The coastal regions of Alaska are part of the state’s thriving seafood industry, drawing in visitors and locals alike with abundant and diverse marine life. These regions’ waters, cold currents, and rugged coastlines create a unique habitat that supports an array of fish and shellfish species, including salmon, halibut, crab, and shrimp.
Commercial fishing has been a major economic driver in Alaska for decades, and the seafood caught here is considered some of the freshest and highest quality in the world. From fish markets to seaside restaurants serving up the catch of the day, the seafood scene in Alaska offers a true taste of the state’s natural ocean bounty.
For foodies looking to experience some of the world’s best seafood, the below itineraries will take you to coastal towns and cities with numerous seafood hot spots, each with their own unique flavors and preparations. From fine dining restaurants serving up freshly caught salmon and scallops to casual seafood shacks offering piping hot fish and chips, there’s something to suit every palate. And with seafood caught fresh daily, visitors can expect unparalleled quality and flavor. Plus, the scenic drives, boat rides, and flights between towns and cities offer breathtaking views of the rugged coastline and sparkling ocean, making for a truly unforgettable culinary adventure.
Alaska Seafood and Marine Life Facts
Alaska’s unique climate and waters contribute significantly to its rich sea life and high-quality seafood. The state’s frigid waters are rich in nutrients, thanks to the upwelling of cold water from the ocean’s depths. These nutrients support a thriving ecosystem of fish and shellfish. Additionally, the state’s long summer days provide ample sunlight, which fuels the growth of phytoplankton, the foundation of the marine food chain.
The cold water temperatures also slow down the growth rates of fish and shellfish, resulting in meat that is denser and richer in flavor. This is particularly evident in species like salmon, which are known for their firm, flavorful meat. And, importantly, Alaska’s strict fishing regulations and sustainable fishing practices ensure that the state’s seafood is harvested responsibly, protecting the long-term health of the marine ecosystem.
6 Alaska Fish and Shellfish To Try
Alaska is home to an incredibly diverse range of fish and shellfish species that make for some of the best seafood in the world. Here are some of the highlights:
1. Alaska Salmon
Alaska is famous for its wild salmon, which includes five species: king, sockeye, coho, chum, and pink. These fish are prized for their rich flavor and can be prepared and eaten in endless ways, from mouth-watering center-of-plate fillets to sushi and smoked salmon.
2. Alaska Halibut
This large flatfish is a staple in Alaska cuisine and is prized for its delicious white meat. Halibut can be grilled, baked, smoked, or fried and is often served with a variety of sauces and accompaniments.
3. Alaska Crab
Alaska is home to a variety of crab species, including king, snow, and Dungeness. These crustaceans are known for their sweet, succulent meat and are served as a special entree or as a star ingredient in everything from crab cakes to chowder.
4. Alaska Cod
Alaska cod is a mild, flaky, and versatile white fish often served breaded for casual fish and chips or in fish tacos.
5. Alaska Clams
Alaska clams are known for their sweet, briny flavor and make a great appetizer with flavorful broth and toasts, or can be used in a variety of recipes, including clam chowder and linguine with clams.
6. Alaska Rockfish
Alaska’s rockfish is a mild, white fish that is often compared to snapper or grouper. It can be grilled, fried, or baked and is often served with flavorful sauces and marinades.
A Seafood Itinerary in Alaska’s Inside Passage
The majority of Alaska’s Inside Passage region is made up of islands, rugged coastline, and communities that are not accessible by road, so traveling through this region is all part of the adventure. The below destinations are common ports of call on Alaska cruise ship itineraries and can also be reached via the Alaska Marine Highway ferry and regional flights. Here are a few places we recommend for stops on a southeast seafood itinerary:
Stop 1: Ketchikan
Known as the “Salmon Capital of the World,” Ketchikan is a popular destination for sportfishing and seafood lovers alike. One of Alaska’s more popular visitor hot spots, in addition to fish, it is well-known for its coastal scenery, lumberjack show, Tlingit culture, and picturesque buildings on stilts over the water to accommodate the tide.
Ketchikan Seafood Stops
One of the first places many people see when departing the cruise ships that frequent Ketchikan is The Alaska Fish House. Featuring a weekly piano bar inside the cannery-style building, The Alaska Fish House serves up a range of seafood from halibut tacos to a 7-course tasting menu which includes fresh seafood and foods hand foraged in the area. The downtown area is home to a host of other great restaurants that highlight local seafood, with favorites including Annabelle’s, Alaska King Crab Company, Ketchikan Grab & Go, and Heen Kahidi at Cape Fox Lodge.
A bit further afield is the George Inlet Lodge. While it is a 20-minute drive from downtown, the journey is a stunning one, and the lodge’s location and famous crab dishes make it worth the short trip.
Stop 2: Juneau
As the state capital and Alaska’s third-largest city, Juneau offers plenty of opportunities to explore Alaska’s rich history, culture, and important ties to Alaska Native culture. Part of that history and culture are closely attached to the area’s abundant fishing.
Seafood in Juneau
Tracy’s King Crab Shack is well-known as one of Juneau’s seafood hot spots (and rightfully so) for their delicious offerings of all thinks king crab: crab bisque, crab cakes, and their iconic bucket of king crab legs. If you’re interested in other types of seafood, we also recommend Deckhand Dave’s Fish Tacos. It may not be flashy or big, but Deckhand Dave’s has some of the best tacos in the state – and they also serve up fish and chips, oysters, and rotating specials. For a fine dining experience, don’t miss SALT, featuring a variety of elegantly prepared fresh seafood dishes and delicious cocktails. If you simply can’t decide where to go, consider joining Juneau Food Tours for a small-group culinary tour of the city.
