Located by the broad fjord of Resurrection Bay, Seward's main reason to exist has always been its ocean dock. The agreeable little town started life as a place to fish and to get off boats arriving in Alaska, then continued as a place for Alaskans and visitors to get on boats and see the bay and Kenai Fjords National Park. With the growth of the cruise industry, Seward again is a place to get off the boat. Many cruises that cross the Gulf of Alaska start or end here, with their passengers taking a bus to or from the airport in Anchorage. The few cruise passengers who spend any time in town find a mountainside grid of streets lined with old wood-frame houses and traditional businesses operating in historic store fronts. The community has a lot of pride, and wonderful murals appear on the side of many buildings.
Seward's history is among the oldest in Alaska. The Russian conquistador Alexander Baranof stopped here in 1793, named it Resurrection Bay, and built a ship, which later sank, perhaps because Baranof's workers didn't have proper materials. Gold prospectors blazed trails from here to finds on Turnagain Arm starting in 1891, and in 1907 the army linked those trails with others all the way to Nome, finishing the Iditarod Trail. Today that route is discontinuous south of Anchorage, but you can follow it through Seward and hike a portion of it on the Johnson Pass Trail north of town. More relevant for current visitors and the local economy, the federal government took over a failed railroad-building effort in 1915, finishing the line to Fairbanks in 1923. The train ride to Anchorage, daily during the summer, is still supremely beautiful.
Seward's in-town highlight is the Alaska SeaLife Center, a research aquarium that's open to the public. Combined with Seward's excellent ocean fishing, the national park, the wonderful hiking trails, and the unique and attractive town itself, the center helps make Seward well worth a 2-day visit.
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