Alaska : Safety by CityUnited States - safety as a country Alaska - state review
Seward, Alaska has a slogan of “Alaska Starts Here”, and while I can’t help but wonder how the southern port city of Ketchikan feels about that, we’ll go with it.
This small town of fewer than 3000 people is at the southern tip of the largest part of the state, just two hours south of Anchorage.
This region is home to the Kenai Fjords (ken-EYE feeYORD) National Park.
I’m trying to be a responsible and professional writer but I can’t resist this, “THERE ARE PUFFINS HERE!”.
Adding to the traditional wildlife wonders in Alaska like bears, moose, whales, and wolves, you can add these incredible city birds recently made (more) famous by the streaming show “Puffins” and “Puffins Impossible”, voiced in part by Johnny Depp.
(HINT: Take LOTS of pictures for the grandkids!)
There are unimaginable glaciers you can boat or kayak between, but those come with some specific safety advice that we’ll get to in a bit.
The Boat Harbor itself is amazing to see on firm land in the center of Seward.
The city itself is split in half by the bay but stays on the western side as the eastern side is home to a prison.
*NOTE: Be sure to search for “Seward Alaska” as there are a lot of other cities or neighborhoods called Seward in the lower 48.
I almost gave you some information about Seward, Nebraska.
Warnings & Dangers in Seward
OVERALL RISK : LOW
There's a low overall risk here as far as crime goes and some medium-risk when taking excursions. This is a very small town driven by fishing and tourism. You can imagine how hard the cruise ship stoppage of the pandemic hit these tourist towns in Alaska and they are more than happy to welcome you back.
TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK : LOW
Downtown Seward is very walkable and you can get to most tours and points of interest in town within a mile's walk. If you are driving in from Anchorage, just park and walk. There are water taxis to some attractions. If you are staying in a local hotel, ask about shuttle options. Renting a car here is an option, but beware of high fees, especially if you are driving to another place in Alaska for drop-off. All of the options come with low risk.
PICKPOCKETS RISK : LOW
There were no pickpockets or purse snatching reported in the past several years, so there's a low risk. It's best to pack what you need in a backpack instead of bringing a purse with you for the adventures that lie ahead.
NATURAL DISASTERS RISK : MEDIUM
Many Alaska cities come with a slew of disaster risks, and Seward is no different. There are risks of earthquakes, wildfires, flooding (especially on mountain trails), tsunamis, landslides, avalanches, and volcanoes. You should study up on these dangers and how to be prepared. I've noticed in my research that the National Park Service (NPS) is EXCELLENT at keeping warnings front and center on the individual park websites, and they do have an NPS app. You won't be able to read anything about the selected park until you get past the safety warnings. That's a great feature. There's a medium risk here because these dangers run year-round.
MUGGING RISK : LOW
There's a low risk here as just one robbery was reported in 2020. Given how much this city depends on tourism, it would be quite shocking if there were a lot of muggings here, as cruise ships would stop porting there.
TERRORISM RISK : LOW
There's a low risk as there aren't hard targets around and no attack here would cripple communication or impact the Alaskan Pipeline.
SCAMS RISK : LOW
There's a low risk of getting scams. The biggest ones reported were locals getting email scammed or defrauded by contractors.
WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK : LOW
Women are safe traveling here with low risk but still should follow all the basic safety practices. If possible, go hiking with a group just in case of a rockslide or a slip-and-fall. Walking around town during the day is safe, but don't wander around at night.
TAP WATER RISK : LOW
The Seward water passes all necessary requirements at the state and federal levels. Like some other cities, the water isn't treated as much as it might be where you live, but the city utility explains that by saying, "Our water is minimally treated because of its great natural quality." There's a low risk of using it, but it's worth noting it isn't as filtered as some other water in the lower 48.
Safest Places to Visit in Seward
The downtown area of Seward is called Main Street, but it’s named 4th Street.
You might notice there are more businesses on one side than the other.
That’s because a fire took out the buildings almost a century ago.
This is about as rustic as downtown gets without adding that touristy charm.
It’s just the reality of what an Alaska downtown looks like without much renovation or concern for aesthetics.
The harbor is a sight to see before you even get on a boat.
More than 100 boats ready to take you on wild adventures wait as commercial fishing boats come in from a trip or head out to sea.
You can’t come to Seward without seeing Kenai Fjords National Park.
It’s like going back to the ice age and you’re an explorer finding something exciting around every turn.
A popular attraction in this park is Exit Glacier.
You can take a tour with a ranger leading the way and talking you through the history or you can explore on your own.
A popular spot for kayaking is Bear Glacier Lagoon.
You’ll glide through brilliant blue water, navigate around icebergs, and see the mountains and glaciers in the distance.
Resurrection Bay is a great boat tour as well, and you might even make a pit stop at the beaches of Sandspit Point.
Resurrection Bay got its name from a group of sailors caught in a nasty storm there.
Their weather didn’t clear up until Easter morning, giving them a resurrection on a holy day.
Resurrection Bay is also home to some of the best salmon runs you can see in the summer.
For the less adventurous, or those who just need a break, the Alaska Sealife Center is downtown.
Pet a puffin or ogle at an octopus while you learn about all the wildlife in Alaska.
