Although short, a road trip from Anchorage to Seward can take the whole weekend. In fact, in this part of Alaska, the main focus is not on driving, but exploring the best destinations along the Seward Highway.
Last updated: October 14, 2021
Anchorage to Seward Road Trip and Top Destinations along Seward Highway
For most people, any road trip includes driving from one destination to another, exploring roadside attractions along the way. Given this description, our adventure in southern Alaska, between Anchorage and Seward, was hard to call the road trip. Instead, it looked like a series of short excursions from the largest city in Alaska, each of which covering several destinations along the Seward Highway at a time.
The truth is, we were not in a rush to drive the entire route in one day. Discovery of the long-coveted state guided us. With only 4 days on our hands, we based ourselves in Anchorage, booked a half-day Kenai Fjords boat tour, and turned the longer road trip from Anchorage to Seward into several shorter excursions.
And even though we drove the entire route several times over the next few days, each trip included different destinations and attractions to dive deeper into.
What is Seward Highway?
Paved all the way through. Convenient to drive along in rain and snow. Perfect for a weekend road trip from Anchorage to Seward. Adorned with gorgeous vistas and the inspiring places to explore along the way… The Seward Highway makes travel in southern Alaska easy, enjoyable, and convenient.
The route starts in Anchorage, at the intersection with 5th Avenue, and stretches all the way to Seward, located 127 miles away. Technically, the Seward Highway consists of two routes. The distance between Anchorage and the Sterling Highway, at Tern Lake Junction, is known as Alaska Route 1. The remaining part of the highway runs along Alaska Route 9.
All in all, it’s the same road, with exactly the same roadside landmarks. Therefore, keep in mind these name peculiarities when you travel between Anchorage and Seward next time. The last thing you want is to get lost on the road and drive back and forth in search of the right route.
Overall, the road trip from Anchorage to Seward takes about 2 hours 25 minutes. Yet it’s highly doubtable to fit the entire excursion into this time frame, especially if it’s your first time driving on the Seward Highway. A profusion of the irresistible destinations dot the area, alluring you to make one stop after another.
But let’s now jump into what you can and should see while road-tripping from Anchorage to Seward.
THE BEST PLACES TO EXPLORE DURING ROAD TRIP FROM ANCHORAGE TO SEWARD, ALASKA
Stop 1: Anchorage – the First Road Trip Destination on the Way to Seward
When it comes to the road trip between Anchorage and Seward, the Alaska’s biggest city becomes an apparent place to start the adventure. Its convenient location along with one of the four international airports in the state makes it a winner.
Leaving all the logistics behind, though, the city is full of surprises on its own. From rich cultural heritage preserved in the Anchorage Museum to a plethora of outdoor adventures in and near the city, the place promise an unforgettable start of the Anchorage – Seward road trip.
Furthermore, with a large number of hotels to choose from, Anchorage is the best place in the area to call home for a weekend. Being more specific, we called the Residence Inn by Marriott Anchorage Midtown our home away from home for the duration of this extended road trip.
Stop 2: Beluga Point
Nestled south of Anchorage, Beluga Point stopped us in our tracks on an early morning drive. The remarkable spot with dramatic views of Turnagain Arm, separated from the road by railway tracks that date back to 1903, was impossible to miss.
The rising sun, illuminating the tops of the mountains on the opposite side of the waterway, added a finishing touch to the surreal environment. This queer natural opulence stretched as far as the eye could see. Taking it all in, we couldn’t help but added Beluga Point to our favorite destinations along the Seward Highway.
Stop 3: Turnagain Gallery Alaskan Art and Gifts, Bird Creek
Located 18 miles south of Anchorage, Turnagain Gallery made it into this road trip only on our way back from Seward to Anchorage. But once we spotted this place, we had to visit it at once.
Packed with finished and still uncompleted wood sculptures, paintings, and handmade jewelry, the place gives you a glimpse into lifestyle and local community of this part of Alaska.
Moreover, you can purchase anything that catches your eye. After all, you can’t leave the Last Frontier without a memorable gift to remind you of this incredible road trip.
Stop 4: Girdwood
Backed with the towering mountains, the small, but charming in its own way town of Girdwood is one of a few places to grab snacks while driving from Anchorage to Seward. For hot breakfast of homemade sourdough pancakes and sweet rolls, there is no better place than The Bake Shop.
Stop 5: The Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center
I cringe when I think that the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center almost didn’t make it on our Anchorage – Seward road trip itinerary. Yet remarkable places with inspiring missions can’t stay unnoticed and unrecognizable. With that said, visiting this incredible attraction along the Seward Highway was only a matter of time.
The Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center sits between Anchorage and Seward, about one hour away from each city. Home to orphaned and injured animals, it strives to protect and reintroduce some species of Alaska’s native wildlife back into the state. Among its permanent residents are brown and black bears, bison, reindeer, moose, red foxes, and Canadian lynx.
Stop 5: Williwaw Campground
Don’t worry. I’m not asking you to make changes to your Anchorage – Seward road trip and spend a night at the Williwaw Campground. But a short stop to watch spawning salmon from the Williwaw Fish Viewing Platform or taking in the impeccable surroundings while hiking along the Williwaw Nature Trail or the Byron Glacier Trail can surely enhance your adventures.
Stop 6: Portage Lake
One of the most interesting thing about the Anchorage – Seward road trip is that you can steer away from the official route and venture into secluded corners of southern Alaska. So not necessarily a hidden location, Portage Lake is the second place, after the Williwaw Campground, to visit along the Portage Glacier Road that forks from the Seward Highway and runs toward Whittier.
Embraced by massive mountains with Portage Glacier atop, Portage Lake entices travelers all year round. Sitting by the lake while soaking up the gorgeous views is a favorite pastime during the warmer seasons. In winter, Portage Lake is of most interest to hikers who tread 1.5 miles across the frozen lake to the bottom of Portage Glacier.
