Tiny town of Haines, Alaska offers suds, not tourist duds
Craft brewery, hammer museum among attractions of this charming spot.
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I’ll admit, I’ve impatiently waited in line to get into some trendy craft beer bar or brewery before, but this is not a story about one of those moments. Sure, I was waiting, and it was for craft beer — but I did it surrounded by mountains in Haines, Alaska, population 2,500.
Haines, 150 kilometres northwest of Juneau, was once the stronghold of the wealthy Chilkat Tlingit people, and was put on the map in the late 1800s when a former trade route was turned into a toll road for miners looking to reach the Klondike.
This charming town, 65 km from the U.S./Canada border, is a little piece of Alaskan paradise.
Located on a peninsula between the Chilkat and Chilkoot Inlets and surrounded by the Takshanuk Mountains, Haines has the looks.
It has the personality too: The town has plenty of gems that feel authentic and unique, unlike other popular spots in the region that pride themselves on kitschy experiences like lumberjack shows and salmon bakes. Must-sees include the Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve — between October and February, Haines has the largest concentration of bald eagles in the world — and The Hammer Museum, the world’s first museum dedicated solely to hammers.
My favourite however was — surprise, surprise — Haines Brewing Company. It’s amazing that this microbrewery has flourished in a place so small. Travellers play a part of course, but Haines is a bit off the beaten path. The town sees more than 175,000 visitors a year including cruise traffic, which might sound like a lot, but compare that to Juneau’s more than 1.3 million.
It has been around since 1999, but reopened in downtown last year on property where an elementary school used to sit.
The beer selection is diverse and really tasty (try the Lookout Stout, a smooth, dark stout; and the Eldred Rock Red, an American red ale with caramel malts). Add to that the stunning Alaskan scenery, and waiting in line never looked so good.
Land: The Haines Highway connects Haines with the rest of Alaska, as well as the Yukon and western Canada.
Sea: There are regularly scheduled passenger and vehicle ferries that service 33 communities in Alaska, plus Bellingham, Washington and Prince Rupert, B.C. Also, cruise ship passengers and crew make up for 35 per cent of Haines’ yearly tourists. There is one weekly Holland America ship that stops in Haines. Other cruise lines stop there too, but just not as regularly.
Air: Year-round scheduled flights are available, connecting Haines with Skagway, Juneau and more.
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