Overview: Experience the best of Southcentral and Southwest Alaska by land and sea in this five-day itinerary. Highlights include bear-viewing in world-famous Katmai National Park, browsing the eclectic shops and galleries along the Homer Spit, and day cruising out of Seward.
Day 1 Anchorage to Seward
Start your trip in Anchorage by renting a car and driving the 120 miles south to Seward along the dramatic coastline of Turnagain Arm. Give yourself plenty of time to stop at rest areas along the way and take photos of the jaw-dropping scenery. In Seward, consider boarding one of many day cruises into Kenai Fjords National Park, which is known for its excellent wildlife-viewing opportunities. Look for humpback whales, orcas, sea otters, sea lions, dozens of seabird species, and tidewater glaciers that may calve dramatically into the ocean at any moment. Back in Seward, other favorite attractions include the animals at the Alaska SeaLife Center and hiking around the toe of Exit Glacier.
Day 2 Homer
The next day, get back on the road and make the three-and-a-half-hour drive west, then south, to Homer. This colorful artists’ enclave offers great gallery-hopping, wonderful food, and some of the best halibut fishing in the state. One of its most popular features is the 4.5-mile-long Homer Spit, a thin finger of land that reaches into Kachemak Bay and is lined with some of the state’s best gift shops, galleries and restaurants. This is also where you’ll load yourself and your vehicle onto an Alaska Marine Highway ferry bound for Kodiak. The sailing takes about 10 hours, so you’ll spend the night aboard the ferry. (Be sure to make your ferry reservation in advance, as schedules are subject to change.)
Day 3 Kodiak
Kodiak was one of the first places in Alaska to be settled by Russian explorers in the late 1700s, and eventually became the Russian capital of Alaska. This history and its influence on local culture is detailed at the Baranov Museum, which just happens to be housed in the oldest building in Alaska, the former Russian-American Company store. For a look at the local indigenous culture, the Alutiiq Museum interprets 7,500 years of Alaska Native culture through about 250,000 artifacts. Round out your history lesson at Fort Abercrombie State Historical Park, where the historic ruins of a World War II coastal defense installation sit amidst the trees of the coastal rainforest.
Day 4 Kodiak and Katmai National Park
When most people think of Kodiak, they think of the legendary coastal brown bears that inhabit the island and nearby coastal regions. Few places in Alaska offer a better opportunity to view these bears up close than Katmai National Park and Preserve, which is just a short flight from Kodiak. Several local flightseeing operators take clients to the park for an unforgettable day of watching bears and their cubs fish for salmon and play along the riverbanks. At the end of the day, board the ferry for another overnight trip back to Homer.
Day 5 Kenai Peninsula and Anchorage
Upon arrival in Homer, stop in for breakfast at a local bakery before making the hour-and-a-half drive to the Kenai/Soldotna area. Spend a few hours fishing the world-famous Kenai River for sockeye salmon; local guides are plentiful and will take you to the best spots along the river. There are few better souvenirs of your Alaska adventure than fresh-caught wild Alaska salmon, which most outfitters will happily flash-freeze and ship home for you. Once you’re ready to hit the road again, it’s about a three-hour drive from here to Anchorage.