Stop 7: Whittier and Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel
We broke our Anchorage – Seward road trip into two shorter journeys: Anchorage – Whittier and Anchorage – Seward. The tiny city of Whittier become a separate final destination for a reason.
Separated from the rest of Alaska by the 2.5-mile Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel, the longest tunnel in North America, the place is often referred to as “the town under one roof“. Almost all business and most of the locals reside in the Begich Towers.
Behind it is nestled imposing Horsetail Falls. Spilling into Whittier Creek, it’s a place to go on a little excursion to explore other hidden gems of the tiny city.
The most popular outdoor adventure in Whittier, however, is the Portage Pass Trail. The 2-mile path starts near the Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel and runs to an elevated point adorned with the panoramic vistas of Portage Glacier and Portage Lake.
Stop 8: Kenai Mountains – Turnagain Arm National Heritage Area
Once back on the Seward Highway, steer toward Seward, but don’t ignore such natural attractions as the Kenai Mountains – Turnagain Arm National Heritage Area. In reality, it takes strong willpower to drive past this eye-catching terrain without stopping.
The national heritage area is nestled in the mountainous region of the Kenai Peninsula, between Girdwood, Seward, Hope, Portage, and Whittier. Brimming with astonishing mountains, lakes, rivers, fjords, and several communities with significant historic value, the place relates stories about the past and present of Alaska.
Stop 9: Kenai Fjords National Park
Arguably the most popular destination along the Seward Highway, Kenai Fjords National Park is also one of the highlights of the road trip from Anchorage to Seward. Home to the Harding Icefield, one of the largest ice fields in the USA, the park boasts nearly 40 glaciers.
Yet exploring the area on foot might be challenging. Apart from the Exit Glacier Area, a part of the park accessible by road, the icy wonders of the region are better to be observed from the boat.
READ MORE: Kenai Fjords National Park from the Deck of a Boat
Stop 10: Seward
Seward is the final destination on the Anchorage – Seward road trip itinerary. Named after the former United States Secretary of State William H. Seward, the place is considered a gateway to Kenai Fjords National Park.
Several tour boats depart from Seward Boat Harbor daily from May through September, offering the best way to explore the area. While you can also embark on a trip through Resurrection Bay in Whittier, Seward’s options usually come with greater flexibility both in itineraries and directions.
Anchorage – Seward Road Trip and the Best Stops along Seward Highway: Map
How much Time do You Need for Anchorage – Seward Road Trip
Normally, you can cover the distance between Anchorage and Seward in about 2 hours 30 minutes. Yet this is probably not an optimal option for the first-time visitors. In this case, your road trip from Anchorage to Seward can take anywhere from 5 to 7 hours.
Our adventures along the Seward Highway lasted 2 days. Since we took the 6-hour Kenai Fjords boat tour from Seward on our first day, the remaining time was spent on exploring the city in depth and visiting a few areas near Seward.
The second day of the Anchorage – Seward road trip was packed with the destinations and scenic overlooks that required less time. Yet we somehow managed to use the whole day for them. It would probably take us another day to explore other hiking trails and roadside attractions between Seward and Anchorage if we had more time.
So in summary, the time you need for the Anchorage – Seward road trip differs based on your preferences and goals.
Tips for Better Experiences during Anchorage – Seward Road Trip
1. Check for Road Conditions
The Seward Highway is a paved road suitable for all types of cars. Normally, you have no troubles driving along the route all year round. Yet to ensure that you enjoy your road trip from Anchorage to Seward to the fullest, check for the road updates at alaska.gov.
2. Consider the Time It May Take to Drive through the Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel
The tunnel has only one lane. Thus, the access to Whittier get closed every 30 minutes or so to allow the traffic to proceed in the opposite direction. With that said, the lines are unavoidable when visiting this destination on your way to Anchorage or Seward. Moreover, it’s not unusual for heavy snowfalls in winter to cut off the city from the nearby areas until spring.
3. Switch to Alaska Railroad
Embark on a railroad journey if a road trip from Anchorage to Seward looks less enticing. The train ride has a bunch of advantages and promises a myriad of unforgettable experience. Yet you loose flexibility. And thus, many of the destinations outlined in this Anchorage – Seward road trip itinerary remain out of your reach.
4. Fill up Your Tank before Going on a Road Trip from Anchorage to Seward
The 2-hour road trip from Anchorage to Seward is relatively short, absolutely stunning, and unusually secluded. Cars still pass along the Seward Highway. Their number, however, is usually low. It’s normal to drive for a long time and don’t see any vehicle on the road.
Similarly, places to fill up your tank are limited as well. So be sure to avoid any road trip mistakes and prepare your car for this short, but unpredictable Anchorage – Seward road trip.
5. Use Offline Maps
The Anchorage – Seward area doesn’t have cellular signal. Therefore, you are left with either hard copy or offline maps. If you prefer to navigate by the latter, download them in advance. On the bright side, no distractions or the urge to post a picture or video on your social media right away allow you to stay present and make the most of your Anchorage – Seward road trip.
6. Pack Snacks and Water
Not many places to recharge your energy pamper you along the Seward Highway. So stock up on food and water before hitting the road.
7. Feel Free to Explore More during Your Anchorage – Seward Road Trip
We’ve mentions 10 places to explore during the road trip from Anchorage to Seward. In reality, it’s just the tip of the iceberg. The route is dotted with the scenic overlooks and outstanding vistas to feast your eyes on. Often unnamed, these places work together to give off a surreal vibe. Needless to say, the road trip from Anchorage to Seward is not complete without them. So feel free to explore more and often.
READ MORE: 10 Essentials to Pack for Alaska Road Trip