June 29, 2015

Hanging Out in Haines

The Lynn Canal is the longest and deepest fjord in North America, and that is the body of water that connects Juneau with Haines.  The ferry ride through the canal was beautiful, but I seemed to be preoccupied with talking to other passengers, not taking many photographs.  You’ll just have to take my word for how pretty the views were!

Sailing on the Lynn Canal

Passing by Haines - Fort Seward Is on the Left; Downtown Haines Is on the Right

The ferry docked just north of Haines, and Tim and I took the opportunity to stop at Chilkoot Lake State Recreation Area for a picnic before heading into town.  Chilkoot Lake is a prime location for salmon, although it was still too early in the season.  The lake itself is lovely, and we enjoyed the view.  There is a very nice campground without hookups at the lake, and this would be a great place to spend a few days, especially if you could get one of the sites with a view of the lake through the trees.  We needed internet access, however, so we made our way into Haines.

Chilkoot Lake

Another View of Chilkoot Lake

Before we checked in to our campground, we drove around Haines to see the town.  The downtown area has several interesting buildings, but my favorite area was Fort William H. Seward on the edge of town.  This remarkable collection of historic buildings surrounding a parade ground is unlike any other in Southeast Alaska. 

Fort Seward was built near the settlement of Haines in 1903 in response to a continuing boundary dispute with Canada.  This frontier outpost was so remote that Fort Seward was considered to be a foreign duty post for the soldiers stationed here.  Fort Seward was ultimately decommissioned after World War II when it was purchased by five veterans who had a dream of establishing a planned community at the fort. 

The buildings at Fort Seward now contain residences, hotels, shops and restaurants, as well as an arts and cultural center.  It was encouraging to see the restoration work underway on several of the buildings along Officers’ Row. 

Fort Seward As Seen from the Ferry

Officer's Row Faces the Parade Ground at Fort Seward

The Quarters of the Captain and Commanding Officer Now House a Hotel

Restoration Work Continues on the Buildings at Fort Seward

There are two campgrounds in Haines.  The larger one has nice, grassy sites with some separation, and it is located on the north end of town.  The other campground, Oceanside RV Park, is basically a grass and gravel lot with no separation between sites (you literally could pass the Grey Poupon to your neighbor, if you remember that commercial).  However, Oceanside has one important thing that sets it apart – it’s right on the water with gorgeous views of the Lynn Canal and the harbor.  That was the deciding factor for us in selecting Oceanside.  The campground is also a block away from the downtown area, which makes it so much easier for us to get around on foot.

The View from Our Campsite, Before We Had Neighbors On Each Side

As soon as we checked in, Joyce, who owns the campground, asked us how many crabs we wanted for the evening’s potluck.  Joyce is very friendly and personable, and she certainly looks after her guests.  She hosts a potluck every week with Dungeness crabs being the main attraction.  At only $10.00 per crab and someone else doing the cooking, we didn’t hesitate and placed our order.  The potluck was great fun, and the crabs were delicious.  We also enjoyed talking with our fellow campers.  Now that was a nice welcome to Haines!

Hosing Down the Crabs After Removing Them from the Pot of Boiling Water

Now That's a Beautiful Pot of Dungeness Crabs!

Our initial plan was to spend three nights in Haines.  We thought that would give us enough time to see the sites, take a day trip to Skagway and perhaps even sit back and enjoy our beautiful view.  It didn’t quite work out that way. 

Although we had wrapped up our cataloging project before we left Sitka, there was still a little bit of work we wanted to do.  We had promised to “clean up” the catalog database and make sure the entries were complete and consistent.  We started working on the database on the ferry rides to and from Juneau.  We also spent most of our time in Haines working, although we did take some time out to explore the sites in town.  We soon realized that we would need to extend out stay for another three days in order to wrap up the project.

We ended up working most of this past week and were so happy and relieved to send off the final version of the database, as well as the trip report, around noon on Friday.  Finally!  The cataloging project was complete!  Now we could relax and have fun.

We found Haines to be a creative and quirky town in a magnificent setting.  Do you know of any other town with a Hammer Museum?  We didn’t go in, but it was fun to walk by and see the large totem-like hammer in the front yard.  The town and surrounding valley are one of the best places to see wildlife, and the area is particularly known its large population of eagles.  Haines is also a quiet town and is less well-known than Skagway, its more famous neighbor.  

Haines - The Self-Proclaimed Adventure Capital of Alaska

We Skipped The Hammer Museum, But I Bet It Was Fun

Only one large cruise ship is scheduled to dock in Haines each week, so the town is not overrun with visitors.  On occasion, however, the tides and winds prevent ships from docking in Skagway, and Haines can become an alternate port.  This happened last Friday, and the folks in town had to scramble to put together tours and activities for the many passengers on board.  One downside to having any cruise ship in town is the overtaxing of the Verizon 3G signal.  We never seemed to have much of a signal on cruise ship days.

Haines is one of only two towns (Skagway is the other) in Southeast Alaska with road access to the interior of Alaska, British Columbia and the Yukon.  As a result, we ran into many more RVs here, and our campground was often full.  Many RVs were from the Lower 48, but just as many came from Canada and Alaska.  Haines is a popular getaway spot for nearby residents who want to spend time on the water.

We were able to make time for a day trip to Skagway.  I’ll explain how we arranged that and what we did there in the next post.

All in all, Tim and I really enjoyed our time in Haines.  I really like the town and would recommend a stop here, especially if you are looking for a more low-key and less touristy experience.

The Sky Treated Us to Different Moods Just Outside Our Door - Sometimes Sunny

Sometimes Cloudy and Foggy

But Always Dreamy


  1. Of all places in Alaska that I have visited (3 cruises and 1 land tour), Haines is by far my favorite. Something about its low key friendly approach. A funny story. On our visit I was asking a local the best way to get out and see things now within walking distance. He reached into his pocket pulled out his keys and said ' go ahead and take my car'. I thought he was joking but he was not. I thanked him but turned down his offer. Turns out he was head of police for the town and it was his off-day (he was trimming bushes in his yard). Shook his hand and decided to just walk around and enjoy town.

    1. Thanks for sharing that story. Things really are different up here! Haines is a real find and is a perfect place to spend a week or so. I'd definitely come back.

  2. I have to thank Bob for sharing that story as well. I think Haines would be my kind of place to chill for a while. I certainly understand why you would forego the other campground for the one with views of the Canal. It's almost a good thing when there isn't much room between sites ... encourages me to get out and explore more.

    1. Haines is a perfect place to chill. I know what you mean about getting out more. Unfortunately, we had to be inside working way too much, so a bit of claustrophobia did set in. Still, I'm so glad we stayed there.

  3. Oceanside is amazing isn't it? We almost didn't leave.Just watching the tide go in and out was worth the daily cost...

  4. We really enjoyed Oceanside, and we extended our stay twice (partly due to work, however!). I loved watching the play of light on the mountains and the canal, especially in the evening.


We love hearing from you and reading your comments.

To leave a comment, type what you'd like to say and then click on the arrow next to "Comment as:". You can select "Anonymous" if you'd like. Finally, click "Publish." That's it.