Recommendations from local Alaskans
Seward Alaska is an iconic Alaskan village nestled between Mount Marathon and the shores of Resurrection Bay. Its a gateway to Kenai Fjords National Park, where glaciers flow from Harding Icefield into coastal fjords that are bursting with wildlife. So much natural beauty provides endless things to do in Seward Alaska. Its no wonder that its one of the most popular destinations in Alaska.
The population of Seward Alaska is nearly 3,000 people but it swells with tourists in during peak season (May – September). Even so, we visited Seward in mid-July and the area never felt crowded.
I’m fortunate to have family in Alaska, so much of this list of things to do and see in Seward Alaska is from their recommendations and our personal experience.
Also, we traveled with a 6-year-old, so I have advice on things to do in Seward with kids as well as only adults. Below you’ll find two itineraries, one for traveling with kids and one without.
Brief History of Seward
The village is named after William Henry Seward, who orchestrated the purchase of Alaska from Russia in 1867. C
The town of Seward was officially founded in 1903 when the railroad was brought to town. Though it had been a gold rush encampment for a decade.
In 1964 a magnitude 9.2 earthquake rocked Alaska and the subsequent landslides and tsunami devastated the small town. Check out these incredible photos of the aftermath across southern Alaska.
Where is Seward?
Seward is part of the Kenai Peninsula, a beautiful region of Southcentral Alaska, south of Anchorage. Known as Alaska’s Playground, the Kenai Peninsula is one of the state’s most beautiful and accessible areas.
Continue south on Highway 1 and you’ll reach the eclectic town of Homer. Art galleries and museums, live theater and music venues add to Homer’s reputation as the cultural capital of Southcentral Alaska.
Getting to Seward
Seward is only 2.5 hours south of Anchorage by car. Highway 1 will take you along the Turnagain Arm which is one of the most beautiful routes in America.
If you’re spending a few hours or a couple of days in Anchorage be sure to read these post:
Another fun way to travel to Seward is by train. Seward is the final stop on the historic Alaska Railroad which runs from Fairbanks to Seward. You’ll see glaciers and alpine meadows that aren’t visible from the highway.
Seward has a small airport but it’s only for small charter planes.
Summers are the most pleasant time of the year with the average highs between 56 and 62 degrees (F). Clouds and rain can be common in the summer but don’t let that deter you, Seward is magical when shrouded in mist. Take a look at Seward climate data to help plan your trip.
Things to do in Seward Alaska
Here’s a list of the best things to do in Seward Alaska. Click on a link to jump to your interests or read it all to understand everything Seward has to offer.
- Boat Tours and Whale Watching
- Alaskan SeaLife Center
- Seward Museum
- Seward Restaurants
- Seward Hotels and Lodging
- What to Pack in Summer
- Sample Itineraries
- Sum It Up
Boat Tours and Whale Watching
No trip to Seward is complete without a tour of Kenai Fjords National Park from the water. Experience close encounters with whales, porpoises, sea otters, and puffins with a backdrop of steep, lush mountains and glaciers. We even saw mountain goats traversing a rocky path across the mountainside.
My family enjoyed a
Also, they had a Park Ranger on board who talked about the animals, the history of the region, and led a Junior Ranger talk and awarded kids with Junior Ranger badges.
Even though we stayed in the clam waters of Resurrection Bay, Coen got a small bout of sea sickness. The staff was great and gave him ginger aid, oyster crackers and had us sit at the back of the boat for awhile. They sell Bonine on-board and I recommend using it if you’re worried about getting sick. The last thing you want is to be sick and miss the surrounding beauty.
Tip – If you schedule a Major Marine tour don’t pay extra for the lunch. People spent a lot of time standing in a cafeteria-style line and they didn’t seem too enthusiastic about the food. You’re assigned a table, so pack a lunch and snacks and eat at your leisure.
Consider taking a kayaking tour of Resurrection Bay. Explore the coastline and experience the stillness and beauty of Alaska. If I didn’t have Coen with me I would have done this in a heartbeat.
