If you’re like I was, you’re not quite sure what to expect when you visit Juneau.
Wondering how to avoid crowds or what to pack? What about where to stay or what to do if you come across a bear? These 8 tips will help!
Cut down on cruise ship crowds
Juneau is a hot spot for cruise ships. Some days there are as many as six ships docked! Review the cruise schedule, which includes the ships and times they will be in town, and plan accordingly. For instance, you want a picture in front of Mendenhall Glacier? So do thousands of other people. Choose a day with fewer ships to cut down on crowds.
Make the most of mornings
Most cruise ships arrive mid-morning to early afternoon. Even if a ship arrives early morning, most passengers are still sleeping. Take advantage of the morning hours for activities that are bound to get crowded, such as the Mount Douglas Tram.
Avoid buying tours from vendors near the cruise ship terminal
Near the cruise ship terminal you will find dozens of vendors selling tours, capitalizing on the thousands of passengers filing off the ships. Book your excursions in advance and online based on reviews from Trip Advisor or other websites.
Where to stay
Juneau is easy to navigate and not that big, so it really depends on your priorities – do you want to walk to restaurants? Then consider staying in Starr Hill, literally on a huge hill several blocks from downtown, like I did. Want to be one with nature? Then perhaps snag a place across the channel in Douglas Island, which is easily accessible by a short bridge. You really can’t make a bad choice.
Book lodging in advance
There are several hotels in the area, but none struck my fancy. I prefer staying in an Airbnb anyway. Even though I planned my trip 6+ months in advance, the majority of Airbnb options were already gone. Summer is the time for tourists, so book your accommodations early to ensure you stay in your top choice.
What to pack
Pack in anticipation of a range of weather. In early June, I experienced 40 degrees with cold rain all the way to 75 degrees and sunny. If you’re going on the water to kayak or whale watch, it’ll be much colder than on land.
My suggestions: layer a t-shirt, long sleeve shirt, fleece and rain coat with hood. Water repellent pants are good. I never wore shorts. Sneakers (and hiking boots if you plan to hit the trails). When you’re not traversing the outdoors, Juneau is a pretty casual town – no need for anything fancy.
Oh, and don’t forget sunscreen and bug spray. The mosquitoes are surprisingly huge and you don’t want to end up with a bite in the middle of your forehead. I did.
Where to eat
Restaurants near the cruise ship terminal are more expensive than in other parts of town. My favorite breakfast was at Sandpiper Cafe – tons of options, fresh fruit and veggies and vegan-friendly, if that’s your thing. Full disclosure, I broke my “no cruise ship terminal” rule twice to eat lunch at Twisted Fish. Deckhand Dave’s Fish Tacos are as fresh as they come and we had a nice dinner at Salt, though Yelp reviews suggest service is spotty.
We ate at a few other restaurants, but none I really loved. We enjoyed many meals at our Airbnb. There are plenty of places to buy fresh fish and several grocery stores, including Rainbow Foods, an organic grocer.
Respect the land and wildlife
Juneau is a gorgeous part of the world – so keep it that way. Leave no trace as you hike. Be aware of your surroundings – there is a good chance you could stumble across a bear. As you eat that snack in the woods, remember bears have an incredible sense of smell. Learn what to do in case you see one. Hint: never run.
The Alaska Department of Fish and Game website has good tips on how to prevent bear encounters, what to do if you see a bear or are attacked. For what it’s worth, I only saw bears when I sought them out on Admiralty Island, but I may have been lucky.
More information about Juneau is available in my previous post: 5 summer days in Juneau, Alaska – no cruise required.
Question: If you’ve been to Juneau — or anywhere in Alaska — what did you wish you knew before going?