Homer, Alaska: A self-proclaimed drinking village with a fishing problem!

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A self-proclaimed drinking town with a fishing problem.  The end of the road.  Homer is an eclectic, fun loving town at the end of the scenic Sterling Highway at the tip of the Kenai Peninsula, overlooking the Kachemak Bay and the mountains and glaciers of Kachemak Bay State Park.  The spirit of the town seems to be both artsy and outdoorsy.  While this is definitely an Alaskan town full of hardy, self-reliant people who spend much of their time in the outdoors, boating and fishing, there is a pocket of artists and musicians that give this town a funky vibe.  Homer is the commercial hub for the surrounding area, and it’s protected, deep-water harbor is perfect for large cargo as well as smaller fishing and private leisure boats.  Homer has so much on offer, from good food options to small art galleries to outdoorsy activities such as hiking, kayaking, fishing and boating.  It’s a jump off point for exploring the surrounding wilderness, such as the mountains and glaciers of Kachemak Bay State Park, Kodiak Island, the Mount Augustine Volcano of the Pacific Ring of Fire, and Katmai National Park (where you find a high density of bears!).

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Walking the beach down on the Spit

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Homer’s beautiful harbor. Photo taken by Mark Denny.

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The main road is Pioneer Avenue (where you find several restaurants), which turns into East End Road, a beautifully scenic drive out of town.  However, the main area of activity seems to be out on the Spit, down around the harbor and the docks.  Sterling Highway dead-ends at Lake Street, which when followed to the right turns into Ocean Drive taking you out on the Spit.  What is the Spit?  It’s a 4 ½ mile long strip of land that juts out into the bay from the mainland.  It is theorized to be the remains of a glacial moraine, but it is preserved by human efforts, protecting it from storms with built structures and rebuilding it after environmental damage.  You can reach it by car, but also by bike along a beautiful bike/walking path running alongside the road.  Out on the Spit, you find several shops, restaurants, bars, fishing and other boat charter companies, as well as a beautiful harbor on one side and a long stretch of beach (not of the laying out variety, but of the strolling variety) on the other.  My father spent some time out at the tip of the Spit just throwing his fishing line out, catching and releasing.  Many people recommend fishing out of Fishing Lagoon, where you’d want to time it with the tide tables (the nearby fishing equipment rental and bait shop can help you with that), but my father didn’t have much luck out there.

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The beach is of the strolling variety…not conducive to sun bathing!

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The Salty Dog Saloon, one of the more popular bars around town.

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My favorite meal – oysters on the half shell, fries, fried halibut, and a pint of Midnight Sun Kodiak Brown – at the Lighthouse Fish & Chips at the end of Cannery Row on the Spit.

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The town overall is spectacularly scenic.  You don’t have to go far to feel at ease and at peace in your surroundings.  We stayed at a sweet little B&B called Rangeview B&B up off of Pioneer Avenue near the hospital.  Not only was this place very nice and cozy accommodation (with a tasty daily home-baked treat, which never hurts!), it had a nice deck with views out over the bay.  With the big windows and long days, you could open up the blinds at nearly any time and enjoy the serenity of your surroundings.  We also spent a lot of time out wandering around the harbor docks and along the beach on the Spit.  Nearly every time we went out there, we saw the area from a new perspective.  We both love to take photographs, so we always had a fun time out exploring the docks.

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Having heard about the nearby scenic drives along East End Road and Skyline Drive, we naturally spent a few hours out driving along these roads, stopping to take photos when we found something interesting or a breath-taking vista.  It’s amazing how these drives would knock me out.  There must be something about the misty skies and the lull of the motion of the car, because I would always feel wiped out after a few hours out driving about.

Photos taken while driving along Skyline Drive – never a dull moment, fun photo opps around every turn.

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Photo taken by Mark Denny

Overall, we both enjoyed Homer immensely and were sad to leave this picturesque town with endless opportunities to explore the surroundings.  It’s a bit of a drive, most people choosing Seward instead.  But, in my opinion, Homer is worth the drive.  You will be pleasantly rewarded for going out of your way to visit this special place in a truly spectacular setting.

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Things to check out in and around Homer:

  1. Water taxi and/or boat cruise out around and across the bay to Seldovia or Halibut Cove, for instance.  See more about our water taxi ride here and here.IMG_8967 IMG_9169 IMG_9136 IMG_9007
  2. Local winery tour at Bear Creek Winery.
  3. Pratt Museum on Bartlett just off Pioneer Drive, a community museum with exhibits of local art, culture and science.  Particularly interesting exhibits were a detailed exhibit on whales with several firsthand accounts of inspiring experiences had by local researchers and a very informative exhibit covering the Valdez oil spill.  There is supposedly a beautiful little botanical garden and nature trail that we accidentally overlooked due to museum fatigue.
  4. Homer Islands and Ocean Visitor Center on the Sterling Hwy offers lots of information about local hiking and wildlife viewing, guided and unguided nature and tide pooling walks, and many hands-on exhibits.
  5. Fishing for salmon in the Nick Dudiak Fishing Lagoon on the Spit or nearby rivers or for halibut (and sometimes salmon) with a charter.
  6. Bear viewing in nearby Katmai National Park and Lake Clark National Preserve, just a short flight away.
  7. Flight seeing the Ring of Fire or the Harding Ice Field.

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    You’ll see planes everywhere in Alaska. Every one seems to have one. This one was parked on Beluga Lake en route to the Spit.

  8. Kayaking in the coves of Kachemak Bay State Park.
  9. Art Galleries & Theatres (Pier One Theatre among others)
  10. Hiking in Homer or across the bay in Kachemak Bay State Park.
  11. Biking along the paved bike trails of East End Road or along Ocean Drive on the Spit, or you can utilize one of the many mountain bike trails across the bay in the state park.

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    Out on the Spit. Photo taken by Mark Denny

  12. Summertime Farmers’ Market on Saturdays and Wednesdays.
  13. Scenic drives along Skyline Drive or East End Road.  Along Skyline Drive that you can reach by driving up either West Hill or East Hill Roads, with a few great pull offs (found between the 2 Hill Rds) that look out over the spit and the bay.  You will also find the The Wynn Nature Center & Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies up there with well maintained walking paths for the birding enthusiasts (small entrance fee).  Also, the drive out East End Road is quite beautiful, which we took out nearly to the end of the road, stopping at the Russian village of Kachemak Selo, because the road past the village is poorly maintained.
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    Views from East End Rd.

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    Nearing the end of East End Rd.

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    Looking out over Homer and the Bay from Skyline Dr.

Exploring Skyline Drive. Photo taken by Mark Denny.

Exploring Skyline Drive. Photo taken by Mark Denny.

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