TRIP REPORT: Ketchikan + Ward Cove, Alaska

In Alaska Travelgram, Cruises, Ketchikan by scott

The “Ocean Victory” on the left (operated by American Queen Voyages) is dwarfed by NCL’s “Norwegian Jewel” on the right. Taken from the Bidge Deck of the m/v Malaspina at Ward Cove, Alaska.

I’m a huge fan of Alaska’s “First City”,  whether it’s for fishing, for flying or just plain fun!

Historic Creek Street, in downtown Ketchikan.

So, when I visited last week, I stopped in to see how Ward Cove is being revitalized.

John Binkley, Ward Cove’s developer, gave me a tour of the Malaspina before the cruise ships arrived.

Ward Cove , just five miles north of downtown Ketchikan, has been a hub of activity for 95 years for logging and fish processing. 

Taking a walk in the Tongass National Forest.

“Ward Cove is all about the Tongass National Forest and how it continues to provide for the people of Southeast Alaska,” said John Binkley. Binkley is the developer of the new cruise ship dock, built on the site of the former Ketchikan Pulp Company.

On the ferry from Ketchikan Airport to “Town Side”

I arrived in Ketchikan in the usual way: flying on Alaska Airlines, then catching the ferry over to the “Town Side” to pick up my car ($6 ea. way). But many, many visitors come to Ketchikan on cruise ships. If they’re sailing on a Norwegian Cruise Line ship, they’ll dock at Ward Cove instead of the downtown Ketchikan docks.

You can’t miss seeing the Tongass National Forest when you dock in Ward Cove. Trees surround the cove—and it’s a big part of any story about Ketchikan or Southeast Alaska.

“The forest sustained Alaska’s indigenous people for thousands of years,” said Binkley. “In modern times, the fishing and timber industries sustained the community.”

Now, the Tongass will continue to sustain the community as a natural treasure. And tourism is part of that effort.

The outside of Ward Cove’s “Welcome Center”

In addition to the new cruise dock structure, the developers have remodeled the massive warehouse as an indoor welcome center. That’s especially helpful when it’s raining outside. 

“Whistle Stop” Cafe inside the Welcome Center at Ward Cove, Alaska

Visitors can meet up with their tour group to go zip-lining, flightseeing, kayaking or hiking. There’s a free downtown shuttle. Also on-site are several options for visitors to get out and see the area: “Sea cycles” or floating pedal-powered watercraft, e-bikes, u-drive Zodiacs, kayaking, etc. 

Lining up to catch the bus to see more of Ketchikan.
Information on where to go and what to do in Ward Cove.

Recently, Binkley purchased the decommissioned m/v Malaspina, an Alaska state ferry. It’s docked right next to the cruise ship dock. Binkley plans to open a museum on board and to provide hands-on training for maritime students. Also, many seasonal employees will be housed on board.

A beautiful view from Salmon Falls Resort at the northern edge of the Tongass Highway.
Jeff and Nadra Wedekind run Chinook Shores Lodge near Knudsen Cove. They just remodeled an old boat house on the property next to a brand new dock.
Be sure and visit the “Bawden St. Brewery” near Creek Street.
A “flight” of beer is the best way to check out the variety availability at Bawden Street Brewing.

Ketchikan is beautiful in the summer. It’s the perfect “First City” to welcome visitors to the state…whether they’re flying or cruising.  

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