Just 120 miles south of Anchorage, on the Kenai Peninsula, is the charming coastal town of Seward Alaska. It is the gateway to Kenai Fjords National Park, attracting droves of visitors seeking a taste of small town Alaska and a bit of adventure.
During the summer months, the population of Seward nearly doubles as the town gears up for the busy tourist and commercial fishing season. But as the summer comes to an end, and the seasonal workers leave the area, the locals take a breath and many tour companies, restaurants and businesses close down for the winter or transition to their winter hours.
All of this happens in mid to late September.
So, when Delta Airlines had an incredible fare sale to Alaska in September, I wondered what to do in Seward Alaska that time of year? Would anything be open? Would I regret my choice and have serious FOMO?
In short, there are so many things to do in Seward Alaska in September and you can enjoy them all without the crowds.
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About Seward Alaska
Seward is located about 120 miles south of Anchorage. Whether you drive or take the train, the route takes you along the Seward Highway to the town of Portage where you merge onto State Highway 9 through the mountains and onto the Kenai Peninsula.
The town of Seward is located on Resurrection Bay, which connects to the Gulf of Alaska.
Most of the things to do in Seward are located in two main areas. First, is the Small Boat Harbor, located on 4th Avenue just one block off the Seward Highway. This is where most of the water-based activities depart including glacier tours, kayaking, and fishing. Second, is Downtown, located on 3rd Avenue. Here you’ll find shops, the SeaLife Center, and restaurants.
What To Do in Seward Alaska in September
There’s something magical about this town in September. Although I was out adventuring early all day everyday, I left Seward feeling re-energized and relaxed.
I’d be lying though if I said I didn’t have a little bit of FOMO about some of the activities that simply aren’t available in September. Don’t worry, I’ve done the work of finding what things to do are available in September for you!
Pro Tip: Check availability of tours and business hours of restaurants anytime from September to May. Many tours stop for the season starting in mid to late May.
Hike Along Resurrection Bay
There are several hikes just minutes from Downtown Seward offering gorgeous views of Resurrection Bay.
The trailhead for the Caines Head Trail is located at Lowell Point State Recreation Site which is at the end of Lowell Point Road. If you hike the entire trail, it’s 7.8 miles each way, out and back, taking you all the way to Fort McGilvray. But, a shorter option is to hike 2.3 miles each way to Tonsina Point (follow Tonsina Trail signs). Fort McGilvray is home to World War II ruins and incredible views of Resurrection Bay. Tonsina Point has beach access and campsites available.
Pro Tip: Parking is available at the trailhead, but there is a $5 daily fee. Bring cash and exact change!
Pro Tip: Between Tonsina Point and Derby Cove, the trail is influenced by tide. You cannot hike this portion of the trail during high tide. The Alaska DNR website has great tips on how to time our your hike to avoid getting stranded at the tide change.
Get Up Close and Personal with Exit Glacier
Exit Glacier is located in the only portion of Kenai Fjords National Park that has road access. Choose from a number of hiking trails. The 1.6 mile (one way) Glacier Overlook Loop Trail offers a great view and photo opportunity in front of Exit Glacier as well as sweeping views of the Outwash Plain and surrounding mountains.
If you want to get up close and personal with Exit Glacier, though, I recommend hiking the 8.2 mile round trip Harding Icefields Trail. This is a strenuous and difficult hike, with an elevation gain of close to 3000 feet. But, if you make it to the End of Trail, you will literally be able to touch the icefield.
Unfortunately, the Exit Glacier Nature Center located at the trailhead closes on Labor Day in early September. But, the bathrooms are available year round.
Pro Tip: This is bear country! Bring your bear spray, know how to use it, and make noise when you’re hiking so you don’t surprise them. For my full list of bear safety tips, check out my guide to hiking in bear country!
If you don’t have a vehicle, there are shuttle and taxi services that can get you to Exit Glacier. City of Seward Shuttle Service runs through mid-September. PJ’s Taxi, Red Taxi, and Resurrection Taxi all can provide transportation as well. Note that the road to Exit Glacier closes during the winter months.
