Every Alaska town is surrounded by spectacular natural beauty. But it’s their determinedly individual and often quirky nature, combined with a hardworking ethic, that kicks into overdrive during our long summer days that really makes them special.

boats in the harbor beneath clouds in a blue sky

The harbor in Seward, Alaska. Photo © choja/iStock.

Southeast Alaska

Petersburg was founded by Norwegian fishermen. It remains a hardworking fishing community to this day, and visitors love that authenticity and the lack of the glitzy shops that often accompany cruise ports.

Ketchikan houses the state’s highest concentration of totem poles and an impressive stretch of local shops and artists overlooking picturesque Creek Street, where the historical houses stand on stilts over the water.

Sitka is a beautiful port city with locally owned shops, great fishing and whale-watching, and a phenomenal historical park where you can walk the trails among totem poles or visit with Alaska Native artisans as they demonstrate their art. Don’t forget to visit the many historical Russian buildings in town too, which are maintained as mini museums.

red houses lining a hill backed by pine trees

Waterfront homes in Petersburg, Alaska. Photo © JPrescott/iStock.

Southcentral Alaska

Valdez is one of the most pleasant small towns in Alaska, with some of the state’s prettiest scenery, biggest history and friendliest people all in one place. This is as close as you can get to rural Alaska without leaving the road system.

Homer packs some of the state’s best artists, food, and fishing all into one place, along with the highest density of water taxis that I’ve ever seen. The small, isolated seaside communities of Seldovia and Halibut Cove are just a short boat ride away (click here).

Seward is sometimes characterized as “a drinking town with a fishing problem.” For many visitors, it’s the perfect mix of tourist amenities, beautiful seaside scenery, and just a few city comforts. There are also some interesting World War II artifacts within a short boat ride and hike of the town.

waterfront homes surrounded by mountains in Homer

Homer, Alaska. Photo © Matt Grimaldi/iStock.

Interior Alaska

Talkeetna remains the idealized standard of quirky Alaska towns. Visitors often come here just to wander Main Street, but don’t miss out on a chance to ride the fabled Hurricane Turn Train or take a flightseeing trip around 20,210-foot Denali.

Southwest Alaska

Kodiak feels like a gritty big city set in island paradise—but if you love fishing or bears, this charming town, with clusters of wonderful shops and restaurants, is the place to be. The helicopter flightseeing over Alaska’s Emerald Isle is absolutely breathtaking.

Arctic Alaska

Nome, the most cosmopolitan town in the region, is worth a visit to see the Iditarod finish in March. By summer, this is a lovely community for birding and driving the scenic roads.


Excerpted from the First Edition of Moon Alaska.