Homer is a special place. There’s just something magical about the town that draws you in. Often referred to as “the end of the road,” it is a long, five-hour drive from Anchorage. The beginning of the drive along Turnagain Arm is beautiful with views of glaciers, mountains, and the ocean—my favorite stretch of scenery in Alaska. Then you turn onto the Sterling Highway, over the Caribbean blue of the Kenai River, and then a long stretch of nondescript highway. This section of the drive is not what one would call spectacular. But then, hours later the ocean appears to the west and if the weather is clear, volcanoes materialize. Mt Iliamna and Mt Redoubt can be seen across Cook Inlet from a few viewpoints along the way. A little further down the road Homer can be seen below as you crest a hill. A sign greets you: “Homer Alaska–Halibut Fishing Capital of the World” and there’s a picturesque view of Kachemak Bay and the iconic Homer Spit below.
Homer Spit is unlike anything I’ve seen before. The spit is a 4.5 mile long narrow piece of land that juts out from the southern tip of the Kenai Peninsula into Kachemak Bay. No one really knows how the spit was formed but the leading theory is that the long strip of land was formed by glaciers. This seems plausible with the clear view of Grewingk Glacier spilling off the Harding Icefield across the bay. It’s easy to imagine the glaciers carving out the bay and simultaneously pushing up the mountains on all sides.
This is truly a land of fire and ice. The entire area sits within the Pacific Ring of Fire. Mt Redoubt and Mt Iliamna lie within Lake Clark National Park across Cook Inlet. To the untrained eye, they appear to be mere mountains. Mt Augustine on the other hand has the distinct appearance of a classic volcano with its collapsed cone. It rises out of the ocean and can often be seen from Homer on a clear day. All of these have been active within historical times, the most recent eruption was from Mt Redoubt in 2009 which caused air traffic shutdowns due to the ash plumes. All of Alaska’s volcanoes are closely monitored by the Alaska Volcano Observatory.
Lots of people try to fit Homer into their itineraries as a one or two-night stay. As I mentioned, the drive to Homer is long and not overly spectacular. Going all that way and spending less than a day is such a mistake! Of all the places I’ve visited in Alaska, Homer is by far my favorite and the more time I spend there, the more I love it. It really deserves at least 3 nights—which leads me to all the great ways to spend your time in Homer.
Kachemak Bay State Park is across the bay from town and has lots of hiking trails. You’ll need to arrange a water taxi to get there and back. There are no services so make sure to do your research, be prepared for sudden changes in the weather, and have food and plenty of water.
There are several trails in and around town. Two of my favorites are the Beluga Slough and Homestead. Beluga Slough loops through a salt marsh with opportunities for wildlife viewing. Homestead trail is moderately strenuous, leading up to the top of a ridge with fantastic views but can be very muddy.
Eveline State Recreation Site is along a beautiful drive out East End Road. There are trails and picnic sites with stunning views of Kachemak Bay.
Museums and Visitor Centers
Pratt Museum is a perfect rainy day activity. I always enjoy spending time in museums in new places as it really gives you a view into the community and its history.
Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center is another worthy stop. There are lots of educational exhibits and films to see. They also offer interpretive tours. The Beluga Slough trail starts here and Bishop Beach is nearby. At low tide, you can go tide pooling and get a look at all the creatures that get caught in the pools of water that form when the tide is out.
There are countless deep sea fishing charters out of Homer. There are options for multispecies trips as well as halibut only. You can go out for a half-day or take multi-day tours. Even with the half-day charters, you can still come home with a lot of fish to enjoy long after your vacation is over.
Homer is a hotspot for bear viewing charters due to its proximity to Katmai National Park. There are several tour operators for bear viewing and most of these will involve a flight to remote areas. Depending on the time of year you may see brown bears feeding on grasses or clams, and if the salmon are running it is a thrill to watch them fish.
Eating and Drinking
Homer has lots of fantastic restaurants. Fat Olives is one of my favorites. It is a cozy little Italian restaurant. Captain Patties on the spit is a great place for seafood and Boardwalk Fish and Chips is fast food Homer style. One place we never miss on a trip to Homer is Two Sisters Bakery and Cafe. It is near Bishop Beach so you can grab coffee and pastry before a morning walk on the beach.
As for drinking, Alaskans love their coffee and beer and Homer is no exception. KBay Cafe has the best locally roasted coffee and is available at Two Sisters.
Homer Brewing Company serves up their traditional fresh country ales by the pint or growler at their brewery. You can also find their beers in many local restaurants.
Bear Creek Winery is a family-owned winery that incorporates local fruits and berries into their wines. You can visit the winery and sample the wines in their tasting room.
If you’re visiting in the summer months, don’t miss the local farmers market that is open on Wednesdays and Saturdays. Browse around and purchase locally grown produce, seafood, homemade jellies, baked goods, and souvenirs. I had the best halibut fish tacos here I’ve ever tasted. Don’t forget to bring cash as some of the vendors don’t accept credit cards.
And There’s More…
That’s just the beginning. There are lots of other tours including boat tours, birding tours, kayaking, and the list goes on. Leave a comment to share your favorite things to do in Homer.