The Juneau cruise port in Alaska’s state capital is conveniently located within a short walk of downtown. A wide boardwalk connects the berths and offers an accessible way to disembark and begin your explorations. We’ll guide you through the port and its surrounding area.
Juneau Cruise Port Guide
Seventeen hours of daylight during summer months means plenty of time to enjoy this Alaskan port. And, many establishments stay open for extended hours when cruise ships are docked.
Once onshore, make a stop at the visitor’s center to pick up maps, brochures and coupons. Walk in the seaside park to find local food trucks. Have a meal of locally caught and prepared fare at nearby famous restaurants like Tracy’s Crab Shack and the Red Dog Saloon – which dates back to the gold rush days. Grab a great burger at the Salmon Spot; see the best views from Hangar on the Wharf; and, taste the Russian dumplings at Pel-menis.
Then, discover one-of-a-kind jewelry and wood carvings made by local artists at many shops along the street. For example, Franklin Street is lined with shops and leads further into the downtown area where there are more eateries, galleries and shops to explore. There are historic buildings, museums and churches all within a half-mile of the ship.
Getting Around Juneau Cruise Port
Juneau is a pedestrian-friendly city. All our recommended destinations in town are within walking distance of the cruise ship docks. If, however, mobility assistance is needed, there are several other options for navigating this gorgeous port of call.
In addition to traditional motorized taxis and buses is a unique option – pedicabs. These are basically three-person tricycles that are pedaled by a local guide. They are priced by the hour (available at the port) and your guide will tell interesting stories about the town and its people along the way.
Passengers can disembark the cruise ship at the port area located south of downtown. The center of Juneau is nearby and visitors can easily walk around the local shops and markets. Due to recently agreed cruise ship limits, no more than five ships are set to visit Juneau daily.
Mount Roberts Tramway
Take a ride into the sky on this scenic tramway located right beside the Juneau cruise port. You will travel from sea level above the rainforest to 1,800 feet up on Mount Roberts. This is an affordable and amazing way to view downtown Juneau, the Gastineau Channel, neighboring islands, and Alaska’s vastness.
Once you arrive at the top, the adventure continues. Start with a visit to the Mountain House, a Native-owned destination. Watch the complimentary short film called “Seeing Daylight” to learn about Tlingit life and culture.
Visit the gift shop to purchase a memento handmade by a local artist. Have a coffee at the Expresso bar and grab a bite to eat at the restaurant. Insider tip: Anything made with local blueberries is outstanding!
At the summit is also a live bald eagle display and the chance to see them in the wild along a series of alpine walking trails. These paths offer unobstructed views of the landscapes and exceptional photo opportunities. Along the way are interpretive wildlife signs, viewing platforms and carvings by the Native peoples of this area of Alaska.
Insider tip: This is one of the Juneau cruise port’s most popular activities. Therefore, many passengers line up quickly after the ship docks.
The good news is that each tram carries 60 people and one runs every five minutes. So, the lines move quickly. And, locals ride the tram as well – the perfect opportunity to ask about where to go and what to see while in town.
While in Juneau, there are several interesting and informative locations to learn about the long and varied human history of Alaska. Stops at these destinations offer a chance to see rare glimpses into the daily lives and cultures of several of the land’s inhabitants dating back thousands of years. First stop, Juneau-Douglas City Museum.
Located an easy ten-minute walk from port, the Juneau-Douglas City Museum is an entertaining and interactive facility focused on the “heritage, values and community” of the area. The general gallery is packed with items depicting Juneau’s environment, businesses, homesteaders, fishing and maritime lifestyles of the residents.
Hands-on items in the Mining Gallery teach about geology, assaying and the life of miners. Then, watch the “City Built on Gold” documentary film to follow the history of the gold rush days. And, be sure to see the amazing relief map of Juneau created by a high school student.
Next stop, Alaska State Museum, located less than a mile (and an easy stroll) from port. Some of the oldest human history of the North American continent can be traced to the state of Alaska. And, there are 32,000 objects (15,000 Alaska Native items) in this collection.
Visitors could spend an entire day looking at natural history displays (1,200 pieces), an 1,800-item fine art display and “the most comprehensive collection of Northwest Coast and Eskimo baskets in existence.” Be sure to see the basket fragments created by First Nation hands over 5,000 years ago!
Just outside of town is the Last Chance Mining Museum & Historical Park. See artifacts related to hard rock gold mining, locomotives and rail cars. (Access requires a short hike on a trail with uneven terrain.)
Also in this area is the Wickersham State Historic Site. This Victorian home has historical photos, memorabilia and period furniture of its notable former residents.
Worth Reading: IDEAL Things To Do in Anchorage, Alaska
Insider tip: For a broad overview of Juneau, take a self-guided audio tour while in port. Stops along this route will include the Juneau-Douglas City Museum, the state capitol, Marine Park and the St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church (constructed in the 1890s by the Tlingit people and Serbian miners). This allows you to explore at your own pace and linger where you wish!
While you are out and about, take a stroll along the (little-known and newly constructed) Juneau Seawalk. The northern section is rated as easy with no elevation and meanders about a quarter of a mile along the water.
