A Guide to Seward, One of Alaska’s Best Port Cities
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One of Alaska’s most underrated destinations, Seward, is often overlooked as a top-tier city to visit in ‘the Last Frontier’. Although all of Alaska is widely known as a wonderful destination for nature and wildlife, Seward’s culinary scene is quietly one of the best in the state. With plenty of ‘mom and pop’ and upscale restaurants to choose from after a fun day of exploring the Kenai Fjords or fishing at the harbor, we can’t recommend visiting this hotspot enough. Whether it is by land or cruise, here’s everything you need to know about vacationing here...
Searching for a great way to visit this destination? Explore our Alaska cruises with cruise lines that offer diverse itineraries to Seward and other Alaska ports-of-call.
When to Go
Here’s a look at when the weather is at it’s best and when popular tourism seasons take place to help you decide on the best time to visit.
Best Weather in the Summer Months
As you may have guessed, Seward is a cold and wet destination pretty much year-round. This is part of the reason why people love to vacation here. The rainy weather makes for stunning scenery, fascinating wildlife, and the perfect setting for those who love Winter activities like skiing, snowboarding, or even dogsledding. It’s also great for less-active travelers who prefer to watch the rain and snow fall from the comfort of a warm and cozy indoor setting. Expect the mildest weather in the Summer months with temperatures averaging 55 °F from June to August (source: Holiday Weather).
Tip: A cruise is one of the most popular ways to visit Alaska. Cruise itineraries have stops in multiple ports-of-call so you can see more cities and enjoy remarkable scenery from the comfort of first-class ships.
Most Visitors Arrive in the Spring and Summer
Cruise ships only sail here during ‘Alaska Cruise Season’ from late April through September when there are clear views and more wildlife to be appreciated. There is also a boom in festivities at the harbor. They hold an annual Harbor Opening Weekend event where businesses set up around the harbor as boat parades, fleet blessings, and the Mermaid Festival all activate the area with bustling activities.
This is also the same time when peak fishing season produces a plethora of Pacific Halibut, Lingcod, King Salmon, Silver Salmon, Pink Salmon, and Chum Salmon. Every year June brings a Halibut Tournament and August brings a Salmon Derby. Enjoying delicious Seward seafood is a bucket-list experience, especially if you’re the one who made the catch!
Tip: The Seward Music and Arts Festival and 4th of July celebrations are large, high-spirited events to consider when planning your trip.
Top Things To Do in Seward
Trek, Paddle, or Sail Kenai Fjords National Park
Kenai Fjords National Park is an awe-inspiring setting with mountains, coastal views of the Pacific Ocean, glaciers, and some of the most captivating wildlife you’ll ever see. Harding Icefield is where more than 30 glaciers can be seen and is the primary attraction at the park. If you came to Alaska to hike this is the best place to do it. One of the many trails to try in Kenai Fjords is the Harding Icefield Trail that is a 8 mile roundtrip hike. Beware this trail is advanced and takes up to eight hours to complete! Don’t worry there are plenty of shorter trails in the Exit Glacier area that are less vigorous.
Tip: Exit Glacier area is the only part of the park accessible by road (only in the Summer). Other ways to explore the park are by boat tours or once-in-a-lifetime kayaking in the Kenai Peninsula coast!
Eat Fresh Seafood and Local Cuisine
As mentioned above, this is a fishing town, which naturally leads to delectable fresh-caught meals at the local restaurants. Enjoy steamer clams or shrimp as an appetizer and indulge in main courses such as king crab legs drenched in drawn butter, or a lighter salmon poke or fillet.
