reindeer hotdogs and petting Alaskan Malamutes.
The highlight of our visit to Anchorage was renting tandem bikes and cycling the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail. It is an 11 mile (18km) trail that has some awesome views of the ocean and city skyline. By the time we cycled to the end and back it added up to about 30km – so definitely some decent exercise to counteract the beer calories we were consuming!
Just outside Anchorage there is also a lot to explore. About half an hour south is the Glen Alps Trailhead, where you can drive up and look out onto a pretty spectacular view. It’s a great place to get your bearings and go hiking.
About an hour south of Anchorage is the town of Portage where we stopped to have a look at the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Centre. It is a conservation, research and education facility that is home to many different species of wildlife including moose, musk ox, bison, wolves and bears. Don’t expect too much as the enclosures are not too spacious and you will not feel like you are seeing these animals in a ‘wild’ environment. However, it is an interesting place to visit and gives you a lot of information on the animals of Alaska and the work to preserve them.
The drive further south is truly spectacular. Mountains and forest surround you and you truly feel like you are in the Alaskan wilderness. In the south we based ourselves in the town of Seward. It is a beautiful town surrounded by mountains, water and glaciers. It is also home to another stop on our craft brewery tour of Alaska – Seward Brewing Co. We stayed at Abode Well Cabins just outside of Seward, which were really nice and really cheap, I highly recommend them.
While in Seward we visited the Alaskan Sealife Centre, which is a rehabilitation and conservation research centre. They have a lot of sea life to observe but our highlight was the puffins. They had both horned and tufted puffins and they were both were fabulous, not to mention super cute. We also took a nice walk around the waterfront and harbour where the views of the mountains are spectacular.
Before leaving Seward we made a quick stop at Exit Glacier which is in Kenai Fjords National Park. It is an easy hike along the Edge of the Glacier Trail, which gives you great views of the glacier and the surrounding landscape. It is definitely worth the visit and if we had more time we would have headed up to the Harding Icefield Trail as well.
Our time in Anchorage, Seward and the surrounding area was a lot of fun. There are endless activities to do and your trip can be as expensive or cheap as you want it to be. We travelled as a family of 5 adults so were able to split the costs between us which made things a lot cheaper. We also stuck to cheaper accommodation options, like staying in cabins, which is what you want to do in Alaska anyway! All up we spent about US$475 (NZ$690) per day for 5 people, that includes everything – all accommodation, activities, car rental, food, etc.