Ultimate Guide to Traveling From Anchorage to Seward Alaska
Nearly 700 named glaciers, two oceans, some of the biggest, most impressive mountains on Earth, the Northern Lights, incredible wildlife, and hundreds of millions of acres of completely unspoiled land…it’s no wonder that Alaska is a bucket list destination for people all over the world!
With so much to experience, it can be overwhelming planning the best things to do in Alaska. Heck, it can be overwhelming simply deciding what area to visit!
That’s exactly why the 127-mile Anchorage to Seward route, starting in Anchorage and then heading down to the tiny but mighty town of Seward, is so wildly popular.
This option encompasses a major coastal city (the biggest in Alaska!) and one side of the Kenai Peninsula, connected by the Seward Highway, arguably one of the world’s most spectacular scenic drives.
Whether it’s your first visit and you’re planning an epic road trip or you go every year for an Alaskan cruise, this is a fantastic way to see The Last Frontier.
The only way to get to Seward that doesn’t involve a cruise ship is by going through Anchorage, whether you’re flying or driving.
However, there are several transportation options (including some that don’t require you to have your own transportation) and numerous jaw-dropping stops along the way, making the trip from Anchorage to Seward a destination in itself.
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Driving From Anchorage to Seward
Whether you pick up a rental car or road-trip from somewhere else in your own vehicle, driving is one of the most popular travel methods from Anchorage to Seward.
Seward Highway spans 127 miles between the two cities, and every single one is spectacular. You’ll drive by glaciers, Chugach State Park, the Turnagain Arm (and potentially surfers riding the rare bore tide!), viewpoints galore, and probably a few wild animals, so it’s easy to make this road trip an all-day or even overnight affair.
One important thing to be aware of is that summer is road construction season in Alaska. The extra-long days and favorable weather are ideal, but they’re also short-lived, creating a mad dash to get it all done.
Road closures, construction delays, and other traffic issues are 100% the norm during the summer, so pack a lot of patience and brace yourself.
True story: I (Taryn) got stuck for nearly two hours driving from Anchorage to Seward one evening! A mudslide caused extensive road damage and the only way to repair it was to close traffic for 2-3 hour intervals, blast one section, then repeat the process.
Everyone simply stopped on the highway and waited for an escort car to bring us through. The worst part? It was a stretch of highway where there was zero cell reception, and I was less than 10 miles from my destination in Seward!
Speaking of mudslides….they’re a very real concern in Alaska in the summer, especially along roadways during and shortly after heavy rain.
Before hitting the road, check the Alaska Department of Transportation website for current construction projects, road closures or detours, and any weather concerns.
Must-see Stops on the Seward Highway From Anchorage to Seward
Not exaggerating in the slightest, you’ll probably want to stop every 5-10 minutes on the drive from Anchorage to Seward — there are that many things to see!
What really surprised us is that some of the most impressive stops are barely south of Anchorage. With that in mind, you may have to “budget” your stops and plan them out in advance if you’re short on time (speaking from experience here…).
Alaska.org has a fantastic, comprehensive guide and map of nearly 30 stops along the route. For time’s sake, and to ensure we didn’t take the entire weekend driving from Anchorage to Seward, we used this guide to plan about a dozen stops.
We ultimately spent about six hours on the route, which included exploring around the stops and a few short hikes. Here are the highlights, all of which we highly recommend!
- McHugh Creek Recreation Area – small 20-foot waterfall and picnic area a short distance from the parking lot
- Beluga Point – fantastic viewpoint of the Turnagain Arm and, as the name implies, occasionally belugas! The best time to spot them is July and August.
- Bird Creek Access – from July through September, this is one of the best spots to watch silver salmon running
- Girdwood – home of Alaska’s only proper ski resort, Alyeska. Depending on season, ride the Alyeska tram, do some hiking (Virgin Creek Falls is a waterfall hike that requires less than 20 minutes!), or hit the slopes! Girdwood is also a great place to fuel up and grab some road trip snacks.
- Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center – see bears, moose, eagles, elk, porcupines, wolves, and more at this non-profit that houses sick, injured, and otherwise vulnerable wild animals. The center is at Milepost 79 off the Seward Highway, about 50 miles into the route from Anchorage to Seward.
