Seward offers gateway to Alaska's charms

Posted: Saturday, April 20, 2002

Picturesque Seward, named for the secretary of state who engineered the U.S. purchase of Alaska from Russia, is a town of about 3,000 at the head of Resurrection Bay on the east side of the Kenai Peninsula. A popular visitor destination, it lies 95 highway miles from Soldotna and 125 miles from Anchorage.

Boats, trains and planes: Seward has them all.

Railroad magnates founded the community in 1903 at the site of old Chugach Native and Russian settlements. They selected it as the starting point for the line to Alaska's interior gold fields because of its ice-free bay.

The Alaska Railroad still hauls tourists, freight and coal to Seward. The Alaska Marine Highway ferry system, an airport and the highway make Seward easily accessible. The visitors' center at Mile 2 of the highway is open year-round.

The Alaska SeaLife Center, a state-of-the-art aquarium on the waterfront focuses on education, research and wildlife rehabilitation. It brings visitors of all ages close to Steller sea lions, seals, seabirds and fish. Get nose-to-nose with Woody the sea lion, watch live video of the remote Chiswell Islands or touch sea stars in the tank. From May 1 through Labor Day, it is open 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Downtown, the Seward Museum is open daily in summer with information on history, the Iditarod Trail and the 1964 earthquake. Visitors browse art galleries and gift shops downtown or near the harbor. A quaint trolley gives rides.

Seward offers stunning outdoor activities. Embark for the rich waters of Prince William Sound and the rugged coast of Kenai Fjords National Park. Popular tours watch whales, glaciers, sea lions and seabird colonies; other boaters angle for silver and king salmon, halibut, lingcod, rockfish and black bass. The halibut derby runs May through August, and the silver salmon derby is Aug. 10-18.

Landlubbers can walk to Exit Glacier, explore the Chugach National Forest trails, visit World War II installations at Caines Head or take a summer dog mushing tour.

Runners can sign up for the Exit Glacier Run on May 18 or the vertical challenge of the Mount Marathon Race, celebrating its 75th anniversary this year, which is part of the town's famous annual Fourth of July festivities. Winter highlights include the December Holiday Train and the January Seward Polar Bear Jump-off Festival.

Seward residents plan to end the year with a New Year's Eve bash looking forward to 2003, their centennial year.

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