Photo Credit: Surprise Glacier seen from a day cruise in Prince William Sound. Cindy Diekevers
Whittier - Gateway to Prince William Sound  (2:29)

Nestled between glaciers and lush mountains, Whittier is the gateway to stunning Prince William Sound. While just a few hundred people call this seaside town home, this family-friendly area attracts thousands of visitors every year.

Whittier is the best place in Alaska to see amazing tidewater glaciers and marine wildlife that’s easily accessible from Anchorage (just 90 minutes by car). In fact, you’ll find the world’s largest concentration of tidewater glaciers here.

If possible, though, don’t limit yourself to just one day here. Whittier can be a base camp for visitors looking to explore the grandeur of the Sound as well as the Chugach National Forest.

Favorite Activities in Whittier

  • Day Cruises: It’s easy to check them out, even if you have only one day. Take a day cruise in Prince William Sound to see glaciers, whales, sea otters bobbing in the water, and seals hauled out on ice chunks that have calved from the glacier. Even better, the waters of Prince William Sound here are protected and calm. Day cruises in other areas of Alaska are often closer to open water, making for a potentially rougher outing. And larger vessels here, like 26 Glacier Cruise, come with a no-seasickness guarantee.
  • Sea Kayaking: For a more active experience, see the glaciers of Prince William Sound by sea kayak. Tours launch from the docks, or kayak drop-offs are available in more remote parts of the sound.
  • Jet Ski Tours: Turn up the pace and explore Prince William Sound on an exciting jet ski tour. Dry suites keep you snug and warm while expert guides lead you to glaciers and other scenic view points.
  • Hiking: For a small town, there are several great trails to explore. If you only have a few minutes, stroll the short Whittier Creek Trail. But the most popular trail is Portage Pass, which offers up views of Passage Canal and Portage Glacier.
  • Historic Sites: Explore the local monuments or take the self-guided historical walking tour.
  • Stroll the Waterfront: Walk the beach at the Head of the Bay.
  • Multi-Day Cruises: There are small yacht and sailboat companies that offer the opportunity to spend several days cruising the waters of Prince William Sound. You can charter the boat yourself or be in a small mixed group of up to 12. The experience is personal and intimate; you’ll linger in front of glaciers, launch kayaks directly from the boat, and go ashore for hikes.
  • Cruise Connections: Whittier is a major port for visitors arriving to Alaska by cruise ship. See our recommended transportation options if you're making a cruise connection in Whittier.
View of Portage Glacier from the Portage Pass Trail which begins in Whittier, Alaska

Hike the Portage Pass Trail from Whittier for a stunning view of Portage Glacier.

Meet the Locals

Longtime Anchorage residents who fell in love with Whittier, and moved there full-time in 2015. Read their story.

Anna & Dave Dickason

Where to Stay

There are two small hotels as well as vacation rentals available in the apartment complex where most of the town resides. Many visitors choose to stay in nearby Girdwood (30 mins by car) or Anchorage (90 mins) and travel in for the day to enjoy an excursion or hike.

How to Get to Whittier

  • By Car: Whittier is a convenient day trip from Anchorage; the drive is just under 90 minutes, and it’s one of the prettiest drives in Alaska. It follows the scenic Turnagain Arm and culminates by passing through the one-lane Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel—the largest combined rail and highway tunnel in North America. There’s a schedule for traffic going through the tunnel (see our Whittier Tunnel page), so time your trip appropriately. Once you get to the other side, you’ll find a special corner of Alaska that is well worth any wait.
  • By Rail: You can also get here by riding the Alaska Railroad’s Glacier Discovery Train. The round-trip schedule from Anchorage allows for enough time to take one of the popular day cruises before returning Anchorage.
  • By Cruise or Ferry: Whittier is also a stop on the Alaska Marine Highway ferry system, and Cross-Gulf Inside Passage cruises depart from and disembark here. If you're arriving in Whittier or departing Whittier by cruise ship, here are our recommendations.
  • Private Transfer: AK Tripping offers private transportation with an experienced local driver to and from Whittier for groups of up to 3 in comfortable Subaru Foresters.

Things to Do in Whittier