kayaking in ketchikan, Kayaking in Ketchikan, Alaska – Review, Guide, and More!

Kayaking in Ketchikan, Alaska – Review, Guide, and More!

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Alaska beckons with its untouched beauty and thrilling excursions—none more so than the experience of kayaking in Ketchikan.

Known as the “Gateway to the Wilderness,” Ketchikan offers a compelling blend of natural serenity and aquatic challenge. This means that it’s perfect for adventure seekers and nature lovers alike.

This idyllic setting makes it the perfect destination for kayakers of all levels. Whether you are a seasoned paddler or a beginner looking to try something new, Ketchikan has something to offer for everyone.

Kayaking in Ketchikan is not just a paddling endeavor; it’s an immersive experience. Paddlers find themselves gliding across serene lakes and navigating the vibrant coastal waters, surrounded by lush rainforests and dynamic wildlife.

While on a cruise in Alaska, I had the incredible opportunity to check this off of my bucket list, and I cannot wait to report back what I found!

In this article, we will be chatting about everything you need to know to prepare you to pick up that paddle and start your Alaskan kayaking adventure.

kayaking in ketchikan, Kayaking in Ketchikan, Alaska – Review, Guide, and More!

Bucket List Review of Kayaking Ketchikan, Alaska

For adventurers who are short on time and need answers fast.

CategoryWater Sports
Who Should Add This to Their Bucket List?Nature lovers who want
to get on the water.
Best Time to GoSummer
Traveling DifficultyEasy
Physical DifficultyModerate
Popularity Rating5/10
Group Tour RequiredRecommended
Wheelchair AccessibleNo
Favorite Place to StayInn At Creek Street
Favorite TourKetchikan Kayak Eco-Tour
kayaking in ketchikan, Kayaking in Ketchikan, Alaska – Review, Guide, and More!
Kayaking in Alaska!

Overview of Kayaking in Ketchikan

When traveling to Alaska, I knew that I wanted to kayak. And after research and checking for availably excursion, Ketchikan won – and I’m so glad that it did. 

Although it might not have been heart-pumping rapids, kayaking Ketchikan stood out to me for many reasons, primarily the culture associated with it. 

The coastline around Ketchikan is rich in cultural history. 

As you paddle along the waterways, you’ll have the chance to see totem poles and other artifacts of the Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian peoples who have lived in the region for centuries. 

Many guided tours provide insight into the area’s cultural heritage, enriching the kayaking experience with stories of the land and its original inhabitants. 

Whether you’re navigating the calm lakes or the invigorating coastal waters, kayaking in Ketchikan is an adventure that immerses you in both the natural beauty and the deep cultural roots of this extraordinary Alaskan locale.

kayaking in ketchikan, Kayaking in Ketchikan, Alaska – Review, Guide, and More!
Kayakers in Ketchikan, Alaska in the Tatoosh Islands.

Kayaking in Ketchikan Tours

I booked my kayaking experience directly through the cruise ship. However, if you are visiting by yourself (or have enough time), you might want to book one yourself to save on some money.

Below are a few options for you:

When to Go Kayaking in Ketchikan, Alaska

Kayaking in Ketchikan can be vastly different depending on when you visit, and it might not always be a possibility depending on when you go.


In the summer, kayaking in Ketchikan is an unparalleled experience. This is the peak season. 

This is due to the  lengthy daylight hours provide ample opportunities for extended paddling sessions, allowing adventurers to savor the stunning landscape bathed in the soft glow of the Alaskan sun. 

The warmer temperatures also make the water inviting, and the abundant wildlife is especially active during this season. 

For example, you might be able to spot humpback whales, bald eagles, otters, or even orcas (in May/June and mid August/September). 

The lush scenery along the coastline, combined with the clearer skies, offers picturesque views that are perfect for photography or simply soaking in the natural beauty. 

Summer also brings a vibrant cultural atmosphere, with local festivals and events that provide additional layers of enjoyment to your kayaking journey.

Read MoreSummer Bucket List | Aesthetic Summer Bucket List

kayaking in ketchikan, Kayaking in Ketchikan, Alaska – Review, Guide, and More!
A perfect day for sea kayaking near Ketchikan.


Kayaking in Ketchikan during the fall presents a transition into a quieter, more introspective adventure. 

The vibrant colors of autumn foliage create a stunning backdrop as the trees become adorned with rich reds, oranges, and yellows. 

Although the days grow shorter and the temperatures start to drop, the crisp air offers a refreshing and invigorating paddling experience. 

Wildlife is still plentiful, and you might spot seals and sea lions enjoying the cooler waters or catch sight of migrating birds. 

Autumn in Ketchikan also means fewer tourists, allowing for a more serene and personal connection with the natural surroundings. As the town settles into a slower pace, the local culture becomes even more inviting, offering a deeper insight into the Alaskan way of life.