Pro Tip: There is no cell service at Exit Glacier, so arrange your return transportation before you go.
Explore Resurrection and Ailik Bays by Kayak
If paddling is your thing, you’ll love Seward. Many of the kayaking tour companies shutdown in September but there are a few that offer winter tours around Resurrection Bay and nearby Ailik Bay. Ailik Bay’s largest glacier is Ailik Glacier, which is about 15 miles from Seward.
If that’s further than you want to paddle, you can see all kinds of wildlife right in Resurrection Bay. Sea lions, sea otters, and eagles and more frequent Resurrection Bay!
Both Adventure Sixty North and Miller’s Landing offer winter kayaking tours. Because the weather can be a little unpredictable in Seward in September, I recommend you get travel insurance in case of cancellation.
Go on a Glacier Cruise
The 6 hour Kenai Fjords National Park tour departs from the Small Boat Harbor in Seward. After a short ride through Resurrection Bay, there is a stretch where you are in the rougher waters of the Gulf of Alaska on your way to Ailik Bay. Once in Ailik Bay, you can visit Ailik and Holgate glaciers.
Aside from the glaciers, enjoy stunning views of the fjords jutting out of the water as well as wildlife. On my cruise we were lucky to see orcas, sea lions, sea otters, an eagle and more!
Pro Tip: Even if you aren’t prone to motion sickness, take some meds beforehand. Kenai Fjords Tours has some for sale in their shop.
Charter a Fishing Boat
One of the most popular things to do in Seward Alaska is to charter a fishing boat to catch fresh halibut, salmon and more! There are an overwhelming number companies to choose from, but this article breaks down some of the best fishing boat charter companies in Seward.
Wander the Coast at Low Tide
The first morning that I woke up in Seward, I glanced out the window to see hundreds of jellyfish stranded on the sand during low tide. I made a cup of coffee and went out for a walk to see what else I could find while the tide was out. This was also a great time for birdwatching so bring your camera or binoculars!
Race Up Mount Marathon
Every year on the 4th of July, Seward holds the Mount Marathon Race. It’s one of the oldest mountain races in North America and is called the “toughest 5k on the planet” by Outside magazine. Racers quite literally go straight up and down Mount Marathon, totally 3.2 miles.
The good news is that there’s another way to experience Mount Marathon on the more reasonable, but still difficult, Mount Marathon Hiker’s Trail. This trail is 4.1 miles, loop style, with close to 3000 feet of elevation gain!
Go Shopping in Downtown Seward
Explore the adorable shops along 3rd Avenue in Downtown. My personal favorite was the locally made jewelry at Ranting Raven.
Embrace the charming vibe of Seward without the crowds by allowing yourself to slow down and relax. This place is truly magical! I found myself just enjoying the view, listening to the waves and cozying up with a good book in the evenings.
Visit the Alaska SeaLife Center
Prompted by the Exxon Valdez oil spill in 1989, the Alaska SeaLife Center was funded through the criminal settlement. These funds were used to develop the Alaska SeaLife Center as a “marine mammal rehabilitation center and as a center for education and research related to the natural resources injured by the [Exxon Valdez oil spill].”
So, the SeaLife Center is not just an aquarium, it’s also a marine research center focused on education and wildlife response. It’s also the only permanent marine mammal rescue and rehabilitation facility in Alaska.
During your visit see sea lions, seals, puffins, octopus, sea otters, and much more! This interactive expeirence is perfect for a rainy day! Adult tickets cost $30.
Pro Tip: The Alaska SeaLife Center is open daily year round, but the hours vary during the month of September. Check their website for the most up to date information.
Visit the Seward Museum
This ones for all of you history lovers! The Seward Museum is a partnershp between the City of Seward and the Resurrection Bay Historical Society. It’s located inside the Seward Library.
Admission is free from mid-September to early May but only open to the public on weekends during this time, unless you make an appointment in advance.
Places to Eat in Seward Alaska
I was pleasantly surprised by the assortment of food options in the small town of Seward. Sadly, though, I do have a bit of FOMO because a couple of the restaurants I wanted to try weren’t open on the days I was visiting due to their winter hours. Here are some of the best restaurants to try during your visit in the month of September.
