The Alaska State Ferry, part of the Alaska Marine Highway System (AHMS), is the perfect way to get to Ketchikan as well as exploring other amazing cities on the Alaskan coast. Whether you're traveling by foot, bicycle, motorcycle, car, motor home or even kayak, you can do so on the Alaska ferry system. Wave goodbye to stress as you let someone else do the driving for a while! Have your camera ready as you will see some of the most beautiful coastline in the world.
Check out my Top 10 Alaska Ferry System Travel Tips
Travel on the Alaska State Ferry
The trip of a lifetime for those who like comfortable adventure.
I have had the opportunity to travel on the ferry multiple times and each time I am simply amazed at the stunning beauty,
incredible wildlife viewing, and fun I've had aboard the ferry. I've made life-long friends from striking up conversations
with other passengers - many from all over the world. Of course, I have also learned a lot since that first trip and have created a
'Top 10 ferry travel secrets' - don't forget to read them!
To get to Ketchikan, you need to take the Inside Passage Route. The Inside Passage Route begins in Bellingham with stops in Prince Rupert, Ketchikan, Skagway, Haines, Juneau, Hoonah, Tenakee, Angoon, Sitka, Kake, Petersburg, and Wrangell.
The Alaska State Ferry Inside Passage Route Map
To arrive in Ketchikan from Washington or Canada, your only two options are to either begin in Bellingham, Washington or Prince Rupert, BC, Canada. The price difference between the two is pretty substantial and many travelers choose to drive to Prince Rupert and begin their Alaskan Ferry trip there instead of beginning in Bellingham, WA.
The trip from Bellingham, Washington to Ketchikan takes approx 38 hours while the trip from Prince Rupert, BC is only about 6 hours long.
Check out all the stops on the Alaska Marine Highway System!
One of the major advantages of cruising on the Alaska Ferry System is the option to bring a vehicle. When my former husband and I first visited Ketchikan we drove our VW Westfalia from Mexico, into Canada and began our Alaska Ferry trip leaving Prince Rupert, Canada. We loved the fact that traveling on the ferry was so easy and versatile. No matter where we wanted to go, we could either reach our destination or get close enough to drive the rest of the way through the ferry.
Traveling with a vehicle is incredibly easy. I have nad nothing but positive experiences with booking the ferry, the workers at the ferry terminals, the calm & patient workers in the ferry that helped everyone park, and the workers inside the ferry.
Pets are welcome aboard the ferry but must remain on the car deck while underway. However, you are given the opportunity to visit with them several times per day during extended sailing legs.
A small fee is charged for pets traveling from Bellingham, WA ($40) or Prince Rupert, BC ($20), but pets travel free to all other ports in Alaska. Service animals accompanying a disabled person travel free.
Your pet must have a health certificate with proof of current rabies vaccination, issued within 30 days of travel. If you're traveling through Canada, proof of a rabies vaccination within the last three years is required, but passengers should check directly with Canadian customs for additional information.
Fares are based on distance, so the further you travel, the higher the fare. The costs are 'a la carte' so depending on the number of people traveling, the vehicle and its size, where you're going and where you want to sleep will determine the total cost. This way you can tailor your costs to your budget! As an example, two people traveling one-way from Bellingham, WA to Ketchikan is approx $500 (in the middle of the summer). Add a vehicle (like our VW Westfalia) and you'll add another $500. Add a cabin for another approx $250-350. It can be quite costly if you go for all the bells and whistles or quite inexpensive if you go for just the fare. Either way, the experience can't be replicated. It's simply amazing!
For detailed pricing, the online reservation tool is easy to use and can give you exact costs. Be sure to check for discounts & special fares offered or, may I suggest, an Alaska Cruise through the inside passage.
First check the online schedules here. Enter the date you wish to travel and it will return the closest date to your selection. Explore the other options to find your favorite!
OR....simply make an online reservation now on the Alaska State Ferry website.
If you prefer, you can call either (800) 642-0066 or (907) 465-3941 to have a reservation specialist assist you with your booking.
Be sure to know the length, height, & width of your vehicle before you make a reservation - don't guess! The vehicles will be measured by Alaska State Ferry personnel! You will also need to provide the full name, date of birth, & citizenship of each passenger and, if traveling to or from Prince Rupert, their passport information.
Oh, and just for fun....did you know....the Alaska State ferries are often called the 'poor man's cruise ship' as they make stops in the same ports as the cruise ships and you can literally jump on with a tent & sleeping bag and spend your nights on the sundeck cruising up and down the Alaska coast!
Camping on the deck of the Alaska State Ferries
AND...The Society of American Travel Writers recently named Blue Canoes of the Alaska State Ferry System one of the Top 10 most exciting ferry rides in the world! It's worth mentioning, even if it isn't the Inside Passage route. :-)
Yep! That's the fun of it! You decide where you want to go and how long you want to be there. Just be sure to reserve the car and cabin space! If you're just heading to Ketchikan you will have a direct run from Prince Rupert but may be stopping in Prince Rupert if you leave from Bellingham.
If you're traveling without a car and don't need a cabin, space is almost always available. But cabins and space for your car are booked quickly. I'd recommend you book 2-3 months in advance (especially for travel during the summer!) to ensure you get your preferred travel dates.
The Alaska State Ferry is one of the most rewarding experiences of all of my travels in and around Ketchikan. Don't miss it! Enjoy your trip... :-)
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