Overview:Strikingly beautiful, easily accessible and packed with outdoor opportunities, the Kenai Peninsula is an adventure playground the size of West Virginia. Take a road trip to explore the Peninsula’s mountains, rivers, lakes, glaciers and bays.
Day 1 Girdwood
Though not technically part of the Kenai Peninsula, the ski town of Girdwood sits at the very top of it and makes a beautiful starting point for your scenic road trip. Girdwood is only a 45-minute drive from Anchorage along Turnagain Arm, but you could make that journey last several hours by stopping to photograph the views, watch the tide surge, catch a glimpse of a Dall sheep, or even hike one of the steep trails off the highway.
Filled with excellent restaurants (including one at the top of a aerial tram), mellow forest hiking trails and a world-class resort, Girdwood is a place to relax, take in the incredible mountain and glacier views, and pamper yourself.
Day 2 Hope
Head south from Girdwood for the 50-mile drive to the former mining town of Hope, which sits on the far side of Turnagain Arm from Anchorage. The road makes sweeping curves along the coast before diving straight into the mountains of the Kenai Peninsula and taking you past Six Mile Creek, a popular whitewater rafting destination. Hope’s small museum pays homage to its gold rush roots, and you just can’t beat the combination of seaside views, friendly people and live music that come together in Hope almost every weekend. Hiking and mountain biking are both popular pursuits in the nearby mountains.
Day 3 Seward
Seward is located another 75 miles down the road from Hope. Once an old railroad town, this self-described “drinking town with a fishing problem” is now Southcentral Alaska’s most popular port of call for visiting cruise ships. Seward is also the gateway to scenic Kenai Fjords National Park and home to the famous Mount Marathon race; the namesake mountain looms over the gridded downtown streets and small-boat harbor. Take a half-day marine wildlife cruise on Resurrection Bay, where you’ll have a chance to see glaciers and wildlife like sea lions, puffins and whales, or make the 12-mile drive to the Exit Glacier Nature Center and wander the easy trails near the toe of the glacier. If you have time, tackle the challenging hike past the glacier to the Harding Icefield, a sheet of ice that is one of the last remnants of the polar ice age.
Day 4 Kenai
Now that you’ve seen some of the prettiest scenery on the eastern half of the Kenai Peninsula, it’s time to head to the west side of the peninsula. It’s a 105-mile drive from Seward to the west-side fishing town of Kenai. As you drive through the mountains, you’ll cross churning, salmon-choked rivers colored steel blue by silt from melting glaciers. Eventually, the mountains begin to give way and you emerge to a relatively flat, lake-pocked landscape. World-class salmon fishing, plenty of locally brewed beer, and a self-guided walking tour through “Old Town” all await your arrival in Kenai.
Day 5 Ninilchik and Homer
Take it slow as you make the 80-mile drive from Kenai to Homer, stopping to enjoy the wide vistas over Cook Inlet and the active volcanoes that line its far coast: Mounts Redoubt, Illiamna and Augustine are readily visible. Take an hour to walk around the small town of Ninilchik and appreciate one of the most-photographed buildings on the Kenai Peninsula, the Russian Orthodox Holy Transfiguration of Our Lord chapel. If the season is right and the tide is low, swing in to nearby Clam Gulch and dig up a bucket of razor clams for dinner. As the road descends into Homer you’ll be treated to a wide panorama of Kachemak Bay and the Homer Spit: All yours to explore for the next couple of days.
Day 6 Homer
Spend the day taking in Homer’s relaxed, salt-of-the-earth vibe. Wander the 4.5-mile Homer spit, lined with art galleries and gift shops; dine in the town’s fabulous cafes; and stop in at one of the iconic bars to lift a beer with the locals. If a day on the water sounds enticing, fishing charters and kayak tours are bountiful here. In the evening, watch a play or listen to live music; Homer is as famous for its arts scene as for its fishing and its food.
Day 7 Seldovia
Take a day ferry across Kachemak Bay to tiny, forested town of Seldovia; boat and small plane are the only ways to get here. Here, you can walk one of the local hiking trails, visit the historical boardwalk, pick some wild berries to snack on, and visit the Russian Orthodox church. Take the afternoon ferry back to Homer, where you can either make the five- or six-hour drive to Anchorage tonight, or spend one more night in Homer before starting on your way back. If you’re able to leave your car, the trip from Homer to Anchorage is just a quick hop on a regional airline.