Southeastern Alaska is sometimes called the Alaska "panhandle". It consists of a thin strip of land and islands between Canada's British Columbia and the northern Pacific Ocean. It includes the Inside Passage, a series of waterways largely protected from the Pacific by islands, providing a safer sea route up and down the coast.
Because of the rugged coastal mountains surrounding Southeast Alaska, only three SE Alaskan communities (Haines, Skagway, and Hyder) are connected by road through Canada to the lower 48 states. All the other SE Alaskan cities, including those on the mainland, are effectively "island" cities, reachable only by air or by sea.
- 1 Yakutat – Gateway to Hubbard Glacier
- 2 Pelican – settlement on Chichagof Island
- 3 Gustavus – Gateway to Glacier Bay National Park
- 4 Skagway – Old mining town rich in history, is also the main link to the Alcan highway and Whitehorse, BC. Home of the White Pass & Yukon Railroad.
- 5 Haines – eco-friendly historical town, popular with hikers, fisherman, rafters, and snowmobilers. Connection to Alcan highway. Few cruise ships visit Haines making it more quaint.
- 6 Juneau – State capital and third largest city. Home to Mendenhall Glacier & a handful of museums. Popular cruise ship port.
- 7 Hoonah – small native Alaskan village, home to Icy Strait Point, which is a cruise-tourism attraction offering the worlds longest zip-line and bear watching tours.
- 8 Sitka – A popular stop for ferries and few cruise ships, rich in Russian colonial history. Site of 1867 handover from Russia to USA.
- 9 Petersburg – fishing village with a strong Norwegian heritage on Mitkof Island
- 10 Wrangell – Gateway to the Stikine River, on Wrangell Island
- 11 Thorne Bay – accessible via float plane and ferry from Ketchikan. A beautiful place with great fishing and good lodging available
- 12 Hyder – easternmost settlement in Alaska; isolated, only accessible by road from Stewart, BC. You can't travel to anywhere in the United States from Hyder. There are no border controls for the U.S. if you cross into Hyder. If you go back into Canada there is one, so bring a passport at all times. They unofficially use the time zone of British Columbia, use Canadian dollars, use Canadian phone numbers, and use Canadian fire and ambulance services. You can fly to Ketchikan from a seaplane base, but you need a passport when you arrive in Ketchikan.
- 13 Ketchikan – Alaska's southernmost and fourth largest city, gateway to Alaska for northbound travelers on inside passage. Very popular cruise ship port.
- 1 Glacier Bay National Park – dynamic change in the wake of dramatic glacial movements
- 2 Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park – Gold! Headlines read in 1897, starting the rush north to Alaska
- 3 Misty Fiords National Monument and Wilderness – a segment of coastal temperate rainforest
- 4 Sitka National Historical Park – Alaska's oldest federally designated park was established in 1910 to commemorate the 1804 Battle of Sitka
- 5 Funter Bay
- 6 Alexander Archipelago – a group of 1,100 islands.
Due to the physical terrain and the lack of contiguous roads, getting in by air or by sea are the only ways for travelers to reach the southeastern region and for locals to receive mail, food, supplies, vehicles and other needed items (by air, ferry or barge).
- Alaska Airlines connects Anchorage and Seattle to multiple cities/towns in southeastern Alaska in a point to point routing paradigm called the "milk run" between Seattle, Juneau and Anchorage. Some of their flights are more direct to Juneau (JNU IATA), while others include additional cities/towns in a point to point paradigm, from Anchorage or Seattle. Except Juneau not all cities/towns are included on the same schedule. Other destinations included on the "milk run" are Gustavus (GST IATA), Ketchikan (KTN IATA), Petersburg (PSG IATA), Sitka (SIT IATA), Wrangell (WRG IATA), and Yakutat (YAK IATA) as a means to get around the region by air. See schedules.
- Skywest dba Delta Connection and Delta Airlines only serves Juneau, Sitka and Ketchikan from Seattle, seasonally in the summer.
- Air Canada Express goes up to Prince Rupert from Vancouver where passengers continue north by ferry. (See below)
- The Alaska Marine Highway System connects the southeast from Prince Rupert BC and Bellingham WA on two separate routes and is the primary way of getting around via the Inside Passage. During the summer they offer onward sailing across the Gulf of Alaska to/from Prince William Sound and the Kenai Peninsula in South Central Region. The vessels are capable of carrying vehicles.
There is very close to no overland access from outside the region, meaning that for all practical purposes, the panhandle might as well be an island. Due to the high fjords and rocky shorelines, there are very few roads in this part of Alaska. Most villages are linked by State funded ferry service - The Alaska Marine Highway, as well as seaplane and land plane service.
Juneau is the hub for the Alaska Marine Highway System, offering frequent trips to Haines, Skagway, and Sitka; with less frequent ferries to Petersburg, Wrangell, and Ketchikan. Many smaller villages get service only once or twice a month. Haines & Skagway have links to the Alcan Highway, and many travelers opt to drive to these two points to catch the daily ferry to Juneau and then on to other destinations; Prince Rupert also has frequent ferry service (3 times a week) to Ketchikan and Juneau. Ferry service from Bellingham links most of the larger villages/towns, however it only operates twice a month in the winter and three times a month in the summer; space fills up quickly so reservations need to be made far in advance.
Haines Skagway Fast Ferry (HSFF). makes the :45m passage through Taiya Inlet of Lynn Canal, between Haines and Skagway on a passenger only vessel. It is NOT part of the Alaska Highway System and operated by a private company.
Interisland Ferry Authority. connects Hollis on Prince of Wales Island to Ketchikan (nearest port for the Alaska Marine Highway System)
- Mendenhall Glacier – free to the public (visitors center has a small entry charge) this is one of the most visited glaciers in the world. Explore the miles of trails around Mendenhall Lake, or get up close by hiking the West Glacier trail. Located in Juneau.
- Mount Roberts Tram – take Southeast's only tram up nearly 2,000 feet above Juneau and enjoy breathtaking views, wine & dine at the restaurant, or hike one of the many trails accessible from the tram at the top. Located in Juneau.
- 1 Icy Strait Point. – located in Hoonah
Juneau has a few popular bars, notably the Viking, Imperial, and Alaskan – all of which are open year round. The Red Dog Saloon, however, is the most popular but is only open during the busy summer season.