Go Back   ADVrider > Riding > Regional Forums > Alaska
User Name
Register Inmates Photos Site Rules Search Today's Posts Mark Forums Read

Thread Tools Search this Thread Display Modes
Old 10-19-2005, 02:07 PM   #1
jwalters OP
Farkle Proliferator
jwalters's Avatar
Joined: Jun 2005
Location: Little Marais, MN
Oddometer: 2,346
Alaska Marine Highway Ferry System

I have been toying with the idea of taking an Alaskan Ferry from Bellingham, WA to somewhere in Alaska, and then riding back. Realistically/financially, I think I could be ready for this in a couple years. Looks like June is the preferred time to motorbike in Alaska.

This forum is a wealth of information on Alaskan motorcycle trips, I was wondering if anyone has any experience on one of the many Alaskan Marine Highway ferrys? Any experience would be helpful. For example, you can camp on the deck, is camping pretty good, or is it wet and miserable? Was a an overall good experience? etc.

From what I have seen on the websites, I can expect to pay ~$450 for a motorcycle stall on the ferry and primative tent sleeping, rooms are extra, so is food. Does this sound correct?

Any Alaskan ports recommended as my destination? Do some ports have better roads out of the city, or at least they have roads, etc

Apologies, if this is covered to death in another thread, I did my best searching for the Alaskan Ferry information.

Here was a neat article I found from the Seattle Times.
jwalters is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 10-19-2005, 02:43 PM   #2
Beastly Adventurer
redseca2's Avatar
Joined: Mar 2003
Location: San Francisco
Oddometer: 1,269
I have taken both the Alaska and BC ferries a few times and have really enjoyed them each time, so I try to work them into my adventures. On all my trips though, I have either had a room on the long hauls, or just wandered around without setting up "camp" on the short ones. Here are a few thoughts:

If your schedule allows, consider breaking the trip once or twice for layovers. I do not think it has a big effect cost-wise versus the full Bellingham to Haines long haul. There is enough to do in Juneau or Sitka, and even Ketchikan and Prince Rupert, to make it worthwhile. If you do this, some of the legs are so short that worrying about sleep is moot. Juneau to Haines is only about 6 hours, for example. On the other hand, on a longer leg, you could pay for a room if only for the change.

People do camp on deck, and there is a real "culture" there. I will defer to a camper's response rather than speculate. The larger ferries at least, have a covered deck with ceiling mounted heaters, so you are not totally exposed to the elements. One thing that is obvious is that you need a buddy so you do not feel you need to guard your stuff 24/7.

You will encounter crazy scheduling at times. I had a 3:30AM departure from Juneau to Sitka once that might make squeezing onto an already "claimed" camping deck iffy. On the other extreme, I had an 11PM arrival in Prince Rupert this summer, making getting settled into land-based lodging something you really need to pre-plan, particularly if it is raining and cold.

The ferries have self-service laundries and pay-per-use showers, so you can get your gear (and yourself) all sorted. There are short periods every few hours when they allow you to "visit" the vehicle deck and fiddle with gear (this is mainly for people with pets in their RV's).

Broadly speaking, the scenary gets better as you go north. In/out of Sitka, Juneau to Haines, should be done in the daylight.

You can arrange everything on-line or by phone. Everyone I have worked with has been real helpful.
redseca2 is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 10-19-2005, 03:37 PM   #3
Pope's Nose
legion's Avatar
Joined: Jan 2003
Location: Alaska
Oddometer: 12,938
Take a look at where you might want to go as some of the places that the ferry stops don't have roads leaving them at all.

The ferry seems slooooow to me and there ain't much to do on it. Bring a book or two. You'll find yourself wondering if your bike is laying on it's side skidding around on the below deck for the first while. Not to worry though... you can't go make sure anyway.

Btw... it's a great idea.
legion is online now   Reply With Quote
Old 10-19-2005, 08:40 PM   #4
jwalters OP
Farkle Proliferator
jwalters's Avatar
Joined: Jun 2005
Location: Little Marais, MN
Oddometer: 2,346
Thanks! These replies are exactly what I want to hear!
jwalters is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 10-20-2005, 06:11 AM   #5
Lost In Translation
AntWare's Avatar
Joined: Oct 2002
Oddometer: 16,483
I took the ferry from Bellingham to Haines last summer and loved it.

