Getaway presenter Catriona Rowntree shares 10 things she loves about Alaska.
1. This is the second time I’ve been to Alaska... the first time I went with my husband, our first holiday post honeymoon so we still had that romantic glow. Most recently on this trip for Getaway, though, there were lots of grandparents with their grandchildren and solo travellers too. Alaska is a winner all round and gets even better when you extend your trip to discover more of the US’s biggest state.
2. I didn’t know before I got there... how seriously the locals take their fish. If you are into your fishing, I recommend asking for Captain Pat, of Sportfishing Adventures in Ketchikan, he helped me to catch three salmon at the same time! Oh, and then he hand fed a wild eagle on the way back to shore. Talk about a bonus!
3. The stand-out attraction for me is... the laid-back attitude of the locals. Do not pack stilettos for this trip! Everyone is just so relaxed, up for a chat and if you’re up for a bit of adventure they’ll chat even more. The locals are wild in the most wonderful way.
4. The best local food is... either the fish you caught yourself or any kind of chowder. I ate it every day: the freshest of fish, whipped into a scrumptious soup. Alaskans take their coffee very seriously too, maybe they need the jolt to get out into the cold but coffee lovers will be smiling around these parts.
5. The most fun I had on location was... in Juneau. I didn’t think we could be more excited than having whales breach right in front of us, only 20 minutes from the shore, but when we decided to head to the Mendenhall Glacier soon after we spotted bears just roaming through the neighbourhoods. They were literally coming out of the woods, wandering across the road and into locals’ front gardens and no one seemed to bat an eyelid... Like having a bear knock on your front door is a completely normal experience... I loved that.
6. The best place to meet the locals is... in an outdoor clothing store. They take camping and outdoor adventure shopping to a whole new level here. Look for Big Ray’s in Fairbanks, it’s on two levels. I tried on every fur hat, took photos of the snow boots and walked out looking like an Ice Road Trucker. My hubby now wears the hat on cold days back on our farm and I find it strangely attractive.
7. Get away from the tourist crowds at... your own peril. I’m serious, this place is wild. You don’t walk through the woods yelling “yo bear” without good reason. However, I do recommend keeping the lights off at night in order to appreciate the Northern Lights – rare to see, but we all live in hope.
8. The best thing to pack for this destination is... layers, and nothing too formal. I’m thinking checked shirt, jeans, solid walking shoes and a great all-weather jacket. All of which you can buy on arrival at Big Rays!
9. Don’t forget... to add on extra days before and after a cruise to enjoy Canada (love the Yukon), sample the Arctic Circle. There’s so much more to Alaska than just a cruise, albeit an awesome one at that.
10. On my next visit... I’d want to spend more time on those side trips. I just loved the Yukon, having a Sour Toe Cocktail in Dawson (long story, just do it), I wish I’d had more coffee time in Vancouver. I just can’t wait to return.