Homer, Alaska, the small town at the “End of the Road,” is a fascinating place where the east meets the west and the old meets the new. It’s located at the very end of the US Highway system “where the land ends and the sea begins”. It’s mostly known as the starting point for travelers looking to embark on grizzly bear viewing tours or halibut fishing charters. But it’s more than just a rest stop on the way to another destination. Homer is a unique destination filled with natural beauty, art, history, culture, and amazing food. It’s also a favorite stop on our Glaciers & Grizzlies Adventure tour. That’s why we decided to put together this quick travel guide for your Homer, Alaska trip!
The highlight of Homer, Alaska, this 4.5-mile “spit” of land extends into the Kachemak Bay and is a perfect natural harbor. The town is dotted with businesses, restaurants, and beaches just waiting to be explored. You can watch the boats come in with their daily catch or charter your own to go fishing for halibut and salmon. If you’re more of a land-lover, you can walk along the Homer Spit trail instead and comb the beach at low tide for aquatic creatures like octopus, crabs, and sea anemones.
Homer Museums and Nature Centers
On your way to the spit, you should stop in and check out Alaska’s Islands & Oceans Visitor’s Center. It’s the headquarters of the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge, the largest seabird refuge in the world. Inside you can see a variety of interactive, educational exhibits that cover the unique ecology of Kachemak Bay. Or, if you’re interested in an outdoor adventure, you can go on one of the ranger-led hikes to view the local wildlife along the shore.
If you’d like to explore Alaska’s famous boreal forests, then a visit to the Wynn Nature Center is a must! Located on the bluffs overlooking Homer, this 140-acre wildlife preserve is packed with wildflowers that bloom along its trails all summer long. It’s also a haven for black bears, moose, lynx, and songbirds. You can participate in guided hikes or check out some of their nature programs and family camping activities.
History buffs might enjoy a stop at Homer’s Pratt Museum. Its exhibits focus on art, natural history, native cultures, homesteading, fishing, and marine ecology. Inside you can view artifacts like a traditional native sea kayak or a skeleton of a Bering Sea Beaked Whale. Outside, the Pratt museum boasts a botanical garden that contains the largest collection of native plants on the Kenai Peninsula and the Harrington Homestead Cabin, an authentic recreation of a traditional Alaskan homestead.
Bear Viewing Tours Near Homer
Grizzly bear viewing is one of the most popular activities for tourists who make the trip to Homer, Alaska. Every year in the summer, bears gather around rivers and lakes to catch salmon as they swim upstream to spawn. It’s one of the few times that visitors are able to see groups of these solitary creatures gathered together in their natural habitat. It’s an unforgettable sight and a huge part of Gondwana Ecotour’s Alaska Glaciers & Grizzlies Adventure!
For travelers coming from Homer, there are two main destinations for prime grizzly bear viewing: Katmai National Park and Lake Clark National Park. Katmai national park is home to the world-famous Brooks Falls, a favorite destination for bear-viewers from all over the world. Lake Clark is also a much-loved, but a less famous, spot for bear tours.
Which one should you choose? Well, if you travel with Gondwana on our Glaciers & Grizzlies Adventure tour
we usually visit both locations (depending on the bear sightings in the area), but if you can only visit one then you should consider what type of experience you want to have. Bear viewing in Brooks Falls, Alaska will likely give you the opportunity to see more bears but you’ll see more tourists as well. There are viewing platforms above the river that give travelers a close, but safe, view of the feeding grizzlies.
Lake Clark is a little less crowded and a little wilder. It feels more like you’re in the heart of the wilderness without protective rails in between you and the bears. It also covers a larger area and has several different bear-viewing locations. Chinitna Bay is one of the most popular. Here, you’ll see bears dig for clams along the shore and chow down on wild vegetation instead of catching salmon in the rivers. It’s different from Brooks Falls but equally wonderful.
Restaurants in Homer Alaska
No trip to Homer, Alaska would be complete without a visit to their oldest and most famous tavern, The Salty Dawg Saloon. The original building was built in 1897 when Homer was first founded. It served as a post office, a railroad station, a grocery store, and a coal mining office before being turned into a saloon in 1957. The Salty Dawg’s true claim to fame is the hundreds of dollar bills that have been pinned to its walls. The story goes that a man wanted to leave some money for his friend to buy a drink when he came back into town from a fishing trip. He wrote his friend’s name on a bill and had the bartender pin it to the wall. Since then, people from all over the world have written names on dollar bills and pinned them to the walls of the saloon.
Another great spot, internationally recognized and a favorite with the locals, is the Bear Creek Winery. Using a small batch model, they’ve grown from a small home operation to a bustling winery that offers nine varieties and five seasonal flavors. Most of their wines are made with locally sourced fruit. Stop in and experience their tasting room where their friendly staff will help you select the perfect wine.
If you’re looking for more than a drink, check out The Little Mermaid. They’re known for their creative and electric menu featuring everything from tempura buffalo prawns and poutine to ahi tuna and muscovy duck breast. The menu changes regularly, however, as they like to add specials that include fresh local ingredients.
Nearby Homer, Alaska
Nearby Homer is the small town of Ninilchik. This little community has a long history mixed with tribal
peoples from both the Kenai and Kachemak regions as well as settlers from a Russian fur trapping community. Here you can visit the Russian Orthodox Church built in the 1900s. It has five golden domes and offers travelers a wonderful view of Ninilchik’s four active volcanoes. You can also spend the day fishing for halibut or combing the beaches around town.
Another great destination to explore is the tiny town of Seldovia, situated 15 miles away from Homer, Alaska, just across the Kachemak Bay. There are no roads to this town so you have to travel by ferry or airplane, but it’s worth the trip. This quaint village also owes its roots to Russian fur trappers as it was once an important shipping and supply center for the region. Here, you can pass the day mountain biking, picking wild blueberries, or checking out their shops, galleries, and restaurants.
While Anchorage, Fairbanks, or Juneau might be the first places that come to mind when you think about Alaska, they aren’t the only ones worth visiting. Homer’s unique position on the edge of Kachemak Bay in the Kenai Peninsula makes it an ideal spot for nature lovers and wildlife enthusiasts. Add in the colorful local culture and some amazing food and you have an unforgettable experience!