Far and away, the most beautiful way to travel to Alaska is on the AMHS ferries operated by the state. The AMHS ferries carry passengers and vehicles from Bellingham, Washington, and Prince Rupert, British Columbia, up the Inside Passage to the Alaska cities of Ketchikan, Wrangell, Petersburg, Sitka, Juneau, Haines and Skagway. The boats have parking decks, sightseeing solaria, staterooms and food service.
The ferry will not get you all the way to Anchorage. The most common debarkation point is Haines, Alaska, which is nearly 760 miles from Anchorage. This road requires crossing into Canada for a few hundred miles, so all immigration and customs rules (found in the “driving” section) should be adhered to.
For less of a drive during the summer months, you can get off the ferry in Juneau and catch a connecting ferry to Whittier, Alaska. Whittier is nestled between the glacier-capped Chugach Mountains and Prince William Sound.
The journey from the edge of Prince William Sound through the Chugach Mountains includes a drive through the Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel (North America’s longest combined railroad-highway tunnel) that connects Whittier to Anchorage — only 45 miles to the north, or about a 1 1/2-hour road trip. There is also an Alaska Railroad station in Whittier that provides train service to Anchorage June through mid-September. Plan ahead for this trip as the Juneau-Whittier route is only scheduled May through October and runs three times a month.
Passengers traveling to Whittier are advised to check the Whittier Tunnel website at www.dot.alaska.gov/creg/whittiertunnel for a schedule of when the tunnel is open to vehicle traffic. Bicycle and foot traffic is prohibited through the tunnel, and there are vehicle size and other restrictions of which you should be aware before traveling through the tunnel. For a recording of the Whittier Tunnel schedule, call toll-free 877-611-2586.
The trip from Bellingham to Haines takes about three days, and the Bellingham to Whittier route takes about five days, often requiring an overnight stay in Juneau. Remember, from Haines it’s about two more days of driving to get to Anchorage. Reservations for travel via the AMHS should be made three to six months in advance. You or the Traffic Management Office can book your passage. You will be reimbursed for passage and stateroom berths for all command-sponsored family members as well as one vehicle.
Passenger travel, including a stateroom on the ferry, is at government expense. Your Transportation Office can issue you a Government Travel Request for passage, or you can be reimbursed when you arrive at your new duty station in Alaska. If you did not ship a POV to Alaska, you can receive reimbursement for the cost of the vehicle placed on the ferry; the vehicle cannot exceed 800 cubic feet. If you have already shipped a privately owned vehicle through the government and decide to take the ferry and place another vehicle on the ferry, you may be reimbursed for the cost of transporting your vehicle on the ferry.
For more information about the AMHS ferry service or to make reservations, visit www.dot.state.ak.us/amhs or call 800-642-0066.