Juneau Alaska sightseeing
I can’t tell you how excited we were when we finally entered the channel on approach to Juneau Cruise Port after 7 days at sea. Moreover, the views were simply amazing as we sailed slowly up through the snow-capped mountains for over 2 hours before finally reaching Juneau.
As well as being exceptionally scenic, Juneau is the capital city of Alaska. Apparently, it is named after a Canadian gold prospector called Joe Juneau. Another fascinating fact about Juneau is that you can’t drive there from elsewhere in Alaska. There are no roads linking it to the outside world although you can drive around the Juneau area itself.
Juneau is quite small but it is well used to tourists on cruise ships although they usually arrive a bit later in the year. As we sailed into Juneau in April we were the first cruise ship of the season. In fact, they opened the tramway up to Mount Roberts a few days early, especially for our arrival.
This was lucky for us as otherwise, we’d have missed some great sights. From the observation deck, we saw several bald eagles, both in their nests and flying.
We also saw some huge ravens and learned that the indigenous people, the Tlingits, have a special reverence for the raven and it thus forms part of their history. We saw a short film on the Tlingits inside the visitors’ centre and even learned some words from their language.
Unfortunately, due to ice and snow, we weren’t able to go hunting for bears on any of the hiking trails as they were closed because they were too dangerous. Due to the ice, of course, not the bears although I think the bears would be more of a worry after seeing the plaster casts of their paws in the nature centre. They have black and brown bears in Juneau but you can’t apparently tell them apart by their colour since, believe it or not, Black bears can be brown or even cinnamon coloured!
From the paw casts, it looks like the Brown bears are considerably bigger. You can tell them apart by their faces because the black bears have a straight facial profile. Adult male brown bears (the grizzly bear) can weigh more than 1,000 pounds and in fact, they are the ones which catch the local Salmon. Whereas the black bear is comparatively small as it only gets to about 400 pounds in weight. Obviously, still big enough to be quite scary if you get too close.
Salmon is a big local business so we visited the Taku store which is at the foot of the cable car. Here, we tasted the local smoked salmon and the smoked salmon jerky. I’ve never eaten any kind of jerky before but it was really very good so we bought a pack in case we get peckish on the cruise. We also bought some local fudge because there was just not enough food on the ship!!!!
Afterwards, we spent a lot of time walking along the waterfront around the historic downtown area. The town sits right between the sea and the mountains and is really very picturesque if a bit touristy. We enjoyed being on land for a change and surprisingly didn’t suffer from any of the land-rocking that we anticipated after so many days at sea.
If you like shopping for souvenirs then head for downtown Juneau. Here you’ll find lots of shops selling local goods. You can relax with a coffee or something stronger in one of the cafes or saloons. Remember, Juneau was a gold rush town so it had its fair share of bars although there are less now.
Even if you don’t want to shop you should take a stroll through downtown Juneau just to look at the historic buildings. South Franklin and Sewards streets both feature an array of 19th-century buildings and have a real historic atmosphere.
For us, arriving in Juneau means that we had now crossed the Pacific. After Juneau, our journey continued via Glacier Bay National Park and then on south towards Vancouver. It promises to be a very scenic end to the cruise.