Things to do in Homer, Alaska – the Best of Alaska

As a traveling cat, I appreciate destinations that are filled with nature and not too crowded. Cats don’t like to be around too many people (and we tend to hide when we get overwhelmed!). This is exactly what’s great about Homer, Alaska – it’s a friendly, small town that is easy for any cat to explore. Aside from relaxing in the sun and watching the fisherman unload their daily catch, your human companion will also find plenty of things to do in Homer, Alaska. 

Enjoy the journey to Homer

One of the greatest things about visiting Homer is the journey to Homer! If you are lucky enough to road trip through Alaska, you’ll find the drive from Anchorage to Homer to be particularly fulfilling. Starting with coastal views of Turnagain Arm, you’ll eventually travel through the heart of the Kenai peninsula. Make sure to stop at Cooper’s Landing to take a look around. 

Things to do in Homer Alaska - Driving from Anchorage to Homer
Driving from Anchorage to Homer

If you prefer to fly, Ravn Air is a local carrier, offering direct flights from Anchorage. This is a great way to not only get to Homer quickly, but also to see the beautiful Kenia Peninsula from the air.

Finally, it’s well known that one of the best ways to experience Alaska is by boat. You can access the Homer Harbor using the Marine Highway System (otherwise known as the Alaskan Ferry) or via standard cruise. Either option will provide a unique experience of the beautiful Gulf of Alaska. 

Visit Kachemak Bay State Park

Alaska’s first state park, Kachemak Bay is a great place for hiking or boating with extraordinary views. With no access by road, you’ll need to access this park by air or by sea. One popular way to visit is to hire a water taxi to take you across the bay. 

One of the top areas to visit is Grewingk Glacier. Here you’ll find one of the shortest (3 miles) hikes in the park. You’ll be rewarded with amazing views of the glacier and its lake, along with some interesting icebergs. You can also kayak in the lake to get a closer look at Grewingk. 

For more active travelers, China Poot Lake is also a great area with amazing trails, a steep summit, and beautiful lakes. If you are a fishing enthusiast, this is also good area to catch some freshwater fish. 

Things to do Homer, Alaska - Kachemak Bay
View of Kachemak Bay

Kachemak Bay State Park is also known for overnight camping in its public-use cabins and the Kachmemak Bay Water Trail. This 125-mile boating route runs along the shore of the park. Few travelers boat the entire trail. However, there are nearly endless options to build an itinerary that combines boating, hiking, and camping in this stunning park. For the ultimate Kachemak Bay experience, combine overnight camping in the public use cabins with hiking and kayaking excursions. 

See the bears at Katmai National Park

If you are looking for a day trip, Katmai National Park is great place to add to your itinerary. Known as one of the best destinations for bear viewing, you’ll find plenty of tour operators that will help you find black bears and brown bears in the Alaskan wilderness.  

Like a lot of parks in Alaska, Katmai is not connected to the the state’s road system. This means you’ll either need to fly or boat into the park. Lucky for you, the short flight from Homer takes you over the Cook Inlet and is a scenic journey in itself. 

Day trips range from a basic service to and from the park to more extensive tours into the wilderness to find and photograph the park’s famous bears. There are also plenty of wilderness lodges and opportunities for overnight camping in the park. 

Go deep-sea fishing

One of the best things to do in Homer, Alaska is deep-sea fishing. Known as the halibut fishing capital of the world, you’ll find plenty of fishing charters in the Homer Harbor. 

One advantage of a good fishing charter is that it also serves as a wildlife viewing tour. During your boat ride around the beautiful Kachemak Bay you may spot marine life like sea otters, sea lions and orcas.

What to do Homer, Alaska - the Homer Marina

Fishing charters typically run half a day to a full day. The most popular destination is Halibut Cove but depending on your preference your guide may take you somewhere more secluded. While you are never guaranteed a catch, most charters know the area well enough to significantly increase your chance of success. 

Additionally, the charter company will take care of cleaning, freezing, packing, and shipping your fish back home. If you’ve never tried fishing in saltwater, this is definitely the place to dive in.

Explore downtown Homer

While Alaska is known for its vast wilderness and easy access to nature, you should also make time to explore downtown Homer. The area is best known for its quirky art galleries like Ptarmigan Arts. However, there are tons of little shops to check out on East Pioneer Avenue

Another popular stop is Pratt Museum, where you can learn about the unique history and culture of south central Alaska. 

And, finally, don’t miss the headquarters for the Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies and the Alaska Islands & Ocean Visitor Center. Both offer educational exhibits about the surrounding land.

The Center for Alaskan Coastal studies offers guided hikes at 4 different locations around the bay. This is a great way to interact directly with the experts.

