Alaska is close-ish, but it’s also massive. So while it can be easy to say you’ll do it all over the course of several trips, the reality for most travelers is that they get there just once in a lifetime. The good news is that it’s entirely possible to embrace an authentic Alaskan adventure during one visit - it all depends on how you experience this rugged and wild wilderness. 

There are several ways to truly experience the Great Land, from delving into coastal British Columbia on your way there, to venturing through the interior by rail. Let’s look at a few options: 

Don’t Just Sail Past British Columbia … Go Haida Gwaii

They don’t call it “Super, Natural” for nothing. British Columbia will wow you no matter how you experience it. A particularly enticing way to explore coastal BC is in the Haidi Gwaii archipelago. If you can, build in some time here before heading north to Alaska, or perhaps at the end of your cruise before flying back home from Vancouver or Seattle. The islands offer kayaking, boat tours, surfing, hiking, salmon and halibut fishing - all in a gorgeous natural setting that feels like you’re at the end of the world. 

These 150 rocky islands off BC’s west coast are nicknamed Canada’s Galapagos for the sheer diversity of plant and animal life. Alongside the flora and fauna, you’ll find more than 500 archaeological sites, as well as the remains of totem poles and longhouses, some of the oldest authentic examples of coastal First Nations villages.

If this sounds enticing, we can find you a small-ship itinerary that includes the Pacific Northwest’s most wild and beautiful regions between Sitka, Alaska, and Seattle, Washington. You’ll explore Haida Gwaii, the Inside Passage of Alaska and British Columbia, Glacier Bay National Park and more. With just a few other travelers, you’ll walk through old growth forests, kayak in secluded coves in search of humpback whales and dolphins, search for bears and spend full days deep in fjords at the base of iridescent glaciers. 

See Alaska Beyond Your Cruise 

If time allows and you’d like to extend your Alaska experience before or after your cruise, we can look for the most authentic experiences, those run by local residents who benefit from the tourist income. Options might include a land tour into Denali National Park, the Talkeetna Mountains and Anchorage aboard the Alaska Railroad’s Dome Train. Or, take a bus tour to Anchorage, Fairbanks, Seward or Whitter, or even choose to stay overnight in Denali in an authentic wilderness lodge for excellent wildlife viewing. 

Explore Alaska by Rail

If you’re keen to get into Alaska’s remote interior, consider exploring the state entirely by rail. You’ll discover the highlights of each town and what it’s like to live here. You’ll have time to sightsee, take wildlife cruises, visit glaciers, venture into Denali National Park, learn about the gold rush era and even take exhilarating jet-boat rides in Talkeetna. 

Move from tidewater glaciers to America’s tallest mountain in just a week on a comprehensive rail and bus tour that includes a ride on the famous Alaska Railroad, marine wildlife and glacier cruising, Prince William Sound, Denali National Park and more. 

Take It from the Alaskans

According to the Alaska experts themselves (those who live and work there), the way to an authentic Alaska experience is:

  1. Not just cruising, but going inland as well. Consider small-ship cruising that takes you closer to glaciers, wildlife and waterfalls. If you do choose a conventional cruise, consider a cross-Gulf itinerary or add a small-group land tour. 

  2. For your customized land tour, request that you travel with local operators, so you’ll be positively supporting the local community. 

  3. Save up for the best excursions. You may not be back, so go all in when it comes to your Alaska activities. Make room in the budget for river rafting, glacier hiking and dog sledding. 

  4. Add in day cruises to see more marine wildlife and tidewater glaciers than you might all week on a conventional cruise.

  5. Visit a little early or a little late in the season (so mid-May to mid-June or early September) to avoid the crowds. 

Ready to go? Let’s chat.