Spectrum Holidays' NATALIE BOX sat down with Marsha Barton and Jack Bonney from Visit Anchorage to discover "the real Alaska". Here are their top tips:
- Avoid the crowds. The moment you venture away from the masses, everything changes. When cruises arrive in small towns the population grows by up to 5000-10,000.
TIP: If you do a cruise, take a few days at the end to explore a small town or two. Ask the locals where they go for holidays. Alaskans are friendly and want to help. Ask their advice and be open to something new.
- The best thing about smaller towns is meeting locals and hearing personal stories of life in Alaska.
TIP: Spend time in towns that are not overly touristy. Whenever you go into a supermarket or a coffee shop, take the time to chat. One of the best questions you can ask is "How did you end up living here in Alaska?" The response can sometimes give you a great insight into Alaskan life.
- Use local transport. Transport is the key to what you see. Using different forms such as ferries, buses and trains, immediately changes the flavour of your experience. Travelling with locals slows down the pace and gives you an inside look into the Alaskan way of life.
"Alaska may seem large and wild, but Alaskans have long sought to bridge the physical distances," Jack Bonney said. "We rely on rail, road, air and river transportation and travellers have the advantage of those same networks and infrastructure."
TIP: Rather than travel on a commercial plane or train, take local transport. The local favourite is the Alaska Marine Highway System with 25 ports of call.
- Visit smaller towns and stay for longer. The advantage of travelling to smaller towns and spending two to three nights is that you'll a see deeper layer of the town.
TIP: Don't try to cram in 10 towns in 10 days. Choose four or five and stay for at least two nights each.
- Venture away from the coast. While south-east and south-central Alaska are spectacular, some of the most magical places are inland. Fairbanks is popular, but take a few extra days and venture east towards The Yukon and it will open your eyes to the enchanting tales of the 1890s and the gold-rush era.
TIP: Travel along the "Top of the World" Highway. This stunning ridge-top road passes through quaint rural towns like Chicken with mountain range views as far as the eye can see.
- Come for winter. Marsha Barton says more and more Australians are visiting in winter, for the Auroras and to see the Iditarod husky race in March.
TIP: Don't be afraid of the cold temperatures. All you need is the right layers. Winter in Alaska is beautiful.
Spectrum Holidays offers a "Real Alaska" experience with tours including the Alaska Marine Highway System ferries - 1300-130-840, www.spectrumholidays.com.au