Don't Miss in Haines
Fort William H. Seward was designated a National Historic Site by the US government in 1972. Situated on a hill above the dock, the open-air fort is accessible to visitors at any time of day. Walk around and read the plaques on a self-guided walking tour. Many of the buildings are former barracks and officers' quarters. In the center of the parade grounds is a replica of a Tlingit tribal house. The former fort hospital on the south side of the parade grounds is now the Alaska Indian Arts Cultural Center and has a small gallery and carver's workshop where you can see totem carving in progress (it's open when cruise ships are in town). The totems produced here are highly valued (actor James Earl Jones has one in his front yard). Note the giant whale gun positioned on the parade grounds opposite the water. The gun is owned by a local who fires it like a cannon on special occasions.
The Sheldon Museum and Cultural Center (11 Main Street, at the corner of Main and Front streets, 907-766-2366) was founded by Steve Sheldon, a local man who amassed a wonderful collection of Haines memorabilia. Included are Tlingit artifacts, gold rush-era objects, military items and more (open weekdays 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. and weekends 2 to 6 p.m.).
Dave Pahl, a local resident, decided to collect hammers. His collection grew and grew, and a few years ago he opened the quirky Hammer Museum (108 Main St., open weekdays 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.) across from The Sheldon Museum. Here the longshoreman shows off his 800-year-old Tlingit hammer among some 1,500 tools from all over the world.
Haines is home to a major bald eagle reserve. If you can't get into the wild to see the birds, at least visit the American Bald Eagle Foundation Natural History Museum (113 Haines Highway, 907-766-3094). A huge diorama depicts more than 150 bald eagles, and there are stuffed specimens including bears in the educational displays. It's a must-do for families (open weekdays 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and evenings when cruise ships are in town).
The Alaska Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve
is a 48,000-acre park located along the Chilkat River and is considered Ground Zero for eagle-spotting. While cruise passengers won't see the majority of eagles during their visits (high season is October to February), you'll still spot plenty of the several hundred bald eagles that live in the area year-round. The best viewing sights are on the Haines Highway between miles 19 and 26. The local park rangers' office has updated sighting reports (907-766-2292).
Sockeye Cycle (24 Portage St., 907-766-2869), right up the street from the cruise ship dock, rents bikes for $12 for two hours, $24 for four hours, and also offers guided bike trips.
Duffers can brag about a truly unique experience after hitting the links at the nine-hole Valley of the Eagles Golf Links & Driving Range (907-766-2401). Located about two miles from downtown, the range, opened in 2005, is built entirely on wetlands that are periodically covered by high tides. The turf is artificial so as not to disturb the environment with chemicals needed to treat greens. The spectacular scenery includes salmon and trout streams that run right through the course. Moose and bears are spotted frequently. Rental clubs are available. Reservations are recommended.
Go shopping. Dejon Delights (37 Portage St., 907-766-2505) near Fort Seward is the place for freshly smoked Alaska salmon and halibut. They offer free samples so you know what you're buying and can ship your selections if you don't want to carry them. Wild Iris (907-766-2300), also on Portage Street, is an art shop selling nice silkscreen prints, fine jewelry, Eskimo arts and silkscreen prints, and has a beautiful garden out front. A well-kept secret is the Sheldon Museum's gift shop where you can find locally made gifts, jewelry and many books on Alaska.