- Portage Glacier/Portage Valley – an outdoor enthusiasts’ playground just across the highway from the wildlife conservation center, with endless things to see and do. Hike or bike the 5-mile Trail of Blue Ice, watch the salmon run, take a boat tour across Portage Lake to see the glacier up-close, or camp overnight
- Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel – drive North America’s longest combined vehicle-train tunnel, near Whittier
- Moose Pass – a teeny, postcard-worthy community 30 miles outside of Seward. Most people use Moose Pass as a launch point for hiking, fishing, and kayaking trips, but don’t miss the unique roadside waterwheel, where you can sharpen a knife, or the Trail Lakes fish hatchery.
- Kenai Lake – look for pullouts and interpretive signs explaining the lake’s history or how it gets that ethereal turquoise blue color
- Exit Glacier – 3.7 miles from Seward, Exit Glacier Road takes you to the namesake glacier, part of the Harding Icefield and Kenai Fjords National Park
Insider tips: have your camera close and ready, and keep your eyes peeled for wildlife (moose and deer on the road, Dall sheep in the mountains, and eagles in the sky). There are also LOTS of places to safely pull over between Anchorage and Seward, so be courteous of other drivers and don’t just stop anywhere.
Need to Rent a Car for the Anchorage to Seward Drive?
This is Alaska; you want a cool rental car! We highly, highly recommend the tricked-out, off road-ready Jeep Wranglers from Arctic Adventure Rentals in Anchorage.
We rented the “Yeti” for our September trip all over the Kenai Peninsula and absolutely did not want to return it! Best of all, it was shockingly affordable (only very slightly more than a traditional rental).
Arctic Adventure Rentals is set up on Turo (more on that below) or, if you want one kitted out with a rooftop tent and camping gear, Outdoorsy. Ours didn’t have the tent setup, but we saw it on other Jeeps and wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it.
If you’re unfamiliar, Turo is essentially the Airbnb of car rentals — you rent a vehicle from a person, rather than a big company. There’s a lot more flexibility with Turo versus a traditional rental car company, the vehicles are far cooler, and sometimes prices are significantly better.
For those who prefer a more traditional rental, we recommend searching RentalCars.com, which allows you to quickly and easily compare rates across most major companies.
Anchorage to Seward Private Transfers
If you like the idea of driving from Anchorage to Seward in a “regular” vehicle but don’t necessarily want to drive yourself, a private transfer is the next-closest thing.
Private transfer services typically pick passengers up from their hotel/accommodation or the airport and drop them off at their requested destination. It’s far from the most affordable option, but it’s one of the fastest, most convenient, and almost completely stress-free.
You’ll find each company to be extremely similar in terms of offerings and pricing, so we recommend doing a bit of research and picking your favorite.
We highly recommend Alaska Exquisite Travel because its one-way transfers include a stop at Exit Glacier and several photo-ops, plus an optional lunch stop (not included in the cost). Be sure to bring cash to (generously!) tip!
Anchorage to Seward by Train | Alaska Railroad
In the summer months, traveling from Anchorage to Seward by train is incredibly popular. Who wouldn’t want to ride on the iconic Alaska Railroad?!
Anchorage to Seward train highlights
Season: daily service mid-May through late September
Length of trip: 4.5 hours
Cost: starting at $119 one-way for Adventure Class and $243 one-way for GoldStar Service, which includes meals and drinks (yes, the adult kind, too!) and has glass-dome cars
Departure depot: 411 West 1st Avenue, Anchorage, AK 99501
Arrival depot: 408 Port Avenue, Seward, AK 99664 (near the small boat harbor)
The Anchorage to Seward train route is appropriately called the Coastal Classic, traveling alongside the Turnagain Arm and Cook Inlet for over an hour.
From there, you’ll head through the Chugach National Forest into the Kenai Mountains, passing by several glaciers and historic tunnels along the way, most of which you cannot see unless you ride the train.
It takes about 4.5 hours to get from Anchorage to Seward on the Coastal Classic, and the train runs daily from mid-May through late September. There’s one early-morning departure to Seward daily, and the train returns to Anchorage every evening.
