Seward is a coastal town roughly 120 miles from Anchorage Alaska. You can travel to this wonderful town by vehicle, train, or when their schedule is not affected by the COVID-19 virus, by cruise ship. This popular town was found on accident by a Russian fur trader seeking shelter from a storm. The bay where the town hugs the coast is called Ressurection bay. This name was determined by the man seeking shelter on the Russian Sunday of the Ressurection.
The city of Seward, named after U.S. Secretary of State William Seward, did not become a bustling community until the Alaska Railroad laid track to the water's edge. It wasn't long after this that the town because one of the largest communities and a port for ships. It wasn't until 1964 that the hustle and bustle of the new community were brought to an abrupt halt by a 9.2 magnitude earthquake.
The earth shook vigorously and the city's shoreline dropped into the ocean, taking businesses and homes with it. The main road split open and vehicles fell into the darkness. The city was left in ruins, a crumbled mess that looked like the aftermath of a war zone. As if the people of Seward weren't shaken enough, a Tsunami struck the bay shortly after. A 30 foot tall wall of water sped towards the town with great force and no forgiveness.
Today you can see the effects of the 1964 earthquake when you visit. Seward has a lot to activities and attractions to the out-of-state tourist and the Alaskan locals, looking for a weekend getaway. There are tons of activities for the lower-end budget to the big spenders here in Seward.
The ocean is what draws us to Seward, so let's start there. Seward has three major coastlines that can be fun to beach comb and explore. One of my favorite things to do as a kid was run up and down the coast, looking for neat seashells, sea glass, or other remnants of the ocean's story.
The most common beach is the Waterfront Park because it is located in the heart of the community. You can park your motorhome or pitch a tent right near the coastline and within walking distance of the skate park, playground, Sea Life Center, and many places to eat. This beach is where you will find old pilings just in the water from the community prior to the earthquake. There is a long bike path that borders the campgrounds and shoreline where families can walk or ride bikes and breath in the fresh ocean breeze.
Lowell point is another popular destination because it is at the road's end. On the way out to this beach, you can stop and view the rushing waterfall. This waterfall was placed there after the earthquake hit. The water used to run directly through town but as it continued to flood and cause damage, the community members decided to put in the work to redirect the water's flow and form a beautiful attraction. Be careful on your way to Lowell point. Just like the waterfalls from the cliff's edge, snow accumulation does too and there are many avalanches that close the road down until it can be cleared. This beach is quiet compared to the Waterfront Park. The small curve in the bay gently slopes into the water and the rocks are great for skipping.
Further out of town and across the small bay is a beach called Fourth of July. This beach, in my opinion, has the best treasures because the tide is more drastic here. There are fun pools of water that sometimes capture unfortunate sea life that must lay low until the sea returns for them. The drive to this beach is long and windy and you get beautiful views of Seward, best viewed at dusk to see the twinkle of the city lights against the contrasting Mount Marathon.
If you want to get in a few more steps than beachcombing offers there are quite a few hikes in the area for all different skill levels. From the high peak of Mount Marathon to the rolling hills hidden at the base; you'll find a hike that inspires you to get out and get moving. I use an app on my smartphone called AllTrails that provides a list of hikes or a map view and categorizes the hiking level from easy, moderate, hard, and extreme.
This mountain is famous for the annual race to the top that leaves many participants bloody, bruised, covered in mud and sweat. This hike is not for the faint of heart as you go from sea level to roughly 4,000 feet above sea level in a short four miles. Don't be intimidated by the hike though, you won't end up at the bottom of the hill bleeding and bruised unless of course, you attempt to beat the record time of 41 minutes and 26 seconds set in 2016 by a man named David Norris. When you reach the top you will find glorious views of the entire bay and the town below.
Raised in Seward, Denali Strabel is someone I would call a Mount Marathon expert. She has been in the annual race since she was 9 years old and set her record time at 52 minutes, less than 11 minutes below the all time record. She loves the beautiful scenery of the town and the bay when you reach the top but her favorite thing about the hike is the way that she grew up climbing the slopes, following in her mother's footsteps and always having the mountain as the background to the community of Seward.
Just at the base of the mountain, there is a small trail system tucked in its shadow. This trail, as the name might give away, circles around not one, but two lakes hidden in the trees. This hike is very contrasting to Mount Marathon and has little to no elevation gain. I loved this hike as a kid because the roots of the trees intertwined with the rocks creating a natural jungle gym I could adventure through while my mother followed the beaten path. The entire hike is less than a mile long and you can even skip the second lake with a small shortcut that brings you back to the picnic area at the first lake.
Lost Lake is a beautiful journey just outside of town. This hike can be as long as 15 miles from Seward's trailhead to the Primrose trailhead or as short as you make it. If you are lucky enough to reserve the Dale Clemmons cabin it is a short 4.5 miles from the trailhead in the summer months and has a beautiful view of Seward. The rolling hills and sharp blue water of the lake make this an incredible place to make memories.
Experienced Geocachers know that I am about to spark the interest of many 'muggles' out there. A muggle, in the Geocaching world, is someone unaware of the activity, similar to how people unaware of magic in the Harry Potter books are labeled. If you haven't heard about Geocaching, look it up. This is a wonderful activity that can be done all over and by all different skill levels.
Just 'out the road' from downtown is a fish weir where salmon can be seen making their long journey upstream to the lake where they were hatched. The weir is full of activity from June to July, with the different species of salmon embarking on the journey. This area is populated with salmon, visitors, and sometimes bears so be aware of your surroundings and make sure you are educated on bear safety.