The popular restaurant, ‘Chinook’s Seafood and Grill’ features big, shareable dishes like bucatini pasta with salmon, halibut, cod, prawns, and scallops, smothered in white wine garlic butter sauce. Although seafood is very prominent in the area, you can find other specialties such as ‘Woody’s Thai Kitchen’ or ‘Hamajang Food’, which is a food stand operation that mainly sells Hawaiian cuisine. Sampling restaurants is one of the most enjoyable things to do while visiting. Here’s some more mouth-watering restaurants to add to your itinerary…
- The Smoke Shack
- Firebrand Barbecue
- The Cookery
- Thorn’s Showcase Lounge
- Klondike Pizzeria
- Exit Glacier Salmon Bake
- Red’s Burgers
Tip: If you’re looking for a great place to enjoy an adult beverage or two, try Seward Brewing Company, Yukon Bar, or Pit Bar and Liquor Store for a flight of beers!
Observe Rare Wildlife Like Never Before
This is a premier destination for getting a glimpse at a wide variety of wild animals whether it be marine or land wildlife. Boat tours are the best way whale-watch and get a chance to see sea otters, seals, walrus, and sea lion.
You can also get great views of the shore from boat tours or cruises in some cases. The common land animals that you may encounter are fascinating horned puffins, mountain goats, bald eagles, and moose. Be on the lookout for these animals when hiking as well (we recommend hiking with a guide if you are a beginner!). Bears, caribou, and bison are all possible sightings to be alert for when hiking the trails.
Tip: Another great way to see Alaskan animals up-close is at the Alaska SeaLife Center. Bring the whole family for activities like interacting with live starfish.
More Local Landmarks and Things to Do
- Even More Hiking Trails - Some more hiking trails to explore are Mount Marathon, Caine’s Head Trail, Lost Lake trail, and Tonsina Point Trail.
- Benny Benson Memorial - Visit the memorial of the Seward legend, Benny Benson, who at the age of 13 submitted his flag design for what at the time was the Territory of Alaska. His beautiful design that features eight gold stars forming the Big Dipper and Polaris still represents the state to this day.
- Resurrect Art Coffee House Gallery - Enjoy an espresso or a chai tea at this local café and art gallery with a unique ambiance and views of the city.
- Waterfront Park – This scenic park is a delightful area where you can camp out, picnic, or explore the many historical landmarks that are spread throughout a nearby trail.
Day Trip to Anchorage and Girdwood Onboard the Alaska Railroad
If you have enough time on the schedule the Coastal Classic is the name of the train to catch from Seward to Girdwood to Anchorage on the historic Alaska Railroad. The ride North is unforgettably scenic as you stop in two more of Alaska’s best cities to explore. This route runs parallel the Seward Highway which is also an epic road trip filled with great Alaskan scenery, but onboard the Coastal Classic you travel into the mountains where you get truly stunning views of glaciers and alpines.
Anchorage is a larger city than Seward, but with just as much wildlife and scenery. Anchorage is a popular onshore excursion for cruises that port in Seward. Girdwood is a mountain town in between Seward and Anchorage that is truly an escape from the everyday hustle and bustle. Both cities offer different types of entertainment, but if Seward is your main stop, the Coastal Classic may be the best bet at exploring all three of these Alaskan gems.
Things to Know
Foodies, outdoor adventurers, and wildlife lovers – this destination is perfect for you. If you don’t characterize yourself as any of those travel personalities, don’t let that put a damper on your interest in Seward. This port city tends to pleasantly surprise visitors with its charm and outside-the-box activities suitable for all travel-types. Still curious? Here’s some frequently asked Seward questions to help you get the full picture…
What is the population?
According to the Census 2018 Population Estimate in 2018 there are 2,729 residents.
What airlines fly here?
Commercial flights don’t fly into Seward Airport (SWD). Most people who are heading to Seward fly into Ted Stevens Anchorage International (ANC) and either take the train or drive to Seward. Major airlines that fly into Anchorage are Alaska, Delta, United, and American.
How far is Seward from Anchorage?
Anchorage is about 125 miles north of Seward. You can make the drive in about two and a half hours or take the train for a little over four hours of unbelievable mountain scenery. The Alaska Railroad is an iconic and historic landmark, specifically the Seward to Anchorage route called the Coastal Classic.
Where are the best places to eat?
Seward is one of the best foodie-destinations in Alaska. Check out a few recommended restaurants here.