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There are so many fun things to do in Seward AK and it was one of my favorite places I visited in Alaska. If you are planning a trip to Alaska, don’t miss Seward!
After four days in Alaska’s big smoke, I was more than ready to leave.
It wasn’t that I hated Anchorage, but I didn’t come to the wild north to hang out in a big, nondescript city. The smaller enclaves of the state were calling my name.
Early on a ‘summer’ morning, I walked to the train station in the freezing rain. The quiet streets gave way to a bustling station, the windows fogged on the inside from the couple of hundred people waiting to board the train.
After collecting my ticket and checking my bags I took my seat on the famous Alaska Railroad for the scenic journey down to one of Alaska’s most beautiful cities, Seward.
All About Seward, Alaska
Seward could only be called a city in a place as vast and under-populated as Alaska. Anywhere else a place with a population of slightly under 3000 souls would be classed as a town or even a village.
But in Alaska, where all of the settlements except three have a population of under 10,000 people, cities come a lot smaller.
Wedged between the mountains and the sea, Seward was founded in 1903 and was named after President Lincoln’s Secretary of State, William Henry Seward, who was behind the purchase of Alaska from Russia in 1867.
Best Things To Do in Seward AK
Catch the Alaska Railroad from Anchorage to Seward
One of the best things to do in Seward AK is to catch the Alaska Railroad from Anchorage to Seward. Linking Seward in the south to Fairbanks in the North, the railroad passes through incredible scenery along the way.
The weather was dark and stormy as we departed Anchorage but I was ready to burst with excitement. It felt like the true beginning of my Alaska adventure now I was leaving Anchorage, and a little rain wasn’t going to put a dampener on that.
I was on the wrong side of the train to see the views over the Cook Inlet and then Turnagain Arm so I headed up to the Panorama Car. Sitting in the top part of the train with large windows and a partial glass roof, the view was spectacular.
I admired majestic mountains and choppy indigo water as I searched for elusive beluga whales offshore. I never did see any.
After following the coast for a while we entered a valley and saw a couple of bald eagles keeping watch from the tips of naked trees by the railroad tracks.
The sun burst through the clouds and lit up a verdant valley for a few minutes, the heat of the sun penetrating through the thick glass of the train car. Just as quickly it was gone again, hiding back behind an ominous black cloud.
Waterfalls crashed into fast-moving rivers on either side of the tracks. Giant glaciers filled crevasses on mountain tops in the distance. This was the wild Alaska that I had been dreaming about.
Stay at the Moby Dick Hostel
Staying at the Moby Dick Hostel was one of the highlights of my time in Seward. With a big communal table in the poky kitchen and a cozy lounge area lined with travel posters, it felt like a welcoming space. A home away from home.
That’s how I like my hostels: full of character and well-loved by the many backpackers that have come before me.
What I loved most about my time at the Moby Dick Hostel was the people I met there. A group of us formed a little hostel family pretty quickly. We were a band of solo female travelers of all ages and continents with a couple of couples thrown into the mix. We were all in Alaska for the same reason, to discover the wilderness and truly experience it for ourselves.
We cooked together in the kitchen and shared meals around the giant table. Fresh fish caught by a fishing guide who was staying there, a delicious Japanese curry. Green tea in the tiny lounge. Soaking up the sun on the deck on an unusually hot day.
Explore Seward’s Cute Town Center
My first day in town was cloudy and I couldn’t see the mountains across the bay but I had already fallen for this little town at the edge of Alaska. It was gorgeous even when it was draped in grey. When the sun came out the next day, and every other day after that I was there, it was even more beautiful.
In fact, the town is one of the most beautiful I have ever seen. With a stunning location on the Kenai Peninsula at the head of Resurrection Bay, Seward is surrounded by mountains on all sides.
There is a beautiful harbor and a small town center with restored historic buildings and colorful murals. The best way to get a feel for Seward is by exploring on foot. Make sure to check out the cute retail stores and cafes and restaurants around town.
A beautiful old church building houses the Resurrect Art Coffee House. Light was streaming through the big arched windows when I sipped my coffee and browsed the art on display.
A walking trail follows the water past purple fireweed and lime-green grass, growing wild in the short summer season. The rocky shoreline leads to a river where locals fish for salmon that travel upstream.
Further along at the small boat harbor, fishermen cleaned their catch of the day in front of the colorful wooden buildings lining the pier.
Hike the Harding Icefield Trail
If you love hiking, you can’t miss the spectacular hike to Harding Icefield, a seemingly endless stretch of ice, and the striking Exit Glacier. The hike is 9 miles out and back and has 3800 feet of elevation gain so it isn’t for the faint of heart and will take most of the day with lots of photo breaks.
The Harding Icefield is the largest icefield completely within the United States and the sheer expanse of it will blow your mind! I recommend going on a ranger-led hike, there are two daily in summer and they are free. Bears are common on this trail so you shouldn’t do it alone but hiking with a group is fine.
Read more about my experience hiking the Harding Icefield trail here.
Spend a Night Out on the Town
A night out in Seward will be one to remember, and you should start the evening with dinner at Gold Rush Bistro which has excellent seafood dishes and burgers.
I ate giant King crab legs smothered in garlic and served with clam chowder and fried yukon potatoes. Cracking the shells and getting crab all over myself was all part of the fun. It was delicious.
After dinner head for drinks at the Seward Alehouse, a popular local bar with free pool, then onto the Yukon Bar where there is live music and hundreds of one-dollar bills stuck to the walls and roof, with messages and signatures scribbled on them.
