There are two Valdezs. The cool contemporary town – an irresistible lure for adventure sportspeople redolent of Boulder, Colorado or Bend, Oregon – and the town that existed pre-1964, before the second-strongest earthquake in recorded history sent its docks sliding into the sea.

Valdez was quickly rebuilt on more stable ground 5 miles to the west before it was hit again, this time by a human-made disaster, the catastrophic Exxon Valdez oil spill of 1989 that killed marine life, disrupted ecosystems and ruined livelihoods.

It is a testament to Valdez’ feisty Alaskan spirit that it has managed not only to survive, but bounce back, despite its isolation from the lucrative cruise-ship economy. Founded by gold-rush-era prospectors in 1897, the town has tough antecedents and it still draws in the brawny and brave, who love to fish in its iceberg-punctuated seas and heli-ski in the precipitous mountains that surround it.

Top attractions

These are our favorite local haunts, touristy spots, and hidden gems throughout Valdez.