Welcome to the Juneau cruise port!
Nestled on the shores of the Gastineau Channel and the Alaskan Panhandle in southeastern Alaska, Juneau is the capital of Alaska and the second-largest city in the United States of America. Because of its spectacular sceneries, breathtaking landscapes, and a wide variety of things to do, Juneau is one of the major Alaskan ports of call in the Alaskan cruise itineraries.
In this article, read about:
- Juneau cruise port (cruise terminal, getting around the port)
- Top 10 things to do in Juneau on a cruise
Juneau Cruise Port
The port of Juneau consists of three cruise terminals: Marine Park (2 berths/the largest terminal and closest to the city center), Ferry Terminal, and South Franklin Dock (also called S Franklin Dock/Boardwalk, this dock is located in the heart of the city along S Franklin street, the most popular street in Juneau). In addition to these three terminals that feature in total 4 docks, there is AJ Dock located a little bit further. If your ship docks at AJ dock, shuttle buses are available to take you into town for an extra fee.
All the docks are located within a short walking distance from Juneau city center. You can reach the downtown either on foot (15 to 20 minutes walk) or by shuttle bus. The frequency of the shuttle buses may depend on the number of ships in port that day, so they normally run every 10 minutes or longer. There is also a shuttle bus that provides a ramp available for fully confined guests or cruise passengers with mobility difficulties. Once you leave your ship, you will find a tourist information booth by the end of the pier where you can check the schedule of the shuttle buses and whether there is an extra fee (cash only) applied.
Keep in mind that the wi-fi in the port is limited, and you can find the internet only downtown for an extra fee if you decide to purchase a drink at specific locations. Some jewelry shops offer wi-fi, such as Diamonds International. ATMs are also available downtown.
All shore excursions organized by your cruise ship will have a meeting location either onboard or by the end of the pier, so make sure you read the instructions on your tour tickets carefully (the meeting time and location are indicated on the ticket). If your meeting location is on the pier, allow at least 10 minutes to get to the meeting location prior to your tour’s meeting time.
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Taxis in Juneau are very expensive and you can find them in the downtown of Juneau or by ordering in advance. The prices vary based on the number of people in the vehicle. In the downtown of Juneau, you can also find public transportation, just make sure you check the schedule as the buses may run every 30 minutes or 1 hour each.
The adult ticket for public bus costs $2 and for children (18 and under) is $1. Children aged 5 and below travel for free. Bear in mind that bus drivers are not able to make change, so be sure to have small bills and the exact amount. You can check the timetables and fares on Juneau public transportation website.
Explore Juneau Downtown
If you decide to go to the city at your leisure, bring your camera as you may encounter eagles and beautiful landscapes. Travel as light as possible, walking shoes are recommended, and also keep in mind that the weather in Alaska is changeable and short showers may appear.
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The downtown offers more than 40 shops including a variety of duty-free shops, native arts and crafts, jewelry (Diamonds International), sport winter outfits/waterproof jackets.
Juneau is an amazing port for dining or lunch ashore. You will find a variety of restaurants offering the best Crab Alaskan Grill, salmon, and not to be missed the local ice cream or a craft beer.
Downtown Juneau has also a couple of highlights, but I would recommend exploring outside the port where you can experience the most incredible glaciers and the real Alaska. Once you return from your tour, you can explore the downtown of Juneau time-permitting.
The main highlights of Juneau downtown are Mount Roberts Tramway, Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center, and Alaska State Museum for those of you interested in historic sites and the history of Alaska. Read more about these attractions below.
10 Spectacular Things to Do in Juneau Cruise Port
Before I share with you the best things to do in Juneau on a cruise, I invite you to sign up below for my FREE Shore Excursion Guide and get some useful, insider shore excursion tips!
1. Mount Roberts Tramway
If you decide to stay in the port Juneau, one of the most popular highlights is Mount Roberts Tramway, which is similar to a cable car (covered and a bit bigger), and can accommodate between 8 to 12 passengers simultaneously depending on their weight. The Tramway is located downtown and it’s going up to 1745 ft (532 m) above sea level.
