This blog post is in part sponsored by Travel Juneau. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
I spent 4 days in Juneau, Alaska and had an incredible time! Here is my full itinerary of everything I did. If you are planning a trip to Juneau anytime soon you’ll definitely want to take note of this itinerary. While I was there I experienced some incredible things, such as taking a helicopter ride, walking on a glacier, seeing all sorts of wildlife including bears, whales, sea lions, and bald eagles. With everything I did on this itinerary I definitely got to check off quite a few items on my Alaska bucket list and I know you’ll want to as well!
Where to Stay
The Baranof Downtown has an absolutely perfect location. It’s located right in the heart of downtown Juneau and put me within walking distance of so many different places. Restaurants and shops only took me a couple of minutes to get to and it was very convenient to either be picked up for my chores or to walk to where they would be starting. In addition I was lucky enough to get a room on the top floor of the hotel so I had a view of the water and mountains right out my window. I loved the convenience of this hotel and it’s downtown location.
I arrived early into Juneau from Ketchikan on the Alaska ferry which gave me almost a full day to explore.
Brunch at Auke Bay Cafe
On the way from the ferry terminal to Downtown Juneau is the Auke Bay Cafe. I grabbed an iced coffee and savory waffle. I’ve never had a savory waffle before but my goodness, it was delicious and now I’m wondering how I lived without it for so long. The only thing is that I wish I had room for one of their milkshakes which is served with a mini donut.
Visit Jensen-Olson Arboretum
After brunch, I headed out to the Jensen-Olson Arboretum, a beautiful spot right off the main road. One of the things that surprised me the most about my trip to Southeastern Alaska was just how green everything is and this Arboretum is a perfect example of that lush greenery. The flowers here are gorgeous, and there are so many different kinds. There is also a beautiful view of the harbor. Admission is donation based so be sure to bring some cash with you when you visit.
Quick stop at DIPAC Macaulay Salmon Hatchery
Heading towards downtown, I made a quick stop to check out the salmon ladder at the DIPAC Macaulay Salmon Hatchery. I was hopeful that there might be some salmon making their migration back to the hatchery but unfortunately it was just as empty as the one in Ketchikan. Looks like late June was still a bit too early in the season for salmon. But I did spot a beautiful bald eagle overseeing the waters near the hatchery and the photos of that were worth the stop on the way downtown.
Take the Goldbelt Tram up Mount Roberts
Located right in downtown is the Goldbelt Tram that you can take up Mount Roberts and have the most beautiful view of Juneau and the surrounding mountains. There are quite a few hiking trails in this area, you can either use the AllTrails app or pick up a map at the nature center for a few bucks. If you are feeling outdoorsy, you can hike up the mountain to the restaurant and spend $10 to get a ticket to take the tram back down. I enjoyed the trails I explored and because it was a clear day, I had incredible views of mountains and waterfalls.
Dinner at Tracy’s King Crab Shack
Right next to the tram station is Tracy’s King Crab Shack and I’m going to say it now, you need to put this on your Juneau MUST EAT list. I’m probably going to be dreaming about this crab for the rest of my life. Originally, I was just going to get one leg which is about 1 lb but luckily I was talked into the special for the day which was one king crab leg, an 8oz crab bisque, 4 crab cakes (which are more like crab nuggets) and rolls with butter. Everything was so delicious! I really appreciated that the crab legs come pre-opened (I’m sure this isn’t the correct term) so that it’s easy to get to the meat. Best of all I got to enjoy my meal on their patio looking out over the water and mountains.
Enjoy an evening walk along Juneau Harbor
One of the things I loved about visiting Juneau in the summer is the late sunsets. Having oodles of daylight meant that I could have a leisurely evening stroll on the boardwalk that runs along Juneau Harbor in downtown. I kept my eyes peeled for fancy yachts and whales which are sometimes spotted in the Gastineau Channel.
Coffee at Heritage Coffee Roasting Co.
Heritage has been in Juneau for over 30 years and has multiple locations. Their downtown shop was just down the street from the Baranof and on the way to my tour for the day. I grabbed the perfect iced coffee pick-me-up and a cheddar jalapeno roast red pepper garlic cilantro scone – yes, that is one scone with all the best ingredients and it was perfect.
Tracy Arm Fjord Tour with Adventure Bound
I’ll admit that when I found out how long this tour was I was a bit hesitant about having it on my itinerary. It takes up the entire day and you are on a boat the whole time.
