Valdez is an end-of-the-road town teeming with endless adventure, a sure bet for summertime fun where visitors will delight in its beauty, history and recreation.
Located at the head of a deep fjord in eastern Prince William Sound, Valdez is a 300-mile drive from Anchorage, treating motorists to boundless views of mountains, wildlife, waterfalls and more.
While the road route is impressive, travelers can alternatively venture by Alaska Marine Highway System ferry. Drive an hour south of Anchorage to Whittier, and enjoy front-row views of beautiful Prince William Sound.
In many ways, Valdez delights with small-town charm. There is one post office and one main grocery store. Many residents work for or in connection to the terminus of the historic Trans-Alaska Pipeline System, visible across Port Valdez. The town is simply arranged and easy to navigate, with walkable, open roads and frequent and sweeping views of the surrounding mountains that beckon the daring to backcountry adventurers.
For water-based play, it’s easy access to a glittering port that fills with fishermen, shrimpers, kayakers and sightseers, especially on sunny days. A number of hotels, camping and RV options afford choices when booking overnight accommodations.
In the early 1900s, Valdez enjoyed prosperous Gold Rush-era roots, but its landscape changed forever when the 1964 Good Friday Earthquake triggered a tsunami that caused the deaths of 32 residents and the demise of the town as they knew it. History buffs can visit the original Valdez townsite today.
The old site is just a few miles east of modern Valdez, now a quiet, natural place of remembrance, marked with signage and a seaside pioneer cemetery. Salvageable buildings were moved to the town’s current location. Download a self-guided walking tour (valdezmuseum.org) to view those buildings that survived the quake.
The Valdez Museum and Historical Archive showcases the town’s vibrant history, from its earliest Alaska Native settlers to its prospector days to its modern form. Another option, the Maxine & Jesse Whitney Museum, boasts one of the largest collection of Alaska Native art and artifacts in the world. Check the websites for operating hours.
Valdez boasts a satisfying assortment of restaurants. The Fat Mermaid on North Harbor Drive offers sensational pizza and a full bar with occasional live music and an outdoor dining area. A cluster of food trucks also on North Harbor Drive offer delicious variety, among them local favorites Nat Shack, with artisan tacos and Cal-Mex fare; and Aunty Yum Yum’s has bountiful and authentic Thai cuisine.
Also by the harbor is The Roadside Potatohead, open May 1 to Sept. 15. This corner-spot restaurant has excellent beer and wine options and al fresco patio dining, plus fantastic views of anglers hauling in the daily catch.
Valdez visitors have endless opportunities to hike, bike, boat, kayak, fish and more. The Valdez vicinity serves as a jumping-off point for countless remarkable hikes and trails, including the Dock Point Trail, Gold Creek Trail, the Valdez Glacier area for hikes and kayaking, and Mineral Creek, which cuts deep into the folds of the surrounding mountains toward old mining territory.
Alaska Guide Co. offers an array of guided excursions, whether you want to paddle, ice climb, rock climb, hike, backpack or mountain bike. Valdez Stay and Play offers adventures like glacier tours and electric bike rentals. Kayak outfits Anadyr Adventures and Pangea are also reputable for safe, unforgettable, fully outfitted experiences.
For a more relaxing experience, try a sightseeing charter: Stan Stephens Glacier and Wildlife Cruises offers far-ranging day cruises aboard smooth-sailing catamarans. Ventures range from 6 to 7.5 hours. The comfortable ships are captained by knowledgeable crews who will delight passengers with information about the history, wildlife and landscapes of the area.
While a trip out into Prince William Sound will stun, wildlife lovers have plenty of opportunity in and around town too. Watch harbor waters for lolling otters or the occasional orca, and look up for bald eagles. It’s worth a drive around Port Valdez to Allison Point for a chance to see black bears pawing waters near the hatchery for pink salmon.
For souvenirs commemorating your Valdez visit, there are options. The Prospector (200 Egan Drive) remains the go-to spot for outdoor gear, fishing and hunting wares, and brand-name outdoor clothing. The Salty Lupine (130 Meals Ave.) features stylish and trendy Valdez-branded clothing and gifts. The Valdez Art Co-Op (122 Kobuk Drive) sells adorable wares by local artists. And on the waterfront, The Painted Moose is an excellent spot for gifts and trinkets.
To drink and dress like a local, visit Valdez Brewing, buy a pint of local beer and a stylish branded hoodie, and enjoy the industrial-chic taproom or the spacious outdoor patio. Valdez Brewing is one of two breweries in town. The second is Growler Bay Brewing Co. At press time, its hours of operation were 4-8 p.m. every Saturday.