The Tramway is also recommended to fully confined passengers or guests with walking difficulties, as it is wheelchair accessible. Right at the top, you can enjoy spectacular landscapes and great shopping, facilities, and free wi-fi. This attraction can be combined with any other tour of that day because the Tramway experience runs all day long with set departure times.
The Tramway base station can be reached within walking distance from the port in about 15 to 25 minutes. They run from May to September, and the ticket costs $45/adult, $25/child (3 – 13), aged 2 and under free. Read more about the activities on Mt. Roberts Tramway official website
Make sure you wear warm clothes and bring binoculars and a camera – the view will blow your mind away!
2. Norris Glacier and Dogs Sledding
My number one recommendation for Juneau is Dogs Sledding and Norris Glacier or Dogs Sledding and Mendenhall Glacier; the glaciers are very similar and no matter what tour you book, a spectacular and unique experience is guaranteed!
This adventure normally starts with a breathtaking 20-minute scenic flight over impressive Juneau Icefield, Alaskan fjords, snow-capped mountains, and awe-inspiring glacier formations.
After your helicopter ride, you arrive at a remote dogsled glacier camp where you meet your new friends – adorable Alaska huskies, performance-bred dogs that will take you on an exhilarating ride of a lifetime! Apart from the ride which is an absolute highlight of a journey, you will also meet professional mushers who will tell you how indigenous people and early explorers used to get around Alaska, share stories about the legendary Iditarod race, and educate you on sled dog breeds.
To top off your day, you get a bit of free time at the end of the experience to enjoy the surrounding views, cuddle the puppies, and catch the best shots. The dogs are fully trained and the guides are very knowledgeable and approachable!
Keep in mind that the flights are organized in groups of 3 to 4 passengers at a time depending on the weight, including one person in the front and a maximum of 3 in the back. In the back, only 2 will have a window seat view.
To join the helicopter, you will be transferred to the flight base located approximately 25 minutes bus ride from the cruise port. Over there you will receive a full safety briefing, and you will be given the opportunity to use facilities as there are no facilities on the site.
Useful Tips: To board the flight, you need to able to handle a minimum of 2 high steps. Backpacks or any other belongings are not permitted, except for the camera in your hand or phone (selfie stick is not allowed). There are lockers available (an extra fee may apply), and it is recommended to travel light (make sure you bring a raincoat/waterproof jacket, waterproof shoes/boots).
Are you ready for the ride of a lifetime?
3. 5 Glaciers Flightseeing Experience
On this spectacular journey, you will experience real, wild Alaska! The trip normally includes a helicopter ride over Norris Glacier, Hole in the Wall, East and West Twin Glaciers, and Taku Lodge Glacier, a massive tidewater glacier that moves about 3 inches every year!
This incredible adventure allows you to take an insight into the fascinating history of the glaciers and their formation, as well as the origin of their names. All that comes with majestic views of Alaskan natural wonders and a ride over the lush Tongass National Forest, the largest National Forest in the USA that covers around 17 million acres!
The greatest part of this flightseeing experience is that the seaplane can accommodate about 12 passengers at a time and each one will have a window seat view (weight restrictions applied). The seaplanes get extremely close to the glaciers and sites, so you get the chance to see the most incredible formations of 5 different glaciers.
The flight duration is normally between 35 to 45 minutes, and the transfer from the port to the base of the flights takes approximately 25 minutes by bus. Short briefing and preparations could take about 15-20 minutes depending on the group.
At the Taku Lodge, you may also see black or brown bears. It is also highly recommended to carry your personal binoculars if you decide to book this tour.
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Useful Tips: There are a few steps to handle upon boarding the plane, so walking shoes are highly recommended. At the base of the Seaplanes, you will receive a full safety briefing, and it’s also recommended to use facilities as the flight over glaciers will not have any stop. It is recommended to travel as light as possible, as no bags or other belongings are permitted on a seaplane; at the base, there are lockers available (an extra fee may apply). During the flight, only a camera or binoculars are permitted in your hands or your own pocket.
To sum up, this tour is an incredible, mind-blowing experience that you will remember for a lifetime!
