The ‘Last Frontier’ is a completely appropriate nickname for the US state of Alaska as no sooner have you stepped foot across the border into this remarkable land then you’ll feel like you’re literally standing on the precipice of the world.
This is a land of harsh weather conditions, frozen wilderness and ancient traditions where you’re just as likely to come across a moose or caribou as you would another human being. So, if you consider yourself partial to wide open spaces and dark velvet nights then why not explore this ‘oh so northern’ territory and find out for yourself what all the fuss is about.
Below are my personal top 5 things to do in Alaska and no matter what you’re into you can rest assured that this is where your wildest dreams will come true.
The chance to see a gigantic tail emerging from the water is a sight to behold and if you’re heading to Alaska then this is just what you can expect to find off coast. Aside from the orcas and the humpbacks you can also expect to find porpoises, sea lions and harbour seals on an organised boat trip and if you’re really lucky you may get to see an eagle wheeling overhead. On land and grizzlies, black bears and Lynx await and if you’re patient enough and follow instructions then you’ll no doubt encounter some pretty impressive animals within the realms of Alaska’s national parks and verdant pine forests.
The Northern Lights
This phenomenal natural spectacle appears most vehemently in the north of Alaska and come the early months of the year you’ll be treated to a truly magical event like nothing else on the planet. Twisting and swirling ribbons of colour combine to make a fantastical light show and locations, such as: Fairbanks and Talkeetna, promise some of the most intense displays imaginable. Going on a guided tour is one of the best ways to experience the aurora borealis however, as the lights can often be seen as far south as Anchorage, you may be lucky enough to just stick your head out of your hotel window and enjoy the display from the comfort of the city.
Talking of Anchorage leads on rather neatly to this, the most notherly city in America, and what is indeed a location worth mentioning on a ‘must visit’ list. Blessed with both urban wildlife and wide open spaces, Anchorage is a naturalists’ dream destination and from the botanical gardens to the wildlife preservation centre you’ll discover some exceptional examples of Alaskan flora and fauna without having to leave the city limits. Aside from the wildlife, Anchorage has many ski resorts and coastal trails to keep you happy and active throughout the year and a whole host of native heritage, natural history and science museums, providing an excellent base from where to explore further afield.
Kenai Fjords NP
Of course, exploring in Alaska can usually only mean one thing and if you’re hoping to encapsulate incredible Alaskan landscapes with some of the best wildlife-watching opportunities then Kenai Fjords National Park is the place to be. Containing one of the largest ice fields in the whole of the US (the Harding Ice field) as well as some exceptional examples of glaciers and fjords, Kenai is a must for anyone interested in really getting away from it all. From the beauty of Resurrection Bay to the fascinating frozen shapes of Exit Glacier, it’s easy to see why this national park is rated so highly by locals and tourists alike.
All Alaska tours need to visit the Sealife Centre in Seward at least once and from touch tanks where you can examine urchins and anemones to a huge diving pool for the centre’s innumerate sea birds, this is a great day out espeically if you’re travelling with kids. Always educational and never dull, the Sealife Centre is a wonderful way to learn more about Alaska’s indigenous creatures and with exhibits featuring preserved giant squids and live giant octopi, this is probably the answer to many of the myths and legends that revolve around the sea.