[Image above was photographed from the Alaska Map provided by Alaska.org]
Where do Alaskans and tourists alike typically go in Alaska during the summer? Many will tell you the Kenai Peninsula. Surrounded by water—Cook Inlet, Prince William Sound, and the Gulf of Alaska—with icefields, glaciers, and melting snow forming waterfalls, rivers, and lakes from snow-capped mountains in the Chugach National Forest and Kenai Fjords National Park, outdoor enthusiasts and explorers sojourn to the various waterfront towns of the Kenai Peninsula to camp, boat, kayak, raft, fish, hike, climb mountains, cruise, and more.
Sterling Highway and Seward Highway, the two main roads on the peninsula, are probably the busiest roads in the state. Constant traffic flows for those making their way to the City of Kenai to dipnet fish, or to Homer for halibut fishing, or to Seward for access to the Kenai Fjords National Park. In addition, Whittier, Seward, and Homer have cruise ship ports, with a continuous influx of tourists pouring into these towns.
Of course, our first stop on the “peninsula” was Whittier, with Cooper Landing and the Kenai-Russian River Confluence next.
After that, we stayed for about a week on the west side of the peninsula in a little town called Ninilchik, about halfway between the City of Kenai and Homer. We shared a Boondocker’s Welcome spot with a couple of other RVers and, on a clear day, had stunning views of Mt. Iliamna and Mt. Redoubt—snow-covered volcanoes in the Aleutian mountain Range situated across Cook Inlet.
From Ninilchik, we drove to Homer and the 2nd longest “spit” in the world. According to Bell’s Travel Guides Alaska: 2023 Mapbook, Homer Spit is a “natural geological phenomenon formed initially by terminal glacier moraine,” jutting about 5 miles out into the Kachemak Bay. It is a summer hotspot with boardwalks, shopping, restaurants, sportfishing, bear-watching boat tours, and more. An occasional cruise ship makes its way into its harbor during the summer. We spent a couple of hours exploring the Spit, driving its length, watching people bring their catch of the day off boats, checking out a couple of hot spots and shops. The views from Homer Spit are spectacular, with the blue waters of the Kachemak Bay bordered by a backdrop of mountains and glaciers from a part of Kenai Fjords NP.
We also took a bear viewing boat charter out of Anchor Point to Chinitna Bay with Catch-A-Lot Charters. It was a solid hour or so cruising across Cook Inlet at top speed, and we waded into the waters of Chinitna Bay to watch a sow and her two cubs clamming along the shoreline. It was spectacular! The mama bear occasionally growled when she wasn’t having success finding clams. The two cubs continuously chattered, and the male cub made mama mad one time. She pounced on him with a loud swat and bellow, and he stomped off for a short bit before coming back to hound her again. It doesn’t matter what species of animal, young’uns can aggravate their parents sometimes!
After our stay in Ninilchik, we went to the City of Kenai and were able to venture onto Kenai Beach to watch Alaskans dipnet fishing. Only residents of Alaska are allowed to dipnet fish, so access to the area is controlled. Because we were there just to watch, we were given a free one-hour parking pass. Alaskans are allowed to catch 25 fish (via dipnet) per household plus 10 fish per person in the household, equating to about 65 fish for a family of four. June and July seem to be the time to do this type of fishing, and we were there when Kenai Beach was packed with hundreds of people catching salmon before the salmon made their way up the Kenai River to spawn. We watched a couple from Fairbanks haul one fish in after another. It was quite a phenomenon to watch people wade into the water holding their dipnets at an angle, then drag them on shore to extract the fish from the net before repeating the process. From what we witnessed, it seems they catch one fish at a time and occasionally will throw one back if it wasn’t what they wanted.
Our next stop on the peninsula was Seward. Seward sits on Resurrection Bay on the east side of the Kenai Peninsula at the end of Seward Highway. The Town of Seward manages most of the campgrounds, and we found ourselves near the harbor with views of fishing boats, cruise ships, and tour boats coming and going. One of the tourism draws to Seward are the boat tours through Resurrection Bay to see whales and other wildlife as well as get a close-up view of one of the glaciers in Kenai Fjords National Park. Ours was with Major Marine Tours, a six-hour cruise that did not disappoint. Killer whales, humpback whales, Dall’s porpoises, fin whales, sea otters, sea lions, seals, puffins, and more all made an appearance during our cruise to and from the terminus of Holgate Glacier. Being in the moment to enjoy all of it and trying to capture some of it with the camera was not an easy feat. But watching the whales swim, dance, and feed in front of us was truly spectacular.
Our final stop on the Kenai Peninsula was to boondock by the Upper Trail Lake in Moose Pass. It was a large, popular boondocking area, so we had several neighbors for the few days we were there. Being next to the lake and listening/watching as seaplanes took off and landed was a great way to decompress and recuperate from a bad head/chest cold that Carl and I both suffered with for a few days. Not any pictures from this location, unfortunately!
Boondocking in Moose Pass and taking a seaplane tour are high on our list the next time we travel to Alaska. And we both want to maximize our stay in Cooper Landing. I might consider exploring the other towns, especially if we get over to Katmai or Lake Clark National Parks so I can get their stamps in my national park Passport book! Just FYI… the only way to get to those parks is by boat charter or small plane… Just another adventure to look forward to!
Enjoy the scenes from parts of Kenai Peninsula in our video (above or at https://youtu.be/hGeIPDTSN0s?si=5PvxfE8Mu_eXRkxE)