4. Mendenhall Glacier Trekking
This experience is designed exclusively for adventure seekers! The 13-mile long Mendenhall Glacier is one of the most popular natural wonders of Alaska, and trekking is one of the activities you can opt for if you seek an action-packed holiday. Nestled high up in the mountains, Mendenhall Glacier is 3.000-years-old and features breathtaking geological formations and history that you can reveal on a guided walk across the glacial surfaces covered by snow and ice.
The trip normally starts with a 25-minute min bus ride from the port to the base for your flight. You will receive a full safety briefing and all instructions needed, including your equipment: boots, a jacket, pants, and a backpack. Make sure you travel light without valuables; lockers will be provided at the base, and it is recommended to use the facilities at a camp as there will be no facilities once you start your trek.
After you are all set, you will embark on a spectacular 20-30 minute flight over incredible sceneries and Tongass National Forest before you reach the Mendenhall Glacier where your guided trek starts. The hike is considered strenuous, involves physical activity (the hike itself can last up to 1 hour 30 minutes/2 hours), and is the only activity that allows you to climb the actual glacier.
Groups are normally made of a maximum of 15-20 participants at the time, depending on how many ships are in the port on that day.
A maximum of 4 passengers can be accommodated in a helicopter at a time. Weight restrictions are applied and there is also a very strict medical form that all participants need to complete before joining the activity.
This activity is a top pick for those in search of adventure and impressive natural sights combined with physical activity and hike!
5. Alaska Zip Line
Alaskan wildlife and its stunning nature are the main highlights to be experienced, and zipline in Juneau is one of the best choices for nature lovers and thrill-seekers.
Numerous ziplines, aerial suspension bridges, lush Alaskan rainforest, and its wildlife await you on this exciting adventure designed for those who want to experience the best of Alaska’s nature!
Your journey usually starts with a bus ride for approximately 45 minutes to 1 hour, and once you reach the forest you will swap the bus with a truck. To board the truck, you need to be able to handle a minimum of 10 steps. The bumpy ride on a truck through the forest lasts around 20 minutes, during which you will enjoy the fresh air and majestic views along the way.
This is a very popular activity for Alaska and it involves a variety of steps and 5 to 7 long zip lines. The groups for zip line count between 12 to a maximum of 24 participants, whereas at the location there will be groups of 4 people at a time. All instructions and safety equipment will be provided right at the site and are mandatory to wear.
Useful Tips: Zipline is not recommended for tourists with back problems or any surgery, and before you start your zipline adventure you will need to sign a medical waiver at the base. Zipline is a strenuous activity and closed-toe shoes and long pants are recommended. There are some age restrictions and weight restrictions applied. Kids can travel with a family member companion. Lockers are available for an extra fee in cash only (between $10-$20), and it’s not recommended to carry any valuables. Insect repellent is recommended but not mandatory.
6. Mendenhall Canoe Adventure
Looking for an adrenaline-pumped activity that will make your cruise to Alaska unforgettable?
Board your stable and modernly equipped canoe and start paddling across Mendenhall Lake into the face of the Mendenhall Glacier. Enjoy an up-close look at the impressive, 377 ft high Nugget Falls and the gigantic glacier as you paddle around luminous blue icebergs and past towering glacial cliffs.
Your exploration usually includes a guided trek across the glacier where you get to soak up some local history and take in the phenomenal views of the endless, translucent geological formations.
This experience is very limited in availability, as there is a maximum of 12 participants and only one departure per day. It’s mandatory to sign a medical waiver before joining the tour.
Useful Tips: The trip normally starts with a short 25-minute bus ride to the base of canoes where the safety briefing will be provided. There are no facilities at the site and make sure you wear hiking boots and weather-appropriate clothing. Binoculars and a camera are a must! This activity is not recommended for tourists who have claustrophobia.
7. Mendenhall Glacier Kayaking
If you enjoy wilderness, sea views, nature, and adventure, paddling your kayak to the glacier is the perfect choice for you. This activity normally doesn’t take you on a glacier itself, but you will get to the closest and safe place to be able to take photos. The kayak activity is considered strenuous, and participants are required to sign a medical waiver before joining the trip.
