Alaska will, hands-down, one of the most beautiful places you will ever visit. 17 of North America's highest mountain peaks are all located in Alaska. In our brief trip, we rented a car and visited the seaside towns of Seward, Homer, Whittier, and Anchorage. A "must do," is taking an all-day boat tour in the Kenai Fjords to Northwestern Glacier. We definitely can see us coming back here again. The wildlife alone, would bring us back. We also can't help but see how quickly the landscape is changing due to environmental changes. The physical posts at Exit Glacier, for example, was a stark reminder that Alaska's over 100,000 glaciers are disappearing at an alarming rate. There is also a certain untouched element to America's 49th State that is appealing. Joining the U.S. fairly recently, in 1959, it is the "Last Frontier," indeed. The vast remoteness of it all, brings longing in us return and explore it further.
Seward: Located on the Kenai Peninsula, this town of 2,700+/- inhabitants was founded in 1903 by John E. Ballaine, who was also the founder of the Alaska Railroad Company. Just outside town sits Exit Glacier in Kenai Fjords National Park. Here, we came across a baby Moose and its mother grazing right up next to the walking path, while visiting the Glacier. The hike itself it easy and accessible to most people, including families with small children. Afterwards, enjoy lunch on the harbor in town and then walk through Waterfront park and shop in downtown Seward.
Kenai Fjords: Take a 8.5 hour Cruise in Kenai Fjords National Park with Major Marine Tours. This was a highlight of our entire summer vacation. The cruise takes you to the awe-inspiring Northwestern Glacier but it was the wildlife that we saw along that way that made this day unforgettable. This is a "do not miss," experience when visiting Alaska. Also, fair warning: this is a picture-heavy post. This is a photographer's dream destination.
Homer: Homer is known as the "Halibut Fishing Capital of the World." A frequent tourist activity is chartering a boat out of Kachemak Bay to catch, haul in, and ship home, these large fish. It is also the home of the famous Homer Spit, a 4.5 mile narrow strip of land that extends into Kachemak Bay. The Spit is the longest road into ocean waters in the world and also the launching point for charted boats to Kachemak Bay for kayaking and hiking in and around Kachemak Bay State Park.
Hike Kachemak Bay State Park: Kachemak Bay State Park, located in near Homer, Alaska, is a remote park accessible only by water taxi from the Homer Spit. We hiked the Glacier Lake, Grewingk Tram, Saddle Trail loop we found on AllTrails. This roughly 8-mile trail (shorter than what the map says), is almost entirely flat and easy. Pack a lunch and enjoy a meal break at Glacier Lake. This hike is gorgeous and with it's remote nature and unique way to get to and from the trail head (by water taxi), it will certainly go down as one of our more memorable hiking experiences.
Whittier: Situated on the gateway of Prince William Sound, the only way to access this tiny coastal town, by car, is through a one-way tunnel. Once in town, we went on another breathtaking Alaskan hike to see Portage Glacier. This 4.2 mile out-and-back trail features a jaw-dropping view of Portage Lake and Glacier, which will surely make your top 10 best-ever hiking views. Afterwards, we walked the town of Whittier before making the 90 minute drive to Anchorage.
Talkeetna/Wasilla: Take a mellow daytrip from Anchorage by driving up to see the Iditarod Museum in Wasilla and then strolled down the picturesque town of Talkeetna. Wasilla is approximately 45 minutes by car from Anchorage and Talkeetna is another 75 minutes further North on AK-3. On a clear day, we understand you can see Mt. McKinley from a viewpoint near Talkeetna, but unfortunately it was raining on the day we visited. Depending on the season though, you may get lucky and spend some time with a litter of pups at the Iditarod Museum.
Where We Stayed
Seward: Just outside of central Seward we stayed at this cute AirBnB where we enjoyed roasting marshmallows in the firepit outside.
Homer: This popular destination has limited lodging, hence the premium price on most places. Even so, we really loved our AirBnB cabin, as it had everything you could possibly need, plus a gorgeous view (photo right).
Anchorage: This large rental offered plenty of space for our family of 4. Centrally located within walking distance of downtown, we highly recommend this AirBnB.
Where We Ate
Alaska Seafood Grill. Located in Seward, it's a bit on the pricey side, but it nonetheless satisfied our hankering for fresh, local seafood on our first full day in Alaska.
Salty Dawg Saloon: The Homer Spit is the home of the Salty Dawg Saloon, a pub that was opened all the way back in 1897. Featured on the show "the Deadliest Catch," this pub is known for patrons tacking dollar bills on the ceiling. We took a cue from the surroundings and ordered a classic "Jack and Coke." Photo right, top.
Boardwalk Fish & Chips: Also located on the Homer Spit, be sure to order the Halibut fish and chips. Photo left, bottom.
F Street Station. Located in Anchorage, this busy spot does not take reservations so a little bit of waiting and luck is involved, though it was well worth it. In fact, we liked it so much, we came back the next day. This little "hole the wall" restaurant located in a bar was so good. The boys had a garlic bread chicken sandwich and we enjoyed the calamari and fresh caught Alaskan salmon salad, which was perfectly grilled.