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Scenic Seward, flanked by rugged mountains to one side and sparkling Resurrection Bay on the other, has a way of luring visitors. There is fantastic hiking nearby, a quaint downtown, the amazing Alaska SeaLife Center and excellent in-town camping where you can park your vehicle and walk to most attractions.
Seward is a fascinating place to visit, and even if you are only here for a day or so, the region demands a look around. Many tourists traveling through Alaska will be familiar with Seward due to its popularity as a central port from which travelers take off to many Alaskan destinations. It is located conveniently in the Prince William Sound and acts as a gateway to the Kenai Peninsula and the rest of Alaska. Therefore, if only for a couple of hours or a couple of days, many people who have visited Alaska have seen Seward at one time or another. Only the lucky ones have visited Seward for days at a time, a region with some outstanding fishing sites, great sea kayaking opportunities, and wonderful hiking trails. The Kenai Fjords National Park is one of the top destinations in all of Alaska, and it is as diverse as it is majestic.
You can see a multitude of landscapes, an abundance of wildlife, and breathtaking scenery that you thought only possible in your dreams. Recently, tourism in Seward has exploded, which has come as a bit of a shock to the citizens of this once small town. It's a bit of a mystery why travelers all over the world are showing such universal interest in this remote location, but perhaps Seward business proprietors and visitors like myself have plugged the city so much that our advertising has paid off.
Seward was founded in 1903, when settlers arrived to plot construction of a northbound rail line. By the time the Alaska Railroad was completed in 1923, this ice-free port became the most important shipping terminal on the Kenai Peninsula. The city also served as the southern terminus of the 1,200-mile Iditarod National Historic Trail to Nome, long a major dogsled thoroughfare via the Interior and Bush. Like many towns in Southcentral Alaska, Seward began a new era of history in 1964 after the Good Friday Earthquake caused fires and tidal waves that destroyed 90 percent of the town. One of the only reminders of the natural disaster is in the public library where the slide show covering the earthquake, “Waves Over Seward,” is shown.
Seward is one of the oldest cities in Alaska, and the area was first recognized in 1793, when the governor of Russia, Alexander Baranof, stopped here and named Resurrection Bay. He then built a ship which unfortunately sank, and not too much was heard about Seward until 1903. At this time the town evolved into a big Alaskan port city because companies were interested in building a railroad here that would run north and south for miles. This venture failed, but all of the talk brought gold prospectors, settlers, and workers whose families and kin would stay here for good.
The journey to Seward is equally as alluring as the small town itself. To reach the community south of Anchorage, visitors travel by way of the Seward Highway, Here, along the shoreline of Turnagain Arm, stretches of the rugged Chugach State Park meet the saltwater. Or tourists can take the scenic Alaska Railroad. Beside the appeal of the town's excellent Alaska SeaLife Center, Seward is a base for exploring Kenai Peninsula attractions, such as Exit Glacier, and area fjords by boat.Departing from Kenai Peninsula, avid wildlife watchers head to the Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge, established to protect the Kodiak bear and other rare animals.
Docking & Local Transportation
Cruise ships dock at the Port of Seward, a full service port located within walking distance to the city center of Seward, Alaska.
Seward is a delightfully laid back city that is at its most charming when one strolls the streets. It is very efficient to simply walk from one attraction to another; however, other options exist as well. You can call Glacier Taxicab (907/224-5678) to arrange for a taxi service to pick you up from the cruise dock or any other locale. Seward Mountain Bike Shop (907/224-2448) rents several varieties of bicycles, ranging from high-performance mountain bikes to types that are good for just getting around the city. In addition, the Seward Chamber of Commerce has a small Trolley service that cruises the downtown streets.
Things To see and Do
The city also serves as the gateway to Kenai Fjords National Park. Created in 1980, Kenai Fjords spreads over 587,000 acres and is crowned by the massive Harding Ice Field from which countless tidewater glaciers pour down into coastal fjords. The impressive landscape and an abundance of marine wildlife make the park a major tourist attraction. Many visitors take a day cruise along the coast south of Seward to watch glaciers calve into the sea and spot seals, sea lions and whales. Another popular attraction in Kenai Fjords National Park is Exit Glacier, which lies just north of town. This road-accessible glacier offers an impressive up-close view of the glacier along with information and hiking trails.
