This quiet town off of the Sterling Highway boasts amazing views across Cook Inlet, fascinating Russian history, and great salmon and halibut fishing.
About Ninilchik (Dena'ina Athabascan: Niqnilchint)
While it may be easy to drive by this small community while exploring the Kenai Peninsula, Ninilchik is worth the stop. There is plenty to love here starting with the stunning scenery and historic village charm of one of the Kenai Peninsula’s oldest communities, 180 miles south of Anchorage and 35 miles north of Homer.
Things to do
One of most spectacular sights along the Sterling Highway is the Holy Transfiguration of our Lord Russian Orthodox Church in Ninilchik. Built in 1901, the historic bluff-top structure sports five golden onion-domes and commands an unbelievable view of Cook Inlet and the volcanoes on the west side of the inlet. Adjoining it is a Russian Orthodox cemetery.
The original Ninilchik Village, dating back to the early 1800s, is an inviting collection of historic log cabins and beached fishing boats against the spectacular backdrop of Mt Redoubt. Visitors can pick up a copy of "Tour of Ninilchik Village" brochure and then explore the site of the original community.
Today, the core of “new” Ninilchik extends north and south along the Sterling Highway from mile markers 134 to 138, encompassing the beaches and bluffs of Ninilchik State Recreation Area and Deep Creek State Recreation Area. During the summer, a public boat harbor at the mouth of the Ninilchik River provides tidal access to Cook Inlet. It becomes one of the busiest hubs of activity in the community during the river and commercial fishing seasons.
A large fishing charter fleet based in Ninilchik focuses on Cook Inlet, and many use tractors from the shoreline at Deep Creek to launch boats. Most charters target halibut and king salmon, which head up Cook Inlet toward their home streams to spawn. Rockfish – a local favorite – are also caught. In season, river fishing offers king and silver salmon, Dolly Varden, and more.
Ninilchik is a great basecamp to explore the many outdoor recreation opportunities available in the Kenai Peninsula, including hiking, fishing, wildlife viewing, canoeing, birding, photography, and more. Several campgrounds are located in and around the Ninilchik area, including at Ninilchik State Recreation Area and Deep Creek State Recreation Area. There are also a couple of fishing lodges, guest houses, B&Bs, and cabins, along with a handful of restaurants, a grocery store, and a gas station.
The Ninilchik area was originally inhabited by the semi-nomadic Dena'ina people. Tribes of both the Kenai and Kachemak regions came together to fish in this resource-rich area, creating a rich blend of traditions and language. People of Russian lineage began settling the area in the 1840s, hoping that Ninilchik would serve as a retirement community of sorts for elderly workers that couldn't handle the long journey back to Russia. Those workers were to run an agricultural community that would, in turn, support fur trading efforts.
Construction of the Sterling Highway, completed in 1950, provided a road connection to the original townsite and attracted agricultural homesteaders to the area. The new highway placed Ninilchik in a hard-to-beat central location.