This was the time that my mother and I decided to share a tandem kayak around the Tatoosh Islands. We saw more fall leaves near the port and less while we were actually kayaking, but it was still magical. 

I will say that when we went, we had light, cold rain in the morning. This paved the way for clear blue skies and no wind. Seriously – it was like kayaking through glass. This was actually the only time I saw a blue sky on my trip. 

The water was still. And when I say “still”, I mean it. Seriously, it was like kayaking through glass. 

After talking to the guides, this, was unfortunately, very lucky. They stated that most of the time it does rain and the water can get very choppy.

Read MoreFall Bucket List | October Bucket List

kayaking in ketchikan, Kayaking in Ketchikan, Alaska – Review, Guide, and More!
Exploring Alaska in the autumn.


Winter kayaking in Ketchikan, Alaska, offers a unique and serene experience for those willing to brave the colder conditions. 

With snow-capped mountains providing a majestic backdrop and the possibility of seeing the Northern Lights dancing across the night sky, winter kayaking is imbued with a magical quality. 

The waterways are less crowded, ensuring a peaceful paddle through quiet coves and inlets. 

While the temperatures and rain are colder, proper gear and preparation can make the experience comfortable and enjoyable. 

Wildlife sightings can include eagles perched on snowy treetops and seals popping up in the calm, icy waters. 

The town itself radiates a cozy charm during the winter months, with warm, inviting local establishments offering respite and the opportunity to warm up after a day on the water. 

The key here is that there are virtually no tourists. 

kayaking in ketchikan, Kayaking in Ketchikan, Alaska – Review, Guide, and More!
Kayaking in Ketchikan, Alaska as a cruise excursion.


Spring kayaking in Ketchikan, Alaska, heralds the awakening of nature after a long winter slumber. 

As the days grow longer and temperatures begin to rise, the landscape comes alive with vibrant greenery and blossoming flora. 

This time of year brings an abundance of wildlife activity, with the return of migratory birds and marine life becoming more active. 

Paddling through the pristine waters of Ketchikan in spring offers a front-row seat to the rich biodiversity of the area, from playful sea otters to soaring bald eagles. 

The milder weather and increasing daylight hours make for pleasant and extended kayaking excursions. 

There are also less tourists because it is just the start to the Alaska cruise season.

Moreover, the melting snow from the mountains creates invigorating waterfalls that cascade down rocky cliffs, adding to the scenic beauty of the region. 

kayaking in ketchikan, Kayaking in Ketchikan, Alaska – Review, Guide, and More!
My mother and in our tandem kayak in Alaska.

Best Places to Kayak in Ketchikan

Before we begin, please note that I personally ended up going sea kayaking the Tatoosh Islands. 

You can read more about this in my review below. 

We decided that we wanted to go through the ship since we were worried about time. The only locations offered were the Connell Lake, Eagle Island, and the Tatoosh Islands. 

Therefore, if you want to branch out, you might need to go through a third-party company or rent your own gear and go yourself. 

kayaking in ketchikan, Kayaking in Ketchikan, Alaska – Review, Guide, and More!
I picture that I got of our guide while on a kayaking in Ketchikan, Alaska.

Adventures For Beginners New to Kayaking

Ketchikan presents a diverse range of kayaking experiences, each offering its unique charm and challenge. The serene lakes, such as Ward Lake and Harriet Hunt Lake, provide a calm and peaceful setting ideal for beginners.

Here, paddlers can enjoy the tranquil waters and breathtaking landscapes without the concern of challenging currents or waves. 

These lakes are cradled within lush rainforests, creating an ideal environment for those looking to connect with nature in a serene and meditative way.

Ketchikan Destinations for Seasoned Kayakers

For those seeking a bit more adventure, Ketchikan’s coastal waters promise an exhilarating experience. 

Kayakers might spot seals playfully swimming alongside, or even glimpse whales breaching in the distance. 

The coastal area is dotted with small islands, each offering a new perspective and a chance to encounter diverse wildlife. Exploring these waters allows paddlers to experience the untamed beauty of Alaska up close, making every stroke an adventure.

kayaking in ketchikan, Kayaking in Ketchikan, Alaska – Review, Guide, and More!
View of the shore while sea kayaking in Alaska.

Best Spots for Kayaking in Ketchikan

  • Eagle Island: Inside Clover Pass, this area provides calm waters and is ideal for beginners with its protected bays and scenic vistas.
  • Misty Fjords National Monument: Known for its stunning, glacier-carved landscapes and towering cliffs, this area offers breathtaking scenery and peaceful paddling conditions. It is just east of Ketchikan.
  • Connell Lake: A stunning lake that is surrounded by the Tongass National Forest.
  • Pennock Island: perfect if you want to try and spot some seals down at Walden Rock. 
  • Rudyerd Bay: Part of the Misty Fjords, this bay is known for its serene waters, dramatic landscapes, and occasional sightings of orcas and seals.
  • Tongass Narrows: A natural waterway teeming with marine life, offers an opportunity to navigate tidal currents and explore hidden coves. 
  • George Inlet: Offers a mix of adventure and tranquility, this inlet is perfect for exploring tidal zones, lush forests, and quiet backwaters.

