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Whittier & Passage Canal from the ferry Aurora.

Whittier & Passage CanalView All Sizes

JOURNAL : August 29, 2010

Ferry from Valdez to Whittier

Alaska > United States

Series Ferry from Valdez to Whittier

One of the best ways to get around Alaska is by boat. Alaska has more coastline than all the continental United States combined and is arguably more majestic to those who appreciate rugged natural scenery. The panoramic mountains often march right up to the shore, dropping ice-melt waterfalls through evergreen forests into the fish-rich waters. Popular excursions include cruises along the Inside Passage, fishing in Prince William Sound (and just about anywhere else), and ferry routes from Bellingham, Washington to the port of Unalaska way out on the Aluetian Islands.

The Valdez Ferry Terminal in Valdez, Alaska

Valdez Ferry TerminalView All Sizes

The Ferry Chenega near Whittier, Alaska

The Ferry ChenegaView All Sizes

Valdez Arm Waterfalls

Valdez Arm WaterfallsView All Sizes

Ship’s Bell of the Aurora

Ship’s Bell of the AuroraView All Sizes

The Alaska Marine Highway System

Getting up to Alaska from the 48 states is facilitated by Alaska's Marine Highway System of mostly vehicle ferries. Some folks drive up through Canada, but it's a very long drive and costly in terms of gas and vehicle wear and tear. This perilous route also has a high risk of accidents due to weather, animal and vehicle collisions. Once both options are added up, they tend to be relatively comparable expenses.

Anchorage to Valdez

By the time we boarded the ferry we had already driven Richardson Highway from Anchorage to Valdez and were looking forward to catching some fish on Kenai Peninsula. Rather than re-trace our route we opted to take this ferry from Valdez to Whittier, which is much more fun than driving anyway. However, it's expensive depending on the vehicle and number of people. Two different ferries operate this route — the M/V Aurora and the newest fast ferry M/V Chenega which hauls ass, vehicles and people up to 32 knots!

Valdez to Whittier

Aurora ran the earliest trip to Whittier that day. Although the previous day in Valdez was sunny and mostly clear, this day started out quite cloudy and didn't clear up until after noon when we started our trip across Kenai Peninsula. Despite the less-than-favorable conditions it was a very enjoyable trip.

Prince William Sound

Tebenkof Glacier and the mouth of Blackstone Bay near Whittier, Alaska

Tebenkof Glacier, Blackstone BayView All Sizes

The Sights and Sea-Nery

Along the way out of Valdez along Valdez Arm are some beautiful waterfalls and lots of wildlife like sea otters, sea lions and various seabirds. Numerous islands are scattered about Prince William Sound. Many were used for fox farming back in the first few decades of this century. Catch a glimpse of massive Columbia Glacier and head past Perry and Esther Islands. Port Wells opens on the right and leads to College Fiord, home of some of the other college-named glaciers like Harvard and Yale Glaciers. Before cruising through Passage Canal the impressive and relatively close Tebenkof Glacier is on the left at the mouth of Blackstone Bay. Passage Canal ends at Whittier, the gateway into Kenai.

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