I can’t begin to tell you how many people asked if we were going on a cruise when we said we were going to Alaska. It’s funny it never occurred to me when we were planning that it wasn’t a common roadtrip destination. Having experienced an Alaskan cruise and an Alaskan roadtrip here are our eight reasons why you should visit Alaska by car.
1 | Less Crowded
Cruise ports tend to be very crowded, especially in season. Our roadtrip was in second half of June, beginning of peak season, and it never felt crowded. So much of the tourism is geared towards cruises that many inland towns don’t feel like tourist cities at all. You get to experience the local vibe, eat at local restaurant and meet locals.
2 | Visit Denali – the Tallest Mountain Peak in North America
Denali National Park is not close to a cruise port like Juneau, Skagway, Ketitchan and others. Some cruise lines offer tours that include land and sea with 2-4 days of the tour being on land to explore the Denali National Park. That requires a long drive or train ride inland. While it’s possible to visit Denali from a cruise, it’s not as convenient as driving there. If you don’t know much about Denali – here is the key highlight, Denali Park Road (the only road through the park runs along the Alaska Mountain Range and culminates in astounding views of Mt. Denali, the highest mountain peak in North America – 20,310 elevation. For more information on Denali read our Comprehensive Guide to Visiting Denali National Park Visiting Denali.
3 | More Opportunities to see Wildlife
On a cruise you will likely see wildlife from the ship and on excursions. But when you spend ten days on an Alaska roadtrip there are even more opportunities. We saw countless moose along the roads plus lots of wild animals in Denali National Park. Near Anchorage you will also find the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center (AWCC) sanctuary. The center cares for injured or orphaned animals and provides them refuge. You will find elk, bears, wolves, moose, bison, lynx, caribou, eagle and other animals here. Our favorites were the mama and baby Brown Bears and Kobuk, the black bear playing with his toys.
4 | Stay in a Cabin or a B&B
Compared to a tiny cruise room these are hard to beat. You will be close to nature, locals and get to live a fuller experience.
5 | More Opportunities to Interact with Locals
We spent time walking around small local towns and learning from local people. For example, we met a couple that runs a fudge store in Moose Pass and learned how they select their flavors and heard their life stories. We also got to try some amazing fudge! Can’t go wrong. Throughout our Alaska roadtrip, we chatted with other travelers and got some great recommendations for exploring other areas of Alaska that we were not on our itinerary originally, like the town of Hope. Because we had a car, we could adjust our trip on the fly and explore different places.
6 | Take Advantage of the Long Summer Days
With a cruise ship you have a curfew for getting back to the boat. On an Alaska roadtrip you have all the flexibility you want and in the summer when it doesn’t get dark until almost midnight so the only way to see the sunset on land is to stay at a hotel.
7 | Eat Local Food
Cruise food can be amazing, but after a week I’m ready to get more variety. We’ve had some amazing seafood on this trip at local non-chain restaurants. In fact, the food was amazing everywhere in Alaska. Our two favorite spots for food were in Anchorage and Talkeetna.
8 | Less Expensive
When I experienced a cruise we paid for expensive excursions to get to see Alaska. They were amazing experiences that I wouldn’t trade for anything but if you’re on a budget that can be rough. When you’re inland you can find more options for tours at better prices.
I loved both my trips to Alaska on land and water, but if I go back again it will be by car. If you are able to experience both, go for it. But, if you’re not a fan of cruise ships or want more flexibility don’t hesitate to fly into Anchorage and rent a car, just do it in summertime. You won’t regret it! If you’d like to see the itinerary from our Alaska roadtrip, check our site, we’ll be publishing it soon.
Which would you recommend, an Alaska cruise or a land roadtrip ? Both? and why?
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