Each of these destinations provides a unique kayaking experience, allowing paddlers to immerse themselves in Ketchikan’s diverse and stunning natural beauty.

Safety Tips for Kayaking in Ketchikan, Alaska

Safety is paramount, and navigating Alaskan waters comes with its own set of challenges.

Sudden weather changes can make warm layers and waterproof gear necessary. Understanding tidal movements is also vital to ensure a safe return.

If you are Going Kayaking By Yourself…

  • Check the Weather Forecast: Always monitor local weather conditions before heading out. Alaskan weather can be unpredictable, and sudden changes can impact your safety on the water.
  • Wear a Life Jacket: It’s crucial to wear a properly fitted life jacket at all times while kayaking to ensure buoyancy in case of capsizing.
  • Dress Appropriately: Wear warm, waterproof layers to protect against cold temperatures and water. Hypothermia is a real risk due to the cold Alaskan waters.
  • Understand Tides and Currents: If going without a guide (or if you are just interested), familiarize yourself with tidal charts and local currents. Strong tides and unpredictable currents can make navigation challenging.
  • Carry Safety Equipment: Bring essential gear such as a whistle, a waterproof map, a first aid kit, and a VHF radio or mobile phone in a waterproof case. 
  • Stay Hydrated and Bring Snacks: Keep hydrated and maintain energy levels with adequate water and nutrition.
  • Plan Your Route: Know your intended route and share it with someone onshore. This can be crucial in case of an emergency.
  • Stay Close to the Shore: Avoid venturing too far from the shore, especially if you’re inexperienced, as staying closer can provide safer paddling conditions.
  • Buddy System: If possible, paddle with a partner. Having another person with you can provide additional safety and assistance.
  • Respect Wildlife: Maintain a safe distance from marine life to avoid disturbances and potential hazards. Remember that you are a guest in their natural habitat.
  • Know Your Limits: Be aware of your physical limitations and paddling skills. Do not overexert yourself or push beyond your capabilities.
kayaking in ketchikan, Kayaking in Ketchikan, Alaska – Review, Guide, and More!
A tour group of sea kayakers in Ketchikan, Alaska.

My Personal Experience with Sea Kayaking the Tatoosh Islands

I began my Alaska adventure at the start of October, mainly because I was trying to see the northern lights with my grandpa. An adventure that, spoiler alert, was in vain. 

My saving grace for my Alaska cruise was the incredible outdoor excursions that I ended up taking. 

One of which was kayaking through the Tatoosh Islands. 

BEfore Kayaking in Ketchikan

I booked the excursion directly through the cruise ship. Ward Cove had a large warehouse type facility with souvenirs and food. After meeting our guide, we hopped on a bus and took a short trip to a cabin-like hub for kayakers. 

After using the restrooms and acquiring a lifejacket, we split up into two boats. 

The boat ride felt like the longest part of the journey. This was probably due to the fact that it was very cold (it was October, after all). 

After our boat journey, we arrived safely at our starting point in the Tatoosh Islands and started getting our gear together and going through the safety/instructional brief. 

Pro Tip: They gave us the option to wear the kayak spray skirt. We almost didn’t take it, but decided on it in the end. DO IT! I was unbelievably relieved the entire time we had it – especially since I had a camera. We would have been soaked without it!

Back to it, we then grabbed our partners and headed off! 

kayaking in ketchikan, Kayaking in Ketchikan, Alaska – Review, Guide, and More!
Tandem kayaking in Ketchikan, Alaska.

Kayaking in Ketchikan

The entire tour consisted of wildlife and nature spotting on the shores of these deserted islands in Ketchikan. 

Disclaimer: I am not an avid kayaker and I have relatively weak arms. Fortunately, this was still an incredible way to see some nature around Alaska. 

I ate up every minute of it! 

We saw starfish, sea lions, and even bald eagles. This isn’t even mentioning the jawdropping forest scenery that you see during every second of your kayak adventure! 

As I stated before, the water was eerily still. I have never seen water like this! It was almost hypnotic as I paddled through it. 

After a few hours, we made our way back, and I was glad for it because my arms were started to get tired. According to the guides, we kayaked about 3 miles around these islands. 

I tried to shake off my sea legs as we reached our original starting point and exited the kayaks.

They then served us hot chocolate and chocolate chip cookies as we relaxed on the shore. 