The Seward rail depot is within easy walking distance of the main harbor, the launch point for cruises and other tours. This makes it easy to plan a day trip to Seward even without your own vehicle!
Here are a few things to do in Seward in one day (or even a few hours!):
- Take a Kenai Fjords cruise through Resurrection Bay
- Go on a scenic helicopter flight over glaciers (depending on weather, some companies offer the option to land on a glacier!)
- Visit Exit Glacier in Kenai Fjords National Park
- Go to the Alaska SeaLife Center
- Hike the easygoing, family-friendly Two Lakes Trail right in town or the 4.2-mile loop to Tonsina Point, which takes you to a secluded beach
Like other popular trains including the Royal Gorge Route Railroad, riding the Anchorage to Seward train also allows you to get up and walk around, enjoy snacks and drinks, and soak up the scenery without having to focus on the road.
One-way adult fares are listed above, and fares for children 2-11 are about half the cost. There are slight discounts for round-trip travel, as well as for “value season,” which includes May and September (after Labor Day).
Getting From Anchorage to Seward by Bus
Taking a luxury coach bus from Anchorage to Seward is by far the most affordable option. One-way fares start at $75 and the trip takes right around three hours.
Seward Bus Line
Offering year-round service, Seward Bus Line runs from Anchorage to Seward and back once daily. The bus leaves Anchorage at 2:00 pm each day and arrives in Seward at 5:00 pm, then returns to Anchorage at 9:30 am.
Seward Bus Line operates seven days a week in the winter, and six days a week (closed Sundays) from September 16 through April 30.
For an additional $10, passengers can be picked up/dropped off at any Anchorage hotels or rental car companies, or the Anchorage airport.
Park Connection Motorcoach
The Park Connection Motorcoach offers two daily departures from Anchorage to Seward in the summer season (mid-May through mid-September). The Seward Express leaves Anchorage at 7:00 am, while the Park to Park train departs at 3:00 pm.
There are also two daily return trips, but Seward Express is the only one offering a day trip option, giving passengers eight hours in Seward before returning to Anchorage. Rates are $75 one-way.
The Park to Park train runs from Seward all the way up to Denali (hence the name), so it’s easy to check both these Alaska national parks off your bucket list even without renting a car!
Quick note: if you’re going on an Alaska cruise, your cruise line likely has its own bus transportation in place. Several operators run from Anchorage to Seward on a schedule based specifically around the ships. Check with your cruise line before booking one of these bus options!
Flying to Seward
Although Seward technically has its own airport, it’s exclusively for private/charter flights. That means for the vast majority of people, the closest you can get to Seward on a plane is flying into Ted Stevens International Airport in Anchorage.
Once you land, you can use any one of the transportation methods detailed in this guide to travel from Anchorage to Seward.
Getting Around Seward
Seward is compact (21.5 square miles, with 7 of them made up of water!), which makes it pretty easy to get around with or without a rental vehicle.
Most of the city’s popular attractions and hotspots are within one mile of the Seward Boat Harbor, so walking or biking is an excellent option in many cases.
Seward Free Shuttle
Between early May and mid-September, Seward City Tours operates the Seward Free Shuttle. It runs every day from 10:00 am – 7:00 pm, except on cruise ship days, when it starts at 8:00 am.
The shuttle makes a 5-mile loop around town, stopping at 14 locations roughly every 30 minutes. The only shuttle stop with a set schedule is the Seward Military Resort, where the free shuttle stops at 10:00 am, 2:00 pm, and 5:00 pm.
Look for the blue Shuttle Stop signs around town and the white Seward City Tours buses with red and yellow letters spelling out FREE SHUTTLE on the sides. The company also offers city tours, so only the designated free shuttle vehicles run the shuttle route.
Seward Hotel Shuttles
In addition to the Seward free shuttle, several hotels and tour operators in town also run their own complimentary shuttles, in particular to the cruise terminal, Alaska Railroad depot, and harbor.
Seward hotels with free shuttles
- Harbor 360 Hotel – to and from the Alaska Railroad depot, Central Harbor, and cruise terminal
- Trailhead Lodging – several stops throughout town and to Exit Glacier, seven days a week from 10:00 am – 7:00 pm (8:00 am – 7:00 pm on cruise ship days) May 20-September 20
- Resurrection Lodge on the Bay – on-demand shuttle with 1-3 days advance notice
Driving around Seward
For those driving themselves from Anchorage to Seward, there’s plenty of street parking available in the downtown core and along the waterfront.