The more adventurous can rent a kayak and arrange a drop off deep in the park to spend their afternoons paddling among sea otters and their nights gazing at glaciers. There is also a series of public-use cabins that can be rented in advance. For more information on activities in the park contact Kenai Fjords National Park.
The Alaska SeaLife Center is located at 301 Railway Ave. (800/224-2525) and combines research and entertainment into an enjoyable mixture of sights and sounds. This institution is the primary location for scientists and experts to study the ecosystems and wildlife of Seward and the Prince William Sound area. The aquarium is full of extraordinary marine life, and some of the creatures inside will most likely not swim before your eyes ever again, unless of course, you visit the SeaLife Center at some other time in your life. The exhibits are magnificent, and the best feature sea lions, harbor seals, and sea birds living in their natural habitats. This is a fantastic experience, as is the touch tank, a favorite for the kids. Here you have the opportunity to handle live starfish and other tide pool dwellers. Throughout the day, programs and informative classes are held, and if you call ahead you can get schedule for a particular afternoon.

A fitting legacy of the Exxon Valdez oil-spill settlement, this $56-million marine research center is more than just one of Alaska’s finest attractions. As the only coldwater marine-science facility in the Western Hemisphere, it serves as a research and educational center and provides rehabilitation for injured marine animals.
Kids will love the tidepool touch tank, where they can hold sea anemones and starfish, as well as the ships helm and the massive two-story tanks where you can see seals, birds and more both above and below the water.An outdoor observation platform offers a fabulous view of the mountains ringing Resurrection Bay where you can watch salmon thrash their way up a fish ladder. Plan to spend the better part of one of your best afternoons here. It’s worth including an Encounter tour (adult/child $79/59): you’ll get face to face with the creatures you normally only see behind the glass with deeper dives into the lives of octopus, puffins or marine mammals.
The Seward Museum
The Seward Museum’s collection of Native baskets and ivory carvings, and its displays on World War II and the Iditarod are interesting enough, but I wouldn’t go out of my way to see them. I would, however, go out of my way to see the photos and artifacts in the to see the museum’s exhibit on the 1964 Good Friday earthquake. Seward really got slammed by the largest earthquake in North American history. First, the quake sheered much of the waterfront loose from dry land, sending it sliding into the sea. Then, the slide generated a 40-foot tsunami, which crashed ashore and obliterated what the earthquake missed. Oil tanks and 40 rail cars filled with oil exploded into flames. The only bridge out of town became impassable, and fleeing residents were trapped in the burning city. It was a bad day in Seward, and one recalled at this little community museum in gripping detail with photos and artifacts such as clocks with their hands frozen in time by the violent tremblor.
The Seward Museum is located at 336 Third Ave. (907/224-3902) and is an interesting site full of peculiar knickknacks. Some are ancient, some are modern, and others are just plain strange. This is the best place to learn about the history and heritage of Seward. Newspaper clippings and stories highlight all of the area's main events through the years. The museum is only open during the summer, and if you happen to be in Seward during this time of the year, be sure to set aside a couple of hours to visit this lovely little spot.

Seward other than visiting the national park, which includes the fjords and Exit Glacier. Fishing and other marine activities are the main event in Seward.
Dog Mushing & Glacier Flights
When Mitch Seavey won the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race in 2004, many agreed it couldn't have happened to a nicer guy. He had made a lot of friends over the years offering rides with his dogs. IdidaRide (tel. 800/478-3139 or 907/224-8607; www.ididaride.com) is a family business, including the four boys (one is a Junior Iditarod champ), making use of their kennel on Old Exit Glacier Road off Herman Leirer Road. They offer summer rides in Seward and in winter in Sterling (near Soldotna). The summer ride uses a wheeled sled and a full, 12-dog team -- not the real thing (no snow), but you get a feel for the dogs' power and intelligence. The 90-minute tour costs $59 for adults, $29 for children 11 and under. Husky puppies are available for cuddling, too.