Take a Walk in Two Lakes Park
Two Lakes Park near the harbor is a peaceful spot for a wander through the shaded woods, through a carpet of pine needles and around the still lakes. Wooden boardwalks led through the forest and over a stream to a beautiful waterfall.
It’s the perfect place for quiet reflections and relaxation. Take a book and sit and soak it in for a while.
Spend a Day on the Water in Kenai Fjords National Park
One of the absolute best things to do in Seward AK is to spend a day exploring Kenai Fjords National Park by water. I did one of the longer day trips into the fjords, the ten-hour Northwestern Fjord Tour. This tour takes you further into the park than any other day trip and of all the fjords and glaciers I saw, the Northwestern Fjord was the most spectacular.
Whatever tour you choose, you will see glaciers hanging above the ocean in stunning fjords, and so much marine life – I saw sea otters, orcas, humpback and fin whales, two types of puffins, porpoises, dolphins, seals, and sea lions. I have never seen such diverse marine life in one day before – not even in the Galapagos!
You can read more about my experience cruising Kenai Fjords National Park here.
Going to Seward may have been one of the best decisions I made on this trip. I know that because I am still dreaming about it now. Don’t miss it on your Alaska trip.
Plan Your Seward Vacation
Getting To Seward
So the best way to get to Seward from Anchorage is by taking the Alaska Railroad. The scenery is incredible and it is a lovely and relaxed way to travel. It is a bit of a splurge though. The journey takes around 4.5 hours.
The cheapest way to get to Seward is by catching the Park Connection bus or the Seward Bus Lines bus. It takes 2.5-3 hours.
You can also hire a car and drive to Seward, the drive from Anchorage takes around 2.5 hours.
Where To Stay in Seward
If you are traveling on a budget or are traveling alone and want to meet people, I highly recommend staying at the Moby Dick Hostel which has dorm and private rooms, a guest kitchen, and an excellent location right downtown.
For hotels, mid-range options include the Harborview Inn, Exit Glacier Lodge, Hotel Seward, and Seward Adventure Lodge. More luxurious options include Harbor 360 Hotel Seward, Spruce Lodge, and Gateway Hotel.
For vacation rentals, these options are close to town, affordable, and highly rated:
- Charming 1 bedroom in Seward Historical Landmark building the heart of downtown
- Two-Bedroom European Style Chalet With Ocean Views
- Charming Downtown One Bedroom Suite
- Cozy and Quiet Two Bedroom Close to Small Boat Harbor
- Historic One Bedroom Apartment Downtown
The Best Time To Visit Seward
To be able to do all of these fun activities you will need to visit Seward in the summer months from mid-May to mid-September.
If you liked this post, check out some of my other Alaska content:
- What To Expect on the Harding Icefield Trail
- The Ultimate Denali National Park Guide for the Budget Traveler
- Hiking in Alaska: Scrambling to the Summit of Mount Verstovia
- Juneau, in the Rain
- Discovering the Frontier Spirit in Talkeetna, Alaska
- Overcoming my Fears on a Denali Flightseeing Tour
- Hiking in Alaska: Wild Alaskan Terrain Along the Mount Healy Overlook Trail
- An Aquatic Safari Through Kenai Fjords National Park in Alaska
- Best Things to do in Sitka: My Favorite Place in Alaska
- Eating Anchorage and Other Tales from the City
- The Best Day Trip from Anchorage: Hiking Flattop Mountain
- Summer in Alaska Itinerary
Seward is on my bucket list. I am a veteran so I would be staying at the military hotel . Seeing the Alaska Rail way on TV has me thinking that this must be part of my trip. I’m coming from San Antonio, Tx. So flying will be necessary. It’s wired but flying out of Austin or Dallas might be better than starting from SanAntonio . And I don’t know weather Fairbanks or Anchorage would be best destination. I’m going to need a lot of travel advice
Hi Terry, I’m happy to help with advice. Send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. I would definitely imagine that flying out of Dallas or Austin would be better pricewise than San Antonio. Anchorage is the closest major airport to Seward then you can catch the train from there.
We just went in the last month and the place is just MAJESTIC!! We stayed at the Exit Glacier Lodge and it was incredible! The Fjord cruise is a must and next time we will go snagging for salmon. There are no words for the beauty of this area. We will be back!
It is so majestic! I really want to go back
I’m moving to Seward to Teach next year! I’m really looking forward to my stay in Seward!!
I’m sure you will love it Rick!
Im moving to Seward July 5th to do seasonal work at Bornstein Seafoods till November when I return to my home in Houston Texas. I’m very excited for this adventure, Seward sounds like a cool place to visit. CANT WAIT TO GET THERE
I hope you love it Scott. It’s a great little town
We’ll be visiting at the beginning of October. I know a lot of the park visitor centers won’t be open but are there still things to do in Seward?
Hi Sandra, I bet it is beautiful in October and from what I can see, there are still Kenai Fjords tours then and you can experience the town with less tourists. Enjoy it!
I want to visit!
You definitely should Donna! Seward is amazing 🙂
I moved from Texas to Seward when I was 13. Have moved back to the home state but nothing compares to that little city! Thanks for sharing you brought back great memories for me.
No problem Raven, it’s an incredible place
If you do go back, make sure to climb Mt. Marathon. Even half way up, the views are spectacular!
I definitely will Craig. I was considering doing it this visit but after full days hiking to Harding Icefield and out cruising the fjords I needed a rest day!
grew up there, have travelled and lived around the world, still consider it my home… glad you liked it and decided to share …
Thanks Alisa, it is an incredible place
I stayed at the same hostel this August. Great experience. Did you go on a fjord cruise?
Hi Tricia, I did go on the Fjord cruise and it was incredible. Writing about it next