Scenic Seward, flanked by rugged mountains to one side and sparkling Resurrection Bay on the other, has a way of luring visitors. There is fantastic hiking nearby, a quaint downtown, the amazing Alaska SeaLife Center and excellent in-town camping where you can park your vehicle and walk to most attractions.
Located at the terminus of both the Alaska Railroad and the Seward Highway, and an embarkation/disembarkation port for many cruises, this town of 2,619 residents is easily accessible from Anchorage yet can serve as a base for anybody who likes to kayak, hike, fish, whale-watch and glacier-view.
Overshadowing Seward is Mount Marathon, the scene of one of Alaska’s most famous and challenging foot races. A friendly wager in 1909 resulted in this annual 3.1-mile run to the top of the 3,022-foot peak. The race attracts advanced runners from all over the world and is a highlight of Seward’s lively Fourth of July celebration, one of the best in Alaska.
The city also serves as the gateway to Kenai Fjords National Park. Created in 1980, Kenai Fjords spreads over 587,000 acres and is crowned by the massive Harding Ice Field from which countless tidewater glaciers pour down into coastal fjords. The impressive landscape and an abundance of marine wildlife make the park a major tourist attraction. Many visitors take a day cruise along the coast south of Seward to watch glaciers calve into the sea and spot seals, sea lions and whales. Another popular attraction in Kenai Fjords National Park is Exit Glacier, which lies just north of town. This road-accessible glacier offers an impressive up-close view of the glacier along with information and hiking trails.
Seward has a large charter fishing fleet that is well developed to take visitors out into Resurrection Bay and further for some of the best angling of any Kenai Peninsula port. The main catch is silver salmon that start to appear in July in large schools to feed on candlefish in preparation for the spawning runs at the end of August. Other species of interesting to anglers are king salmon and halibut.
The more adventurous can rent a kayak and arrange a drop off deep in the park to spend their afternoons paddling among sea otters and their nights gazing at glaciers. There is also a series of public-use cabins that can be rented in advance. For more information on activities in the park contact Kenai Fjords National Park.
Seward was founded in 1903, when settlers arrived to plot construction of a northbound rail line. By the time the Alaska Railroad was completed in 1923, this ice-free port became the most important shipping terminal on the Kenai Peninsula. The city also served as the southern terminus of the 1,200-mile Iditarod National Historic Trail to Nome, long a major dogsled thoroughfare via the Interior and Bush. Like many towns in Southcentral Alaska, Seward began a new era of history in 1964 after the Good Friday Earthquake caused fires and tidal waves that destroyed 90 percent of the town. One of the only reminders of the natural disaster is in the public library where the slide show covering the earthquake, “Waves Over Seward,” is shown.