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Ferry System

rope on railing
AK Marine Hwy Sign

In 1948, a brave endeavor of three visionary men spawned marine transportation between Alaska's coastal towns.  Struggling, after only a couple of years, their company was thrown a life raft and was scooped up by the Territorial Government in 1951 to create the Alaska Marine Highway.


After statehood in 1959, bonds provided $18 million in funding to expand the fleet to include the Malispina and the Tustumena.  This new and exciting Alaska's Marine Highway System expanded quickly and brought Alaskans' dreams to life.

AK Coast

Alaska's small Coastal Communities

Access for Alaskans to travel 'Outside' to the lower 48 states was realized in 1967, with a connection to Seattle, WA and in 1968, the ferry system began working hand-in-hand with the rail system. Transportation was flourishing.

The 1970s and '80s brought more funding and increased expansion of both vessels and ports. In 1989, the southernmost port of Seattle was changed to Bellingham, WA.

Bellingham port

AMHS Port in Bellingham, WA

Tiny mail box on board

' Sail Mail '

The multi-functional MV Kennicott was added with service from Valdez and had enhanced features allowing it to respond to oil spills.

Within it's first 50 years, the AMHS was servicing thirty-five communities and continues to grow.  With cross-Gulf
( of Alaska ) services as well as day services, via smaller vessels, the ability to move people and vehicles couldn't be any more convenient.  Depending on the vessel, there are many creature comforts such as cabins, restaurants, movie theatres, showers, laundry facilities and more.

car deck

The Car Deck

Top Bunk
Cabin Facilities
Blanket Drawer
Life Jacket
Hubbard and Columbia

AMHS Vessels Hubbard and Columbia docked

When we originally moved to Alaska from the Lower 48, we opted to put our vehicles and household goods on the TOTE Maritime cargo ferry system which services Alaska, the U.S. Virgin Island and Puerto Rico.

We couldn't have been more pleased with their service.

After dropping off our cars and U-haul with them, we stayed the night in WA and flew out the next day. After just a couple of days or hanging out and seeing the sights, we met up with our valuables in the port of Anchorage.

The process was seamless and we highly recommend their services.

View from Ship

When travelling again years later, we opted to sail , along with our vehicle, via AMHS on a cross-gulf sailing


from Whittier, Alaska to Bellingham, Washington on the

AMHS's MV Kennicott

Kennicott Hull sign
Kennicott Life Raft

The AMHS's website was easy to navigate. 

After viewing schedules, routes, rates and more, you can book your reservation right there online.

We chose to stay the night before in Whittier, in order to have a more leisurely trip.

port of Whittier
The Inn at Whittier sign

***NOTE:  When travelling from Anchorage to the Whittier docks, you must pass through the

Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel

( 'Whittier Tunnel' )

which accommodates both vehicles and the Alaska Railroad.

Automobile access to the tunnel alternates directions on the half hour. 

Therefore, always consult their schedule in order to afford yourself enough travel time. 

Likewise, there are fees and vehicle size restrictions to consider.

So do your homework.

Kennicott multi-deck view

  Boarding was seamless and the staff, friendly.

And the five-day voyage was breathtaking.

View from Kennicott
Kennicott Dining area

The intercom informed us that the staff conducts regular drills that happened to fall on the date we were sailing.

The evacuation horn blew!

Muster Station signs
onboard alarm

Staff put on their gear and went through the manuvers of letting down the life rafts to practice their drills.

Kennicott Lifeboat Drill
Lifeboat with clouds
Safety Drill
Kennicott Life Boat
Liferaft sign

Since internet was often unavailable -- a very welcome reprieve for many -- it was difficult to know your location at any given moment.  So many people could be found consulting this wall of 'Old School' maps, combined with current tech, which kept passengers informed of the ship's real time location as they crawl down the coast.

Current Location
Alaska coastal port

AMHS's Ports:

    Southeast Alaska
        Prince Rupert


        South Central Alaska
        Chenega Bay

    Southwest Alaska
        Cold Bay
        False Pass
        King Cove
        Old Harbor
        Port Lions
        Sand Point
        Dutch Harbor / Unalaska

Eagle and Seagull

soaring over the port

Pulling into ports, passengers have the option to disembark the vessel or stay aboard.

The hustle bustle was picture-worthy:

Juneau Coastline

Pulling in to the port in Juneau -- the state capital

Boats and Barges

The Life of Boats and Barges

Ship Docking

Staff person goes fishing for the rope to tie the ship to the dock

By far, our most prized moments were at dawn and dusk.

Views that fill the mind with awe and wonder...

Kennicott unloading

Alaska Marine Highway System
7559 N. Tongass Highway
Ketchikan, Alaska 99901


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