I’m here to tell you this tour is 100% worth every moment of your day. Honestly, I loved all the tours that I went on in Juneau, they were all fabulous and I had once in a lifetime experiences with each of them. But if I had to recommend just one tour, it would be this one. Here’s why, the potential to see so much in just one day. On this tour I got to see a glacier calving, bears, whales, seals, mountain goats, sea lions, icebergs, waterfalls, and the list goes on. Every moment on this boat there was something beautiful to see and I had the option of enjoying it out on the walk-around deck or inside the heated cabin.
Captain Steve of Adventure Bound is the best. He was informative, entertaining, and skillfully navigated the boat into the best positions to take photos and get up close with nature. You can even join him at the helm and chat.
Because you are on the boat all day I know your next question is going to be about the food situation. You can bring your own food, and in fact I did enjoy my scone on board, but you can also get food on the boat. There are sandwiches made to order by the deckhands, snacks, cup noodles, and both hot and cold drinks. Everything is reasonably priced, I think I spent less than $10 while I was on the boat. Just make sure to bring cash to settle your tab at the end of the tour. Options are limited so if you have any dietary restrictions you should probably plan on bringing what you need.
Dinner at Deckhand Dave’s Fish Tacos
After an incredible day out at Tracy Fjord I headed to Deckhand Dave’s Fish Tacos located right next to the Baranof (seriously, this hotel is in the perfect location!) I foolishly only ordered one taco but it’s because I had a solid plan for dessert. For my one taco I got the Blackened Rockfish – spicy. These are true street style sized tacos so I recommend getting more than one for a proper meal. I knew with the proximity to my hotel I would be back for more.
Dessert at Captain’s S’more and Brew
In the same little food truck park as Deckhand Dave’s is the Captain’s S’more and Brew, a gourmet s’more/coffee/hot cocoa trailer. I of course had to try the two most outrageous s’more flavors on the menu and got both a Salty Sea Lion and a Smokey Salmon. The Salty Sea Lion is topped with bacon and sea salt caramel and the Smokey Salmon has smoked salmon and brown sugar maple glaze. I’m a salty/sweet person so I loved both but top prize goes to the Salty Sea Lion. I think the only thing that I would have liked better about the Smokey Salmon is if the salmon bits had been a bit smaller but the overall flavor was delicious. I’m really kicking myself for not picking up a bag of their homemade marshmallows to take home with me – learn from my mistake and grab a bag while you are there.
Coffee and Breakfast at Sacred Grounds Coffee
One of the things that I love about Downtown Juneau is that there are no chain restaurants, everything is local! My goal was to check out a different coffee spot each day and the next shop on my list was Sacred Grounds. It is Juneau’s only indigenously authentic cafe. They have a couple of locations and it was a short walk from the Baranof to the Willoughby Avenue shop. Sacred Grounds has a fairly large memu of made-to-order breakfast and lunch items as well as grab and go items. I decided on the Chocolate Strawberry which was like a dessert in a cup and the Sockeye Lox & Bagel. There is a small dining area at the coffee shop but I decided to get mine to-go so that I could get ready for the day.
Helicopter Glacier Walkabout with NorthStar Helicopters
I was picked up right from the Baranof by the NorthStar Helicopter van. After a short drive to the airport, I changed into the proper glacier trekking gear provided by NorthStar. I traded in my regular hiking boots for some more robust ones and slipped on windbreaker pants and jacket. I was also provided with a belt pack to put my camera, my phone, a bottle of water, and a snack in. Everything else was left behind.
After a safety briefing, I headed out to the helicopters which whisked the small tour group I was with over the Tongass National Forest and to the Mendenhall Glacier where the guides were already waiting for the group. On the ride to the glacier, the pilot pointed out the highlights out the window, explaining what we were flying over.
The two guides outfitted everyone with crampons to help grip the ice on the glacier walk. It was so neat to be able to walk on the glacier, it felt like being on a different planet. The day I went was very clear and sunny. While that was great for visibility, the guides explained that on cloudy days, the blue color the glacier refracts was even more intense and deep.
One of the highlights for me of this tour was getting to fill up my water bottle with water from a little stream running down the glacier.
Late lunch at Deckhand Dave’s Fish Tacos
Yup, I had to go back! This time I ordered the fish taco sampler.
Kombucha and vegan dessert at Alaska Probiotics
Right across from the food truck park is Alaska Probiotics, a company that specializes in kombucha. They have a bunch of flavors on tap and it was hard to choose just one. I finally decided on a bottle of the Strawberry Sprucetip and I also grabbed a vegan berry tart to-go. I really wish that Alaska Probiotics shipped to Texas because I wish I could get my hands on some more of their kombucha.
