Haines, Alaska, US

The Chilkat band of the Tlingit people used Haines’s location as a pass to portage their canoes across the peninsula, saving 20 miles of paddling. A party from the North West Trading Company, arrived in 1880. A Christian mission was established, and in 1884 it was named the Haines mission in honor of its benefactor. The town, with its access to the Chilkat River trail into the Klondike interior, was a bustling staging area for the 1898-99 Gold Rush, until 1900, when completion of the White Pass & Yukon Railway in neighboring Skagway eclipsed its importance. Sites of interest to visitors at Haines include Fort William Seward, a National Historic Landmark and the only United States Army base in Alaska until World War II. The Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve also attracts visitors to view gatherings of these iconic predators during the season. A short ferry ride away is Skagway, one of the most popular cruise ports in Alaska. Its historic downtown preserves many buildings from the colorful past, when the population swelled to as high as 30,000 as prospectors geared up to challenge the Chilkoot Trail or the White Pass Route to the Klondike goldfields, or returned to squander their earnings in the brothels, saloons and boarding houses of Skagway. A ride on the narrow gauge White Pass & Yukon scenic railway is a must for most visitors, and may be combined with gold-panning excursions to Dyea or Liarsville, trips on the town’s historic national parks motor coaches, hiking or biking adventures or a spell of rip-roaring revelry in the Red Onion Saloon. Other Alaska experiences such as helicopter flightseeing, dog-mushing, and fishing are also available, and shops offer crafts, clothing and artworks by local artisans.