I haven’t always lived in Alaska, I flirted with this amazing state for a few years first. The minute that I said I was moving in permanently, friends and family started to book their flights up. Most only have 3-5 days to get away for a long weekend. For the record, I believe you need at least 10 days to see Alaska and take it all in. More is always better when it comes to seeing all there is in AK! A few though had even less time. Do you have only 72 hours in Alaska? This is the perfect itinerary for those that want to see as much as they can and enjoy the journey too.
Disclosure: This post not only has some amazing tips on what to do for an Alaska adventure from someone who has been there, but also Affiliate Links that I earn commissions from. This is how I make a living and keep this little blog running. Thank you for supporting me! I appreciate it. Much love, Kristi.
Most likely you are will land in the middle of the night in Anchorage. If it’s before midnight, hop over to 49th State Brewery and grab a local craft beer and take in the Midnight Sun. There is nothing quite like looking out over the bay at midnight with the sun still burning bright. Head over to your hotel like The Copper Whale Inn for a smaller intimate feel, or stay at The Lakefront Anchorage and watch the float planes take off and land.
The craft beer, the delicious Alaskan food, and killer sunsets are only a few reasons why I love 49th State Brewery.
If you want to taste the #1 Pizza in the US, then you must try Moose’s Tooth pizza. It is legendary!! I often order it for take-out if the line is crazy long. Don’t forget to grab a six-pack of their beer to enjoy with your pizza or root beer to have on your Alaska road trip.
Late August sunset over Lake Hood watching the float planes come in.
In the morning, you can smell java coming from any one of the coffee huts that are just about on every corner in Anchorage. For a real treat though, start it off right at Black Cup Coffee, as they have some seriously delicious coffee. Trust me on this. South Restaurant has a pretty phenomenal brunch every day of the week and is the perfect place to fill your belly before hitting the road to Seward. Their Bloody Mary’s and Mimosas might make you want to stay there all day though!
The Seward Highway
The Seward Highway was voted the #1 Most Scenic Highway in America – it is utterly breathtaking. As you drive south from Anchorage, take a look to the left at Potter’s Marsh and see if the Trumpeter Swans are in town. If you are a bird watcher, there are a couple little pulls out, as there are hundreds of bird species that come to this area every year.
Another 10 minutes down the road, pull off where it says Beluga Point on the right. If you come in August you might be one of the lucky ones to see the Beluga Whales. If not, enjoy the scenery and the black sand beach. It is really windy and cold at Beluga Point, so don’t forget to put on your jacket!
Beluga Point is where I go most Sundays to take think and take in the changing seasons in Alaska.
Photographer: Rick Trimmer
Just in case you don’t want to visit Alaska in the winter, here’s a look at how gorgeous it is in March!
Turn into the second turnoff past Beluga Point on your right. Then oh so carefully cross the road and check out the water pipe coming out of the mountain. This is pure glacier water! Fill up all of your water bottles and taste this delicious, yet crazy cold water. Please be very careful crossing the Seward Highway – you do not have the right of way!
Be prepared to make a lot of stops on your way down to Seward. Enjoy it! This is not a race to the destination, but rather enjoy every moment of this journey down to Seward. Once you pass the waters of Turnagain Arm, you will see a sign on the right – Welcome to the Kenai Peninsula. Stop and take a picture and enjoy the Chugach National Forest.
Further down the road you will see Kenai Lake’s glacial blue green waters for the first time – it is truly a life changing experience. Stop into Summit Lake Lodge for refreshments and a restroom break. If you time it just right, the reflection off of this lake is like pure glass. So dang beautiful!
Fall reflections from Summit Lake, Alaska
The drive to Seward should take a first timer 3-4 hours if you stop a lot like I do. Once you are in Seward, head to your hotel to check in. I love love love staying at the Seward Windsong Lodge. Each building is nestled in trees with well maintained paths through flowers and berries to the main office and to the restaurant and bar, Resurrection Roadhouse. I love the Roadhouse because it only has Alaska craft beers on tap. This is the time to try them all! 🙂
What a beautiful view to enjoy a glass of wine or an Alaska craft beer or cider.
Once you’ve checked in, put on your hiking boots, your mosquito proof top (trust me on this), grab your jacket and camera and get back in the car. Turn right out of the parking lot and drive 15 minutes to Exit Glacier. There is ample parking at Exit Glacier, plus there is a campground if you feel like camping instead of staying in a hotel. Inside the Ranger Station, take a moment to read all the signs and stories as they share a glimpse of how glaciers are formed and life in the Arctic. It is also pretty powerful to see the year lines that show you were the glacier used to be.
What I love the most though, is walking right up to Exit Glacier. You can walk pretty close up to the glacier and take pictures of this ancient ice. Please do not cross the barriers to go and touch the ice. You never know when it will break off and you can get seriously injured. If you are in good physical shape and have the time, contact Exit Glacier Guides and book a hiking trip to the very top to the Harding Ice Field. It is a breathtaking view that you will never forget!
