Sure, there's plenty to see and do in downtown Ketchikan. But if you're here for a couple days, you should sign up for one of Ketchikan's unique sea tours, such as a boat and floatplane journey to Misty Fjords, an amphibious adventure, sea kayaking, fisherman's tour and more.
What To Do
These two sea tours come highly recommended by yours truly:
Stewardship & Survival: An Alaskan Adventure
I have to say that this was truly a one-of-a-kind experience that I won't soon forget. Ever since 1970, Allen Marine Tours--a family-owned company based in Sitka, Alaska--has conducted boat excursions for visitors to Alaska. Everyone in charge of my tour possessed a type of confidence and knowledge that left me never once feeling anxious at sea.
Expect to get very hands-on with both Alaska's waters and wilderness during this tour. While you will be transported to sea via a private catamaran, the boat will stop at several points and you'll be expected to migrate onto the deck to learn about respecting the natural environment. On my tour, we stopped at three different crab baskets to learn about the nefarious green crab (a threat to the local ecosystem). The crab, which has apparently decimated Maine's population of soft-shell clam, is showing up around Ketchikan these days. While we didn't see any of the crabs on our tour (a good thing!), our tour guide let us touch every sea creature that made its way into the baskets, while explaining a bit about each one. Grab your camera and keep an eye out for the ever popular sunflower starfish!
Once you've peeked inside each crab basket, you'll be dropped off on a remote island. Here, another tour guide will take you through an old growth forest. On this adventure, you'll learn how to find edible food, build a shelter (using only what you find in the forest), and create a campfire out of forest wood and flint. Try as I might, I could not start my fire! No worries, when all is said and done, you will be treated to a large, warm campfire and edible forest food to snack on!
Note that the complete adventure is three hours long, so you’ll want to come dressed in warm, layered clothing and shoes that can handle a little dirt and rain. If you don't have a rain jacket, your tour guide will take heart and provide a poncho.
Southeast Exposure Tatoosh Island Sea Kayaking
Quite a lot of sea kayaking opportunities exist in Ketchikan, including Betton Island, George Inlet, Tongass Narrows, Gravina Island Circumnavigation, Naha Bay, Rudyerd and Vicinity, and more. Southeast Sea Kayaks, Ketchikan Kayak Company and Southeast Exposure Outdoor Adventure Center offer rentals and tours.
I found myself on Southeast Exposure's Tatoosh Island sea kayaking adventure. For this tour, a motorcoach took myself and other sea kayakers to the Southeast Exposure headquarters, where we donned proper rain gear and life vests, and took a seat on an inflatable boat. In 15 minutes, we arrived at Tatoosh Islands, and were greeted by two guides who gave us a quick safety course before we slipped into two-man kayaks.
The kayaking itself was a steady, slow pace to accommodate everyone's ability. Many people brought cameras, but hardly pulled them out as it was steadily misting during the tour. Rain or shine, the experience was relaxing and informative. I recommend you swap your wheels for a paddle at least one of the days you visit!
Where To Stay
Ketchikan boasts quite a few hotel options for the independent traveler. From small, cozy bed & breakfasts (such as the Black Bear Inn and Alderhouse Bed and Breakfast), to big chains (like Best Western and Super 8), and vacation rentals, it seems the city has a variety of accommodations to meet every overnight need. During my visit, I was a lucky guest at The New York Hotel & Cafe. Reminiscent of a B&B, this small historic inn is restored with modern amenities and conveniences, including hi-speed Internet. Beautiful, antique-style furniture graces each room. Owner Jose is super friendly and accommodating. Tell him that you have a bike, and he'll find a safe place for you to store it.
Location is key, and The New York Hotel is located right at Creek Street--in the heart of Ketchikan. My room overlooked the beautiful marina, and I could watch people fish all day long if I wanted to. Shopping, dining and other attractions are well within walking or biking distance.
Where To Eat
I hope you like salmon, because the fresh, local fish graces every menu in town! Hit up the Fish House for out-of-this-world fish tacos and salmon chowder. Try Annabelles if you're looking for a more upscale atmosphere. Done with dinner? You absolutely must order drinks at the chic Fat Stan's. If you're lucky, your barmate will be a local lumberjack.