The Alaska SeaLife Center is a must-see when visiting Seward. This is a much-needed resource for the abandoned and injured aquatic life from all around the state. Each ticket bought helps keep the doors open for animals and visitors alike. A general ticket will gain you access to the different attractions at your own pace. You can view the harbor seals diving deep below the surface of the water to frolic and play in the artificial currents. Sometimes, if you make a high five shape with your hand and hold it close to the glass, the seals will follow your movements, perhaps thinking your hand is a starfish.
Explore the touch tank where you can embrace the arctic temperatures of the water and feel the different textures of aquatic life. Get up close and personal with the birdlife above and below the water. Have lunch in the cafe and watch educational videos of the different marine life found in Alaska.
Add on to your general ticket and do a behind-the-scenes tour where you get to interact with the marine life directly with a puffin experience or sea otter experience. When I was a kid one of my favorite Sea Life center memories was when I got to go hold a baby sea otter and feed a baby walrus. Although I was pretty young when I did this, the memories are still vivid.
This glacier has changed tremendously over the years and someday, it may not be accessible or visible. All along the trail, there are markers that show the location of the glacier at that year in time. Take the 8-mile drive out Exit Glacier road following the river's edge and walk the trail to the glacier's base. There is a large portion of the trail that is paved so I was able to bring my grandmother to this wonderful location to see the sights.
The community library and museum is just a few blocks away from the Waterfront Park beach and it a fun stop for all ages. The library offers a warm and cozy place to relax when the coastal weather may not be cooperative and the museum can provide insight to the history of Seward, including the 1964 earthquake that shook the land and sea.
Seward was designated the "Mural Capital of Alaska" because of the abundance of beautiful murals painted on the sides of different buildings. You can view up to 12 murals and learn the story of the creation while doing so. These massive pieces of art can be a beautiful back drop for your family photo.
My first official job was working as a Customer Services Representative for Kenai Fjords Tours. This company offers various length cruises to see all that Resurrection Bay has to offer. The longest cruise, a whopping 9 hours, takes you all the way out to the Northwestern Glacier. This fjord offers the most glacial activity and the greatest potential for wildlife because you are on the water the longest. If you are sea-legs aren't as strong and you'd like to stay closer inland, the next fjord in brings you to Aialik glacier. Like Exit Glacier, this mass of ice is slowly receding inland but the tour offers the opportunity for you to see chunks of glacier ice breaking off (calving) into the ocean. The sounds are incredible!
The shortest tour offered was always my favorite because it offered a stop at Fox Island where you got to eat salmon, king crab, and other delicious foods and take a walk on the beach. This beach in particular is known for the perfect rock skipping. There has even been competitions held here.
If a cruise isn't your style and you'd rather a more hands-on experience there are several companies that will take you fishing for halibut, rockfish, and if it is the right time of year, salmon. This is an experience that will also fill your freezer. It is a really special feeling to cook dinner at home knowing you put in the work to provide that sustenance. I recommend reserving your trip with ProFish-n-Sea Charters.
A more relaxing water experience can be found in a kayak. You can book a tour or rent them for an independent adventure. Cast of the shores of Lowell point in a sea kayak and gently glide along the coast, getting an up-close experience with nature and wildlife. Check out Adventure 60 North to find out what you would enjoy on your Kayak adventure.
If you are an animal lover like I am, you'll want to reserve time with Turning Heads Kennel. The owners, Sarah Stokey, and Travis Beals have built a beautiful life around mushing and will provide you with a really personalized experience. I grew up with Travis and always enjoyed going over to his house to visit his dogs. He has always been passionate about mushing and his team comes first. These dogs have raced the Iditarod and love being out on the trails. Sarah says "there's really nothing better than getting to share the magic of Seward and our passion for dogs."
You can also learn about their passion for mushing while taking to the skies. They partner with Seward Helicopter Tours to create a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Hop in a helicopter and explore the bay before landing on a glacier high in the mountain's peaks. On the glacier, you will embark on a dog mushing trip and cuddle the newest members of the team.
Whenever you visit somewhere new, it is always fun to check out the local establishments and bring home a souvenir. Even if you are a return visitor, your purchases help the community and the small business owners get through the off season months.
Ukanuzit pronounced "You can use it", this local thrift store provides a unique shopping experience for those on a budget. Did you forget to pack something for your trip? Underestimate the ever-changing Alaskan weather? Do you want an activity or book for the kids to stay entertained back at camp on your rest day? Whatever your need is, the local thrift store is the place to go. The owners of this store go above and beyond for their community as well. They often provide needed items back to the community for free and do fundraisers for someone in need. You can rest easy knowing a dollar spent here goes far beyond the cash register.
The Mermaid Grotto and Café is an adorable restaurant and gift shop that offers all things, mermaid. They have unique items from local artists and beautiful home décor. The menu isn't your typical coffee shop and cafe. Here you will find much more than your average muffin or scone. The chef behind the scenes is passionate about the culinary arts and the flavors will make your taste buds explode.
This Ressurect Art Coffee House and art gallery is nestled inside an old church building. The unique building provides a cozy environment that feels like home. Grab a fresh cup of coffee and explore the local arts for sale. Each treasure is unique and most of them are handmade by Seward residents.
Seward has a lot to offer so make sure you plan a few days in this beautiful community. You will leave with full tummies, fun stories to share with family and friends, unique hand-crafted gifts, and most importantly memories that will stay with you forever.
Featured Image: Alberto Loyo / Shutterstock.com