Seward offers sea, mountains, Alaskana

Posted: Saturday, May 26, 2001

Seward, only three hours from Anchorage, is a picturesque town of 2,830 at the head of Resurrection Bay.

A popular visitor destination, it's home for a fleet of fishing, recreational and tour boats.

The community was founded in 1903 at the site of old Native and Russian settlements as the starting point for the railroad to Alaska's interior gold fields.

The Alaska Railroad still hauls tourists, freight and coal to Seward.

The Alaska Marine High-way ferry system, an airport and the scenic highway that bears its name make it easily accessible. At the edge of town, the visitors' center at Mile 2 of the highway is open year-round.

The Alaska SeaLife Center, a state-of-the-art aquarium and research center opened in 1998, graces the waterfront.

A dazzling window into the sea, it brings visitors of all ages close to Steller sea lions, seals, seabirds and fish. Watch live video of the sea lion rookery on the Chiswell Islands or touch sea stars in the tank.

The Seward Marine Education Center, operated by the University of Alaska Fairbanks, offers free public interpretive displays in the K.M. Rae Building across the street. Check it out, because it may not reopen after the Sept. 15 closure.

The Chugach Heritage Center is on the other side of the Alaska SeaLife Center in the restored 1917 railroad depot. It celebrates the traditions of Prince William Sound's Alutiiq Natives with an art gallery, gift items and live interpretive performances.

Downtown the Seward Museum is open seven days a week in summer with information on history, the Idita-rod Trail and the 1964 earthquake.

Visitors browse art galleries and gift shops downtown or near the harbor. A quaint trolley gives rides around town.

Seward also offers stunning outdoor activities. Embark at the harbor and cruise ship docks 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 salmon, king salmon, halibut, lingcod, rockfish and black bass.

Landlubbers can stroll to the face of Exit Glacier, only half a mile from the parking lot, explore the Chugach National Forest trails, visit World War II installations at Caines Head or take a summer dog mushing tour.

Major annual events are the Fourth of July bash, culminating with the grueling Mount Marathon Race, summer halibut and silver salmon derbies and the Seward Polar Bear Jump-off Festival, an icy swimming event in Jan-uary.

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