Whittier is located at the head of Passage Canal on Prince William Sound, 59 miles south of Anchorage via the Seward Highway and Whittier Access Road.
Named after the poet John Greenleaf Whittier, Whittier was created by the U.S. Army during WWII as an port and petroleum delivery center. The 14-story Begich Towers, now a condominium, was originally used by the U.S. Army for family housing and civilian bachelor quarters. Today it houses more than half of Whittier’s population and the City Offices.
Whittier is port of call for the Alaska State Ferry system’s Prince William Sound service to Valdez and Cordova, and is also a port for cruise ships.
A railroad spur from Portage was completed in 1943, and Whittier became the primary military debarkation point for Alaska. Whittier was accessible only by railroad and by ferry until 2000, when the Whittier spur road was completed. Vehicle traffic to Whittier must transit the single-lane, 2.5-mile-long Anton Anderson Tunnel, alternating tunnel time with both the railroad and east-west traffic.
Whittier services include: Lazy Otter Charters and Cafe, Epic Charters and The Harbor Store (and AVIS car rental: 907-440-2847). Many of the restaurants, shops and tour offices are seasonal, operating only during the summer. The Harbor Store has groceries, fishing supplies and an ATM. Card gas available at the harbor, which also has marine services and repairs, a marine supply store, boat launch and lift, freight services, dry storage and self-storage units. There is a campground located near the public parking area and overnight RV parking (no services) near the east end of the tunnel. Get your seafood catch packaged (or purchase) at Fee’s Custom Seafoods.
- Guided kayaking, customized wildlife and glacier cruises, fishing charters and water taxis for kayak and camper drop-off in Prince William Sound. Take a cruise with the 26 Glacier Cruise by Phillips Cruises & Tours and Gray Line of Alaska Portage Glacier Cruise. Take the Alaska Marine Highway Ferry across Prince William Sound en route to Valdez, Cordova or other ports.
- Enjoy watching all the activity going on at Whittier’s harbor as visitors arrive and depart by cruise ship, tour boat, ferry, charter boat, kayak.
Area hiking trails. Follow Whittier Street 0.5 mile to Eastern Avenue; cross Eastern and drive 0.3 mile up Blackstone Road, then turn right on Salmon Run Road just past the Buckner Building. Salmon Run Road (narrow, dirt) leads 0.4 mile to Horsetail Falls Trail, a 1-mile planked trail to platform with view of Whittier and Passage Canal (see photo below). Or follow Salmon Run Road 0.2 mile and turn left on a second narrow dirt road for 0.4 mile to Smitty’s Cove, Lu Young Park picnic area and access to Emerald Cove and Shotgun Cove trails beyond.
For the 1.75-mile-long Portage Pass Trail, turnoff on the Chugach National Forest access road just east of the tunnel. The first 0.75 miles of this trail—to the pass at 750 feet elevation—is well maintained. It continues another mile as a primitive route to Portage Lake.
- A Tribute to Alaska’s Legends: Prince William Sound Museum (located at the Anchor Inn Hotel), A Tribute to Alaska’s Legends, presents remarkable exhibits highlighting the town’s history, including the Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel, the Alaska Railroad, and heroic rescue and survival stories.
- Whittier Army Port Historic District Walking Tour: located on the original townsite, accessed from the waterfront area of town via a pedestrian tunnel that runs under the rail yard (located across the street from the Alaska Ferry Terminal). Whittier’s history as a Cold War Army Port is recounted on signs affixed to the large concrete buildings that have survived 60-70 years. The walking tour map with short history is located at the P-12 Motor Pool building across the street from the pedestrian tunnel.