BY HENRY ALLEN
Bellingham, Washington and Ketchikan, Alaska are not that far apart, and on the Alaska Ferry half the fun is getting there. The southern terminal for the Alaska Marine Highway System is in Bellingham. Passengers can book passage with or without a vehicle. For a casual getaway to Ketchikan, who needs a car? Just buy passenger-only tickets and walk on. Getting to Bellingham without a car is easy on Amtrak Cascades; the station is within walking distance to the ferry terminal. For your return trip, catch a flight home from Ketchikan.
For a Bellingham to Ketchikan vacation via the Alaska Marine Highway System, plan on at least five days: two nights sailing to Ketchikan and a minimum of three days in Ketchikan. Where do you sleep on the ferry? You have options. Adventuresome passengers are free to roll out a sleeping bag in the recliner lounge, under the covered, heated solarium outdoors or pitch a tent on the upper deck—a camping trip on the high seas—all with access to public rest rooms with showers. Passengers requiring more privacy can book a stateroom with two, three or four berths, each with a private head and shower. Staterooms are compact, yet comfortable.
Mountains, islands and the possibility of spotting whales are the main attractions on the voyage through British Columbia’s Inside Passage, along the open the coast of British Columbia, and into the southernmost entrance to Alaska’s Inside Passage. Relaxing, taking in the scenery and making a few new acquaintances are what the sailing is all about. Once you disembark in Ketchikan, you have more options for what to do than can fill three days.
If fishing is your game, you’ve traveled to the right place—Ketchikan is the salmon capital of the world. You can spend your entire stay at a fishing lodge or book a charter for a fishing excursion for a day. Fishing lodges typically provide transportation from Ketchikan, so getting to your home base is easy.
Ketchikan is a traditional home of Tlingit Native Alaskans and has the largest collection of totem poles in the world. There are several places to see both historic and more modern poles and learn about the figures they depict and their meaning. A good place to start is the Totem Heritage Center.
Downtown Ketchikan is walkable and fun to explore. You’ll discover art galleries exhibiting the works of local and Alaskan artists, gift shops with unique Alaska merchandise and Creek Street, a string of buildings along a boardwalk that house shops that were once bordellos.
If you are lodging in town, you have many choices, from hotels to bed and breakfasts to vacation rentals. Cape Fox Lodge, perched on the bluff above downtown, is a Native Alaskan-owned property, accessible by a tram from downtown to the lodge. The lodge offers a variety of day tours to introduce guests to all Ketchikan has to offer, including cultural tours, wildlife watching and adventures like rainforest ziplining.
Book Amtrak Cascades to Bellingham at amtrakcascades.com. Book your passage from Bellingham to Ketchikan on the Alaska Marine Highway System at dot.alaska.gov/amhs. Plan your stay in Ketchikan at visit-ketchikan.com.