Mendenhall Glacier Transport (tel. 907-789-5460; www.mightygreattrips.com) does a 2 1/2-hour town and Mendenhall Glacier tour for $20, or you can ride their "Blue Bus Express" to the glacier for only $10. Generally, it runs every half-hour both directions, from the waterfront visitor center to the glacier and back, daily a.m. to 6 p.m. in summer. Otherwise, take a rented car or, for vigorous people, bike 24 miles out to the Mendenhall Glacier and back. I've listed these sites by distance from downtown with directions starting from there.
Avoiding cruise ship crowds
On the busiest days of the summer cruise ships bring more than 10,000 passengers and another 4,000 crew members to the docks on Juneau's Franklin Street. That's simply too many for these narrow old streets; downtown becomes a solid crush of people and attractions are packed. Independent travelers can avoid the worst crowding by planning to come to Juneau when fewer ships are in town. Over the last several years, a pattern has held that the quietest days were Friday, Saturday, and Sunday; the busiest days were Tuesday and Wednesday. A couple sick of the excessive number of ships posts the numbers on a calendar you can use to predict the crowds at www.juneaucrondahls.com/ship2000.htm. Unfortunately, the numbers continue their explosive growth every year.
What to see & do 'out the road'
On sunny summer weekends, Juneau families get in the car and drive "out the road" (northwest along the Glacier Hwy., as it's officially known). The views of island-stippled water from the paved two-lane highway are worth the trip, and there are also several good places to stop. To use this road guide, set your trip odometer to zero at the ferry dock (which is 14 miles from downtown Juneau).
The Auke Village Recreation Area is a mile beyond the ferry dock and is a good place for picnics and beach walks. Less than a mile farther is a Forest Service campground.
The Shrine of St. Thérèse (tel. 907-780-6112; www.shrineofsainttherese.org), nine miles beyond the ferry dock, rests on a tiny island reached by a foot-trail causeway. The wonderfully simple chapel of rounded beach stones, circled by markers of the 15 stations of the cross, stands peaceful and mysterious amid trees, rock, water, and the cries of the raven and eagle. It is the most spiritual place I know. The vaguely Gothic structure was built in the late 1930s of stone picked up from these shores and dedicated by Alaska's first Catholic bishop to St. Thérèse of Lisieux, who died in 1897 at the age of 24. Sunday liturgy services are held from June to September at 1:30 p.m. The shrine is part of a large retreat maintained by the Juneau Catholic Diocese, which includes a log lodge on the shore facing the island as well as several cabins for rent as lodgings. The shrine's island is a good vantage from which to look upon Lynn Canal for marine mammals or, at low tide, to go tide pooling among the rocks. The website covers the shrine's history and gives information on the facilities, gardens, and trails.
Eagle Beach, 14 miles beyond the ferry dock, makes a good picnic area in nice weather, when you can walk among the tall beach grass or out on the sandy tidal flats, watch the eagles, or go north along the beach to look for fossils in the rock outcroppings.
The road turns to gravel, then comes to Point Bridget State Park, 24 miles beyond the ferry dock (tel. 907-465-4563; www.alaskastateparks.org, click on "Individual Parks"). A flat 3.5-mile path leads through forest, meadow, and marsh to the shore, where you may see sea lions and possibly humpback whales. Two public-use cabins rent for $35 a night. The road ends 26 miles from the ferry dock at pretty Echo Cove.
For a complete listing of Frommer's-reviewed attractions, visit our online attractions index.
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