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General Introduction of Alaska

Alaska is the largest state in the USA spanning 570,375sq miles (1.47million sq km). It is sparsely-populated with only 620,000 residents but is blessed with immense natural beauty and wonders with 3,000 rivers, 3million lakes and more than 5,000 glaciers against a backdrop of commanding mountains and thousands of square miles of dense forests.

Alaska's main attractions are spectacular scenery, wildlife viewing, camping, skiing, the Northern Lights, volcanoes, Inside Passage cruises, hiking, riverboat rides, fishing, canoeing, river and sea kayaking, friendly people, Native American and Russian culture, totem poles, glaciers and dogsled rides.
Most people like it when they experience it but it is particularly geared to nature lovers and the adventurous. Those on a strict budget may find an Alaska vacation hard to manage.

Alaska borders the north-west edge of Canada and is closer to Russia - just a short hop across the Bering Strait - than to the rest of the U.S. The landscape is dramatic and, because it covers such a huge territory, quite varied.
In the south is rainforest (Tongass), in the north is Arctic desert. The state is traversed by several mountain ranges including North America's highest mountain (Mt. McKinley) and 16 of the highest peaks in the U.S., as well as most of the active volcanoes in the country.
It has more coastline than all of the other U.S. states combined. The geography ranges from tundra to sheer mountain wall, from the densely forested, relatively temperate coasts of the Inside Passage to the permafrost of Barrow.

Alaska Facts At A Glance
Area: 570,375 sq miles (1,477,268 sq km)
Population: 620,000 (1999)
Capital city: Juneau (pop: 31,000)
Date of admission to the Union: 3rd Jan 1959
Time Zones: Most of the state observes Alaska Time 9 hours behind GMT. The western-most Aleutian Islands observe Hawaii-Aleutian Time 10 hours behind GMT. Daylight Saving Time is observed April-October.
People: 75% Caucasian, 15% Inuit and other indigenous groups, 4% black, 3.2% Asian
Language: English plus Native Alaskan
Religion: Christian
Major industries: Oil and gas (25% of US production), commercial fishing, mining, tourism
Electricity: 110/120V, 60Hz
Weights & measures: Imperial
Tourism: 600,000 visitors a year

Best time to go to Alaska

Generally, mid-May to mid-September is the preferred time to visit with June-August being the best. But not all of the state is as unbearable, cold and miserable year round as a lot of people believe. There are actually five or six different climates.
The interior region (Fairbanks area) has a wide range, with summers in the 70s-80sF/20-31C or higher and winters far below 0F/-18C. The south-central (Anchorage) region has summers in the range of 55-65 F/13-18 C and winters well below freezing.
The south-east (Juneau and Inside Passage) has summers in the 50s-60sF/10-20C with mild winters that hover around the freezing mark.
The south-west is generally in the 50sF/10-15C during the summer and below freezing in winter, coupled with lots of wind, snow, sleet and rain.
In eastern Alaska, along the border with Canada's Yukon, temperatures average about 60F/15C in summer and about 10 to 14F/-11 to -9C in winter.
Northern Alaska is cool to cold year round, with summer highs generally 40s-50sF/5-14C and winter temperatures well below 0F/-18C.
And, just to confuse things even more, it can drizzle, fog over, gust mightily or chill out even during the peak of summer throughout the state.
Hawaii it isn't but the climate is part of what makes Alaska such a magnificent place to visit. No matter when you go, sweaters, warm clothing and rain gear will be useful.
Mid-May to August 1 many Alaskans live in near constant daylight. This phenomenon, known as the Midnight Sun, reaches as far south as Fairbanks and Anchorage.
Note: Alaska's coasts and islands (especially the Pribilofs) can be quite windy. High winds can cause travel delays by boat or plane and, in colder seasons, can increase the danger of frostbite and hypothermia at low temperatures.

Mount Roberts Tramway

Admission Includes:

- All-day unlimited rides on the Mount Roberts Tramway
- The 18-minute film Seeing Daylight

Allow a minimum of one hour to complete Mount Roberts Tramway experience.

Mount Roberts Tramway Cost*:

- $29/adult; $14.50/child 6-12; Free/Child 5 & Under
* Local tax included.

Open May through September

Monday 12:00 PM to 9:00 PM

Tuesday - Friday 8:00 AM to 9:00 PM

Saturday & Sunday 8:00 AM - 9:00 PM 

*In May and September hours and days of operation may vary depending on ship arrivals and departures.


