Sitting near the northern end of the Lynn Canal, this small, laid-back Alaska town is blessedly free of the tourist gloss of neighboring Skagway. Despite the town’s dramatic setting amid the peaks of the Fairweather Mountain Range, few ships come here, partly because it doesn’t have a large deepwater dock. Ships that don’t stop in Haines regularly provide excursions to the town from Skagway, traveling by boat.
Haines was established in 1879 by Presbyterian missionary S. Hall Young and naturalist John Muir as a place to convert the Chilkoot and Chilkat Tlingit tribes to Christianity. In 1903, the U.S. military built the white clapboard structures of Fort William H. Seward; since decommissioned, it’s been turned into private homes, B&Bs, and arts and performances spaces. The town itself has several small, quirky museums; shore excursions here tend to feature nature as wildlife, via rafting, cycling, or hiking.
Native culture A re-created Tlingit tribal house has been built at the center of Fort Seward’s former parade ground; in the old fort hospital on the south side of the parade grounds, the Alaska Indian Arts Gallery displays native artwork and has a totem carving workshop.
Tee ‘em up Just outside town, the 9-hole Valley of the Eagles Golf Course (www.hainesgolf.com ) allows you the rare opportunity of being able to say you golfed in Alaska.
Bottoms up On Main Street, the Haines Brewing Company (www.hainesbrewing.com ), the smallest brewery in Alaska, has a tasting room and beer garden.
For nature lovers Haines is probably the best place on earth to see bald eagles, especially from October to mid-December. About 20 miles outside town, the Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve is the place to go for a float-trip along the cottonwood-lined Chilkat River, one of their favorite haunts.