Unless things have changed the ferry's only run every three days, so plan accordingly. The cost was in the $650-$675 range for me and the bike, no room. Camping is first come, first served. Things were pretty crowded at the Bellingham end but thinned out at each stop.

You can sleep on the floor, or if you're lucky, one of the plastic sun loungers in the solarium area, but you'll have zero privacy.

I duct taped my tent to the deck while it was dry and it held for the duration. I got a nice spot by the edge of the solarium yet on the outside, so that meant I got some heat from the lamps, and was protected from the winds that would whip up most nights, yet still had a great view straight out of the tent.

There were a few people sleeping downstairs, in the TV/lounge area which is carpetted, but they had to roll all their stuff up and out of the way during the day.
In hindsight, I think once you've got your ticket you can walk onboard the ship. Go ahead and grab a tent spot and set up, park the bike later.
I used 15' tie-downs to secure my luggage to the bike on the trip, I also used them to strap the bike down once onboard, although they did supply all the rope/twine you needed.

We set sail in the evening. Next day stopped at Ketchikan for about an hour, second day, Petersburg, then Sitka. Last day, made a two-three hour stop in Juneau, but you'll have to catch a cab to get into town as the port is a few miles out. I got off at Haines in the wee hours of the morning. From there the ship went on to end it's journey in Skagway.

The ferry's are quite a bit smaller than the cruise liners so you'll go places and see things those rich pampered bastards never will, the only way you'd get any closer to the inside passage would be to paddle it

Don't put it's a once in a lifetime journey.

Hope this helps, good luck.
Choose Life. Choose a job. Choose a career. Choose a family.
Choose a fucking big television.
Choose sitting on that couch watching mind-numbing, spirit-crushing game shows,
stuffing fucking junk food into your mouth.
Choose rotting away at the end of it all, pishing your last in a miserable home,
nothing more than an embarrasment to the selfish, fucked up brats you spawned to replace yourself.
Choose your future. Choose life.
I chose not to choose life, I chose something else instead.

AntWare screwed with this post 10-20-2005 at 06:20 AM
AntWare is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 10-20-2005, 09:15 AM   #6
Harry Swan
One more time
Harry Swan's Avatar
Joined: Jul 2001
Location: High in the Hollywood Hills
Oddometer: 1,100
First, the ferry trip is great. The scenery is magnificent and it's a wonderfully unique experience.

A tip or two ... If you're traveling early in the season, May/June, then I suggest you ride up and ferry back. The northbound ferry's are pretty packed but the southbound trip I took in late June of this year had about a quarter of the Columbia's capacity. That meant no waiting for anything and only 3 tents on the Solarium deck instead of the crush that Antware shows. Besides taking the ferry at the end of the trip provides a welcome break from riding. Also, we stopped in Sitka on the southbound ferry. We didn't a few years ago on a ferry out of Bellingham. You'd have to check the schedule on that because Sitka is worth the stop....
Harry Swan is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 10-20-2005, 02:02 PM   #7
Gnarly Adventurer
Joined: Jan 2005
Location: Edmonton, Alberta
Oddometer: 192
I agree with Harry; I think I was on the next ferry after him--Lots of space on deck, and a nice respite frim the Dempster. We took the ferry from Skagway to Prince Rupert, cost about $600 (Canadian) for the bike, me and a room. I like the room even if it's just a secure place to stash your stuff. The stops along the panhandle are worth seeing, but very short, and often at weird times. It also seems to me that if you get off there, you have to get back on there, as the only road into a panhandle town is via stewart bc- the rest are local roads.

The boat staff were quite helpful to us; the onshore people were bureaucrats in every sense of the word. I did all reservations by internet.
Bon voyage.
Owlseye is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 10-21-2005, 12:50 PM   #8
jwalters OP
Farkle Proliferator
jwalters's Avatar
Joined: Jun 2005
Location: Little Marais, MN
Oddometer: 2,346
Thanks again for the replies, this is valuable information! I think taking the ferry FROM Alaska to Washington, might be a welcome break from being in the saddle anyway! Thanks everyone!
jwalters is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 10-21-2005, 06:18 PM   #9
Popey's Avatar
Joined: Aug 2004
Location: SF, CA
Oddometer: 1,731
I agree with others have said, particularly the ride north/ferry south suggestion, as the distances will wear you out if you plan on covering a lot of ground in only 2/3 weeks. Driving north is no sweat as you're pumped to get there, but on my way home I was happy to see the ferry.