Events in Alaska
Alaskans are a celebratory people, especially in the summer when 24-hour daylight turns the most sober and sane into the most bonkers. Most towns have Summer Solstice festivities on June 21.
The festival in Fairbanks is one of the most popular, making the most of nearly 23 hours of sun to stage a midnight baseball game. Sitka lets off steam with log-chopping, axe-tossing and tree-climbing competitions.
Independence Day (July 4) is a very popular holiday with celebrations of particular note in Ketchikan and Anchorage, including parades, contests and softball games, all rounded off with impressive firework displays.
On the second weekend in July, Talkeetna is the proud host of the Moose Dropping Festival, a high-class bash popular with second-class shot-putters wondering why dropping-tossing isn't an Olympic event!
Golden Days in Fairbanks in late July celebrates the discovery of gold with parades and sports, giving a chance to the less athletic in events like the Hairy Legs Contest.

General Overview of Alaska
To Aleut peoples Alaska was "Alyeshka," meaning the great land. Visitors today are likely to agree. Alaska is truly one of the world"s special places. Those who visit can't help marveling at the exotic wildlife, magnificent mountains, glacier-carved valleys and steep, rocky coastline.
The sheer size of Alaska is hard to imagine. The town of Barrow is more than 1,600mi/2,575 km north of Ketchikan, while Attu at the end of the Aleutian chain lies almost 2,000 mi/3,220 km west of Anchorage.
Acreage aside, Alaska is also big in lots of other ways. It has the tallest mountains, biggest glaciers, best fishing and wildest wilderness on the continent.
With such abundance, it's no wonder that more and more travelers visit Alaska each year, particularly aboard cruise ships. Because of this heavy traffic, some towns in south-eastern Alaska and such attractions as Denali National Park and Portage Glacier can seem a bit overrun at times.
It must also be noted that Alaska isn't cheap. Per-day expenses in remote parts of the state are comparable with those in New York City or London.
Settlers first arrived in Alaska at least 20,000 years ago, when hunters from Asia followed large game over the Bering Strait land bridge into North America. By the time the first Europeans arrived, in the mid-1700s, they found several diverse cultures living there.
Whalers inhabited the treeless tundra along the coast. Nomadic caribou hunters roamed the forested interior along the Yukon River. Alaska's panhandle was home to members of the Tlingit and Haida groups, who lived in a lush coastal environment.
Even though Russian explorers had seen the Alaskan coast as early as 1741, Europeans did not venture into the territory's immense interior until well into the 1800s. Even after its purchase by the United States in 1867, the region remained largely unexplored.
As was so often the case in the opening of the American frontier, it took the discovery of gold in 1880 to get folks headed for Alaska. During the gold rush, such cities as Juneau and Skagway were formed by mobs of rowdy, ambitious and gutsy prospectors, speculators and settlers.
Alaska was made a territory of the U.S. in 1912 but statehood wasn't granted until 1959. Then, in 1968, the discovery of oil at Prudhoe Bay sparked a new rush to Alaska. The construction of the Alaska Pipeline from the Beaufort Sea to the Gulf of Alaska in the 1970s brought new wealth, jobs and environmental concerns.
Even now, the debate continues as to how much of Alaska's pristine wilderness should be developed. The latest focus of the debate has been oil extraction in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and logging in the Tongass National Forest.

Juneau information

Juneau is the State capital 600miles/965km south-east of Anchorage - and the only capital in the U.S.A. not accessible by road! Juneau is a long, narrow city on a beautiful harbor nestled among spectacular mountains.
In fact, Juenau has a reputation - supported by both locals and visitors - as one of the most scenically beautiful cities in the USA. Overhead are the snowcapped peaks of Mt Juneau and Mt Roberts, while the Gastineau Channel provides a bustling waterfront for the city.

Juneau is known as the Gateway to the Glaciers. Several to choose from - including Mendendall Glacier, the renowned drive-in glacier, 13miles (21km) from the city center.

Shopping in Juneau

Shopping Hours: Usually daily 10am-6pm but many open late if a cruise ship is in port.

Juneau has more and better shops than any stop along the Inside Passage.
S. Franklin Street, near the cruise terminals, is Shopping Central. It's packed with trinket and T-shirt shops plus stores selling costly native art and lovelly gold and silver jewelry.