Resurrect Art Coffee House | Art Gallery
Holy cow! Can we talk about their amazing selection of cream cheeses?! My favorite was the black cod schmear. On top of that Resurrect Art Coffee House is in an adorable converted church and has local artists work for sale. I came back here several times during my short stay!
Thorn’s Showcase Lounge
Located in Downtown Seward, Thorn’s Showcase Lounge has a vintage rat pack vibe, lots of red velour, and friendly staff. They’re known for their “bucket of butts”, which is fried halibut chunks but I opted for a cup of seafood chowder and one pound of steam clams. Both were delicious!
Apollo Restaurant doesn’t look like much from the outside, but I decided to try it out based on the recommendation from the owner where I was staying. They offer Mediterranean inspired dishes including pizza, seafood, pasta and more. Also, bring your freshly caught fish in and they’ll cook it for you.
Pro Tip: Ask for the Greek salad with grilled salmon on it! That combo isn’t on the menu but they’ll make it for you and its delicious.
Before visiting, several people recommended I try The Cookery. Unfortunately, they are closed during the month of September and reopen on October 1st with their winter hours. The menu features fresh oysters, locally sourced meat and produce, foraged ingredients and fresh fish. Guess I’ll have to go back!
Woody’s Thai Kitchen
Who knew that there would be delicious Thai food in small town Alaska? Well, there is and you can find it at Woody’s Thai Kitchen located between Downtown and the Small Boat Harbor. Have a local microbrew or glass of wine with your curry! In winter, Woody’s is closed on Sundays and Mondays.
Pro Tip: They have a large number of vegan friendly dishes on their menu.
Ms. Gene’s Place
Located inside the Hotel Seward, Ms. Gene’s Place offers casual fine dining in a Victorian-inspired atmosphere. They serve breakfast and dinner every day, except Tuesday when they are only open for breakfast. If you come for dinner, be sure to try the Parmesan Crusted Halibut Cheeks!
Where to Stay in Seward Alaska in September
There are so many options for places to stay in Seward that it can be hard to choose! The key factors I recommend considering are: access to a vehicle, meals included, access to a kitchen, and of course price.
Check prices on places to stay in Seward Alaska.
Angel’s Rest on Resurrection Bay
As a bit of a treat to myself, I opted to stay in the Cloud 9 Cabin at Angel’s Rest on Resurrection Bay. Best. Decision. Ever. It is a literal slice of heaven.
The Cloud 9 Cabin is a small single room standalone cabin right on the water. It includes a bathroom, queen size bed, basic kitchen, outdoor grill and quite possibly the best view in town.
The owners, Lynda and Paul, were incredibly helpful as I planned my visit. Inside the cabin is a binder filled with things to do, extensive hiking trail info, and safety tips in case of an emergency or evacuation. They live just across the street from the cabin and are available if you need them for anything during your stay!
Angel’s Rest is about 5-7 minute drive from Downtown Seward including some unpaved road.
Pro Tip: Just off of the highway as you enter Seward is a Carr’s grocery store and Oaken Keg liquor store. Spend an evening making dinner in the cabin and watching the sea otters play right outside your window!
Seward Front Row Bed and Breakfast
Just blocks from Downtown Seward and steps from Resurrection Bay is the Seward Front Row Bed and Breakfast. They offer lodge-style rooms with private bathrooms and a shared living area and outdoor space.
Help yourself to freshly made bread and other breakfast items, included with your room. This is a great option if you want to be right in the town of Seward, a short walking distance from most of the restaurants.
Camping at City of Seward Campgrounds
Tent or RV camping is available through the City of Seward and is located right along Resurrection Bay just a short walk from both Downtown and the Small Boat Harbor. Sites are available first come first serve. Note that in September it will be cold at night so plan accordingly.
Is Seward in September a Good Idea?
Yes!! My time in Seward was the highlight of my trip to Alaska. Sure, a few restaurants and tours were not available in September, but being able to enjoy this town without the crowds was well worth it. There’s still so many incredible things to do in Seward Alaska, even in September!