If you plan to visit Alaska via a cruise line, you will inevitably have to travel on Seward Highway. However, even if you plan to visit Alaska by other plane or highway, it is still a must that you drive from Anchorage to Seward by car, bus or train. It is one of the most scenic roads in Alaska and in the top ten scenic highways in the United States.
Since Alaska Cruise Transportation is the bus company that takes passengers on Seward Highway almost daily, we thought this would be a helpful guide for first time visitors to Alaska from the experts. We absolutely recommend exploring the amazing Seward Highway drive before you head out to your other adventures in our beautiful state.
Frequently Asked Questions:
Everyday we get asked these questions: How do I get from Seward to Anchorage? How long is the drive from Anchorage to Seward? What will I see on the way from Seward to Anchorage? We hope that this will be helpful to get the answers that you are looking for.
- How far is the drive from Anchorage to Seward?
- Seward Highway starts at mile 1 in Seward and ends at mile 127 in Anchorage. Seward Highway is also known by Route 1. Seward Highway is the only road to travel from/to the city of Seward. On the drive between Anchorage and Seward you will also pass by small towns – Girdwood with Alyeska Resort, Portage with the turnoff to Whittier, and Moose Pass town located right on the Seward Highway.
- How long does it take to get from Anchorage to Seward?
- If you drive by car, bus or motorcoach, it will take 2.5 hours without stops.
- If you take a train, it is much slower and can take up to 6 hours.
- There are no commercial flights, you will have to hire a private small plane if you would like to fly.
- How do I get from my cruise ship in Seward to Anchorage Airport?
- Seward is 127 miles from Anchorage. Many cruise ships dock in Seward such as Holland America, Celebrity, Royal Caribbean, and Norwegian Cruise Line. Whittier is another port that is located in the middle of the way between Seward and Anchorage and it is only used by Princess Cruise Lines.
- When you arrive to Seward on the cruise ship, you will have to take either a bus, motorcoach, taxi, rental car, or take a train (train tracks parallel the highway most of the way) to get to Anchorage.
- We recommend making reservations ahead of time for either of these travel means. It will be hard and much more expensive to find transportation once you arrive. Alaska Cruise Transportation offers some affordable bus options with sightseeing stops on Seward Highway and direct bus transfers to/from Anchorage Airport. See the PRICES HERE.
- What is there to see and do on the drive from Anchorage to Seward?
- The drive from Anchorage to Seward is one of the most scenic drives in Alaska and United States. There are incredible panoramic views from the highway as you drive through the Turnagain Arm and Chugach National Forest down the Kenai Peninsula!
- Every turn on this highway opens up breathtaking views with lots of opportunities to pull over for some great pictures (be extremely careful driving on Seward highway, it is just one lane each way with mountains on one side and ocean on the other, be mindful of the speed limit!)
- Below are some of the noteworthy points on Seward Highway:
- Turnagain Arm – Seward Highway rests between the Chugach Mountains and Turnagain Arm, a 45-mile-long tendril of Cook Inlet that separates the Chugach range from the Kenai Peninsula. The tidal range here is one of the greatest tidal fluxes in the world, second only to the Bay of Fundy in Nova Scotia, with a difference between an extreme high and low of more than 41 feet. A breathtaking wall of water up to 6 feet tall called a bore tide can roar up Turnagain Arm twice a day. The wave moves faster than 10 miles per hour. Several pull-outs on the side of the highway have interpretive signs. At high tide, water comes right up to the road. At low tide, the whole Arm narrows to a thin, winding channel through the mud.
- Potter Marsh – The first viewpoint on Seward Highway as you drive outside of Anchorage. Potter Marsh is a part of the 2,300-acre Anchorage Coastal Wildlife Refuge, it acts as a stopover for more than two hundred species of migratory birds: Canada geese, mallards, pintails, green-winged teal, widgeons, canvasbacks, shovelers, and scaup are common, there are also the trumpeter swans, bald eagles, northern harrier, snow geese, and short-eared owls also occasionally present. The marsh has a boardwalk that offers a good look into the marsh with interpretive displays.
- McHugh Creek Recreation Area – There is a 20-foot waterfall, and a trail that offers some spectacular views of the Turnagain Arm. At the upper parking lot you will find free picnic tables, barbecue pits and outdoor lavs.
- Beluga Point – There are numerous lookout points on Seward Highway to pull over and take in the breathtaking scenery. Beluga Point is the most famous and is usually very crowded. There are many other pull outs on Seward Highway that offer the same great scenery with interpretive signs as the Beluga Point. If the tide and salmon runs are right, you may see Beluga Whales from any of the pullouts. The whales chase the fish toward fresh water. Some of the pull-outs has spotting scopes to improve the viewing. Of all the whales that inhabit Alaskan waters, the beluga is one of the most intriguing and certainly the easiest to spot, due to its unusual white color.
- Windy Point Wildlife Viewing – Windy Point is located at milepost 105-107. Be on the lookout on the mountain side of the road for Dall sheep picking their way along the cliffs. Windy Point is a unique spot where the sheep get much closer to people here than is usual in the wild. They are white and can be easily spotted on the mountains and cliffs. Be extremely careful on this part of the road, watch out for stopped vehicles and pedestrians.
- Girdwood and Alyeska Ski Resort – Girdwood, 37 miles south of Anchorage, is proof that a charming little town can coexist with a major ski resort. The town was started by a gold miner who staked a claim on Crow Creek. The crow creek mine is now a historic site located on Crow Creek Road, 5 miles inland, that offers a collection of picturesque log buildings and the opportunity to pan for gold.
