Kenai Peninsula

Nature Rules in This Microcosm of AIaska

The Kenai Peninsula is a nature-packed area about the size of Vermont and New Hampshire put together, where all of Alaska’s big-country wonders are available in microcosm: massive glaciers (Portage and Exit), a filigreed coastline of inlets perfect for kayaking, and prolific wildlife and marine life.

From Anchorage, it’s a scenic 125-mile drive on the Seward Highway to Resurrection Bay and the town of Seward, named for the secretary of state who in 1857 purchased Alaska from Russia for $7.2 million (less than 2 cents an acre), a move derided as “Seward’s Folly” until gold was discovered thirty years later.

A fishing and timber town, it’s the jumping-off point for kayaking and sightseeing cruises of Kenai Fjords National Park, which abounds with whales, waterfalls, brown bears, and calving tidewater glaciers.

The highway ends 100 miles south at tiny Homer, a funky, artsy-craftsy town at the end of the peninsula. Sitting on a stunning 5-mile finger of land called “the Spit,” the little town fancies itself both a cultural hub and the “Halibut Capital of the World.” (Another fish town, Halibut Cove, is one of the peninsula’s prettiest corners, reachable only by boat.) Drop into Homer’s landmark Salty Dawg Saloon, an old trapper’s hut where tourists hoist their beers with local cannery workers and fishermen.

From here, a leisurely boat trip across gorgeous Kachemak Bay provides glimpses of terns, puffins, cormorants, and mischievous sea otters. On the bay’s distant shore is enchanting Kachemak Bay Wildemess Lodge, the ultimate escape-cum-classroom, where six luxurious private cabins blend with the landscape. Some guests come to fish, others to explore the wilderness in the company of the staff naturalists, others for the Dungeness crab, clams, shrimp, oysters, salmon, and, of course, halibut, all prepared to perfection.

What: site, town, hotel.
Where: Kenai Peninsula Tourism, tel 907-283-3850; www kenaipeninsula.org.
Kachemak Bay Wilderness Lodge: tel: 907-235-8910, fax 907235-8910; www.alaskawildernesslodge.com. Cost: 3-night package from $1,800, all-inclusive (includes boat to/from Homer).
Best Times: May and Sept for smaller crowds.

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