I mean, I explored the woods behind so there was no relaxing for me, but that’s how I prefer it!

kayaking in ketchikan, Kayaking in Ketchikan, Alaska – Review, Guide, and More!
I took this picture of a bald eagle in a tree while kayaking in Ketchikan, Alaska!

Review of Kayaking the Tatoosh Islands in Alaska

Overall, this was a highlight of my cruise. I absolutely loved it

It was like an adventurous way to tour some of the islands in Ketchikan! I am very glad that I went and I had no complaints about the tour itself.

I would recommend it to any outdoor nature and fitness lover who is looking to go outside of the mainstream Ketchikan tourism activities. 

The only thing that really turned my smile upside-down was the price! I mean, seriously?! $209 per person to go sea kayaking in Alaska! Holy guacamole! 

Granted, it was a considerably long tour, coming it at 4.5 hours, and I am glad that I went, but I’m a Colorado native who can do this out of my backyard. 

So, I’m not sure if it was the cruise’s doing (Norwegian Cruise Line) or the company itself…but they are sure proud of their service. 

It’s Alaska, so it’s expensive. However, it might have been the only way to safely kayak these islands in Ketchican…but I did let out an exasperated groan when I bought it. 

kayaking in ketchikan, Kayaking in Ketchikan, Alaska – Review, Guide, and More!
Views of Alaska in October via kayak.

A Cruise Excursion Not To Be Missed

Many who visit Ketchikan do so aboard cruise ships. 

While onshore excursions vary from hiking trails to ziplining, kayaking stands out as a truly unique way to connect with the Alaskan wilderness. 

Compared to other excursions, such as sightseeing tours or cultural walks, kayaking offers an active adventure where you’re likely to witness eagles swooping down to catch their prey or salmon jumping over the waves.

I will have to say that it is kayaking, and therefore a workout depending on where you go. If you are on vacation, you might not want this and I would therefore recommend something else, such as a cultural or wildlife tour. 

In addition, this is adventurous! So, it might not be for all travelers and cruise-goers. 

When deciding what to do in Ketchikan, I was torn between this, hiking Talbot Lake, and the Rainforest Ziplines and Challenge Park. 

Other Excursions to Do in Ketchikan

Please keep in mind that some of the tours mentioned below might be seasonal. 

  • Basic sightseeing tours around Ketchikan
  • Cruising the Misty Fjord
  • Rainforest Wildlife Sanctuary
  • Various wildlife tours
  • Pub crawls
  • Lumberjack shows
  • Flight tours out of floatplanes
  • Crab feasts (especially out of George Inlet)
  • Canoe, zodiac, and sea-cycle tours
  • Back country jeep and hummer tours
  • Bear spotting

If you cannot tell from that list, Ketchikan is very “outdoor” focused. Then again, you probably aren’t traveling to Alaska for the majory cities…

kayaking in ketchikan, Kayaking in Ketchikan, Alaska – Review, Guide, and More!
On the shores of one of the Tatoosh Islands in Ketchikan.

Dip Your Paddles and Embark on the Journey of Kayaking in Ketchikan, Alaska

Kayaking in Ketchikan, Alaska, is more than an excursion—it is an adventurous call by the wild, inviting you to explore its depths. 

As I said before, it was like a tour, but in the most adventurous way!

It’s a call that promises not just thrills but tranquil moments of introspection amidst the grandeur of the Alaskan landscape.

What are you waiting for? Share this with your adventure buddies who would love to join you on a kayak expedition amidst the majestic sights of Alaska. Happy paddling!

Don’t forget to send this adventure with friends who yearn for the wild waves and whispering woods – Kayaking in Ketchikan, Alaska awaits your exploration, paddle by paddle!

Travel Resources to Get You To Ketchikan

Adventure Bucket List Resources

I am here to help your travel adventures go as smoothly as possible! That way you can check off that bucket list with minimal complications and spending!

AIRFARE – It is no surprise that like many travelers, I have found that Hopper is one of the best resources to use when finding cheap flights. 

ACCOMMODATION – My two favorites are Booking.Com for hotels and VRBO for rentals. 

GUIDED TOURS –  If you are looking for quick and easy tours, check out GetYourGuide and Viator

MULTI-DAY TOURS –  For more in-depth tours that span several days, TourHub has many great options with reputable travel companies. Use my code (ALEXANDRA1GURU) for up to 5% off your next bucket list adventure. 

TRANSPORTATION –  You can either rent a car yourself with Discover Cars or do a guided bus tours like Big Bus Tours

CREDIT CARD –  I always use my Chase Freedom Unlimited card for all of my purchases. There is no annual fee and you get 1.5% cash back and 5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Travel. 

SIM CARDS –  Avoid expensive roaming charges with an eSim card with Airalo.

TRAVELER’S INSURANCE –  Check out VisitorsCoverage for affordable insurance plans.

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