Whittier, Alaska. Quirky, interesting, historical and a little bit creepy when the fog sets in. It’s about 58 miles south of Anchorage and as of 2015 had a population of 214 people.
I’m sure you are wondering what a girl like me was doing in a place like this: I was on the Pacific Princess for two months in 2015 with Dear Husband (Did I mention that his office happens to be the bridge of a ship? I’ll tell you more about that in another post) and every two weeks we had a day in the port of Whittier, which I got to know pretty well.
Here’s the quirky – almost, if not all of the inhabitants live in the one building -The Begich Towers Condominium! Yes, I didn’t believe it at first either. I had to check this 14 storey building out for myself.
Being the explorer that I am, I just had to walk all around it (There’s a school behind it which I’ve been told has a tunnel from the Towers so the children don’t have to go outside in the winter weather) and also go inside it. On the bottom floor I found a few shops, a notice board about what’s happening in the community and the post office is also there!
I highly recommend a visit to the Anchor Inn on the main drag (Whittier street). There’s a restaurant, hotel rooms, a store, a laundromat and a museum attached that answers just about any question you may have about the history of Whitter.
The town came into being in 1943 when there was a need for military support during WWII. During the cold war era the army decided to build the 14 storey Hodge Building (Now known as Begich Towers) and the Buckner building (now abandoned) in which to house the people who were working there. It was an active army facility until the 1960’s.
The Inn at Whittier is close to the ship and they have wifi with every coffee! The coffee, lunch and cheeky glass of afternoon wine were all wonderful, but what sets this place apart for me was the view from the table! Who needs internet when you can look at this!
One of the highlights of Whittier I think is the Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel, which is the only way by road or rail to reach the rest of Alaska! Like everything in the 49th State, it’s different to anything you’ve experienced before. It’s the longest tunnel in North America (2.5 Miles) and up until 2000 it was railway only, however these days you are able to drive through it – One direction every half hour (Whittier to Anchorage at the top of the hour, Anchorage to Whittier at the bottom of the hour and everything pauses when the trains come through.
Speaking of tunnels, there is an interesting but slightly creepy tunnel that goes under the railroad yard in the centre of town. I found it creepy when I was alone in it, and then when I took Dear Husband through it he said ‘what if we meet a bear in here?’ I didn’t need to contemplate that in the centre of this long tunnel!
The metropolis of Whittier is definitely somewhere uniquely Alaskan – quirky and interesting. Don’t forget to get some amazing fudge from Varly’s Ice Cream Parlour on Harbour Triangle – once we discovered it we were hooked!
Happy travels peeps!