Resurrection Bay – Where Happiness Happens
After a good night’s sleep, get ready for the best part of your Alaska vacation. Although last minute bookings can happen, I highly recommend booking this excursion in advance. Out of all the tours, the Kenai Fjords National Park Tour with dinner on Fox Island is my favorite. It is an 8.5 tour that lets you see Alaska in all of her beauty. Have your cameras charged up as you will see more glaciers and wildlife than you ever thought possible. Once you leave the protected waters of Resurrection Bay, you won’t have cell service. That’s ok, Alaska will share enough beauty and wildlife to keep you entertained.
The only way to access one of American’s most beautiful national parks is on a boat. The Kenai Fjords National Park is like nothing you have ever seen. You will see Bald Eagles gliding overhead and whales breaching in the cold ocean water. Depending on the day, the Captain will find Humpback Whales, Gray Whales, and Orcas for you to see. In the summer time they are feeding on all of the salmon and krill in the waters. Alaska is their summer hunting ground and most of these whales migrate back to Hawaii or Mexico to have their calves in the spring.
These Humpback Whales were so close I wanted to kiss them!
This tour goes back into the Kenai Fjords to either Colgate or Aialik Glacier, both are tidewater glaciers. As you approach the glacier, take a look at the surrounding floating ice. Don’t be surprised to catch a glimpse of sea otters playing or Harbor seals resting on the ice. Breathtaking doesn’t even begin to describe watching the glacier ice calve into the ocean. Be still a moment and take in all of the sounds that the glacier produces from small crackles and pops to large booms when large pieces fall of the face of the glacier. It is humbling and awe-inspiring at the same time. That ice took millions of years to form and in the blink of an eye it is gone.
On the way to dinner on Fox Island, you will get to see the Stellar Sea Lions yelling to get off their lawn. Puffins fly low on the water with their bellies full of fish as they try to get up the energy to soar higher. Then hidden away in crevices on the face of the mountain you might be lucky enough to see mountain goats enjoying the summer breeze. If you have an extra day, I highly recommend staying the night at Fox Island. It is truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I was able to do it a couple summers ago and it is still one of my fondest memories of Alaska.
On this dinner cruise, you are able to eat as much salmon and prime rib as you possibly can. Definitely add on the Alaska King Crab with dinner – at $15 it is a very low price to taste one of Alaska’s treasures. After dinner head down to the beach and see if you can remember how to skip rocks like you did as a kid. I personally am always on the hunt for heart-shaped rocks to bring back home.
Enjoy the cruise back to Seward and once you are back on dry land go try the Inked Out Stout at Seward Brewing Company. Delicious! Grab one of their pizzas for the road trip to Girdwood – you won’t be disappointed.
It’s your last day in Alaska and you have to head back up to Anchorage to catch your flight home. On your way back up, take a side trip to Girdwood. The Alyeska Resort is the top ski resort in the world and is utterly beautiful in the afternoon rays of summer. Take the aerial tram ride up to the top and let your eyes drink in this view where it looks like it is straight out of a fairy tale. High up on the mountainside in the gift shop is the story of how Girdwood came to be. Take a walk around the recently renovated food court and stop and have a drink at their brand new bar. There is something about sipping an Old Fashioned high above the clouds that lets your mind let go and your heart to open up. Girdwood might be the coolest little hippy town that you will ever visit.
I haven’t tried Paragliding in Girdwood… yet! It is on my Must Do in Alaska List!
There are many hiking trails around Girdwood. Don’t be surprised if you see a moose calf with her babies or a black bear and her cubs. Enjoy watching them from a distance as it is unwise to approach wildlife, especially when they are with their young.
I love May and June in Alaska – baby moose season! So dang cute!
A trip to Girdwood isn’t complete until you stop into the Girdwood Brewing Company. They have a patio area that is to die for – a beautiful view of the mountain and ski lifts. If you are having thoughts that you want to live here, don’t worry, you are not alone.
Side Excursion: Portage Glacier and Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center
If you have extra time, I highly recommend that you take a side excursion to Portage Glacier on your way to Girdwood. It’s a quick 10-15 minute drive with stops for you to see salmon spawning in the river. The Boggs Visitor Center sits at Portage Lake and has a simulated ice cave that is pretyy cool to see. Portage Glacier has been retreating and you can’t see it from the center. You can see icebergs though that have broken off from the glacier floating in the lake! To get up close to Portage Glacier, take the hour-long Portage Glacier Cruise. You can also walk any number of hiking trails that will take you to both Byron and Portage Glaciers.
The Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center is a non-profit organization that provides a home for sick or injured, and orphaned animals. If you haven’t had a chance to see many animals in your quick trip to Alaska, this is a must stop! Be prepared to see brown bears, black bears, grizzly bears, moose, reindeer, lynx, wolves, the bison herd, and the prehistoric musk ox that still make their home in Alaska. The center is located just before the Portage Glacier road turnoff on the left.
There is something about visiting Alaska – she gets into your soul and makes you want to never leave. I hope you enjoy your short vacation to AK and will come back again to see more of this beautiful state.
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