Hike out to Nugget Falls
After walking on the Mendenhall Glacier I wanted to see it from a different perspective so I headed out to the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center. There is free parking here. From this spot there are 5 different trails, I opted for the Nugget Falls trail.
The Nugget Falls trail is 2 miles round trip on a flat, well maintained path. It didn’t feel this long while I was walking. The falls were quite robust when I was there and huge! The scale of Alaska is hard to capture, and I’m saying that as someone who lives in a state whose motto is “Everything is bigger in Texas.” Just to the side of Nugget Falls is the Mendenhall Glacier. This is a great spot to sit and enjoy the beautiful view. During my time in Juneau, I was very lucky to have warm weather and clear skies, this was practically a beach day.
Dinner at The Hanger On The Wharf
Back in downtown I was ready for dinner. The Hanger has a large deck with views of the water and mountains. In fact, they have a webcam which I have been watching ever since I got back from my trip to get my Juneau fix. They also have excellent Tempura Halibut & Chips which is what I decided on after quite a bit of back and forth over the menu. The food scene in Juneau is fantastic, I am eating so well on this trip!
Coffee and Breakfast at The Rookery
Continuing my quest of trying a new coffee place each day in Juneau, next up on the list is The Rookery. Also a quick walk from the Baranof, The Rookery is the cutest coffee shop with a full menu and a pastry case that is what dreams are made of. I got an iced latte, avocado toast, and a chocolate croissant. The avocado toast was delicious, the dukkah nut and spice blend that tops it is fantastic.
Marine Safari and Kayak Adventure with Sea Lion Adventure Tours
After my delightful breakfast at The Rookery I was picked up from the Baranof by Sea Lion Adventure Tours for a full day of fun on the water. First up was a marine safari on one of their boats. One of the things I noticed right away about my tour compared to the other boats offering whale watching tours was the small size of the Sea Lion Adventure Tours boat. Each of their tours has a max of 6 guests ensuring a personal tour. I loved this feature after seeing piles of people on other boats jockeying for a place on the deck to see a whale.
After a very successful marine safari, it was time to head over to the kayak adventure part of the tour. A short drive over to Douglas Island, the island that is across the Gastineau Channel, to hop into some kayaks and get out onto the water. Now it has been a while since I’ve gone kayaking, to the point where I know I’ve been kayaking before but I’m not quite sure when. So, I’m a total beginner. I was relieved to find out that the kayak that I would be in was so sturdy that it’s nearly impossible to flip over.
Image courtesy of Sea Lion Adventure Tours
While I was hoping to see some more whales while kayaking, they were a bit shy for this portion of the day. Kayaking was challenging and fun and at the end of it I felt accomplished. Now that I’m a seasoned kayaking pro, let me impart some advice. I recommend that you bring clothing you don’t mind getting wet, I ended up getting completely soaked! If you are wondering what to pack for a trip to Alaska in summer then you should check out this post where I share my list.
Pre-dinner gelato at Venice Italian Gelato
After all that work in the kayak I decided to treat myself to dessert before dinner and get gelato. I spotted Venice Italian Gelato while I was walking around downtown and stopped in to get a small cup of amaretto gelato.
Dinner at Salt
For my last dinner in Juneau I decided to take myself on a nice date. One of the advantages of solo travel is that you can sometimes manage to get into a nice restaurant without a reservation by sitting at the bar, which is exactly what I was able to do at Salt. It was hard to decide on what to order because Salt has one of those menus where I knew I would love everything on it. I settled on local oysters and the halibut, both were fantastic. I don’t think I had tried halibut before this trip but by the end of it, I am basically obsessed. I definitely thought I would be enjoying more salmon but halibut was my favorite of this trip.
Having a car is very helpful while visiting Juneau, but not necessarily required. There are public buses that can get you to most places and fares are only $2 for a one-way ticket, be sure to have exact change. There is Uber and Lyft however rideshares are not plentiful especially if you need to catch a ride in the early morning to the airport. If you do need to schedule an early morning ride you best bet is to call a cab in advance. I had to get a cab for my early morning flight and it was unfortunately a disaster, so while I can’t recommend a cab company I can tell you who not to book with. You can read my review on Evergreen Taxi on TripAdvisor.
I was extremely lucky and had warm, clear weather my entire time in Juneau but this is not the norm. Juneau experiences 230 days of rain on average a year. Juneau is in the middle of the Tongass National Forest which is a rainforest so you should expect rain when you visit.
I loved my time in Juneau and was fortunate to pack in not only incredible food but also multiple once in a lifetime experiences into each day of my trip. I’m already thinking of when I can return!