Here I've described things to do out of Seward other than visiting the national park, which includes the fjords and Exit Glacier. Fishing and other marine activities are the main event in Seward.
Dog Mushing & Glacier Flights
When Mitch Seavey won the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race in 2004, many agreed it couldn't have happened to a nicer guy. He had made a lot of friends over the years offering rides with his dogs. IdidaRide (tel. 800/478-3139 or 907/224-8607; www.ididaride.com) is a family business, including the four boys (one is a Junior Iditarod champ), making use of their kennel on Old Exit Glacier Road off Herman Leirer Road. They offer summer rides in Seward and in winter in Sterling (near Soldotna). The summer ride uses a wheeled sled and a full, 12-dog team -- not the real thing (no snow), but you get a feel for the dogs' power and intelligence. The 90-minute tour costs $59 for adults, $29 for children 11 and under. Husky puppies are available for cuddling, too.
Those willing to spend much more should consider mushing on snow at the height of summer by joining a helicopter tour to Godwin Glacier from the Seward Airport with Godwin Glacier Dog Sled Tours (tel. 888/989-8239 or 907/224-8239; www.alaskadogsled.com). A chopper lands at a camp of 100 dogs, where guests take a ride in the dog sled or even drive it themselves. The company also offers overnight camping on the ice. For the mushing program, they charge $450 adults, $420 children 12 and under; the overnight is $520 per person; or just fly up to the glacier for $300.
Seward is renowned for its saltwater silver salmon fishing. The silvers start showing up in the bay in mid-July and last through September. You can catch the fish from shore, from Lowell Point south of town, or even near the boat harbor, but your chances of success are far greater from a boat. I prefer small, six-passenger boats because you can get to know the skipper better and can learn more about fishing. If your party has the whole boat, you can control where it goes, perhaps adding whale-watching or sightseeing to the day. Larger boats add more comfort and stability in the waves. The going rate for a guided charter, with everything provided, is around $199 per person, or $299 to go for salmon and halibut on the same day. Andrew Mezirow, a marine biologist and maritime instructor, operates two boats, including a 12-passenger vessel and a six-passenger boat custom-built for fishing salmon in Resurrection Bay year-round. Besides day fishing, he takes guests on multiday fishing expeditions to extremely remote and beautiful places. His business is Crackerjack Sportfishing Charters (tel. 800/566-3192 or 907/224-2606; www.crackerjackcharters.com). The office is on the boardwalk at the top of the harbor ramps.
There are many other fishing charter companies, mostly booked through central charter agencies, which make life simpler for visitors. The Fish House is the largest charter-fishing agency in Seward, located at the Small Boat Harbor. The store also sells and rents ocean-fishing and spin-casting gear, and carries some fly-fishing supplies. For charters, reserve ahead at P.O. Box 1209, Seward, AK 99664 (tel. 800/257-7760 or 907/224-3674; www.thefishhouse.net). If you want a small boat, ask to be put on a "six pack," as vessels licensed for six or fewer passengers are known.
There are several excellent hiking trails near Seward. You can get a complete list and directions at the Kenai Fjords National Park Information Center.
The Mount Marathon Trail is a tough hike to the top of a 3,022-foot mountain in less than 4 miles. The route of the famous Mount Marathon footrace is the most strenuous choice, basically straight up from the end of Jefferson Street; the hikers' route starts at the corner of 1st Avenue and Monroe Street. Either trail rises steeply to the top of the rocky pinnacle and its incredible views. Allow all day, unless you're a racer; in that case, allow just under 45 minutes.
The Caines Head State Recreation Area (www.alaskastateparks.org, click on "Individual Parks") has a 7-mile coastal trail south of town. Parts of the trail are accessible only at low tide, so it's best done as an overnight or with someone picking you up or dropping you off in a boat beyond the beach portion -- the Miller's Landing water taxi offers this service. The trail has gorgeous views, rocky shores, and a fascinating destination at the end -- a towering promontory with the concrete remains of Fort McGilvray, a World War II defensive emplacement. Take flashlights to poke around in the spooky, pitch-dark underground corridors and rooms, and imagine what each was used for (going in without lights is foolhardy). Three campsites are at Tonsina Point, about 2 miles in, and a state park public-use cabin is 2 miles farther. At North Beach, 4 1/2 miles from the trail head, are two camping shelters, a ranger station, and the trails to the fort and South Beach. For an easy 2-mile hike to Fort McGilvray, start with a boat ride to North Beach. The main trail head is south of town on Lowell Point Road; pull off in the lot right after the sewage plant, then cross the road through the gate and follow the dirt road until it becomes the trail. The Kenai Fjords National Park Information Center has tide conditions and advice.
Sea Kayaking & Water Taxi
Sunny Cove Sea Kayaking (tel. 800/770-9119 for reservations, or 907/224-4426; www.sunnycove.com) has earned a good reputation for guided kayaking in Resurrection Bay and beyond. Their day trips suitable for beginners are offered as part of the Kenai Fjords Tours trips to its Fox Island lodge. For a more ambitious day trip, and for multiday trips, they venture into the fjords. If you're on a budget, take one of Sunny Cove's tours from Seward. They launch from Lowell Point, following the shore toward Caines Head State Recreation Area, where you can see sea otters, seabirds, intertidal creatures, and the salmon in Tonsina Creek. Three-hour paddles are $65; 8-hour trips are $130. A trip to Fox Island is more expensive but comes with a fjords boat tour and salmon bake.
Another highly regarded sea-kayaking firm in Seward, Kayak Adventures Worldwide (tel. 907/224-3960; www.kayakak.com) offers a wide selection of day trips and expeditions; packages involving other activities, such as glacier hiking; and water taxi drop-off for clients. Owners Wendy and Dave Doughty have a strong education and environment ethic, and they make a point of serving families -- they even have a couple of three-seat kayaks so kids can ride in the middle. Their guide training program is impressive. The couple's B&B, Bear Paw Lodge, is listed below; their storefront office downtown is at 328 3rd Ave.
Miller's Landing, at Lowell Point, 3 miles south of town (tel. 866/541-5739 or 907/224-5739; www.millerslandingak.com), is the primary water taxi operator in Seward, charging flat rates to take travelers to remote beaches and public cabins around the bay or to the national park -- great for sea kayakers or those who want to get off on their own or for a one-way day hike to Caines Head. Per person rates are $38 one-way, $48 round-trip to Caines Head; $275 round-trip to the Park Service cabin in Aialik Bay. The company rents kayaks ($55 double, $45 single per day) and skiffs, too ($110 for 4 hr.), and offers many other services (fishing charters, camping, cabins, and even potluck dinners).