Sleeping and Dining in Valdez, AK

The small harbor town of Valdez boasts a beautiful setting with snowy peaks surrounding the town and bay. While the town was busy during our 3 night stay in mid-June of 2021, we did not have the service issues we found in Talkeetna and Seward. Restaurants were doing good business but were adequately staffed to handle the volume of tourists.

Totem Hotel and Suites

A typical business type hotel, the Totem Hotel’s newer rooms are large and comfortable. The back of the hotel has mountain views above the town. The large bathroom has a roomy shower. Amenities include a fridge, coffee maker, hair dryer and a good wi-fi connection. The property also has a pool, exercise room and washer and dryer. Because of Covid there was no maid service during our stay. You could get anything you needed from the front desk including clean linens. The hotel is located just two short blocks from the harbor and most of the restaurants in town.

Breakfast at the Totem Hotel and Suites

The breakfast buffet consisted of hot and cold items of a mid-range hotel quality. The selection of hot items – scrambled eggs, sausage, diced potatoes, pancakes – were inexplicably tired looking the first hour into the buffet service. There was also a selection of bread products including sliced bread, bagels and English muffins. Other cold items included – cereals and milk, yogurt with sides of frozen berries (still frozen in large chunks) and granola, juice, tea and coffee.


Lunch at the Fat Mermaid

The Fat Mermaid has an extensive menu of salads and vegetarian options as well as appetizers, burgers, sandwiches and mains. We ordered the fish tacos. Their taco options consist of three soft shells, a combination of corn and wheat flour, with a choice of meats including several fish options. The halibut was grilled and topped with tomatoes and cilantro with a side of a green tomatillos salsa and chips. Simple but of good quality. They have a nice front porch for dining outside on warm days, i.e., above 55°.

Wheelhouse Restaurant and Sports Bar

Arriving at the Wheelhouse Restaurant, located in the Best Western Hotel, at 6:30 we had a very short wait for a harbor view table. This part of the dining room near the entrance has roomy booths along the window. To keep capacity down they were not seating people in the row opposite the windows.

The menu included the usual selection of appetizers, salads and a couple of soups. Mains tended to be fish or an extensive selection of steaks and burgers. They also have a variety of deli sandwiches.

We started with the steamed clams, an ordering error on our part as they were served in a creamy cheese sauce along with garlic bread. Tasty but not our preference. For mains we tried the halibut served on a Cajun spicy risotto and the salmon cooked in birch paper. Both fillets were a little over cooked for our taste, especially the salmon. Both dishes, however, were well seasoned. The Cajun risotto, quite spicy, was especially good. The salmon was served with nicely grilled asparagus and a choice of starches.

Fu Kung

Fu Kung has ample booths with thick slab wood table in a low-ceilinged dining room. A mish mash of Asian and Alaskan artwork decorates the walls.

The menu is an extensive selection of dishes from a variety of Asian cuisines – Thai, Chinese, Korean, and Japanese, including sushi. Generally this is a big warning sign for me when a restaurant dabbles in too many different cuisines.

 Despite the warning bells we tried a rainbow roll – nicely presented and not too bad, with salmon, squid, eel and tuna. The moo shu pork was spot on and tasted like other moo shu pork dishes I’ve tried.

The Thai green curry with seafood, however, missed the mark by a mile. While close to the right color the sauce was some weird imitation of a curry – watery and tasting too much of coconut with something spicy hot added. The fish, although plentiful, was deep fried and overcooked. Portions were generous and service was friendly and efficient.

Dock Point Trail

Dock Point Trail, a less than a mile long path on the east side of town, is a pretty place for an after dinner stroll. The path wanders through forest with views overlooking the harbor and then loops around to a salt water marsh. While the total elevation gain is only 50ft there is a short steep section.

Ferry from Valdez to Whittier and on to Seward

Despite the early 7a.m. departure, with a 5:30 check-in for vehicles, the ferry transport from Valdez to Whittier is pretty straight forward. The check-in process involves a lot of waiting in your car for them to print tickets and check IDs for all the passengers in the vehicles. They didn’t start loading cars until after 6:30.

Once on board there are two lounge areas, one in front and a smaller area along one side in the middle, and a cafeteria in the back. We stayed in the cafeteria most of the time and had breakfast – eggs, toast and potatoes. Not bad for ferry food. The ferry was full but there was plenty of room for people to sit where they wanted.

It was a rainy, low-ceiling day, so the views were mostly obscured. There were, however, nice fog shots of distant islands. Near Whittier there is a brief sighting of the Tebenkof Glacier from the south side of the boat. If you are interested in seeing it, find it on the map and wait for it on the GPS monitor.

Drive from Whittier to Seward

We reached Whittier early and were off the ferry at 12:30 with more than enough time to make the 1p.m. Whittier tunnel access. Just outside of Whittier is a one way tunnel that is only accessible from each direction for 15 minutes per hour. In summer of 2021 outbound traffic starts at the top of the hour and inbound starts on the half hour.

If you want lunch before heading to Seward head north first to Alyeska as there is next to nothing if you head straight to Seward.

Even on a mostly overcast day with just a few patches of blue and intermittent drizzle, the drive to Seward is pretty. There are frequent views of snowy mountain tops and water – the tidal inlet, lakes, rivers and streams. The drive, passing through large valleys, feels much more open than the other drives we’ve taken in Alaska. On a Saturday afternoon in late June there was plenty of traffic. Summer season was in full swing.

For links to all the posts in this series see the Alaska page.

June 16-19, 2021