Halibut and Salmon fishing is a major sport in Seward. People return with 100+ pound halibut and the photos to prove it. There are a number of highly recommended charter companies on Trip Advisor.
Getting all that fish home will take planning. Fishing companies often process your catch as part of the charter. There are also places that will freeze and ship your fish or store it until you’re ready to leave. Alaska Airlines has thorough information on flying with your fish.
Kenai Fjords National Park is as beautiful on land as on the sea. There are spectacular hikes throughout the region and I’ll mention a few of the best recommendations from local Alaskans.
Before hiking be sure you’re prepared. Bears are prevalent in the region and you need to know proper bear safety before beginning your adventure. I found a straightforward bear safety article written by a biologist that will help keep you safe on the trail.
The most popular hike in the region is Exit Glacier, with good reason. The short, easy hike through the forest leads to a viewpoint of the glacier flowing out of the mountains. This hike made Coen love hiking. If you go slow and allow kids to scramble on the rocks along the trail, you’ll have a true hiker on your hands in no time.
Also, be sure to hike the loop. This will route you along a glacial runoff creek which is also the scar from the retreating glacier. It’s the perfect hike for families with young kids, or anyone who wants to view the majesty of a glacier.
You must visit the Exit Glacier region when you’re in Seward. If you didn’t drive to Seward don’t worry, there are shuttle services from town to the park.
If you’re up for a strenuous day hike, head to Harding Icefield. This 8.5 mile round trip hike begins in the Exit Glacier region and climbs about 1000 feet for every mile to the top. But don’t let this deter you, the top rewards you with a spectacular view of the icefield. A horizon of ice as far as the eye can see. The expanse is other-worldly.
Two Lakes Trail
This short, easy hike in Seward is perfect for stretching your legs after dinner. Under a canopy of trees you’ll loop around, you guessed it, two lakes. There’s a nice lakeside picnic area near the parking area, so if you’re tired of paying high prices for meals pick up some food from Safeway and relax lakeside.
Lost Lake Trail
This hike is nearly 14 miles round trip. You’ll begin the hike through a forest canopy before the trail rises above the trees to a ridgeline with stunning views of Resurrection Bay and glacial topped mountains. The trail splits into the Summer Trail and Winter Trail. It’s recommended to take the Summer Trail in the summer.
For an unforgettable experience, rent the Forest Service cabin that’s 4.5 miles in on the Summer Trail. But book it early because this hidden gem fills up fast.
A short walk from Lowell Point lower parking lot takes you to a secluded beach with beautiful views across Resurrection Bay and along the shoreline. It’s a peaceful place to unwind and relax after a busy day.
We originally came here to hike Caines Head Trail but had so much fun on the beach that we skipped the trail.
Alaska SeaLife Center
The Alaska SeaLife Center is a great way to learn about the local animals, birds, and sea creatures. This is a fun place to take kids to learn about the animals and their habitats. They had a baby sea otter when we were there and we watched them feed the adorable little guy.
They also have an atrium where you can get up close and personal with many birds, including puffins. There’s a huge Stellar sea lion that you can watch through an underwater window.
My favorite creature was the orange octopus. Watching those tentacles curl through the water and grasp the glass is a mesmerizing sight. You’ll find him on the lower level near the stairs. We almost missed him.
The SeaLife Center isn’t huge so you can enjoy it in a couple hours. If you don’t have kids or much time in Seward, I wouldn’t put it high on your itinerary but Coen thought it was a lot of fun.
Seward Museum and Library
The Seward Museum and Library is small but packed with Seward history. They play two documentaries each day, one is about the earthquake and tsunami that rocked the town in 1964, with personal stories about how it affected people’s lives. There’s also a video on the history of the Iditarod races. This is definitely worth a visit.
There are many great restaurants in Seward. Seafood is the backbone of many restaurants, which is to be expected, but you’ll find other great options with fresh local ingredients.
Seward Brewing Company
After our boat tour we went to Seward Brewing Company. They pride themselves on using locally sourced ingredients and hand crafted beer. It’s a comfortable family-friendly restaurant and the food and beer are delicious.