Those willing to spend much more should consider mushing on snow at the height of summer by joining a helicopter tour to Godwin Glacier from the Seward Airport with Godwin Glacier Dog Sled Tours (tel. 888/989-8239 or 907/224-8239; www.alaskadogsled.com). A chopper lands at a camp of 100 dogs, where guests take a ride in the dog sled or even drive it themselves. The company also offers overnight camping on the ice. For the mushing program, they charge $450 adults, $420 children 12 and under; the overnight is $520 per person; or just fly up to the glacier for $300.
Seward is renowned for its saltwater silver salmon fishing. The silvers start showing up in the bay in mid-July and last through September. You can catch the fish from shore, from Lowell Point south of town, or even near the boat harbor, but your chances of success are far greater from a boat. I prefer small, six-passenger boats because you can get to know the skipper better and can learn more about fishing. If your party has the whole boat, you can control where it goes, perhaps adding whale-watching or sightseeing to the day. Larger boats add more comfort and stability in the waves. The going rate for a guided charter, with everything provided, is around $199 per person, or $299 to go for salmon and halibut on the same day. Andrew Mezirow, a marine biologist and maritime instructor, operates two boats, including a 12-passenger vessel and a six-passenger boat custom-built for fishing salmon in Resurrection Bay year-round. Besides day fishing, he takes guests on multiday fishing expeditions to extremely remote and beautiful places. His business is Crackerjack Sportfishing Charters (tel. 800/566-3192 or 907/224-2606; www.crackerjackcharters.com). The office is on the boardwalk at the top of the harbor ramps.
There are many other fishing charter companies, mostly booked through central charter agencies, which make life simpler for visitors. The Fish House is the largest charter-fishing agency in Seward, located at the Small Boat Harbor. The store also sells and rents ocean-fishing and spin-casting gear, and carries some fly-fishing supplies. For charters, reserve ahead at P.O. Box 1209, Seward, AK 99664 (tel. 800/257-7760 or 907/224-3674; www.thefishhouse.net). If you want a small boat, ask to be put on a "six pack," as vessels licensed for six or fewer passengers are known.
There are several excellent hiking trails near Seward. You can get a complete list and directions at the Kenai Fjords National Park Information Center.
The Mount Marathon Trail is a tough hike to the top of a 3,022-foot mountain in less than 4 miles. The route of the famous Mount Marathon footrace is the most strenuous choice, basically straight up from the end of Jefferson Street; the hikers' route starts at the corner of 1st Avenue and Monroe Street. Either trail rises steeply to the top of the rocky pinnacle and its incredible views. Allow all day, unless you're a racer; in that case, allow just under 45 minutes.
The Caines Head State Recreation Area (www.alaskastateparks.org, click on "Individual Parks") has a 7-mile coastal trail south of town. Parts of the trail are accessible only at low tide, so it's best done as an overnight or with someone picking you up or dropping you off in a boat beyond the beach portion -- the Miller's Landing water taxi offers this service. The trail has gorgeous views, rocky shores, and a fascinating destination at the end -- a towering promontory with the concrete remains of Fort McGilvray, a World War II defensive emplacement. Take flashlights to poke around in the spooky, pitch-dark underground corridors and rooms, and imagine what each was used for (going in without lights is foolhardy). Three campsites are at Tonsina Point, about 2 miles in, and a state park public-use cabin is 2 miles farther. At North Beach, 4 1/2 miles from the trail head, are two camping shelters, a ranger station, and the trails to the fort and South Beach. For an easy 2-mile hike to Fort McGilvray, start with a boat ride to North Beach. The main trail head is south of town on Lowell Point Road; pull off in the lot right after the sewage plant, then cross the road through the gate and follow the dirt road until it becomes the trail. The Kenai Fjords National Park Information Center has tide conditions and advice.
