Getting to Juneau
Juneau is Alaska’s nearest “big city” to the continental U.S., which makes it surprisingly accessible any time of year — even though it has the unique distinction of being the only U.S. state capital that isn’t completely accessible by car. The only “road” into town is the Alaska Marine Highway ferry system. But Juneau is Southeast Alaska’s regional transportation center and the “Gateway to the Inside Passage.” Getting here is merely the first part of your adventure, but there are plenty of options, depending on your preferred mode of transportation.
By AirFlying to Juneau is as easy and affordable as flying to any popular vacation destination. Believe it or not, it’s only about two hours nonstop from Seattle — Juneau’s only direct departure city in the Lower 48 — and you gain an hour traveling west one time zone. Even from the East Coast, if your connections cooperate you could conceivably eat breakfast in your own kitchen and be in the middle of Alaskan wilderness for a late lunch.
Juneau is the hub for all air travel in Southeast Alaska, with more than 230 charter, regional, and major carrier flights arriving and departing each day. Alaska Airlines offers year-round daily jet service to Juneau from Seattle and Anchorage. For the Glacier Bay-bound, Alaska Airlines operates a seasonal summer route connecting Juneau and Gustavus (Glacier Bay). Delta Airlines also flies non-stop between Juneau and Seattle seasonally. No matter how you fly, all air travelers can enjoy a spectacular bird’s eye view of snow-capped mountains, sprawling glaciers, and some of the largest ice fields in the Western Hemisphere. Better book a window seat!
Regional air carriers and charters serving Juneau’s smaller surrounding communities include companies such as Alaska Seaplanes. You won’t ever forget a small plane ride into or out of Juneau — it’s a lot like taking a New York taxi, only instead of lurching through city traffic you’re gliding over the Tongass National Forest, the nation’s largest designated wilderness area.
Juneau International Airport is seven miles from downtown Juneau.
By SeaHumpbacks breaching, orcas jumping, porpoises playing, glaciers sliding down mountainsides to meet a never-ending coastline — these and other sights await the ocean-going voyager to Juneau.
Cruising is by far the most popular way to explore the Inside Passage — and for good reason (be sure to free-up plenty of space on your camera). With cruise ships docking right downtown, Juneau is a natural port of call for large and small lines alike. Large cruises offer entertainment, extensive dining options, and shopping; small cruise companies focus more on a more “boutique” wilderness experience. Either way, if you’re taking an Alaskan cruise, your itinerary will probably include Juneau.
For the independent traveler, soak up the scenery as well as local flavor aboard the Alaska Marine Highway, a state-run ferry system providing year-round transportation to more than 30 coastal communities. In addition to providing a feast for the eyes, ferries allow you to stop and explore along the way, including the smaller towns of the Inside Passage. Accommodations range from comfy staterooms to tent camping on the upper deck. And there’s no better place to meet local Alaskans than on the ferry — many a lifelong friendship begins that way.
By Car or “Road”You can’t drive to all the way to Juneau without taking the ferry, but the 1,500-mile ALCAN, or Alaska-Canadian Highway, is legendary for its beauty, and connects Alaska, Canada, and the Lower 48. Forget all the old stories about a muddy, bumpy dirt road. Today, the ALCAN is fully paved and well maintained, with year-round roadside services including gas, food, and lodging. You’ll still want to bring the most current Milepost guide to Alaska, which features detailed mile-by-mile listings along the route.
High on the list of many adventurers, this epic road trip takes you through some of the world’s wildest and most scenic country.
Getting Around TownIt’s tough to get lost in the city of Juneau — the longest main road extends less than 50 miles, and it’s bounded by mountains on one side and water on the other. While most attractions are easily reached via public or private transportation, explore at your own pace by renting a car. Don’t want to worry about logistics so you can just sit back and enjoy the view? Bus tours, taxis, and the local public bus system, Capital Transit, are all affordable options.