By Radu Marculescu
Homer is a small frontier town of homesteaders, fishermen, artists and old hippies, widely recognized as the Halibut Fishing Capital of the World. The waters surrounding Homer are among the world’s most productive halibut harvesting areas. The waters of the Cook Inlet and Kachemak Bay are also known for some of the heaviest and tastiest halibut in the world.
Homer is located on the tip of the Kenai Peninsula, south of Anchorage, at the end of the U.S. highway system from which Homer's nickname is "Where the road ends and the sea begins”. The scenic drive on the Seward and Sterling Highways from Anchorage to Homer is 227 miles and takes 5 hours. The town’s setting is beautiful, overlooking Kachemak Bay, the Kenai Mountains, and lower Cook Inlet. One of Homer’s unique features is the “Spit”, a naturally narrow piece of land that extends 4.5 miles out into Kachemak Bay. At the end of road on the Homer Spit is the world famous Salty Dawg Saloon. The city has a mild climate and a population of 5,300 residents with another 8,000 living outside the city’s limits. Most of residents came to this area attracted by the one of the most beautiful places in the world where glaciers and active volcanoes can be viewed simultaneously. St. Augustine Volcano, near Homer, is the most active volcano in the Cook Inlet region of Alaska.
Homer was settled in the 1890s when coal was discovered in the area. The city was founded in 1895. Homer was named for Homer Pennock a gold miner who landed with his crew of 50 men and one woman on the Homer Spit in 1896. Today Homer is a prosperous community. The economy is based mainly on commercial fishing and tourism. Inspired by the stunning beauty of Kachemak Bay, many local artists capture its spectacular scenery producing a large variety of art works. Throughout the town are numerous art galleries, shops or studios featuring original paintings, potter, jewelry and other local works.
Homer is a top tourist destination for many reasons. Homer has world class fishing that attracts thousands of visitors each year. Kachemak Bay is one of Alaska ’s popular salt fishing destinations. Homer is the staring point to Kachemak Bay State Park - Alaska's first state park for sea kayaking, boating, hiking, camping, backpacking, fishing, and biking, and other mountain sports. Homer also is the gateway to McNeil River State Game Sanctuary and Katmai National Park , both very well known areas to view bears in the wild.
If you plan a vacation to Homer below are some suggestions:
- Plan to stay one week in Homer or longer to visit de area. June to September is the best time to go to visit Homer
- Book transportation and lodging in advance.
- Make Homer your starting point for traveling the area.
- Dress appropriately. Weather is unpredictable in Alaska.
- After arriving in Anchorage or Seward, rent a car to get to Homer.
- Buy your fishing license online from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game website: http://www.adfg.state.ak.us/
- Stop and visit the Alaska Islands & Ocean Visitor Center located at 95 Sterling Highway in Homer.
- Visit Pratt Museum located at 3779 Bartlett Street, 907-235-8635. This is a museum of natural history dedicated to art, science and culture of Kachemak Bay. There is a collection of artifacts from the Eskimos and other Native Americans, and also from early pioneers. Other attractions include a collection of ship models and an aquarium with sea life from Kachemak Bay.
- Visit Kachemak Bay State Park and State Wilderness Park. Access to the park is by authorized boat or airplane services. The park offers opportunities for fishing, boating, kayaking, hiking, camping and mountain sports. The park is an unexplored coastal wilderness with glaciers, mountains, islands, lakes, rivers and waterfalls. This park has a 10-mile coastline strip very popular for fishing and kayaking. Abundant wildlife species can be seen within the area including sea otters, seals, porpoises, whales, puffins and eagles. The Park’s most visited places include Halibut Cove Lagoon, Grewingk Glacier, Poot Peak , China Poot Bay, Humpy Creek, and Leisure Lake. For more details visit: http://www.stateparks.com/kachemak_bay.html. Many visitors spend their vacation time here instead of going visiting Mount McKinley National Park and Preserve.
- Spend a day in the village of Halibut Cove. The village consists of a very small community of artists, craftspeople and anglers. Halibut Cove is an excellent place for wildlife viewing. Twice a day, between Memorial Day and Labor Day, the Danny J, a classic wooden fishing boat, ferries both visitors and residents across the bay to Halibut Cove.
- Experience natural wonders of Kachemak Bay paddling a sea kayak. St. Augustine 's Kayak & Tours offers guided kayaking from their spectacular base camp in outer Peterson Bay in the Kachemak Bay State Park.
- Visit Homer’s historic buildings in downtown on Pioneer Avenue, Main Street, Bartlett Street and Olsen Lane. Visit the Spit, the heart of the town full of businesses. A must see for all visitors is the famous Salty Dawg Saloon. The first building was built in 1897 and the second was built in 1909. In 1957 the two buildings were connected forming the present-day saloon. After the 1964 earthquake, the saloon has been relocated on the Homer Spit.
- Purchase a $10 ticket to the Annual Jackpot Halibut Derby held in Homer then go halibut fishing. In 2007 Halibut Derby Jackpot Prize was $37,243. The Homer Jackpot Halibut Derby is an annual event, running from May 1 to September 30 each year. For more details visit: http://homerhalibutderby.com
- Enjoy one day visit to Seldovia. The Alaska State Ferry system connects Homer to Seldovia, known as the “boardwalk town”. From there you can admire St. Augustine, Iliamna and Redoubt Volcanoes which are visible across Cook Inlet. For reservation, call the Homer ferry office at 907-235-8449 for or toll free in Alaska 800-642-0066.
- Attend a special celebration of spring when the Kachemak Bay Shorebird Festival, the state's largest wildlife festival, starts every year in early May. There are 236 species of birds recorded for Homer and Kachemak Bay during the Shorebird Festival, some of them very rare to be seen in other areas.
- Spend one day viewing the brown bears of Katmai! July and September are the best months to view bears in the wild. Katmai National Park and Preserve is home to the world’s largest brown/grizzly bear population (more than 3,000). Brooks Falls in Katmai National Park is one of the world famous places for bear viewing and photography. Bear hunting is prohibited in Katmai National Park since its establishment as a national monument in 1918. The park’s access is by air. Katmai National Park is located 83 miles from Homer. Bald Mountain Air Service is an Alaskan native family business providing a brown bear viewing program in Katmai. Trips are available from June 1 and head to Katmai's outer coast, landing at the mouth of the Swikshak River. Contact: 907-235-7969. Make a reservation at http://www.baldmountainair.com/. From Homer, Hallo Bay Wilderness facility, located in Katmai National Park near the McNeil River State Game Sanctuary, also offers guided bear viewing tours in Katmai National Park. For more information call: 907-235-2237, or 888-535-2237.
At the end of your vacation return home enriched by Homer and its beautiful surroundings which for thousands of visitors and residents is a wonderland!
Top Alaska Vacation Destinations