Inside Passage: Petersburg to Juneau

Did you know Juneau used to be called Harrisburg? Two gold prospectors named Harris and Juneau founded the town back in the late 1800s, but Harris “fell out of favor” with the locals and they changed the name.

As is the case with almost every single town in Southeast Alaska, Juneau has no roads leading into it. And it’s the state capital. It took almost eight hours to sail on the M/V Matanuska from Petersburg to Juneau. Finally, finally, finally the seas were calm and the skies were clear. In fact, it was so calm, we had glassy waters for several hours. With snow-capped mountains, glaciers, and icebergs all around, it almost felt as if we were gliding over ice.

The occasional humpback whale, orca, or porpoise would briefly break the surface and cause all kinds of commotion on the ship. I found the best way to get one to come up for air was to turn my back and head inside. I couldn’t believe the several times I missed seeing one. Eventually I saw a couple of whale tails in the air, even if none of them completely breached their entire body.  We passed Admiralty Island, home to some 1,600 brown bears, but I didn’t see a single one. I am slowly learning it takes special (i.e. pricey) tours to get some of those “NatGeo-worthy” photos. Nevertheless, it was an incredible sailing through an amazing part of the U.S., and to a pretty scenic capital city.

Juneau sits right on the Gastineau Channel, surrounded by massive mountains and glaciers. I stayed at a campground just a few minutes from the famous Mendenhall Glacier, about 15 minutes from downtown. Downtown can be a little touristy, especially when the cruise ships are in town, but it has a charm about it. I did some whale watching at the Shrine of St. Therese (actually I should say “I watched for whales, but didn’t see any”), rode the Mount Roberts Tramway, did some hiking overlooking the city, ate at the Red Dog Saloon, and saw the Alaska Governor’s Mansion. If you ever find yourself in Southeast Alaska, be sure to make it to Juneau. But–and this is a big one–there isn’t a single 18-hole regulation golf course around! So, golfing in Alaska waits for yet another day.

Inside Passage
Inside Passage
Inside Passage
Inside Passage
Inside Passage
Inside Passage
Inside Passage
Inside Passage
Inside Passage
Inside Passage
Inside Passage
Inside Passage
Inside Passage
Inside Passage
Inside Passage
Inside Passage
Inside Passage
Inside Passage
Whale's tail
Whale's tail
Inside Passage
Inside Passage
Arriving in Juneau
Arriving in Juneau
Arriving in Juneau
Arriving in Juneau
Inside Passage
Inside Passage
Mendenhall Glacier
Mendenhall Glacier
Mendenhall Glacier
Mendenhall Glacier
Mendenhall Glacier
Mendenhall Glacier
Mendenhall Glacier
Mendenhall Glacier
Red Dog Saloon
Red Dog Saloon
Red Dog Saloon
Red Dog Saloon
Mount Roberts Tramway
Mount Roberts Tramway
Downtown Juneau
Downtown Juneau
Downtown Juneau
Downtown Juneau
"Beach" weather
Shrine of St Therese
Shrine of St Therese
Inside Passage
Inside Passage
Alaska Governor's Mansion
Alaska Governor's Mansion
View from Mount Roberts Tramway
View from Mount Roberts Tramway
View from Mount Roberts Tramway
View from Mount Roberts Tramway
Injured bald eagle
Injured bald eagle
Hiking through snow above Juneau
Hiking through snow above Juneau
  • Stunning photos!

  • That first pictures really shows what you’re describing about the water looking like ice, it’s an amazing pictures, like most of your photos.

    The closest I have ever come to being in a tramway is those mini ones they have at La Ronde (the six flags amusement park in Montreal). I’m not sure my wife would make it on one of those, but I’m definitely down!

  • Stephanie

    Impressive pics and believe me, nat geo type photos are VERY hard to get. I have a few friends in the photography and videography field and they sit and wait a really long time to get the photos they do.  Enjoy the rest of your trip and see you soon!