It takes 30 minutes drive from the Juneau cruise port to the base of the kayaks where you will receive your equipment and briefing. Kayaks are available in singles or doubles, and groups usually consist of a maximum of 24 passengers. All instructions will be provided by your guide, and there is a specific route and itinerary to be followed.
Useful Tips: It’s recommended to use the facilities at the base because you won’t get the opportunity to use them later. The weather may change during your activity so it is recommended to wear a raincoat/waterproof jacket and closed-toe shoes. Also, bring a bottle of water and binoculars to observe closer the enchanting beauty of Alaskan glaciers.
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Lockers are available at the base camp as well (an extra fee may apply).
8. Whale Watching
When in Alaska, you can’t skip wildlife activities among which whale watching is the most impressive one! Here, wildlife spotting is 100% guaranteed!
Enjoy the fantastic views of the Humpback Whales, Killer Whales, Bald Eagles, Sea Lions, and other native wildlife. The whales are huge and come extremely close to the boat, and if you are lucky, you can enjoy an up-close lunch-feeding Humpback Whale experience! This is the highlight of a journey and a one-of-a-kind sight that you will want to capture with your best camera!
This experience is highly recommended for families with kids, couples, tourists with walking difficulties, or using devices.
The journey normally starts with a 20-minute bus ride from the port to the dock where you will board the boat. There is a minimum of walking involved and it’s flat, so full-time wheelchair users and other guests with mobility difficulties can be accommodated. The boat is huge with open views allowing travelers to fully enjoy the wildlife spotting experience!
Facilities are available, including a light snack bar where you are able to purchase drinks for an extra fee (cash only). During the sail, you will be able to see a colony of seals and wild eagles, but the absolute highlight are the huge Humpback whales.
The boat ride is narrated, allowing visitors to learn about Alaskan wildlife and rich natural treasures.
9. Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center
Tucked in a breathtaking mountainous setting, Mendenhall Glacier is one of the main highlights of Juneau downtown. For those of you who want to avoid strenuous activities but still enjoy the beauty of the glaciers, you can visit the Visitor Center of Mendenhall Glacier, located close to the downtown (15-20 minutes bus ride, depending on the traffic).
The Visitor Center offers unique views of Mendenhall Glacier, Nugget Falls, and beautiful Mendenhall Lake. Here, you can visit the exhibition area and learn about the rich history of the Alaskan glaciers, their formation, and the native wildlife.
Keep in mind that Visitor Center offers only a viewpoint of the Glacier; you are not stepping on the glacier itself. This visit involves a minimum amount of walking, however, you could experience extended periods of standing at the site because it may get crowded. The Visitor Center is partially flat, which makes it suitable for tourists using devices or full-time wheelchair users.
10. Macaulay Salmon Hatchery
Located approximately 15 minutes drive from Juneau cruise port, Macaulay Salmon Hatchery is the largest Salmon Hatchery in Southeast Alaska raising over 130 million chum, king, and coho salmon annually. At the Visitor Center, you can see the outside operations of an active hatchery, learn about the fascinating life cycle of salmon and learn about its importance in Alaska.
You can observe adult and baby salmons but also see over 150 local marine species in the various aquariums and touch tanks.
You can visit the hatchery from May to September, and the tickets start at $5/adult and $3/child under 12 years old. For guided tours, there is an extra fee to pay and they are available only at specific times of the year. This attraction is fun, educational and suitable for both kids and adults.
To top off your day, make sure you head out to Juneau downtown to try out some of the Alaskan local specialties: mouth-watering grilled salmon, king crab bisque, hot smoke wings, blueberry cake, and sea salted caramels – the deadliest of Alaskan sweets!
There are no words to describe Alaska and its spectacular beauty, especially for those of you who appreciate nature and its wilderness. If you taking a cruise to Alaska, make sure you plan each day carefully as you don’t want to miss its unique treasures and once-in-a-lifetime experiences that it has to offer.
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Listen to the Complete Guide to Juneau Cruise Port by my friend Roxana Popescu, the exploration expert!