Top 5 rainy day activities in Alaska cruise ports

Last Updated on December 13, 2023

Southeast Alaska’s Inside Passage is a rainy place. Rain is expected all year round, though there are sunny days too! Try not to worry about the weather because it’s something you can’t control and a bit of rain will not spoil the fun, I promise. With just a bit of preparation and knowing the best things to do in Southeast Alaska on a rainy day, you will have a great day just like locals do.

I have lived in two Alaska cruise ports (Juneau and Skagway) and I’ve visited them all many times. I’m a travel agent in addition to a travel writer and help people plan their cruise vacations to Alaska, so I know what I’m talking about when it comes to preparing for rain!

Another important thing to know before we go any farther is that even on a rainy day it may not be rainy all day. It’s quite common for the sun to come out at some point during the day, so make sure you are ready for the weather to change in case that happens.

For most tours, as long as you’re prepared for the rain with a rain jacket and waterproof footwear, it will be just as awesome even if it rains. Wildlife cruises, glacier cruises, food tours and any kind of sightseeing will still be a blast on a rainy day.

#1 – The tour or shore excursion you already booked

A blue tidewater glacier between mountains and rocks on an overcast day is a highlight of the best alaska cruise ports
Rain and clouds don’t interfere with glacier viewing tours and wildlife tours! This photo was a cloudy day with rain off and on all day.

The number one piece of advice I have about rainy days in Alaska cruise ports is to go on the shore excursion or tour you already booked!

Boat tours are especially good on rainy days, as the rain makes the adventure feel even more epic, all tour boats are covered and heated and you see just as much wildlife as you would on a sunny day.

Flightseeing is the exception to this, but if the visibility is not good enough to fly your flightseeing tour will be canceled anyway. Just because it’s raining doesn’t mean the tour will be cancelled, but it will be if there isn’t good enough visibility for safe flying.

Generally speaking, tours in Southeast Alaska’s Inside Passage will operate (and be awesome) rain or shine. Don’t cancel just because it’s raining! Also, don’t wait to see what the weather is before booking a tour or shore excursion that’s important to you as they often sell out.

One exception here is the Mt Roberts Tram in Juneau, you can generally book that at the last minute. In this one case it’s worth it because if it’s foggy and you can’t see the view it’s not really worth it (although I have seen some great views there on cloudy or misty days – it’s really fog or heavy rain that impact visibility).

If you’re worried about rain and want to book a shore excursion in advance, make it any kind of boat tour.

A cloudy and rainy day in Juneau Alaska. The view is of a wooden boardwalk along the shoreline with a few buildings and cruise ships in the background. The surrounding mountains are hidden by clouds and fog.
A rainy day in Juneau – while I had a ton of fun exploring on this day, I wouldn’t do the Mt Roberts Tram! (tram route goes up and to the left of the ships in the photo)

#2 – Dive into the local food and drink scene

All the Alaska cruise port towns have fantastic local food and drink and eating or drinking your way through town is a fantastic way to spend a rainy day! A few of my favorite rainy day hangouts include:

  • Skagway – Skagway Brewing Company
  • Haines – Chilkoot Distillery
  • Juneau – so many! Heritage Coffee is a favorite hangout. Also, Juneau Food Tours Tour of Taste is a great way to eat at all the best spots with a local guide
  • Sitka – another town with lots of great options. Wildflour is an ideal place to enjoy some of the amazing pastries Southeast Alaska is known for and of course coffee!
  • Ketchikan – Sweet Mermaids or the Alaska Crepe Company – perfect places to enjoy treats and hot drinks while people watching

#3 – Explore the town and local shops

Several brightly colored historic wooden buildings are built on wooden piers above the water. The water is calm and the buildings are reflected in it. There are evergreen trees behind the buildings on the hill
Creek Street in Ketchikan is a great place to find locally made gifts

Every cruise port in Southeast Alaska also has fun local shops to discover. It’s true that you’ll also find many of the chain cruise port shops (especially in Skagway, Ketchikan and Juneau), but just walk past those and you’ll find lots of local gems.

If you’re not sure where to go, ask a local! They will be happy to point you to a great spot. And keep your eyes out for the Made in Alaska and Authentic Native Handcraft logos to have confidence you’re buying local.

In Skagway, Haines and Juneau you’ll be able to walk to plenty of shops from the ship. In Ketchikan, it depends on where you’re docked. You may be docked downtown near shops or a few miles away. If you’re at the dock a few miles away, there will be a shuttle to take you to shopping quickly. In Sitka, the cruise dock is a few miles out of town but there is also a shuttle to take you downtown.

#4 – Visit the excellent local museums

A wooden octagonal brown building surrounded by trees. Sign says Sheldon Jackson Museum
The Sheldon Jackson Museum in Sitka

Museums are another excellent way to spend time on a rainy day. All Southeast Alaska ports have at least one fantastic museum, ranging from the quirky Hammer Museum in Haines to the Alaska State Museum in Juneau. Skagway’s entire downtown is a national historic district so it’s more of an outdoor museum. Sign up for one of the ranger talks about the historic town.

Sitka’s Sheldon Jackson Museum has artifacts from all over Alaska and the museum at Sitka’s National Historic Park is a good place to get out of the rain for a few minutes after walking around the incredible trail of totem poles (that part is outside but a must do on rainy days).

Ketchikan’s Totem Heritage Center and Public Lands Information Center are must see museums no matter what the weather is doing.

#5 – Enjoy a hot drink or soak in the hot tub on board your ship

A person's hand holing up a mug at the back of a ship

When you get back to the ship after a rainy day in port, grab a hot drink and enjoy it bundled up in warm clothes and a blanket. There’s nothing better after having a fun day out in the rain!

This is also a good activity if you have a rainy sea day. Just bundle up on your balcony or near one of your ship’s enormous picture windows in public areas with a good book, movie, music or podcast.

My other favorite thing to do on board a cruise ship on a rainy day is soak in the hot tub! On Alaska cruises the pools and hot tubs usually aren’t very busy (especially on rainy days). Come back from that whale watching tour and enjoy a warm soak while rain falls gently around you – absolutely magical!

Like the hot drink idea, this is also a great idea for a rainy sea day.

What to pack to be ready for a rainy day

I have a whole article about what to pack for Alaska that works great for Alaska cruises if you’re looking for specific items, including rainy days! The most important thing is to bring a rain jacket and have waterproof footwear.

An umbrella can also be really useful but it’s good to also have a rain jacket in case it’s windy. If you don’t have waterproof footwear, bring an extra pair of shoes and plenty of extra socks so you always have something dry to put on if your feet do get wet.

A person walking on a gravel path through the forest in the rain. The person is walking away from the camera and wearing a red rain jacket with a hood, a backpack with a gray rain cover, black leggings and rubber boots.

Final Thoughts

Experiencing rain on your Alaska cruise is a strong possibility, but it won’t interfere with your trip! Make sure to have a rain jacket and waterproof footwear and a sense of adventure about exploring in the rain and you’ll have an incredible time even if it rains.

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Jennie Flaming
Hi! I'm Jennie. I’m a fourth generation Seattleite. I lived in Alaska for many years and I still spend lots of time there every year visiting friends and working as a tour director. I've been a guide for many years in both Alaska and Washington, am a field editor for the Milepost and host the Alaska Uncovered Podcast about Alaska Travel as well as the Washington State Hiking Podcast. I love to share the places I love with visitors, newcomers and my fellow locals. I’m so glad to have you here!