Sea Kayaking & Water Taxi
Sunny Cove Sea Kayaking (tel. 800/770-9119 for reservations, or 907/224-4426; www.sunnycove.com) has earned a good reputation for guided kayaking in Resurrection Bay and beyond. Their day trips suitable for beginners are offered as part of the Kenai Fjords Tours trips to its Fox Island lodge. For a more ambitious day trip, and for multiday trips, they venture into the fjords. If you're on a budget, take one of Sunny Cove's tours from Seward. They launch from Lowell Point, following the shore toward Caines Head State Recreation Area, where you can see sea otters, seabirds, intertidal creatures, and the salmon in Tonsina Creek. Three-hour paddles are $65; 8-hour trips are $130. A trip to Fox Island is more expensive but comes with a fjords boat tour and salmon bake.
Another highly regarded sea-kayaking firm in Seward, Kayak Adventures Worldwide (tel. 907/224-3960; www.kayakak.com) offers a wide selection of day trips and expeditions; packages involving other activities, such as glacier hiking; and water taxi drop-off for clients. Owners Wendy and Dave Doughty have a strong education and environment ethic, and they make a point of serving families -- they even have a couple of three-seat kayaks so kids can ride in the middle. Their guide training program is impressive. The couple's B&B, Bear Paw Lodge, is listed below; their storefront office downtown is at 328 3rd Ave.
Miller's Landing, at Lowell Point, 3 miles south of town (tel. 866/541-5739 or 907/224-5739; www.millerslandingak.com), is the primary water taxi operator in Seward, charging flat rates to take travelers to remote beaches and public cabins around the bay or to the national park -- great for sea kayakers or those who want to get off on their own or for a one-way day hike to Caines Head. Per person rates are $38 one-way, $48 round-trip to Caines Head; $275 round-trip to the Park Service cabin in Aialik Bay. The company rents kayaks ($55 double, $45 single per day) and skiffs, too ($110 for 4 hr.), and offers many other services (fishing charters, camping, cabins, and even potluck dinners).
Resurrection Bay
in Seward is a fantastic destination to engage in a little sea kayaking adventure. While you glide through the water you are sure to see an abundance of fantastic marine life. Sunny Cove Sea Kayaking (800/770-9119) is a great company to contact, and they can provide both information and trips, and have been doing so for five years. Miller's Landing (866/541-5739) is another company in Seward that features a number of fabulous outdoor activities. You can contact them for fishing trips, sea kayaking, and other nature excursions. The lessons are extremely useful, and the experts at Miller's can teach you to become an experienced salmon fisherman in a couple of hours. Seward has become well known thanks to the wonderful saltwater silver salmon fishing in the area. The Fish House is located in the Small Boat Harbor (800/257-7760) and is the authority on fishing in Seward. They book charters so you can venture into the sea and fish with a team of professionals.
Eating Out
Chinooks the most innovative of Seward's waterfront eateries, this airy, steel-walled spot features a good selection of small plates such as pacific cod ceviche, Jakolof Bay Oysters and crispy razon clams. The entrees are equally creative and the chili-crusted rockfish and walnut-crusted sable fish are not to be missed. Take advantage of cheaper sandwiches (even on the dinner menu). http://chinooksbar.com/
Ray's Waterfront can be found at the small boat harbor http://rayswaterfrontak.com (907/224-5606) and features a lively atmosphere and delicious food. The lighthearted mood fits the décor perfectly, and the friendly servers help to make this dining experience a great one. The steaks are juicy and full of flavor, and the fresh fish catch of the day is always prepared marvelously. The view of the harbor is magnificent, completing the enjoyable ambiance of Ray's. The Harbor Dinner Club is located at 220 5th Ave. (907/224-3012) and specializes in seafood that is all caught locally. For lunch the halibut burger is outstanding, and a favorite dinner entrée is the lobster. Their extensive bar is wonderful as well.
The Resurrect Art Coffee House Gallery is located at 320 3rd Ave. (907/224-7161) and features work by artists who live or work in Seward. The Bardarson Studio is right across from the small boat harbor (800/354-0141) and sells all kinds of wonderful paintings, prints, and crafts. Almost anything creative can be found here, making this store one that is both eclectic and exquisite.

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