Today, Girdwood is a little village of about 1,200 that swells to some 3,000 when the snow falls. The primary summer attractions are the hiking trails, the tram to the top of Mount Alyeska, and the Crow Creek Mine. In winter, it’s skiing. There are seven lifts and an aerial tram. This is the only ski resort in the country where you plunge down powder-filled slopes while looking at the ocean below. If you take the tram, which takes 7 minutes to get to the 2,300-foot level, where it stops at a station containing both the Seven Glaciers Restaurant (one of the finest dining in Alaska) and an attractive cafeteria. Whether or not you eat here, the tram presents an opportunity for everyone to experience the pure light, limitless views of Alaskan mountaintops, glaciers and bay. Make sure to gas up at the Tesoro gas station on the way to Seward, this is your last chance for the next 80 miles.
- Old Portage Town and Dead Trees – All along the flats at the head of the Turnagain Arm are large marshes full of what looks like standing driftwood. This was a sight of the most dramatic recent natural event that happened in Alaska – the great earthquake of 1964. These ghost trees stand as a reminder of that Good Friday March 27 when the largest earthquake to hit North America shook the land. It measured 9.2 on the Richter scale. The ground along this part of Turnagain Arm subsided 6-11 feet flooding the forest with salt water. The Railroad town of Portage was flooded as well. The homes and businesses of Portage’s 70 residents abandoned. If you look on the side of the road, all that remains of the town sight sits rusting and decaying as traffic along the Seward Highway rushes by.
- Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center – originally conceived as a tourist attraction, the center has become a 200 acre non-profit conservation, education, and recreation facility dedicated to the care of orphaned, injured, and displaced native Alaskan wildlife, giving homes to injured and orphaned deer, moose, owls, elk, bison, muskoxen, bear, fox, and caribou. Most animals can’t be returned to the wild and are kept here in fairly naturalistic grassland enclosures. You can either drive a short course to see the animals in fenced enclosures as large as 18 acres or walk through. Get your cameras ready this is the great place to get tons of wonderful wildlife photos!
- Kenai Peninsula – as you wind around the end of the Turnagain Arm, the Seward highway will take you up to Turnagain Pass at 900 feet, it is the highest point on Seward Highway at mile 70. There is no shortage of breathtaking mountains, lakes, and creeks. One of them is the Summit Lake (pictured above) with its still waters, it is one of those perfect picture stops with surreal calmness.
- Moose Pass Alaska – there is only one town on Seward Highway between Girdwood and Seward. Moose Pass is a quiet community of several hundred folks, Moose Pass was first a construction camp for the Alaska Railroad. Today, the town boasts lodging, gift stores, a post office, grocery store, and a highway maintenance station.
- Seward Alaska – you have made it all the way to Seward! The town was named after William Seward, secretary of state under President Andrew Johnson, who engineered the purchase of Alaska from Russia in 1867. Resurrection Bay is the best of Seward, an inviting front yard, attracting boaters, birders, kayakers, fisherman, sailors, and whale watchers. Full of glaciers and incredible wildlife, all the western coast of the bay is in Kenai Fjords National Park. Seward is a mountainside grid of streets lined with old wood-frame houses and newer fishermen’s residences.
Should I spend time in Seward? Is there anything to do or see in Seward?
- Seward is a small town about 3,000 people. You can navigate around Seward without a car, most things are in walking distance. Most hotels offer shuttles, there is also a FREE town bus that runs between downtown Seward and the Cruise Ship Terminal. Taxis are limited but also available in Seward.
- Seward is at the head of Resurrection Bay, surrounded by the Kenai Fjords National Park and the Chugach National Forest. Visiting Seward should be on the list for all tourists as it has lots to do and the scenery is absolutely breathtaking.
- Below are some of the most popular things to do and see in Seward:
- Alaska Sealife Center – this is a rehabilitation and a research facility for the marine and wildlife that inhabit this region, it was formed after Exxon Valdez oil spill devastated Prince William Sound.
- Exit Glacier hiking – Exit Glacier is one of the most accessible glaciers from the road. It is located about 15 miles from downtown Seward. There are local sightseeing companies that operate shuttles and guide services from downtown Seward to Exit Glacier. It is definitely worth taking a side trip to Exit glacier. Stand just a few feet away from this majestic glacier for some amazing photo opportunities.
- Mount Marathon hiking – if you are in great shape, hiking Mt Marathon will help you see Resurrection Bay from above with the most stunning views. During 4th of July, Mt Marathon hosts the most famous race in Alaska which attracts world class athletes and about 30,000 people every year.
- Whale and Glacier Watching day cruise – there are plenty of boat tours that you can take from Seward. They offer either a short or a full day tours. You will have an opportunity to see a whale breach the surface of the water, sea otters, seals, and several species of birds.
- Dog Sledding Tours – this is one of the most fun activities to do in Seward. During the summer time, you will ride a wheeled sled by a dog team and get to learn everything about the most popular sport in Alaska – dog sledding. In the winter time they do a ski sled tour around glaciers.
- Walk around in Downtown Seward – Seward is a charming little town to walk around with several great restaurants. If you are a seafood lover, you will find some fresh seafood spots that are sure to please.
- Take a fishing trip – hire a fishing charter to stock up your freezer for the winter with some Alaskan favorites – halibut, salmon, rock fish and lingcod.
- For more adventurous travelers – there are helicopter tours with glacier landing including dog sledding in the mountains and kayak tours in the Resurrection Bay. There are some great camping spots, and RV parking also available.
Once you travel on the Seward Highway you will realize that you have made the right choice. The drive from Anchorage to Seward offers absolutely breathtaking scenery and is a perfect day trip from Anchorage. There is so much to see and explore that you can easily spend a couple of days hiking and wildlife viewing along the Seward Highway. Take some awesome pictures and make memories of the lifetime!