Dining in Juneau
Seafood is a specialty of most restaurants but the city also has a surprising array of different cuisines. If you like beer, ask for an Alaskan Amber or a Pale Ale.


Juneau (June-oh) hustles and bustles like no other city in Alaska. The steep downtown streets echo with the mad shopping sprees of cruise ship passengers in the summer tourist season and the whispered intrigues of politicians during the winter legislative session. Miners, loggers, and eco-tourism operators come to lobby for their share of Southeast's forest. Lunch hour arrives, and well-to-do state and federal bureaucrats burst from the office buildings to try the latest restaurant or brown-bag on one of the waterfront wharves, the sparkling water before them and gift store malls behind. The center of town becomes an ad hoc pedestrian mall as the crush of people forces cars to creep.

Juneau is Alaska's third-largest city
(Anchorage and Fairbanks are larger), with a population of 30,000, but it feels like a small town that's just been stuffed with people. Splattered on the sides of Mount Juneau and Mount Roberts along Gastineau Channel, where there isn't room for much of a town, its setting is picturesque but impractical. Further development up the mountains is hemmed in by avalanche danger; beyond is the 1,500-square-mile Juneau Icefield, an impenetrable barrier. Gold-mine tailings dumped into the Gastineau created the flat land near the water where much of the downtown area now stands. The Native village that originally stood on the waterfront is today a little pocket several blocks from the shore. There's no road to the outside world, and the terrain discourages building one. Jets are the main way in and out, threading down through the mountains to the airport.

Gold was responsible for the location; it was found here in 1880 by Joe Juneau and Richard Harris, assisted by the Tlingit chief Kowee, who told them where to look. All three men are buried in the Evergreen Cemetery. Their find started Alaska's development. The territory's first significant roads and bridges and its first electrical plant were built in the mountains here, which were carved with miles of hard rock tunnels well before the Klondike gold rush began. In a few years, these mines removed more gold than the United States paid for all of Alaska, as attested to by a photograph in the State Museum showing comparative piles. There's plenty of gold left, but mining died out with World War II; efforts to start again have repeatedly faltered in the face of environmental controls and economics. There are several interesting gold-mining sites to visit.

In 1900, Congress moved the territorial capital here from Sitka, which had fallen behind in the flurry of gold-rush development. Alaskans have been fighting over whether to keep it here for many decades since, but Juneau's economy is heavily dependent on government jobs, and it has successfully fought off a series of challenges to its capital status. The closest call came in the 1970s, when the state selected a wilderness site near Willow for a whole new city to house the capital -- a necessity since neither Anchorage nor Fairbanks, which have their own rivalry, would support the move if it meant the other city got to have the capital nearby. Juneau defeated that move by pushing through an initiative that required voter approval of the full cost of any move. When the price tag became public, the electorate turned down building a brand-new city.

There's plenty to see in Juneau, and it's a good town to visit because the population of government workers supports restaurants and amenities of a quality not found elsewhere in Southeast. Alaska's most accessible glacier, the Mendenhall, is in Juneau, and many businesses have set up tours, including visits to the fish hatchery, the brewery, and an abandoned mine. Juneau is also a starting point and travel hub for outdoor activities all over the northern Panhandle: You'll likely pass through on your way to Glacier Bay or virtually anywhere else in the region. The outdoors is always close at hand in Juneau. You can start from the capitol building for a hike to the top of Mount Juneau or Mount Roberts, or up the Perseverance Trail that leads in between. Sea-kayaking and whale-watching excursions are nearby, as well as some of Alaska's most scenic tide pooling and beach walking.


Downtown, the crush of visitors can be overwhelming when many cruise ships are in port at once. The streets around the docks have been entirely taken over by shops and other touristy businesses. Many of these are owned by people from outside Alaska who come to the state for the summer to sell gifts made outside Alaska. But only a few blocks away are quiet mountainside neighborhoods of houses with mossy roofs, and only a few blocks farther are the woods and the mountains, populated by bear, eagles, and salmon.

Weather in Juneau

Juneau, being in a rain forest can be overcast and rainy. In fact, there are only 1 to 3 sunny days per week during April, May and June (also Juneau’s driest months) The wettest months are September and October (6.73 and 7.84 inches respectively) You may be lucky and get a dry day in Juneau but you are better off prepared for rain.

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