There are also several pay lots throughout the city (see map HERE), including four that easily accommodate RVs and two with public restrooms. The Center Lot, right between 4th Avenue and the harbor, offers two hours of free parking but does not allow RVs or vehicles over 19 feet.
Taxis and rideshares in Seward
You won’t find Uber or Lyft readily available, if at all, in Seward — but between the city’s walkability, free shuttles, and hotel shuttles, you won’t miss them. If you do need a quick ride, you’ll typically find a steady stream of taxis waiting just outside the cruise ship terminal.
Biking around Seward
Bicycling is one of the best ways to get around Seward! There’s the beautiful paved 2-mile Waterfront Bike Path running alongside Resurrection Bay, plus countless epic trails weaving in and around the city. You can even ride the whole way to Exit Glacier!
To rent a variety of bikes and get advice on the best places to ride, stop into the Seward Bike Shop (open April through September).
And if you want to get accustomed to your rental before hitting any trails, visit the Seward Community Bike Park.
Luggage storage in Seward
Luggage storage is extremely common in Seward, since many visitors arrive via cruise ship or train, then take the opposite later in the day.
For example, some people come into Seward on a cruise ship and then head up to Anchorage later via train or bus. Or vice-versa, some folks travel from Anchorage to Seward without a personal vehicle and then take a cruise out of Seward.
There’s also the fact that most visitors arrive early in the day but most hotels and vacation rentals don’t allow check-in until late afternoon.
Your best bet, of course, is to find out if you can drop your luggage off directly at your hotel, rental house, or cruise ship a bit early.
The bus and railroad depots also hold luggage for passengers and if none of those work or they’re too complicated logistically, you can also ask your tour operator. Be sure to bring some cash for tipping (we recommend $5 per bag)!
Anchorage to Seward Multi-Day Guided Tour
If you’d rather leave the logistics of traveling from Anchorage to Seward to someone else (and a cruise isn’t necessarily your style), consider booking a multi-day guided tour!
This option gives you 1.5 days each in Seward and Denali National Park, hitting all the highlights, plus a TON of extras in between.
The tour allows for lots of time to explore on your own, including experiences such as seeing Exit Glacier and several other glaciers, riding the Alyeska tram, going on a Kenai Fjords National Park cruise, visiting with the renowned Denali dog sled team, panning for gold, hiking or fishing, and so much more!
It’s a bit pricey, yes, but let’s be honest: Alaska as a whole is spendy! This tour covers a LOT of ground, well beyond Anchorage to Seward, and all you have to do is sit back and enjoy the scenery (literally!)! Hotels, transfers, and most meals are included.
Best Things to Do in Seward
Whether you only have a day or you’re in town for a long weekend, here are some of the top things to do in Seward.
- Experience active glaciers, whales, and marine wildlife on a Kenai Fjords National Park cruise. We took the 6-hour (the exact tour linked!) and highly recommend it, as you go further and see more glaciers than the 4-hour tour!
- Hike to Exit Glacier, one of the most accessible in Alaska (and unfortunately, one of the most rapidly receding – truly, go experience it while you can!). There are numerous moderate trails to view the glacier from various distances, but for a once in a lifetime experience, book a guided tour to hike ON Exit Glacier!
- Treat yourself to the Salmon Dip (trust us!) and a bowl of chowder at The Highliner
- Take a hike. Check out Two Lakes Trail, Tonsina Point, or the super-challenging (and locals’ favorite!) Mount Marathon. For the truly adventurous, check out long-abandoned Fort McGilvray along Caines Head Trail (note that low tide is required to hike in AND out, or you’ll get stranded. Camping or renting a Forest Service cabin is highly recommended!)
- Get up close and personal with unique marine wildlife at the Alaska SeaLife Center
- Experience getting around via water taxi! You can go virtually anywhere, but popular destinations include Bear Glacier, Caines Head, and Kayakers Cove.
