633,300 square miles. That’s how big Alaska truly is. To offer you some perspective, that’s 2.5 times as big as Texas. In fact, Alaska is even larger than the combined areas of Texas, California, and Montana.

Given its size, it’s clear why living in different areas of Alaska will offer radically different experiences. Case in point: Soldotna in Southcentral Alaska is 762 miles from Utquiagvik in the Far North. That’s nearly the same distance from San Diego to the Oregon state line. In other words, massive distances offer massively different lifestyles.

If you’re researching the best places to live in Alaska, we’ll take you on a tour of the state’s five major regions. You’ll get a sense of what you can expect in each, as well as some specific towns to jumpstart your thinking.

Alaska Map of Five Regions

We’ll start with the region that holds some of Alaska’s biggest population centers—the city of Anchorage, the Mat-Su Valley, and the Kenai Peninsula.

Living in Southcentral Alaska

National Park

In the Southcentral region of Alaska, you’ll find a little of everything. Anchorage and its surrounding areas offer you access to all the amenities of a mid-size city, with plenty of shopping, restaurants, and cultural activities. (Plus the second-most coffee shops per capita in the U.S.!i) Unlike a large majority of Alaska, this region is fairly accessible by car, which means that getting around is much more convenient than other regions of the state.  

However, don’t let the amenities and comforts fool you: there’s still plenty of wild beauty to enjoy. In Southcentral Alaska, you’ll find Kenai Fjords National Park, Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, and the Chugach National Forest, as well as plenty of opportunities to spot wildlife or gaze at glaciers. 

Popular Towns in Southcentral Alaska:

  • Anchorage 
  • Girdwood 
  • Homer 
  • Kenai/Soldotna 
  • Seward 
  • Talkeetna 
  • Valdez 
  • Whittier 

Living in Southeast Alaska

fishing village on the inside passage

You might hear this region referred to as the “panhandle” or “the Inside Passage.” What’s most striking about this region of Alaska is that it’s largely made up of islands and mountainous terrain. As a result, navigating the area involves either a plane ride or the Alaska Marine Highway System, the state-run ferry service. In fact, Alaska’s capital, Juneau, sits in the Southeast, and it’s the only U.S. state capital not accessible by road.

Because the area is largely coastline, you can look forward to milder winters—at least by Alaskan standards. (Translation: Temperatures rarely plummet below 20° F.) The area is also ancestral home of the Tlingit and Haida people. Exploring their cultural traditions and way of life can offer you a rich experience that will only deepen your appreciation for this beautiful, yet isolated region.

Popular Towns in Southeast Alaska:

  • Gustavus
  • Haines
  • Juneau
  • Ketchikan
  • Petersburg
  • Sitka
  • Skagway
  • Wrangell

Living in Southwest Alaska

Harbor in Kodiak

Just 41,618 people live in the Southwest region of Alaska—just 5.7% of the state’s population. The area is also home to significant Yup’ik and Aleut communities. In fact, 27% of the population identify as American Indian or Alaska Native.iii Although much of the populace is spread across villages throughout the region, around one-third of the people in Southwestern Alaska live in the Kodiak Island Borough. Like Southeastern Alaska, the region is not connected by roads, so residents get around largely via airplane and boat.  

You’ll find plenty of shoreline in the region, but you’ll also find forests, swampland, and even volcanoes in the area. (The islands of Southwest Alaska lie on the “Ring of Fire,” the edge of the Pacific plate, where friction creates volcanic eruptions and earthquakes!) Southwest Alaska is also well known as an incredible place to see wildlife, including rare bird species and brown bears. As a result, the region is often a destination for photographers—and a daily source of splendor for its residents.   

Popular Towns in Southwest Alaska:

  • Bethel 
  • Dillingham 
  • King Salmon 
  • Kodiak Island 
  • Unalaska/Dutch Harbor 

Living in Interior Alaska

Aurora Northern Lights Night Sky Winter Fairbanks Alaska

The development of Alaska’s interior owes much to the Alaska Gold Rush. In 1902, Italian immigrant Felix Pedro discovered gold outside of Fairbanks. Many rushed to the area to capitalize on what became known as the Fairbanks Gold Rush. Although the city’s boom officially ended in 1910, Fairbanks became a key supply link for Alaska’s oil business, and even became the construction headquarters for the Trans-Alaska Pipeline. You’ll also find a significant military population in Alaska’s Interior region. Personnel are stationed at Clear Air Force Station Base in Denali Borough, Fort Wainwright or Fort Greely Army Bases in Fairbanks, or Eielson Air Force Base in North Pole. 

Many of the towns in the Alaska’s Interior are connected by roads, making it fairly easy to get around. Additionally, land prices can be quite reasonable. If it’s your dream to live on a big property in relative seclusion, while maintaining access to the Alaska road system, the Interior region may be the perfect spot for you. 

Popular Towns in Alaska’s Interior:

  • Anderson 
  • Cantwell 
  • Delta Junction 
  • Healy 
  • Fairbanks 
  • Glennallen 
  • Nenana  
  • North Pole 
  • Tok 

Living in Far North Alaska

World Famous Alaska Highway Yukon Territory, Canada

You might be surprised to learn that you can drive to Alaska’s Far North from Fairbanks. If you’re a fan of the reality show Ice Road Truckers, you might even be familiar with the road—Dalton Highway—and the extreme conditions that made it famous. However, many people prefer to fly—and most communities are only accessible by air or snowmachine.

Far North Alaska lies at the extreme end of the state. It also lies at the extremes in terms of weather, isolation, and darkness. (Utquiagvik gets 66 days of full darkness in the heart of winter!v) The area is also the home of the Inupiat people, who still live their traditional lifestyle in more than 30 villages in the area.

Popular Towns in Alaska’s Far North:

  • Fort Yukon
  • Nome
  • Kotzebue
  • Deadhorse / Prudhoe Bay
  • Utquiagvik (formerly known as Barrow)

Finding the Best Place in Alaska for You 

What are you looking for from your Alaska experience? Has it always been your dream to make your way in the rugged wilderness? Or do you want to enjoy the ease and convenience of a small to mid-sized city, with easy access to weekend adventures? You’ll find them both in Alaska—and also plenty of places between. By doing your research and, ideally, visiting your new home first, you’ll find the right spot in Alaska that delivers the right lifestyle for you. 

Need some help getting to your new home? Our Anchorage-based team has performed moves all over the state, including hard-to-access remote areas. Get started with a complimentary quote for your Alaska move. 

 

i https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2015/aug/18/biggest-coffee-snobs-america-alaska-not-seattle

ii https://www.chicagotribune.com/news/ct-xpm-2011-10-27-ct-wea-1027-asktom-20111027-story.html

iii https://insight.livestories.com/s/v2/demographics-and-environment/cb287ad9-18db-4ad1-a4e5-e1db081017ef/; https://alaska.gov/kids/learn/region.htm

iv https://www.bestplaces.net/climate/city/alaska/kodiak

v https://www.washingtonpost.com/weather/2020/11/18/polar-night-utqiagvik-darkness/

Tell us about your move!