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Ketchikan waterfront in Alaska

Top 5 Things To Do In Ketchikan, Alaska

Discover the top 5 things to do in Ketchikan, Alaska, with Holland America. From chartered fishing tours to bear-watching and Creek Street, Ketchikan is a happening city.

Ketchikan, the “First City,” is so nicknamed because it often plays the role of first port of call on Alaska cruises. With a population of over 8,300, city slickers might get the impression that it is a humble small town. But there are many things to do in Ketchikan. 

Fish tops the list. You’re in the salmon capital of the world. Savor the seafood. Shop for smoked or canned salmon or attend a foodie feast. Or reel it in—there are numerous Ketchikan charter fishing trips. 

Ketchikan is not only the salmon capital; it has more standing totems than anywhere in the world. It is one of the best spots along the Inside Passage to explore the rich cultural sights of the Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian. 

Watch bears at Neets Bay or burly lumberjacks saw logs. The First City is more than a warm welcome to Alaska. It is flanked by lush Tongass forest, crisscrossed by creeks and filled with history. Here are five things to do in Ketchikan. 

1. Go salmon fishing, Ketchikan-style

Ketchikan has long been an important destination for the salmon-fishing and -packing industries. In late summer, Ketchikan Creek turns black with thousands of salmon, trying their hardest to swim up creek to spawn. You will gain a new appreciation for their tenacity as they propel themselves up fierce rapids. 

With all the salmon, Ketchikan salmon fishing is like nowhere else. With some Ketchikan fishing trips, your catch can be packed and shipped or served with tasty sides. Gear is provided and fishing licenses are available for purchase.

2. Take In Views Of Misty Fjords Monument

Ketchikan is a gateway to Misty Fjords National Monument, a remote protected area about 40 miles east of the city. John Muir dubbed it the “Yosemite of the North,” because of its pristine beauty and rugged cliffs. 

Go into Behm Canal, view active eagle nests, and come across New Eddystone Rock. What first seems like a tree-covered island is in actuality, a volcanic spire that rises from deep within the icy waters.

3. See Totems At Saxman Village

For a genuine connection to the Great Land, learn about Native Alaskan rich culture and traditions. Saxman Village, a few miles from downtown Ketchikan has a Native carving center and a dance performance. At Saxman Totem Park, gaze up at 25 towering totems and gain a better understanding of the comprehensive stories they tell, their symbolism and significance. You can tour Saxman Village on an Alaska shore excursion or by yourself with a low entry fee. 

4. Stroll Down Creek Street

Creek Street, Ketchikan makes the top things to do list because it is an important part of Ketchikan history and built on stilts over a wide river. Creek Street was Ketchikan’s red-light district and during Prohibition, the place to find a clandestine saloon. Many houses had trap doors. 

Take a stroll down Married Man’s Trail, the former exit path of patrons who were trying to evade brothel raids. Visit Dolly’s House Museum to find out more about Ketchikan’s storied past. At the end of Married Man’s trail, you might see salmon jumping up the falls.

5. Watch Bears At Neets

About 40 miles from Ketchikan, Neets Bay is the hottest restaurant in town … for black bears. Bear-watching by boat or flightseeing is one of the top things to do in Ketchikan as it rarely disappoints. Watch bears try to scoop up a salmon, while you stay safe at a distance. Now is the time to get a once-in-a-lifetime photo. For the best chance, time this excursion during the salmon spawn season (mid-June through early September). 

Getting ready to visit Ketchikan? Bring your rain gear! Ketchikan is one of the rainiest cities in the US. For more Alaska travel resources and tips, view all Alaska Articles and Videos. Or see all of Holland America’s Alaska cruise ports.