The Alaska Islands & Ocean Visitor center features a short (1.2 mile) self guided hike around Beluga Slough. If you have more time you can book an educational boat tour around Kachemak Bay, which will include opportunities for birdwatching and wildlife viewing.   

Hang out on the Homer Spit

After spending some time downtown, make sure to stop by the Homer Spit. Running 4.5 miles in length, this landmark is the longest road into the ocean in the entire world. You’ll find most of the action close to the end of the spit including restaurants with amazing fresh seafood, shopping, beaches, and the Homer Boat Harbor. 

One of the top things to see on the Homer Spit is the Salty Dawg Saloon. Parts of this historic building were originally built in 1897 as one of the town’s first cabins. Eventually relocated to the spit, the building was expanded and officially opened as the saloon in 1957. 

Originally known as a dive for local fishermen, today, travelers from all over the world gather here. Make sure to bring some one-dollar bills with you so you can participate in a long standing local tradition. Started years ago, travelers sign a one dollar bill, tack it to the wall and then vow to return. At first the dollar bills were used to buy drinks for future patrons, but nowadays they serve as quirky décor.  

If you are looking for a little more nature, visit the End of the Road Park, located at the end of the spit. This park offers stunning views of Kachemak Bay, bird watching, and an artificial fishing hole. Keep an eye for bald eagles, which frequent the area year-round. 

Check out the tide pools at Bishops Beach

What to do Homer, Alaska - Bishops Beach
Bishop Beach at low tide

Located just west of the Homer Spit, Bishops Beach is an unusually picturesque setting. Sitting at the end of the Kenai Peninsula, it features one of the most dramatic low tides in Alaska. 

Known for its magnificent tide pools, Bishops beach has photo opportunities that are truly Alaskan. Aside from exploring tide pools, this is also a great location for bird watching or simply watching the boats float in and out of the harbor. 

Make sure to watch the tide schedules so you can experience this beautiful location at peak low tide. 

Fly to Lake Clark National Park for the day

Another park that is not accessible by car, Lake Clark National Park is known for its beautiful turquoise lakes. Here you’ll find one of the state’s largest salmon habitats, as well as, amazing opportunities for bear viewing. The flight to the park is beautiful, soaring over Kachemak Bay. However you can also easily charter a boat if you’d like to stay closer to the ground. 

Whether you prefer self guided hikes, river rafting or guided bear viewing, a trip to Lake Clark is a great way to get out into the Alaskan backcountry.  

If you are looking for some more time in nature, this park also has public use cabins, as well as, established and backcountry campsites.  

Sip a glass of wine at Bear Creek Winery

Looking for a break from your outdoor adventures? Bear Creek Winery, located 10 minutes outside of town, is one of the best places to relax. Featuring unique flavor profiles, like blueberry zinfandel, visiting this winery is an experience like no other. 

Tasting the wine at Bear Creek Winery is always a unique experience because their fruit is sourced from small, local farms. As a result, the wines are constantly changing due to availability of fruit. Sometimes the winemaker will make a batch as small as just 3 gallons – that’s about as exclusive as you can get!

During the high season the winery is open from 12 – 6 pm. You can participate in a tour, do a tasting or simply buy a bottle and relax on the lawn. 

Stay on the Kilcher Homestead – the most unique thing to do in Homer, Alaska

Another, lesser-known destination near Homer is the Kilcher Homestead. Established in the 1940s from the Homestead Act, this 160-acre homestead is still running according to its original charter. Recently the subject of the Discovery show, Alaska: The Last Frontier, the Kilcher Homestead is receiving increased interest from around the world. 

If you are a fan of the show, you can book a guided tour of the property for a small fee. For those interested in staying on the land, there are also a few options for camping. Aside from booking the historic cabin on the main website, you can also find private camping experiences using Hipcamp

Beach at Kilcher Homestead in Homer, Alaska
Beach at Kilcher Homestead

Once you are a guest on the property you’ll gain access to the private beach next to Kachemak Bay and the ability to explore the property on your own (outside guests must be accompanied by a resident at all times).

Conclusion on top things to do in Homer, Alaska

A trip to Homer, Alaska is a great addition to any Alaskan vacation itinerary. Located out of the way from the main tourist destinations like Anchorage and Fairbanks, Homer is a great place to experience nature and culture like a local. 

Visiting Homer is a great example of the Alaskan coastal life. This small town is the gateway to some of the state’s most sought-after outdoor experiences like bear viewing at Katmai and overnight camping by Kachemak Bay. In addition to its abundance of outdoor activities, Homer has its own unique culture and plenty of places to explore like the Home Spit and Bear Creek Winery. 

Above all, when you visit Homer, make sure to leave time to relax and really take in the lifestyle. Not only will you leave with full belly and tired legs, but you’ll also leave with a small taste of the Alaskan way of life. 

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