There’s also a rescue center here, so you can see the animals being nursed back to health.
Places to Avoid in Seward
Seward is a very small town with a downtown area you can see in its entirety in 30 minutes to an hour.
There aren’t bad neighborhoods to avoid.
The biggest risks you’ll find here are in nature.
The animals that are attractions could attack you.
The waters that beckon you to kayak could lead to an iceberg crumbling down on you.
The trails that challenge your skills can quickly be filled with rushing water filled with rocks and ice.
If you are not in good health or aren’t an experienced hiker, avoid trying moderate to difficult hikes.
If you’ve never kayaked before, don’t try to head to Resurrection Bay from Seward.
If you’ve never driven a boat before, get a captain or book an excursion.
While Seward doesn’t get as bitterly cold or as much rainfall as some other Alaska cities, you still need to dress in proper outdoor cold-weather layers.
Your sweatshirt and winter coat aren’t going to cut it.
Study up on how to layer clothing before you go as you’ll need an absorbent base layer, an insulating second layer, and a waterproof top layer – from head to toe.
Safety Tips for Traveling to Seward
- Bring bear spray and an air horn with you if you’ll be traveling on land in the wilderness of Kenai Fjords or elsewhere. There’s a great chance you’ll never use them and they’ll end up as souvenirs, but if you do need them they could save your life.
- Depending on how challenging you want the glacier hike to be, it’s a good idea to bring crampons or microspikes that fit over your boots to give more stability. Some hikes won’t require them, but it’s always good to pack them along.
- I can’t emphasize this enough – read the park warnings and follow instructions. For example, as I write this, there is a warning in Kenai Fjords to “not hike past ice fall hazard signs.” Nothing is stopping you aside from those signs, but that warning makes it clear that going past the signs could mean you are at risk of massive slabs of ice falling on top of you.
- If you are kayaking near icebergs, you need to keep a good distance away. It’s tempting to get up close, but as we learned with the Titanic, you only see a very small part of the full iceberg above water. A rule of thumb from the NPS is to stay twice the height and width of the iceberg away and don’t get lured in by a “cool” ice cave you see. Those icebergs could crumble anytime.
- Bear Glacier is known for what’s called an outburst flood. This can be a sudden release of pressure and send debris and rising water your way. Talk to a park ranger about these dangers before you get in the kayak.
- For those who will need to use the restroom, there are no facilities in many of these areas. You are asked not to leave human waste behind and instead use a human waste disposal bag that is environmentally friendly.
- If you’ll have to eat during your adventure in the wilderness, bring a bear-safe container with you. Most bears will avoid humans but they do love the smell of food. Securing the food is safer for you and the bears.
- Don’t try to climb a tree to avoid a bear. Bears are better climbers than you are. Should you come face to face with a bear, you’ll need to talk in a calm, human voice and back away slowly. Normally, the bears are more curious about you than trying to attack you. Even when they get up on their hind legs, that’s a sign of “Hey, what are you?” That’s why talking to them helps say “Oh, I’m just a human with a bear-proof box, nothing to see here.”
- Wolves are a different story. They can outrun you but they can’t climb. If there’s a tree nearby, climb up it and wait until the wolf or wolves move on.
- To get community alerts in Seward, sign up for Nixle.com alerts. Most communities in Alaska use this system, so you can add every port on your cruise trip or driving adventure.
So... How Safe Is Seward Really?
As far as crime goes, it’s very safe.
There are very few, if any, risks you should be worried about as a tourist.
You should still keep belongings close, avoid flashing around cash or limit the personal information you share with fellow travelers.
The real safety concerns come with how prepared you are for the weather in Seward, the intensity of your excursions, and your ability to handle prolonged periods of cold and rain.
People who cruise Alaska love to share their stories online, so look for Reddit or Facebook groups about Alaska and ask a lot of questions.
People are happy to share the lessons they learned on their cruise or driving tour.
There are also plenty of YouTube videos to see more about Seward.
The one thing about Seward is – if you don’t want to go to the mountains or on boat tours, you don’t have a whole lot to do in the city for a full day.
It’s a tourist city dedicated to the outdoors.
How Does Seward Compare?
- Visas - You won't need to present an additional ID or Visa to be in Seward, but you'll need identification when you sign up for excursions. You'll also have to sign liability waivers, so be sure to read the fine print.
- Currency - The U.S. Dollar is the currency used here. Most of the trips you'll take can be booked well ahead of time and you won't have to pull out your wallet much unless you are paying for food or buying things at the shops downtown.
- Weather - November through March the highs are in the 30s and lows are in the 20s, but that's not the height of the tourist season and some amenities might be limited and the outdoors is going to be more challenging and dangerous. May through September is the height of the tourist season. Highs are generally in the 50s or low-60s and lows are in the upper 40s and 50s. It rains about 10 days of the month on average, so bring rain gear and plenty of carefully planned layers. Don't forget good hiking boots and break them in before you wear them on this trip.
- Airports - There's no airport in Seward, so you'll have to drive two hours north to Anchorage to get a commercial flight and that's really your only option. You can get out of town via train and boat as well.
- Travel Insurance - Please get travel insurance for this trip and as much insurance as you can for the adventures. There are a lot of cool things with a lot of potential harm and insurance will protect you and your family in case something goes wrong.