Photo Credit: Judy Heller
Alaska Marine Highway Overview
The ferries of the Alaska Marine Highway stop in 33 Alaska communities, as well as offering service to and from Prince Rupert, British Columbia and Bellingham, Washington. Here's why people love taking the ferry:
Why Take the Alaska Ferry?
- It’s a cruise but not a "cruise.": Some people take the ferries because they like the idea of a trip by sea -- ports, scenery, whale-watching -- but don't want a splashy, floating-resort experience. The ferries are basic but clean and comfortable. You're here because you want to focus on what's off the boat, not on it.
- You get off the beaten path: The itineraries mix the big-name ports of call with lesser-known Alaska Native communities. You can explore villages off the tourist grid and travel alongside Alaska residents.
- You can connect some serious dots: It's a great way to link far-flung segments of an Alaska odyssey. Car drivers, RVers and backpackers use the ferries to traverse sections of Alaska that are too time-consuming (or even impossible) to do by land.
How Does the Marine Highway Work?
- You can walk, take a bicycle or drive your own vehicle aboard.
- You pay a rate based on how far you're going, whether you book a cabin or whether you take a vehicle (and perhaps by how large that vehicle is -- such as RVs). To learn more about fares, see our Alaska Marine Highway Fares page.
- When your ferry stops in a port, you can either get off and walk around for a few hours or drive off and spend a few days. You can get back on the ferry to head elsewhere or keep driving to your own destinations.
- Pets are allowed. They just have to be contained in a carrier or vehicle on the car deck for transit.
- A variety of vessel sizes. The ferries in the 11-vessel fleet carry as many as 600 people or as few as 100.
- Guidance in setting up a trip. The AMHS's reservation agents can help you map out an itinerary if you need guidance -- whether you want to create a contained cruise vacation or something as part of a larger trip.
What Can You Do on the Ferry?
- You can book a cabin: If your ferry ride extends across a few days, you can book bunk-bed style cabins, which sleep up to four.
- You can camp: Some travelers just set up camp on a deck chair in the solarium, while plenty of people even pitch a tent on the deck and sleep under the stars. Make sure to bring a foam mat for extra comfort.
- You get onboard amenities: Many ferries offer observation decks, an arcade, reading room and kids’ playroom.
Alaska Marine Highway Routes
The ferry travels several routes:
The Inside Passage
- What it's like: This is the classic Alaska cruise route -- but with a down-to-earth twist. You'll start in either the Lower 48 (embarking from Bellingham, Washington) or Prince Rupert in British Columbia and head north to big-name ports such as Ketchikan, Juneau, Sitka and Skagway. But you'll also have the opportunity to explore Native Alaska communities, such as Hoonah and Kake.
- Ports: Bellingham, Prince Rupert, Ketchikan, Wrangell, Petersburg, Kake, Sitka, Pelican, Angoon, Tenakee, Hoonah, Juneau, Haines, Skagway, Gustavus.
Bellingham to Whittier
- What it's like: This is a prime route for independent travelers who mainly want a driving trip but don't want to drive all the way from the Lower 48 or Canada. Sailing from Bellingham and getting off at Whittier, you're deposited at a connection to the main Southcentral Alaska highway system. From there, you have a straight shot to either the Kenai Peninsula or Anchorage and from Anchorage on to Denali, and beyond.
- Ports: Prince Rupert, Ketchikan, Juneau, Yakutat, Whittier.
Prince William Sound and Kodiak Island
- What it's like: If you don't want a long cruise experience, this route may be for you. It offers a variety of good two or three-day trips. Using the ferry to explore the Prince William Sound ports is a popular weekend trip for Alaska locals. So is taking a few days to see the bears at Kodiak Island -- a great mini-trip for travelers who want to get off the beaten path. At ports on the Kenai Peninsula and Cook Inlet, you also have easy drives to Chugach State Park for day hikes.
- Ports: Cordova, Valdez, Whittier, Kodiak, Seldovia, Homer.
The Aleutian Chain
Note: This route has very limited service, so potential travelers should plan well in advance.
- What it's like: This route is a big hit with independent travelers -- especially those who have either been to Alaska before and are ready for something more remote or for those who just want a rugged, off-the-grid itinerary. The islands are lightly populated and are excellent spots for hiking, cycling and bird watching.
- Ports: Dutch Harbor, Akutan, False Pass, Cold Bay, King Cove, Sand Point, Chignik, Port Lions, Homer, Kodiak.
For reservations, call 1-800-642-0066. Or, email [email protected].