On the Verge of Untouched Wilderness

Magnificent glacially carved peaks tower over historic Seward, off a fjord on the Kenai Peninsula.
Magnificent glacially carved peaks tower over historic Seward, off a fjord on the Kenai Peninsula.

Seward and Anchorage hold the secrets of America’s Last Frontier

Written by Kate Sullivan

Alaska is enormous and intimidating, but focus on Seward, one of its smaller and finest towns, and you’ll have the quintessential experience of the Last Frontier, tucked into an inlet on the Kenai Peninsula. Without Seward’s namesake, William Henry Seward, Alaska might still be in Russia’s possession. Seward, the secretary of state under Abraham Lincoln and Andrew Johnson, in March 1867 negotiated the price of two cents per acre for a total of $7.2 million. Legend has it that $7 million was for Alaska and $200,000 was to repay Seward’s Russian counterpart for his bribes of American journalists and politicians to facilitate the objectionable deal.

From Seattle, cruise lines (Norwegian, Royal Caribbean and Princess) will get you there if you’re wanting the full experience. If you’d like to go more direct, take Alaska Airlines to Anchorage and a train the 127 miles south to Seward.

Caines Head Trail is a hearty 14 miles out and back with 4,800 elevation gain, but like many things in Alaska, requires some additional planning. You’ll have to get the local tide chart to successfully navigate the 3-mile section between Tosina Point and North Beach. It’s possible for fit people to do an out and back in one day. If you’re lucky, you will see humpback whales in Resurrection Bay below.

Alaska’s cuisine is salmon, halibut and oysters. The Cookery & Oyster Bar in Seward does this nicely and with a good wine list. For breakfast, hit Ms. Gene’s Place, for the frittata or fisherman’s scramble with reindeer sausage.

And before they’re gone forever, hike a glacier. In the Kenai Fjords National Park, a stunningly beautiful 8-mile out-and-back on the Harding Icefield Trail is a strenuous, but gorgeous, window into time and wildlife. The abundance of salmonberries along the trail make it a favorite for black bears. Take bear spray as a precaution or go with a professional on ranger-led hikes.

Of course, this may be your only lifetime opportunity to get up close to the largest mammals on Earth, so plan to take a morning whale watching cruise from Seward and out into Resurrection Bay. There are many to choose from and different lengths of time.

Take the train along the scenic Turnagain Arm from Seward to Anchorage, and view the towering Chugach Mountains, glaciers, waterfalls and occasional beluga whales. Book the upper level, glassed-in GoldStar cars with 360-degree views, outdoor viewing deck and, mercifully, a bar.

Once in Anchorage, Alaska’s largest city, take the half-day city tour to learn about the culture and commerce from an insider. Snack on reindeer sausage and wild smoked salmon. Stay the night at the beautiful Historic Anchorage Hotel. Wander out to Simon & Seafort’s Saloon and Grill for fresh local seafood or great steaks—all with sweeping views of Cook Inlet and Mount Susitna and the Alaska Range. Kick back with a Moscow mule and appreciate the stunning beauty of Alaska and the irony of Russia’s propaganda and bribes.



The Cookery & Oyster Bar

Ms. Gene’s Place

Simon & Seafort’s Saloon and Grill


Cabin on a Cliff

The Historic Anchorage Hotel

Hotel Seward

Kenai Fjords Wilderness Lodge


Alaska SeaLife Center

Kenai Fjords National Park

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