There are excellent views of the Gastineau Channel and Douglas Island and signs about local flora and fauna. A set of stairs leads to the water and there are plenty of benches for resting. At the end is an exceptional breaching whale sculpture – perfect for photos.
The first thing you likely noticed earlier when you disembarked the cruise ship is a number of kiosks at the boardwalk. These are small booths where you can book a variety of adventure excursions, including whale watching, flightseeing, wildlife tours and several other Alaskan adventures.
Speak with the representatives to gather the details of what is included in your preferred activity. Be sure to double-check how long the trips will take and coordinate that with your ship’s departure time.
Insider tip: As a former resident of southeast Alaska, this writer would suggest that you avoid booking shore excursions prior to your arrival at the Juneau cruise port. Particularly the ones that involve flights or water transport to destinations in the surrounding area. The reason is that this maritime climate’s weather is variable and often unpredictable.
Read Also: Icy Strait Point, Alaska: IDEAL Things to Do
It is an accepted fact of life for those residing here that plans can change quickly. And, they often do. Flights are grounded out of an abundance of caution and the tides will dictate what can and cannot be done along the waterways. Therefore, resist the temptation to pre-book a shore excursion.
If, however, there is a discounted deal that seems irresistible, then read the fine print. Make sure you will receive a full refund if the trip is cancelled for any reason. (Also, the kiosks at the boardwalk often have prices comparable to pre-booking.)
With that said, let’s visit some of the best and most popular shore excursion destinations that conveniently leave from the Juneau cruise port area.
There are several ways to see one of the top visitor destinations in this area of the state: book a guided excursion, take a taxi, rent a car, take a narrated trip on the Blue Bus Glacier Express or ride a city bus.
For the latter, you will be dropped off at Glacier Spur Road and can walk (approximately 1.5 miles) to the Glacier visitor center. (Mendenhall is approximately 13 miles from downtown.)
This 13-mile-long river of ice with stunning turquoise blue highlights is a remnant of the last ice age. Learn about its history and present challenges with our changing climate via exhibits, films and conversations with staff at the visitor center. Then, take a hike on a variety of trails. Count icebergs; walk through the rainforest; watch for wildlife; and, see waterfalls and salmon streams along the way.
Juneau Ice Field
While on the topic of glaciers, how about the chance to actually stand on one! Located above the town is a 1,500-square-mile field of ice where visitors can take a flight up and land on this stark and breathtaking expanse of white.
Guided tours, including the gear you need, carry you in a helicopter to safe locations on the ice field. (Wear some warm clothing in layers.)
Your guide will accompany you on a walk where you will also see stunning rock formations, ice spires, the surrounding rainforest and brilliant blue crevasses. You can even book a dog sledding experience while there for more adventures. It doesn’t get more Alaskan than that!
Insider tip: If you are traveling with a group (or make some friends on the cruise ship), booking an airplane tour is a terrific and affordable way to fly over the glaciers.
Several seaplane (float plane) companies offer private excursions for groups which are priced by the hour. You will board near the cruise port; and, take off and land upon your return on the water. (An added fun Alaskan-style bonus!) This also helps with scheduling around your time in port.
Take a guided whale-watching tour if your time in the Juneau cruise port allows. Billed as “the best show in town,” these magnificent creatures of the sea certainly do know how to perform!
Most tour companies provide a shuttle from the cruise ports to their dock. Here you board a boat specially designed for whale watching. There will likely be an inside (heated) area with good views and outside decks for those photo opportunities.
These tours can last several hours, so plan accordingly. There are a variety of options that can include combining whale watching with a Mendenhall Glacier visit, a salmon bake meal, a crab fest, a kayak adventure or a private chartered boat. Watch for humpbacks (“humpies”), orcas, eagles, sea lions and perhaps some bears along the shore. And, don’t forget your camera!
Charter a Fishing Expedition
For thousands of years, the bounty of the sea has sustained residents of southeast Alaska. If trying your luck (and testing your skills) is on the list of fun things to do while docked at the Juneau cruise port, then we have great news – Pacific halibut and five species of salmon await.
Chartered fishing boats (with a limit of six people) ply the waters for saltwater catches. And, guided fly fishing is available on lakes, rivers and streams for some freshwater experience.
There are dozens of options for booking this adventure and all equipment can be provided to you. Companies pick you up at the port and take you to all the best spots. And, you can have your bounty processed and shipped to your home if you choose!
Final Insider Tips for the Juneau Cruise Port
A visit to Alaska can be unique when compared to other cruise destinations. Generally speaking, the weather and your wardrobe go hand-in-hand.
Juneau and thirty-one other communities in the southeastern panhandle of the state are in the Tongass National Forest. This is the largest temperate rainforest left in the world – so, there is rain – lots of it.
Read Also: How Much Does an Alaskan Cruise Cost?
When going ashore, dress in layers, take light rain jackets, umbrellas and consider wearing some type of all weather waterproof shoes with warm socks underneath.
Keep in mind that the average summer temperatures here only reach the low- to mid-sixties. Staying dry and warm will definitely improve the happiness factor during your time ashore at the Juneau cruise port.