Our day in Juneau started when the Celebrity Infinity docked at the harbour in Juneau, whilst we were enjoying breakfast.
Juneau is the state capital of Alaska. Located on the panhandle of Alaska, it is the second largest city in the United States by area. Juneau has a population of around 30,000. However, this increases massively in the summer months, when cruise ships dock here. Today for example, there are 3 cruise ships docked in Juneau, each carrying around 2000 passengers and 1000 crew. They have capacity to dock 6 cruise ships at once here, and are building dock for a 7th.
There are no roads to Juneau, so you have to get here by sea or by air. It is well served by the Alaskan Marine Highway and Alaska Airlines. It is one of the most popular cruise ship destinations in Alaska, with almost every Alaskan cruise stopping here.
After breakfast, we headed out on our pre-booked excursion to see the Mendenhall glacier, one of the main attractions of Juneau.
The town of Juneau is surround by a range of mountains upto 1200 m high. Atop these mountains is the Juneau Icefield, a large ice mass from which about 30 glaciers flow; the Mendenhall Glacier is one of them, and it is very popular as it is one of the few glaciers accessible by road (the other is the Lemon Creek Glacier).
The Mendenhall glacier is a 20 minute drive from the centre of Juneau. When you get there, there is a visitor centre, from which you can get great views of the glacier.
If you’re up for a little walk, this will get you to the Nugget falls and a closer look at the glacier.
The Mendenhall glacier is like a frozen (very slow) moving waterfall. Unlike the Hubbard glacier we saw yesterday, this glacier is retreating quite rapidly. Not too long ago, the edge of the glacier was at the Nugget falls, but today it has retreated by a couple of hundred meters.
There are some large chunks of ice from the glacier floating down the river.
There are also a lot of information boards around that explain how a glacier shapes the landscape around it.
After the glacier, we headed off to an Alaskan brewery. Unfortunately we weren’t allowed inside the factory, but we could see the production line through a large window, whilst we enjoyed a number of beer samples in the tasting room.
We also came across this very interesting sign – apparently, it is illegal to be drunken person in a bar in Alaska. Who knew?
We spent the afternoon having lunch and walking around the town and doing a spot of gift shopping.
There were number of interesting places around the town, such as:
The famous red dog saloon (the oldest man made tourist attraction is Juneau):
and Mount Roberts Tramway (Unfortunately we didn’t have time to go to the top):
and a husband daycare centre 🙂
Then it was time for us to depart. We headed back to the ship and sailed into the sunset – quite literally.
A few thoughts:
Juneau is by no means a big city, and compared to many other state capitals, there really isn’t much to see in town, but it makes up for this by the natural wonders that surround it. There is no doubt that this is a touristy place. It is quite hard to get a feel for the real Juneau when almost everyone you run into is a day tourist, like yourself. But, Juneau is worth staying for a few days to explore all it has to offer. It is also an excellent base for exploring other nearby destinations such as Sitka, Ketchikan and Skagaway. So, that’s what I’m going to do next time. Fly over here, stay for a few days and really get a feel for this beautiful place.