Three miles before Homer, the views along the Sterling Highway provide a teaser of the sights in store in the charming, colorful town that lies ahead. As the road makes a final turn east along the bluffs overlooking Kachemak Bay, Homer unfolds completely. It's a truly incredible panorama of mountains, white peaks, glaciers, and the famous Homer Spit, a long strip of land that stretches into a beautiful deep blue bay.
Downtown Homer is strung along Pioneer Avenue on a sloping hill between high bluffs to the north and Kachemak Bay to the south. It's little wonder that many Alaskans choose to vacation in Homer: the scenery is inspiring and the climate exceptionally mild. This community of about 5,700 residents is protected from the severe northern cold by the Kenai Mountains to the north and east. As a visitor, this is a town that tempts you to stay for a while. Between the excellent museums, restaurants, art galleries, great scenery, and interesting side trips to the other side of Kachemak Bay, you could easily spend a week – or a lifetime – here.
Things to do
Arts & Food
Scattered throughout the commercial district are a wide range of restaurants and numerous art galleries. Few small towns have the culinary variety of Homer, where there are coffee shops on nearly every corner next to gourmet sandwich shops and fine dining restaurants. You’ll also find a delicious bakery, local breweries, a winery, and oyster bars featuring the freshest oysters pulled right from Kachemak Bay. The art galleries along with museums, a live theater, and music venues lend credence to Homer’s reputation as an arts and foodie destination.
The Homer Spit, a 4.5-mile long needle of land stretching halfway across Kachemak Bay, is a hub of bustling activity during the summer. It hums with throngs of tourists, people camping on the beach, charter boats heading out to catch a record-breaking halibut, beachcombers, and wildlife enthusiasts amazed at how many bald eagles and sea otters they can spot. This is where visitors book a fishing charter or simply rent a rod and reel to try their luck at the Homer Spit lagoon, fondly known as the Fishing Hole.
Browsing the shops and restaurants on the Homer Spit is an activity in itself, with an interesting array of galleries and gift shops featuring locally-made products and clothing. Make sure to bring your appetite to sample fare from the many restaurants and cafes highlighting local produce and seafood, and don’t forget to stop at the Salty Dawg Saloon, an iconic landmark on the Homer Spit with lots of salty Alaska charm.
Kachemak Bay State Park
On the other side of the bay from Homer is Kachemak Bay State Park, a 350,000-acre paradise of glaciers, mountains, protected coves for paddling, and an extensive trail system to explore on foot. Kayakers, backpackers, and campers hop on water taxis to escape the bustle of Homer to an idyllic wilderness. The best hiking in the Homer area can be found in Kachemak Bay State Park, including the popular Glacier Lake Trail out to Grewingk Glacier. Water taxis are available from several tour operators along the Homer Spit and make for a great day-trip while staying in Homer.
The best sea kayaking in Homer can also be found in the protected coves and bays of Kachemak Bay State Park. Kayaks can be carried across the bay and dropped-off with a water taxi operator or rented from an outfitter that supplies boats within the state park.
With more than two dozen charter captains working out of the Spit, fishing is one of Homer's most popular activities, with the most sought-after species being halibut. Most captains take advantage of the two slack tides and often leave early in the morning for a 12-hour trip where passengers spend the day jigging for the giant bottom-feeder. Fishing charters also run trips to catch king salmon, silver salmon, rockfish, and lingcod.
Thanks to its location across Cook Inlet from Katmai National Park and Preserve, Homer is a major departure point for bear viewing trips. Located on the Alaska Peninsula, 100-plus miles southwest of Homer by floatplane, the park is home to some of the largest brown bears in Alaska. During the summer, air taxi companies offer flightseeing trips so passengers can witness bears feeding on spawning salmon or strolling along the Katmai's wilderness coastline. Bear viewing flights also land on remote beaches in Lake Clark National Park, also cross the bay from Homer, for fantastic bear viewing opportunities.
More than 100,000 shorebirds arrive at the tidal flats around Homer in early May, making it the largest bird migration site along the Alaskan road system. The Kachemak Bay Shorebird Festival celebrates the migration at a four day event that attracts hundreds of birders to the area to see 130 species of birds, including more than 20 species of shorebirds.
Located halfway between Homer and Halibut Cove on the other side of Kachemack Bay is Gull Island, with 40-foot-high cliffs that attract more than 16,000 nesting seabirds including puffins, kittiwakes, murres, and cormorants. Several charter boat operators offer sightseeing tours to the birding paradise, where you’re also likely to see other marine wildlife including sea otters, harbor seals, and sometimes orcas.
The easiest way to see the spectacular mountains and glaciers of Kachemak Bay State Park is to head to the Homer Airport and book a flightseeing tour with a charter air service. Flightseeing tours of Katmai National Park and Preserve and Lake Clark National Park are also available.
Museums and Cultural Centers
The Pratt Museum is Homer's outstanding cultural center, filled with local art and Alaska Native artifacts as well as interactive displays on the area's wildlife. The museum's award-winning exhibit is "Darkened Waters," an emotional look at the Exxon-Valdez oil spill. Outside is the Forest Ecology Trail, where paths wind through the trees to small exhibits.
Dedicated to information on the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge, the Alaska Islands and Ocean Visitor Center features interesting natural history displays about the distant islands. Interactive exhibits include a replica seabird colony, complete with bird calls, films, a hands-on discovery lab, and daily guided walks.
Situated on the bluffs above Homer and operated by the Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies, the Carl E Wynn Nature Center is a 140-acre reserve that features short interpretive trails focusing on native flora and fauna. There is also a visitor center with additional exhibits where naturalist-led hikes depart daily in summer.
Staying in Homer
There’s no shortage of places to stay in Homer, from quaint B&Bs overlooking Kachemak Bay to comfortable hotels and condos on the waterfront of the Homer Spit. Homer is home to several locally and nationally owned hotels along with inns, lodges, B&Bs, cabins, guest houses, and vacation rentals. There are also wilderness lodges and a fine dining restaurant located across the bay in the small community of Halibut Cove, accessible by water taxi from Homer. Two campgrounds and an RV park are situated right on the Homer Spit and a few more RV parks located in town.