Due to its ice free port Seward has been a natural tourist destination for hundreds of years. It started with the natives using the area as a crossroad, later the Russians took refuge here and during the gold rush this was a natural landing point for gold diggers headed north to the Hope-Sunrise area. In 1903 the town of Seward was founded as a result of railroad surveyors choosing Seward as the southern terminus of the Alaska Railroad. Today the major industries in this small town is tourism and fishing.
The town of Seward has about 3.ooo residents, but during summer this number increases significantly as the city is a final port for many of the cruise ships going north to Alaska. So what is it that makes Seward so popular?
Exploring the Kenai Fjords National Parks
Kenai Fjords National Park was established in 1980 and its establishment boosted tourism in Seward. The park is best explored by boat and several tour companies offers daily trips from the harbour in Seward. You can expect a snow-covered mountains, a stunning coast line and tidewater glaciers. The Harding Icefield and its 38 glaciers carving down the mountains are part of Kenai Fjords National Park. If you are lucky you might also see whales, puffins and sea lions amongst other wildlife in the park. We were lucky enough to see a pod of orca on our trip.
Kenai Fjords National Park
Historic downtown walk
Seward is Mile 0 of the Iditarod Trail, known historically as the Seward-to-Nome Mail Trail, and you’ll find a historical monument downtown. A beautiful mural dedicated to Seward as Mile 0 of Iditarod Trail is also located downtown. Many of the buildings have been here since establishment of the city in the early 1900’s. One example is the Brown and Hawkins colonial which is the oldest continually operated business in Seward.
You will find some of the homes from the initial establishment of the city on Third Avenue. They were built and occupied by Alaska Central Railway officials and the street was called ‘Millionaire’s Row’. Read more about the history of Seward here.
‘The Iditarod Trail’ from 2002 by Jon Van Zyle
Brown and Hawkins Store
Mural capital of Alaska
One of the things I found charming was the numerous murals on buildings downtown Seward. ‘The Iditarod Trail’ shown above was one of my favourites in addition to ‘Seaward Bound’ and ‘Wildflower Garden’, photo of both below. Seward was officially designated “Mural Capital of Alaska” in 2008 at the completion of the town’s 12th mural. Check out the full overview and locations of all murals here.
‘Seaward Bound’ 2011 by J. Pechuzal & L. McElroy
‘Wildflower Garden’ 2006 by Gail Neibrugge
Take part in the combat fishing
From July to September the silver salmon runs happen. This period can best be described as ‘controlled chaos’. Seward has an annual Silver Salmon Derby as well, which normally happens in August. You can go with a fishing charter or you can line up along the shore and throw out a line. If you can find an open spot that is…
Combat fishing in Seward
Exit Glacier and the Harding Icefield
Seward offers one of the easiest accessible glaciers in Alaska. Exit Glacier Road is a spur road from Seward Highway and it will take you to about 1 km from the wall of the glacier. From the parking lot there is a pavel path to the glacier. Exit Glacier is the only part of Kenai Fjord National Park accessible by road. Be sure to stop at the look out to the glacier as this view point offers one of the best views of the glacier, unless you plan on hiking up the Harding Icefield trail.
If you like dog sledding you will find Ididaride Dog Sled Tours on the way to Exit Glacier. Ididaride is run by the Seavey family which is a well known name within the dog sledding business.
Exit Glacier from the Harding Icefield Trail
Follow us on the next two posts when we take a tour through Kenai Fjords National Park by boat and hike to the Harding Icefield. Want to read more about our Alaska adventures? Check out our post Denali to Kenai.