Which sounds more like the ideal vacation — baking in the hot sun on a tropical beach, or watching two majestic bald eagles frolic on a windy beach off Icy Strait with jagged, glacier-capped mountains in the background? If you chose the latter, you should consider a trip to southeast Alaska. This region has some of the most magnificent scenery and trekking grounds in the world.
Before You Go: Need-to-Know Info
Flight time (to Anchorage): 4 hours from Seattle; 10 hours from New York City; 6 hours from LA
Getting around: Car, RV, ferry and train
When to Go: Alaska at its best
Best weather: From Mid-May to mid-September, the average summer temperature is 65 degrees Fahrenheit.
Best prices: May and September
What to Do:
Glaciers and icebergs: In planning your romantic escape to the land of the midnight sun, be sure to visit the Glacier Bay National Park & Preserve, a 3.3-million acre sanctuary situated along Alaska’s coast 65 miles northwest of Juneau. Here, you can board a tiny prop plane or boat and be guided through the park’s natural splendor. During your journey, you’ll witness the immensity of 7 tidewater glaciers, some of which calve into the bay, not to mention icebergs and fjords framed by snow-crested mountains. If Mother Nature is smiling on you, you’ll also see countless species of marine and land creatures, from the tufted puffin to a black bear, all in their natural habitat.
Whale watching: The endangered humpbacks migrate north in the spring, attracted by the abundant krill and shrimp that thrive in southeast Alaska’s coastal waters. Adult humpbacks average 40 to 50 feet in length and weigh in at 25 to 40 tons. Seeing and hearing these graceful giants will change your life. First, a spout of water shoots from the surface of the sea, followed by the high, brassy sound of the whale’s forceful exhale. When feeding, the humpbacks may erupt from the water, their enormous mouths wide open, scooping up thousands of organisms in their baleen plates.
Winter sports: Whether your travels take you to Anchorage or Juneau, or anywhere in between, you’ll find plenty to do outside of your warm and toasty cabin if you’re so inclined. Many hotels provide equipment and instructors for snowmobiling, ice fishing, skiing, sea kayaking, hiking or mushing. Not just for animal lovers, couples of all skill levels can learn to “mush” and become dog drivers, which helps Alaska’s beloved pets stay in shape for annual dogsledding competitions.