6 Things to Do in Kenai
The massive Kenai River salmon fishery draws thousands of Alaskans to drop their lines, but the largest community on the Kenai Peninsula offers up even more adventures. Watch for beluga whales as they pop up out of the chilly waters of Cook Inlet and explore Alaska’s ornate Russian architecture—all in the same day.
1. Fish The Legendary Kenai River
The city of Kenai is an angler’s dream. It’s situated on the river of the same name, often referred to as one of the greatest sport-fishing rivers in the world. Fishermen and women gather on the shore to reel in the big one. In the lower Kenai River and at its mouth, anglers can catch world-class salmon throughout the summer. Cast a line for king salmon, red (or sockeye) salmon, silver (or Coho) salmon, and pink salmon. Most fishing charters in Kenai focus on the river, even offering travelers float trips to reach the best spots. The prime target? The giant Kenai king salmon can sometimes weigh 70 pounds or more. Even travelers who don’t want to fish can enjoy a trip to the river to watch salmon as they work their way upstream to spawn.
2. Hit The Golf Course
Alaska might not be a well-known golf destination, but a round at Kenai Golf Course is worth the trip. The only full-service, 18-hole golf course on the Kenai Peninsula is open late into the evening under the midnight sun and visitors in the area in the winter can cross country ski on the grounds. Schedule a tee time or just spend some time on the driving range. Either way, it will be a day of golf to remember. The clubhouse offers golf equipment, merchandise, and a snack bar. The extra bonus at Kenai Golf Course is that golfers can catch a glimpse of sandhill cranes, moose, eagles, and sometimes even bears on the edges of the grounds. Looking for a different kind of golf? Kenai Eagle Frisbee Golf Course, an 18-hole disc golf course, is free and open to the public.
3. Take To The Water
Spend the day on the river on a boat, raft, kayak, or canoe, or venture out into the Cook Inlet. The City of Kenai operates the City Dock, complete with four boat launch ramps and plenty of parking. Want to get close to the water but not on it? Head to the local beaches—North and South beaches are favorites for dip-netters and also offer overnight camping. Additionally, Kenai Beach on South Spruce Street is a community beach providing access to Cook Inlet and plenty of wildlife viewing potential. There is a parking lot at Kenai Beach, but some visitors choose to go there on foot instead. Walk the Beach Access trail that meanders through the park and along a beautiful gully to get to the beach.
4. Learn More About The Area’s Russian History
Remnants of Kenai’s Russian history can be found throughout town. Start at the Kenai Visitor and Cultural Center, which doubles as a museum that features historical exhibits on the city’s Russian heritage in addition to the city’s Alaska Native history. Check out the exhibits and watch the beautiful films about the area. Next, visit the ornate Holy Assumption of the Virgin Mary Russian Orthodox Church. Built in 1895 and now designated a National Historic Landmark, it is a beautifully built, white-clapboard structure topped with three blue domes. The St. Nicholas Chapel is located just west of the church and was built in 1906 over the burial site of Father Igumen Nicolai, the first resident priest in the city.
5. Go Hiking And Biking
The trail systems in Kenai range from easy trails that are wheelchair and stroller accessible to longer hauls. Trails are open to foot travelers, bikers, and even cross-country skiers in the winter. The Kenai Soldotna Unity Trail is a paved trail that travels along the Kenai Spur Highway and Kalifornsky Beach Road. The trail connects Kenai to Soldotna and makes for a great jog or bike ride. Another favorite is the half-mile Daubenspeck Family Park Trail, where locals love to walk or cross-country ski.
6. Watch For Wildlife
There is no need to go very far to see wildlife in Kenai. Perched on the edge of the city’s coastal bluff, the aptly named Beluga Whale Lookout is the place to go to see marine wildlife in the spring and summer. Beluga whales and harbor seals both follow spawning salmon up the Kenai River, so keep an eye out when salmon are moving through to see whales and seals surface. For land-based wildlife, hop in the car for an Alaska safari. Look out for one of the four caribou herds that live in the area. North of the Kenai Municipal Airport, travelers can often spot Kenai Lowland caribou from Marathon Road in the summertime. Additionally, moose, bears, and eagles are among the wild animals that visitors often see when they visit Kenai.
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