Lighthouse Cafe and Bakery
For a quick breakfast before a boat tour, try Lighthouse Cafe and Bakery. It won’t wow you but they have a nice selection of baked goods and basic breakfast and lunch items at a lower cost than many places in town.
Gold Rush Alaskan Bistro
For an amazing breakfast go to Gold Rush Alaskan Bistro. This restaurant was a dining highlight of our Alaskan vacation. The fluffy pancakes were smothered in a decadent berry compote. The quiche was packed with succulent crab, and the smoked salmon benedict was given high praise by a benedict snob. Even the coffee was delicious.
It wasn’t what we expected when we walked into the restaurant with wood paneled walls and kitschy art. I have to assume lunch and dinner are also amazing.
We had intended to go to Zudy’s Cafe for breakfast because of the good reviews on Yelp but when we arrived it was closed and there was a sign on the door that
To save money when visiting Alaska I recommend hitting a grocery store and packing many of your meals. There’s a Safeway on the north end of town. Grab some peanut butter and jelly, bread, energy bars, trail mix, and other high energy foods. If PB&J isn’t your jam (pun intended), ask the deli if you can have a few packets of mayonnaise and mustard so you don’t have to buy big containers.
Seward Hotels and Lodging
Seward is popular and expensive in the summer. We were flying by the seat of our pants at this point in our trip and didn’t book lodging until the day we arrived. Amazingly, we didn’t pay much more than the standard price but our options were limited. We stayed at the Breeze Inn for $175 a night in 2018. It was clean and had a nice view of the harbor but it’s as basic as you get.
If I were to do it again, I’d rent a cabin outside of town like this one. Or an apartment downtown like the Coastal Heritage. I try to choose lodging with a small kitchen so I can save money by eating homemade meals.
My biggest piece of advice: book lodging early!
What to Pack in Summer
Seward is a popular summertime destination but what many people don’t realize is that it can rain a lot in the summer. Don’t let that deter you. If you’re prepared, a little water won’t keep you from enjoying this stunning region.
These are affiliate links. If you make a purchase after clicking a link I get a small commission that helps run this site, at no cost to you. I only recommend products that I truly believe in. Thanks for your support!
These are the most important things to include on your packing list for Seward in the summer:
Merino wool base layer – I wish someone had told me about merino wool years ago. Merino wool is quick drying, breathable fabric, making it the perfect base layer for the outdoors.
Rain jacket – You don’t need a thick rain jacket, a shell is plenty and you can layer under it. Columbia makes fantastic rain gear at a great price.
Mid-weight jacket – A mid-weight packable jacket is a must for Alaskan summers. I absolutely love this jacket. It’s light, warm, comfortable, and cute. Does it get much better than that?
Rain pants – You may feel silly at first but trust me, rain pants do wonders to keep you dry. Plus, you’ll look like a local.
Hiking shoes – A good pair of hiking shoes is key to staying comfortable all day. I prefer trail running style shoes over full hiking boots, especially for day hikes. I highly recommend Merrell shoes, they’re incredibly comfortable and high quality.
Day pack – Essential for keeping your things close at hand while trekking across Alaska. Osprey Talon is my favorite day pack. It’s light, comfortable, and holds more than expected.
Binoculars – Wildlife! Need I say more?
These itineraries are for two days in Seward Alaska, with or without kids. You can easily spend more time here but this will give you the highlights of the region.
Two days with kids
- Half-day boat tour
- Seward Museum and Library
- Two-Lakes Hike
- Exit Glacier
- Alaska SeaLife Center
- Lowell Point
Two days for adults
- Boat or kayaking tour
- Seward Museum and Library
- Exit Glacier
- Hike to Harding Icefield
- Lowell Point
To Sum It Up
You can spend days in Seward with so many things to do and see. Whether you want to keep it low key with a whale watching boat tour and good eats or find adventure with a hike to Harding Icefield and kayaking in the bay, there is no shortage of things to do in Seward Alaska.
Does Seward sound like a place you’d like to visit? Leave a comment below and let me know what sounds fun to you.