Though its population hovers around just 2,500, Haines, Alaska, boasts a robust arts community, respected culinary gems and all the outdoor adventure that one expects on the Last Frontier. Ferries and regional planes connect this remote Inside Passage town to Juneau, Alaska's capital, and a few small cruise ships stop here each summer.
The glacial peaks and scenic waterways that surround Haines set a stunning backdrop for the Hotel Halsingland, a historical property on Fort William H. Seward. Since the military post was decommissioned in 1947, its structures have been repurposed for retail and residential use. Hotel Halsingland occupies the former commanding and bachelor officers' quarters, with 35 spacious, simply outfitted rooms available between May and September.
On a recent hosted stay, I grabbed a glass of wine at the Officers' Club Lounge. Here, rustic wood and vintage accents play up the property's storied past, and wide windows overlook the fort's former parade grounds. The dinner menu in the lounge and adjacent Commander's Room Restaurant spotlights Alaska-caught seafood, seasonal produce and from-scratch specials.
The Hotel Halsingland, which was repurposed from the commanding and bachelor officers’ quarters, has 35 rooms that are available from May through September. Photo Credit: Renee Brincks
Nearby, the Fireweed Restaurant fills a 1904 structure that once stocked hardware and household goods for Fort Seward's personnel. The bustling cafe, open from March through September, puts a local, organic spin on thin-crust pizzas and comfort food.
Across Blacksmith Street, in an old military bakery updated with salvaged wood and a Kentucky-made copper still, the Port Chilkoot Distillery makes spirits inspired by Southeast Alaska. In just three years, the distillery has earned national recognition for small-batch blends seasoned with regional elements such as spruce tips, lemon balm and juniper berries.
A mile away, the Haines Brewing Co. opened the Main Street brewery and tasting room in late 2015. It's a convenient pit stop for travelers surveying the downtown art scene.
The nonprofit Alaska Arts Confluence hosts community art events on the first Friday of each month and organizes Main Street window displays featuring the work of area photographers, painters, woodworkers and others.
Back at Fort Seward, the Alaska Arts Confluence recently established a sculpture garden inspired by the region's history, industry, natural beauty and Alaska Native culture. In 2017, the organization is introducing interpretive signs and walking-tour maps of the fort's art installations and significant sites.
Additional cultural stops at Fort Seward include the Alaska Indian Arts gallery and the Chilkat Center for the Arts, a thriving performance and events venue.
A float trip on the Chilkat River near Haines. Photo Credit: Brian Adams/State of Alaska
Adventure, animal encounters
For outdoor adventurers, Haines offers opportunities to kayak, cycle, ski, hike and fish. Flightseeing tours soar over the region's mountains and ice fields, and glacier treks and ice-climbing excursions offer immersive natural experiences. To combine adventure and culture, book a rafting trip to the Jilkaat Kwaan Heritage Center & Bald Eagle Preserve Visitor Center in the Tlingit village of Klukwan. Exhibits introduced in 2016 feature art and artifacts stored behind closed doors for decades.
Alaska's Inside Passage also promises plenty of wildlife-watching, whether on tour at the American Bald Eagle Foundation's museum and raptor center or while exploring the area parkland. When I followed the Chilkoot River out of town, I spotted a line of cars pulled over at a bend in the road. Camera lenses poked out of several rolled-down windows. There, against a backdrop of pine trees and rocky rapids, a black bear and two cubs played along the shore.
Hotel Halsingland rates start at $119 per night, and senior, government and military discounts are available. Visit www.hotelhalsingland.com or www.visithaines.com.