With the cruise ship in Juneau
Juneau's port calendar called for more than 700 cruise ship calls in the 2023 summer season. From May to September, guests from many countries visit the capital of Alaska. You are not traveling because of any urban gems; because they don't exist. They come to Juneau by planes and cruise ships to admire Alaska's wild nature.
Welcome to Juneau
A first glance from one of the upper decks of the cruise ship reveals Juneau as a bustling city. S. Franklin Street, which runs alongside the docks, is very busy and the commercial buildings have the charm of functional buildings.
Juneau Visitor Center
During the land tour, a second look confirms the assumption that Juneau's community lacks urban highlights. We can only appreciate the State Capitol and the Governor's Mansion. Within sight of the Capitol Building is the man-sized statue of US Secretary of State William Henry Seward. He was given the task of buying the Alaska region from the previous owner - the Russian Empire. Juneau's cityscape in general is pristine, sober and practical; it's not fancy.
The range of goods available to tourists is tailored to their needs. Both high-quality handicrafts from the “First Nations”, which means the native Indians, as well as knick-knacks made in the Far East are on offer.
Juneau's shopping street
The Russian Orthodox Church of St. Nicholas is located on 5th Street. Right next to it you can see the mother church of the Diocese of Juneau, the Cathedral of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Not that either church is particularly attractive; However, they stand out pleasantly from the surrounding monotony.
As a community, Juneau offers little. The destination is unique as a starting point to Alaska's overwhelming nature. It doesn't take a long drive to discover the top sights. As always, the cruise companies try to sell expensive ship tours to their guests in advance.
As far as Juneau is concerned, excursions can be booked locally with operators at cheaper rates. We will not discuss flights with seaplanes and helicopters at this point.
Sale of excursion tours
Juneau's top spot is the Mendenhall Glacier. It is located in the Tongass National Forest; At around 69.000 square kilometers, it is North America's largest national forest. Every national forest in the United States is under the control of the federal government. According to hearsay, Juneau and the surrounding area are home to 20.000 to 30.000 bald eagles, as well as black bears and porcupines.
Fjords and glaciers characterize the landscape of the forest area. The Mendenhall Glacier, in turn, is one of 38 “large” glaciers in the 3.885 square kilometer “Juneau Icefield”.
The easiest and most expensive way is to book one of the flightseeing tours with stopovers on the glacier. Dog sledding and glacier hikes are also available. If you are afraid of the costs of such exploratory flights, you can take the blue and white shuttle buses to the Glacier Visitor Center. Public buses do not serve the information center.
Depending on the time of day, weather conditions and condition, the day guest stays in the center area or walks along wheelchair-accessible paths to Nugget Falls, the second attraction in the glacier area. The two waterfalls, one above the other and fed by the Nugget Glacier, have heights of 30 meters and 85 meters. And if the visitor is lucky, a park ranger will show them a young porcupine.
Useful and educational information about the glacier system is provided at the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center.
The journey to the glacier covers a distance of almost 20 kilometers. On the way there you will take a detour to the Homestead Park lookout point. It provides unrestricted views of the cruise ship berths. Tickets for the white and blue shuttle buses are sold in huts in front of the ships' berths. The ride on the white bus cost a hefty $2017 per person in fall 50. The price for the trip in the outdated school bus is completely overpriced. But you are in Alaska, known as “the last frontier”. The season only lasts four months and Alaska's winters are long. And the view of the Mendenhall Glacier is worth a visit. Even if the ticket price seems expensive to us.
Juneau lies beneath the Coast Mountains. One of these coastal mountains is the 1.164 meter high Mount Roberts. The Goldbelt Mount Roberts Tramway takes passengers to 530 meters above sea level in six minutes during the cruise season. When the weather is good, passengers enjoy fantastic views of Juneau and the Gastineau Channel. There are a variety of hiking trails at altitude, and the neighboring Raptor Center invites you to visit the birds of prey. Among them is a bald eagle. The birds are birds of prey that are unable to fly or have had an accident. As an alternative to the expensive cable car, there is a trail that leads up to the top. A summit restaurant and a shopping area await visitors.
Mount Roberts Tramway
The valley station of the cable car is clearly visible in front of one of the cruise terminals. In 2024, adults will pay $50 round trip. Given the price and the changeable weather, it is advisable to buy a ticket on site.
The waters off Juneau are teeming with marine mammals. Whales, dolphins and sea lions are part of the local color. Various boat tours are offered for observation. Depending on the weather, these can also be purchased at the ticket booths shortly before the start of the journey.
These photos were taken at the end of September 2017 under the worst weather conditions. They still give an impression of the magnificent landscape. How beautiful Juneau and its surroundings must look when the sun is shining! As a consolation, we heard the incredibly encouraging recommendation for the right clothing several times: “Prepare for the worst and hope for the best.”
The windfall Fisherman doesn't care about the weather
Update February 2024