Stop 3: Sitka
Sitka is another beautiful stop accessible only by sea or air. With plenty of hiking, rich Alaska Native culture and history, and a vibrant arts scene, a detour in Sitka is always worth it.
Seafood in Sitka
Sitka has both the glamour of fine dining as well as hole-in-the-wall spots frequented by locals. On one end, you can eat the food of James Beard 2023 Best Chef Semi-Finalist Renee Trafton – at a surprisingly reasonable price at Beak Restaurant – or travel up the aptly named Halibut Point Road for a chowder bread bowl at Catch Sitka Seafoods. Ludvig’s Bistro serves up Mediterranean inspired dishes that highlight local seafood like scallops, rockfish, and prawns, and runs a seasonal Chowder Cart serving up tasty chowder and other grab-and-go items.
A Seafood Road Trip in Southcentral Alaska
The Southcentral region of the state is home to Anchorage – Alaska’s largest city – and is the best region to explore Alaska by road. Here, scenic highways and byways connect Anchorage with coastal communities where foodies will find plenty of good eats – perfect for planning a one-of-a-kind seafood road trip.
Stop 1: Anchorage
Situated at the heart of Alaska’s road system, Anchorage might also be considered the state’s culinary hub. While some spots may not be as overtly seafood forward as locations on this list, you can bet that fresh fish is always on the menu.
Seafood in Anchorage
First stop is the Haute Quarter Grill, a contemporary American bistro with loose creole and Southern food ties. We recommend getting the fresh oysters as an appetizer and the Seafood Pasta or Jambalaya for an entrée with a slight kick. Meanwhile, Simon and Seafort’s – known locally as just “Simon’s” – adds stunning views to a menu that is already worth the visit. With a specific Alaskan Catch menu, their fresh seafood ranks amongst the best anywhere. Among the many other places to try is Marx Bros Cafe downtown or, just a short drive away, Kincaid Grill or Altura Bistro.
If you’re looking for more casual dining experience, try the halibut sandwich at Humpy’s, fish tacos at El Green-Go’s food truck, or snag a table on the patio of 49th State Brewing Company to enjoy local brews, views, and a variety of seafood options.
Stop 2: Seward
Located on the Kenai Peninsula, Seward is a picturesque coastal town known for its natural beauty and outdoor activities. Visitors can take a cruise to Kenai Fjords National Park to see glaciers and marine wildlife, or hike the nearby mountains for stunning views of the surrounding area. And sure enough, they’ll have seafood dinner options waiting after a day of exploring.
Seafood in Seward
The J-Dock Fishing Company in Seward offers an alternative seafood experience for those who want to do the hard work themselves. While you can buy seafood in boxes from J-Dock’s, the real appeal comes from hiring them as a charter boat for a day of sportfishing for salmon or halibut. For those who just want to show up and eat seafood, a must-visit is The Cookery, a quaint fine dining restaurant highlighting local favorites like oysters, shrimp, and halibut. Other popular spots include Chinooks, Ray’s, Seward Brewing Company, and the Lone Chicharron Taqueria for tasty fish tacos and burritos.
Stop 3: Homer
Located at the end of the Sterling Highway, Homer is a beautiful and popular destination for fishing, hiking, and wildlife viewing. Visitors can explore the town’s historic downtown area and the famous Homer Spit, which feature art galleries, restaurants, and shops, or take a boat tour to see whales, otters, and other marine life.
Seafood in Homer
You’ll remember that Ketchikan is called the “Salmon Capital of the World,” and now our seafood journey takes you to Homer, the “Halibut Capital of the World.” Our top seafood picks are found on the Homer Spit, a narrow stretch of land that reaches four and a half miles into Kachemak Bay. You’ll find excellent seafood restaurants all along the Spit, but here are a few of our favorites.
First up is the Broken Oar Oyster Bar, where diners can enjoy delicious, fresh oysters at their oyster bar and outdoor patio. Option two is a mainstay of tourism in Homer, Captain Pattie’s Fish House. Pattie’s has casual options like clam chowder and a delicious crab melt, but also has bigger ticket meals like king crab legs and weathervane scallops. The Fresh Catch Café is a charming restaurant serving up fantastic seafood dishes with unique preparations. For some quick bites, stop by Boardwalk Fish & Chips and Swell Tacos. If you’re looking for a unique fine dining experience, consider a trip across the bay the Saltry in Halibut Cove. Getting to the Saltry is an adventure in itself, requiring a quick ferry ride across Kachemak Bay. Diners are treated to the freshest local seafood in a beautiful setting perched over the waters of Halibut Cove.
Plan your Trip Around Seafood in Alaska
Planning your itinerary around the 49th state’s aquatic abundance provides one-of-a-kind tasty memories with a side of Alaska-sized adventure. And while the above coastal communities are some of the top spots to enjoy Alaska seafood, you’ll find fresh local fish and shellfish at restaurants and food trucks statewide – from peel-and-eat spot prawns in Whittier to salmon bakes in Fairbanks, from fresh crab in Nome to fine dining in McCarthy. Or, enjoy the ultimate experience of reeling in your own meal on a fishing charter or having your day’s catch prepared for you at a fishing lodge or wilderness lodge. No matter where your Alaska itinerary takes you, enjoy the trip and bon appetit!