Michael Heffernan

Prince William Sound

This island-speckled sound named for an 18th-century British prince is home to precipitous fjords, sheer-sided coastal mountains, numerous boom-crashing tidal glaciers, remarkable bird and animal life, and three very unique 'villages' that guard the gates to endless adventure possibilities. Local cruise-ship traffic is light, lending the region a genuine remoteness.

The best base for travelers is Valdez, a tough town hemmed in by dramatic mountains that's hailed for its helicopter-skiing and blue-water paddling. Connected to the road network via the Richardson Hwy, Valdez has survived two 20th-century disasters – an oil spill and an earthquake. More isolated Cordova is a fishing community with a quaint downtown, excellent bird-watching and access to great day hikes in the Chugach Mountains. On the western edge of the Sound, Whittier, a bizarre city born out of wartime necessity, is hideous, gorgeous, evocative and eerie. It's easily reached by car from Anchorage.

Top attractions

These are our favorite local haunts, touristy spots, and hidden gems throughout Prince William Sound.