How to See the Best of Alaska’s Nature, Mountains & Glaciers Close to Anchorage – Prince William Sound
By Robin Irving & Tim Warren
Looking for just one more adventure to round out your Alaska Vacation? Prince William Sound is a great addition to an Alaska vacation package that will likely be the highlight of your Alaska Vacation. Incredible marine life, stunning mountain vistas, glaciers and three port cities that offer an array of visitor services, make this an attractive add on. And the Alaska Marine Highway has new and improved ferry service to and from the port cities of Whittier, Cordova and Valdez so trip planning just became easier, faster and more affordable. Alaska is so large and so diverse that it is often difficult to see it all in one trip. But a trip through Prince William Sound, with a stop-over in each of the three communities will allow you to experience much of what makes Alaska special. And with the Alaska Marine Highway it's possible to make a loop so as not to repeat any part of your trip, always seeing something new and different. In less than an hour, you can drive south from Anchorage to the port of Whittier. Whittier, an eclectic relic of a WWII army base is the gateway city of western Prince William Sound. Numerous charter operators large and small and expedition companies leading trips into the Sound can be found in Whittier. Small shops line the harbor offering food and gifts for visitors.
Alaska Marine Highway offers 30% off New High Speed Ferry
There is also a terminal office for the state’s Marine Highway system in Whittier. With its new high speed ferry, the M/V Chenega it is now possible to take a half day cruise across the Sound from Whittier to Cordova. This is called the Marine Highway because you can take your car (or your rental car) on board (highly recommended). And during the summer of 2006, the state is offering some great specials with 30% off all sailings to and from the port of Cordova. The Chenega is a brand new ship offering full amenities. Once on board you’ll feel like you are on a luxury cruise ship with beautiful local art hanging on the walls and its tasteful nautical décor.
The state ferry also has National Forest Interpreters on board to provide a wealth of information on the marine and terrestrial environments of Prince William Sound. Besides the fantastic scenery, you can often see humpback and killer or orca whales, sea lions, sea otters, seals and other marine mammals. Look for puffins, arctic terns and other marine birds as well. For ferry schedule, lodging nature and glacier observation options in the Prince Williams sound visit: <a href="http://www.alaskarafters.com">www.alaskarafters.com</a>.
Alaska Adventure Travel
Cordova is a jumping off point for some incredible adventure. You will definitely want to spend a couple of days here, before moving on to the next port city. A small fishing port Cordova is quaint, picturesque, and so Alaskan. There are National Forest Trails with giant rainforest trees, road accessible glaciers, sea otters and other marine life. It is a friendly town too. There are outfitters like the experts at Alaska River Expeditions offering everything from river rafting and sea kayaking to glacier trekking, ice climbing and mountain biking.
Choices for lodging vary from a standard hotel or motel with ocean views, to those with great Alaskan appeal. An old cannery is the site for a new adventure lodge; there are nautical inns and wonderful B&B's. Although there are no 5 star luxury resorts, most lodging choices offer great hospitality and all amenities as well as charm not found in large hotels. There are also several great restaurants offering local cuisine including the famed Copper River Salmon, Mexican, Italian, and Chinese entrees.
Cordova, Alaska – the “Little Switzerland” of Alaska
From Cordova, you can board the “Marine Highway” once again for the Port of Valdez. This is the terminal city for the Alaska Pipeline. You can see tankers loading and view the pipeline. It has cruise ships that dock so there are several shops that cater to visitors. Valdez is often referred to as “little Switzerland” because of the tall mountains surrounding the city.
You can complete your loop by driving north on the Richardson Highway. Waterfalls, glaciers and tall mountains surround you on your drive north through Thompson Pass. As you drive over the mountains to the other side, you will leave the coastal influence and enter another world. The evergreen forests give way to mixed deciduous forests with more birches and aspens, just two hours north of Valdez. The next bigger community north of Valdez is Glennallen. Here you will turn west onto the Glenn Highway. This winding highway takes you through the northern edge of the Chugach Mountains, eventually giving way to the farmland of the Mat-Su Valley. Picturesque farms dot the countryside before entering the more urban areas. Then its south onto the Parks Highway back to Anchorage, completing a great 3-7 day add-on loop for your Alaska vacation.
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