- Go fishing. Whether you try your luck with silver salmon in the Kenai River or go out with a charter for halibut or King Salmon, many people travel from Anchorage to Seward just for this experience!
- Cozy up with a coffee and baked-in-house treat at Resurrect Art Coffee House & Gallery
- Explore Resurrection Bay in a kayak! The water in the bay is calm enough even for beginners, but booking a guided kayaking tour is highly recommended (sea kayaking in Alaska’s frigid waters is nothing like paddling around a lake in your hometown!)
- Try a blueberry brat from the Wild Spoon food truck
- Take a jaw-dropping helicopter flight over Godwin or Bear Glacier (and depending on the weather, possibly touch down and walk around!)
- Play musher for a day by going dog sledding, meeting a real Iditarod musher, and touring a kennel
- Go river rafting down the Resurrection River with Kenai Backcountry Adventures
Where to Stay in Seward Alaska
Regardless of your budget or preferred lodging type, there are several fantastic options for where to stay in Seward.
- Hotel Seward – A historic family-run hotel in a fantastic location downtown, within a 3-minute walk of Resurrection Bay, Seward Waterfront Park, and the Alaska SeaLife Center (and The Highliner!)
- Resurrection Lodge on the Bay – If your heart is set on staying on the water, this is hands down the best place to stay in Seward! It’s just south of downtown in the Lowell Point area, and offers a variety of room types, all with continental breakfast, a free shuttle, and unbeatable views.
- Harbor 360 Hotel – Waterfront, pet-friendly accommodations overlooking Resurrection Bay, with an indoor pool and hot tub, strong wi-fi, free parking, and continental breakfast
- Trailhead Lodging – A no-frills lodge that helps you feel more like a local and less like a tourist, with onsite laundry, strong wi-fi, and a free shuttle. It’s also right next to Resurrect Art Coffee House!
- Exit Glacier Lodge – Perfectly situated between Seward and Exit Glacier, and right across from the renowned Salmon Bake restaurant (the one with the famous tagline “Cheap beer and lousy food”)
Seward Vacation Rentals
- The Vue B&B – Ultra modern vacation rental offering complimentary self-serve breakfast, wi-fi, and onsite parking in the heart of town
- Sea Treasures Inn – Choose from four private guest rooms or a two-bedroom house with a full kitchen, within a two-minute walk of both the waterfront and downtown. Highlights include a garden, BBQ grills, free continental breakfast, and wi-fi.
- Clear Creek Cabin – Near Exit Glacier, this brand new log cabin has two bedrooms, an oversized patio, and wi-fi, plus is close to The Pit bar
Unique Stays in Seward
- Nauti Otter Inn & Yurt Village – Part hostel, part glamping stay, and a whole lot of Alaskan charm, this is one of the most unique places to stay in Seward. There are two locations, the original “inn” with hostel-style rooms and rustic cabins, and the yurt village, with about a dozen yurts, complete with electricity, heat, and bear deterrents (hey, when in Alaska!), each accommodating 2-4 people.
- Orca Island Cabins – This splurge-worthy, bucket list stay in a luxury yurt on Orca Island includes round-trip water taxi transportation, unlimited use of kayaks, paddleboards, and fishing gear, and a kitchen to prepare your own meals. DREAMY!
Camping in Seward
- Resurrection & Resurrection South Campgrounds – Right along the waterfront, and the only official Seward Municipal campground with RV hookups (electric only)
- Millers Landing – Oceanfront or wooded campsites in the gorgeous Lowell Point area with hot showers, electric hookups, fish cleaning station, and a camp store
- Seward KOA Journey – Situated perfectly between Seward and Exit Glacier along the Resurrection River, this KOA is big rig-friendly and has great amenities including a dog park, laundry, game room, and heated shower floors
- Stoney Creek RV Park – Luxury RV park six miles north of Seward offering oversized sites, wi-fi, showers, and full hookups alongside a babbling creek
So, there you have it — the ultimate guide to traveling from Anchorage to Seward, plus some of the amazing things you should do once you get there! Have you ever been to Seward or Anchorage, or any other parts of Alaska? What was your favorite part?
If you enjoyed this guide, please share it to help others discover it as well. Thanks for reading, and safe travels!