FYI, if you camp, tents are NOT allowed under the solaruim, so you are exposed to the elements. Fortunately, I had sunshine for my whole trip from Haines to Bellingham this August. It is wise to bring your own tie downs for the bike, as they had run out by the time I boarded. No worries tho' as the trip is all in the Inside Passage, hardly entering open water.

Bring some food as the boat grub is pretty bad and overpriced. The stop offs are great, particularly Sitka. They show movies and give wildlife/history talks and have a bar on board, so the time does not lag.

I also ferried from Whittier to Valdez (about 6 hours) which was great. Both ferry rides prevented me from having to retrace many steps on my trip.

You gotta camp...cabins are for fairies

Weather, as always in Alaska, makes a big difference...

'15 KTM 1190S
'10 KTM 990SMR
'08 KTM 690E
'08 CBR 1000RR (Track)
Popey is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 02-22-2013, 12:19 AM   #10
Wannabe Far-Rider
Joined: Jan 2008
Location: Fairbanks, AK
Oddometer: 2,990
I used the ferry to bypass most of the interior last spring when I moved up here and I highly recommend it. Sailed march 30 out of Bellingham to Haines on April 2nd, camped on the solarium deck on a deck chair.

It was snowy and rainy the whole time, but I slept great up there. Cost was $450 I think. I'd do it again in a heartbeat, particularly after 25 days in the saddle. Thre are lockers for your stuff if you're paranoid.

The only problem I see is having only 2 weeks. The ferry took 4 days, plus another 3 to get to Fairbanks due to weather. You might get to the circle and back in a day... But really, what are you coming up for if all the time you've got means you've gotta rush?
"We wish your trail a long one" - Darlene "Sid" Dowd ~ Never run out of traction, ideas, and real estate at the same time.
2008 Yamaha WR250X
Eastern TAT 8/2009 ~MD-Key West-Oklahoma 4/2011~Maryland to Alaska 3/2012
skierd is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 02-23-2013, 09:48 PM   #11
odometer: 25,000
RADGRL's Avatar
Joined: Apr 2011
Location: FL 2 AK 2 CA 2 AK
Oddometer: 14
AK Marine Ferry System

Just came off the ferry system last week with my can periodically go down below to your car/ motorcycle to make sure its OK. These are the times when people go let out their 4 legged friends :)

Its is slow going...I would go crazy during the summer knowing I could have taken the highway instead.
RADGRL is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 02-24-2013, 10:45 AM   #12
Back in Alaska!
THogland's Avatar
Joined: Mar 2011
Location: Wasilla-ish, Alaska
Oddometer: 61
Slow going

Originally Posted by RADGRL View Post
Just came off the ferry system last week with my can periodically go down below to your car/ motorcycle to make sure its OK. These are the times when people go let out their 4 legged friends :)

Its is slow going...I would go crazy during the summer knowing I could have taken the highway instead.
It does feel slow, but it's not that much different than riding. You're only going 15mph, but you're keeping that speed 24/7 regardless of weather, with no flat tires, or construction delays, etc.

Right now, leaving Haines 7/1 for Bellingham is $815, gets in 7/5. Makes like 5 stops, most of them pretty short.

(Oh, something that was mentioned earlier that needs clarification: There's NO ferry stops between Haines and Bellingham that can be driven out of except Prince Rupert BC. The only cities in SE Alaska that have road access are Haines, Skagway and Hyder, and the ferry doesn't go to Hyder.)

Worth remembering is that you're 600+ miles from Fairbanks (750-ish from Anchorage) when you get off the ferry in Haines. Might be worth going all the way from (or to) Whittier. 6 days, and about $1300 one-way for a bike and rider. Leaving on 7/1 gets in 7/6 - one extra day of boat ride and $500 that saves about 700 miles on the road. Only makes 3 stops, all of them short.

I'm looking at doing exactly this, except starting up here and making a loop through MT-ID-NV-CA-OR-WA. I'm considering taking the ferry on both ends, as it only adds one day of travel total, and saves LOTS of wear and tear on me

Links you need:
The Milepost
AK Road Weather
AK Ferry site
THogland is online now   Reply With Quote


Thread Tools Search this Thread
Search this Thread:

Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is On

Forum Jump

Times are GMT -7.   It's 10:24 PM.

Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.5
Copyright ©2000 - 2015, Jelsoft Enterprises Ltd.
Copyright ADVrider 2011-2015