SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska

Is Ketchikan Really All That Beachy Keen?



May 02, 2016
Monday PM

Ketchikan, Alaska -
First a disclaimer. I was born and raised in Ketchikan. I have left several times, but I keep coming back (a very bad penny) and I generally like it here. It is a great place to be. But I am not one of those folks who insists Ketchikan is so GREAT that it is the ONLY place to be.

jpg  Dave Kiffer

Recently, I was chatting with a boyhood friend and he said “I can’t imagine living anywhere else. I simply can’t imagine BEING anywhere else. This is the BEST place on earth. I could NEVER live anywhere else.”


Well, I guess I am not enough of a Ketchikan lifer.

I repeat, I like it here. But I can imagine other places. And not all of them are bad.

That said, there apparently is another reason to live in Ketchikan. One that never occurred to me before now.

It seems that when it comes to fun in the sun, Ketchikan is more outstanding than I realized.

I was pretty danged bemused to read last week that Outside magazine has made Ketchikan a finalist in its “Best Beach town” contest.


Okay, in order to be a beach town, one must have a beach and we have a couple of okay ones. So I guess that counts. Sort of.

But they are fairly small ones. No Ten Mile Strand here.

And we clearly don't have much of a "beach culture" here.

No one says, "hey, let’s go to Ketchikan for Spring Break!"

And when someone pumps up the Beach Boys jam, they don’t usually visualize doing the watusi on the breakwater at Bugge Beach.

Of course, music is probably not the best example. When I was growing up the hottest band in town was called The Glaciermen. It’s not like we have any glaciers in Ketchikan. Go figure. I guess The Wet Necks was already taken.

But I digress.

It's just hard for me to think of Ketchikan as a “beach town.” Don’t beaches have fine sand that feels wonderful under your toes? And those beaches are not full of rocks and barnacles.

And don’t beach towns have weeks on weeks on weeks of beautiful sunshine to make hanging out on the beach unlikely to lead to hypothermia?

When I lived in Lost Angeles, it wasn’t like I’d go down to Malibu or Huntington Beach to bask in the rain, like nearly all “beach days” end up here.

After all, Ketchikan is the home of the “Gore-Tex Sun Dress” for a reason.

So, I figured that if Outside thought we deserved to be on the list, I should suss out the competition to see if we had a “rainballs” chance of winning this thing.

Okay, let’s roll tape.

Bolinas CA. - Just across the Golden Gate. I’ve been there. It was pretty sandy, if not the warmest.

Los Angeles – Been there too. Yeah, there’s a reason that six zillion people live there. But it’s not so much fun when they all go to the beach at once. A virtually empty Coast Guard Beach is preferable to the baking hordes on Venice Beach.

Bellingham – Okay, I just don’t think of beaches when I think of Bellingham. Like most Ketchikanders, I tend to transit Bellingham just long enough to catch the ferry. I’ve been to a couple of beaches there, nice clamming, but not something you are going to see splashed across a full page Alaska Airlines travel ad.

Cape May, New Jersey – I have never been to the Jersey Shore. But I have heard it is nice. In a Beach Blanket Mafia Princess Bingo sort of way.

Wilmington, North Carolina – Hurricanes, hurricanes, hurricanes. I have heard they can interrupt the sun bathing. Besides, the barrier islands are eroding so fast you will lose your beach towel if you are not careful.

Ludington, Michigan – Where? (They are saying the same thing about Ketchikan). Seems they have dune buggy rides, so they must have sand. Still, I have an inbred bias against “cold water” beaches. Once again, if I don’t see hordes of Spring Breakers, I am suspicious.

Miami – Well, duh. Say hello to my “little” strand.

Milwaukee – Another interesting choice. Maybe taking the S.S. Badger across Michigan Pond to Ludington counts. It probably helps to have lots of nearby breweries.

Duxbury, Mass – I have been to lovely little town not far from Plymouth Rock. It does have a six mile long beach. But to be honest every town on the Massachusetts coast has a six mile long beach. And for about two hours every year, it is warm enough to swim at it.

Islamorada, Florida – I have to admit that I am partial to any beach in which the water is warmer than my bathtub in Ketchikan! Don’t forget to bring the Mr. Bubble.

Fairhope, Alabama – Fairhope is another “where” but in Googling it, I see a lot of sandy gulf shore beaches, so I assume they are fairly warm. Especially given the amount of petrochemicals in the water in that region. But there is a lovely view of beautiful downtown Mobile in the distance.

Yachets, Oregon – Interesting. I don’t think I had ever heard of Yachets before. I guess I better bone up on my Central Oregon waterfront studies (road trip?). I bet there are some great beaches there. But it is a bad sign when the Yachets website is full of pictures of waves crashing against rocky promontories. Pretty, but not my ideal beach, unless I am into tide rips. Which I am not.

Bayfield, Wisconsin – See Ludington and Milwaukee above!

Pacific Grove, CA – No duh that the Monterrey Peninsula is a spectacular piece of high end real estate. But my memory says there are a lot of rocky beaches in the area. I’m sure there is some primo sand, probably owned by Clint Eastwood, but I just remember rocks and big waves splashing ashore.

Grand Marais, Minnesota – Once again, wide beaches but lots of rocks and can you really swim there more than two weeks out of the year? Besides, the “big marsh” doesn’t sound like a “beachy” place to me.

So other than a couple of screamingly obvious choices (Miami, Islamorada, Cape May), it sounds like a wide open field for Best Beach town.

And if you don’t have to have any actual sandy beaches or any beach weather, Ketchikan just might be the ONLY beach place to be.


Vote for America’s Best Town of 2016
Several Categories including Best Beaches

Round One Results


On the Web:

Columns by Dave Kiffer

Historical Feature Stories by Dave Kiffer


Dave Kiffer is a freelance writer living in Ketchikan, Alaska.
Contact Dave at

Dave Kiffer ©2016


Publish A Letter

Letter to the Editor

SitNews ©2016
Stories In The News
Ketchikan, Alaska


SitNews ©2014
Stories In The News
Ketchikan, Alaska

Contact the Editor