Skagway Cruise Port

Port of Skagway: An Overview

In 1897, gold stampeders from all over the world arrived in Skagway by steamship, bound for the Dawson Gold Fields in Canada's Yukon Territory. It wasn't long before the rough-and-tumble tent town was festooned with boardwalks, dance halls, inns and saloons.

More than 100 years later, Skagway still retains the feel of those Gold Rush days, though most travelers now arrive by cruise ship and follow part of the original Gold Rush route by tourist train. The immensely walkable and historic downtown has also largely been restored to its roots, complete with false-fronted buildings and wooden sidewalks. It's an utterly charming place -- if a tad precious.

Skagway ranks as one of Alaska's most popular ports. It's not unusual to find four ships docked there on the same day.

Port Facilities

The port doesn't offer a cruise terminal or facilities. Cruise ships share the port with industrial traffic. Inexpensive municipal buses run from the dock to town. Skagway Visitors Center, 245 Broadway, is about an eight-minute walk.

Don't Miss

A ride on the White Pass & Yukon Route Railroad. This was created as a result of the Klondike Gold Rush of 1898, though it wasn't completed before the rush ended. The narrow-gauge train follows the path that pioneers in search of Klondike Gold climbed in order to get to Dawson's Creek in nearby Canada. The tracks wind around granite mountains, trundle across steep gorges and pass through two tunnels. Virtually all visiting cruise lines offer the train ride.

Historic walking tour of Skagway. Pick up a map at the Skagway Visitors Center (Broadway between 2nd & 3rd), which, in itself, is distinctive because its builder collected more than 8,800 sticks of driftwood -- and then nailed them to the building's front.

Historic driving tour of Skagway. Fast-talking guides in period garb lead the Skagway Street Car Tour, a two-hour look at the port's Gold Rush history onboard a restored yellow Mac Model B.

Learn about the Klondike Gold Rush at the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park Visitor Center (2nd and Broadway).

Shopping in Skagway. Nestled between totally touristy "outlet" stores and shops full of cheap tchotchkes are veritable gems. For books, try the Skagway News Depot (Broadway between 2nd & 3rd). For high-end crafts, ranging from made-in-Alaska jewelry and pen-and-ink prints to turned-wood vessels, try A Gathering of Spirits (Broadway between 4th & 5th). Lynch & Kennedy (Broadway between 3rd & 4th) has exquisite (yet not necessarily local) fine crafts, including hand-painted ceramics and hand-knit woolen sweaters. The Quiviut Store (in Skagway Bazaar between 5th and 6th on Broadway) sells fine muskox yarns and fibers. The Train Shoppe in the White Pass and Yukon Route Depot (2nd & Spring) has tons of choo-choo souvenirs.

Hang out at the touristy Red Onion Saloon (2nd & Broadway), a Gold Rush-era gathering point (and former brothel).

Gold-panning at Liarsville Gold Rush Trail Camp. A stop at this recreation camp, which was set up by press men who were supposed to be reporting from the front lines of the Gold Rush (thus Liarsville), is often packaged with the train tour if you go one way by rail and one way by bus. As part of the setup, today's Liarsville also features a campfire, salmon bake and musician playing instruments of the time.

The Dog Sledding and Glacier Flightseeing combo tour is a budget-buster, but it's a unique way to experience the glaciers. You'll get a turn at mushing the dog team. It's available onboard, as well as through Temsco Helicopters (907-983-2900).

Take the passenger ferry over to Haines. It's an easy way to go whale-watching and visit the American Bald Eagle Center downtown.

Play golf on a nine-hole course set at 60 degrees north latitude.

Ride a bicycle downhill along the White Pass Klondike gold route (Sockeye Cycle Co).

Getting Around

On Foot: Skagway is an easy walking town. Most shops are on one street -- Broadway.

On a Bike: You can rent a bike at Sockeye Cycles, 381 5th Avenue, 907-983-2851.

Renting a Car: To explore outer reaches of this region of southeast Alaska, you can certainly rent a car through Avis, located at the Westmark Hotel, Spring Street near 2nd, 800-331-1212, advance reservations highly recommended; Sourdough Rentals, 351 6th Avenue, 907-983-2523), but you're better off signing up for a tour of some sort -- whether through your ship or via the handful of independent trip companies. Tour companies that serve cruise ships' shore excursion departments typically will refer you back to the ship -- or charge the same fee as the cruise line. Smaller, independent operators, many of whom have storefronts in town, may net more personal tours with fewer people -- and the prices might actually be lower.

Food and Drink

Casual In-Town Joints: Stowaway Cafe (205 Congress Way, daily, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.) has wraps, soups and fresh-baked breads. For a locals' haunt, check out Sweet Tooth Cafe (315 Broadway, daily, 6 a.m. to 2 p.m.) for "home cooking." Skagway Fish Co. (near the Railroad Dock, daily, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.) has terrific seafood and a great marina view.

Gourmet Dining: Bistro at the Skagway Inn (7th and Broadway, daily, 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.) offers local fare with a nouvelle twist. Trademark dishes include Alaskan king crab and strip loin of elk.

Where You're Docked

Ships line up at one of three deep-water docks, all an easy walk from the heart of town. Small ships may dock at a fourth location, the Ferry Dock, also a few minutes from town.

Good to Know

Given that most goods and foodstuffs are flown or shipped into Alaska from the "outside," you might be a bit surprised by the higher-than-average costs of food and other essentials.

Currency & Best Way to Get Money

Currency is the U.S. dollar. There is an ATM at the Wells Fargo Bank at 6th and Broadway.

Language

English is spoken there.

Shopping

Hand-painted gold-mining pans are great souvenirs.
  • Skagway: Zaandam
    Happicamper
    We rented a car and drove up to the Yukon and turned around at Emerald Lake. What a beautiful scenic drive where we stopped at many viewpoints. We had lunch in Carcross at the Bistro on the way back. The Natl Park visitor center had very good ... Read more
  • Skagway: Explorer of the Seas
    SbbquilterUT
    Enjoyed walking out of the downtown area after viewing the movie at the National Park office. Walked to the miners cemetery then on to Jewell Gardens (entry $12.50) where we watched glassblowing and enjoyed the gardens. ... Read more
  • Skagway: Volendam
    kwb101
    Very crowded during the day, but quieted down at dinnertime as folks returned to their ships. There were four in port the first two days we were there: over 10,000 on board! Be sure to visit the Skagway City Museum on Seventh Street off Broadway: ... Read more
  • Skagway: Noordam
    Dancefloor
    We didn't do excursions because we have cruised this route before. Just enjoyed walking through town. Lots of shops along the lines that you would expect, but enjoyable just the same. ... Read more
  • Skagway: Volendam
    mrgoetz
    Skagway is a quaint town that is mostly a National Park. We enjoyed just walking around the town and exploring the park visitor's center and museum. The park offers free guided walking tours which are a good way to hear more about the history of the ... Read more
  • Skagway: Norwegian Sun
    jclnola
    I loved Skagway. It's an adorable little town. We took the free walking tour from the visitor's center. Even my 9-year-old liked it. She then went this little building where she learned more and became an "official junior ranger." There ... Read more