Ketchikan has rain, totem poles and plenty of interest

An article publish in eglobaltravelmedia.com.au

Ketchikan has rain, totem poles and plenty of interest

January 2, 2020 Destination FeatureHeadline News  Email Email

 

 

Phensri and Len arrive in Ketchikan to be greeted with low cloud, rain and a bleak outlook. Although it was June, it looked more like February. But we should not have been surprised. The city has been nicknamed the “Rain Capital of Alaska” as it receives nearly four metres of rain each year over 230 wet days.

Ketchikan is the “first city,” along the popular Inside Passage and serves as the first port of call for many cruise ships visiting Alaska. It is on Revillagigedo Island at the southern tip of the tail that wags the rest of the giant state. You can only reach Ketchikan by air or sea.

Once known as the Salmon Capital of the world, then later as a major timber centre, Ketchikan is now a tourist town. With a population of around 13,000, at times during summer this doubles as up to six cruise boats arrive with thousands of passengers and crew.

The demise of the timber industry has led to a radical transformation of the town. Many people who used to earn their livelihoods through timber now have jobs in tourism. For many decades, the huge forests of spruce, hemlock and cedar trees were the source of timber for the logging industry. Logging camps dotted the islands of southeast Alaska, and pulp mills were robust economic drivers of the region.

Then one by one, those pulp mills shut down. Ketchikan’s was the last one still operating in Alaska when it shut down in 1997. Hundreds of good-paying jobs and the businesses that supported them went with it. The shoe shops, workwear stores, and Chevrolet and Ford dealerships went too.

In their place are many jewelry and watch stores, souvenir and gift shops, as well as local tour operations. The newer businesses provide seasonal retail work, but it’s nowhere near as well paid as the old year-round jobs: Now at the end of September, most of the businesses close and many people leave town.

During the five-month cruise season, this is not apparent to most visitors. When the gangplank is lowered and the tourists march ashore, they find a gaggle of tour operators waiting to entice them with local offerings: The world’s largest totem poles; an all-you-can-eat Dungeness crab feast; a chance to see killer whales and humpbacks; and the chance to enjoy a brothel tour.

The Ketchikan Visitors Bureau on the waterfront is where we found a map with a self-guided walking tour. Despite the rain, we set out to explore.

Downtown

Many streets in town are boardwalks or steep wooden staircases so walking is never boring. St John’s Episcopal Church built in 1902, Whale Park and two impressive replica totem poles are initial highlights. We then visit the Tongass Historical Museum to see artefacts from periods going back to a Native Fishing Camp.

Ketchikan Creek flows through the centre of town year-round, its cold water populated in summer by salmon who come up the creek to spawn. Numbers are multiplied by the Deer Mountain Tribal Hatchery which raises and releases 300,000 salmon, steelhead and rainbow trout each year.

Totem Heritage Centre

Ketchikan has the world’s largest collection of totem poles. Giant carved cedar poles stand in numbers in the Saxman Native Village and the Totem Bright State Historical Park but I recommend a visit to the Totem Heritage Centre which displays very old and rare poles from three Native Nations.

Many were carved 150–175 years ago and they tell the stories of families. When a totem pole was raised during a big celebration, everyone would be told why the pole was carved and what it meant.

Creek Street

Until 1953, this was lined with up to 30 bordellos. During the Prohibition era, some houses became speakeasies. Now shops, museums, galleries and a restaurant welcome visitors to the unique piled street which is now on the US National Register of Historic Places.

A highlight is Dolly’s House which belonged to Dolly Arthur, Ketchikan’s most famous madam. Her house, preserved much as she left it, has antiques, garish décor and an aura that many want to experience. Tours of the small building are offered.

Southeast Alaska Discovery Centre

Here you can explore the natural and cultural history of the Tongass National Forest, by far the largest national forest in the U.S. You can visit a re-created native fishing village and learn how the lush forest sustains southeast Alaska communities today.

For those wanting a walk through the forest, the four-kilometre Rainbow Trail only 15 minutes from town provides a wilderness experience while also having some nice views of Ketchikan

If you want a theatrical taste of the industry that used to fuel Ketchikan, you can go to the Great Alaskan Lumberjack Show, where burly competitors in flannel shirts and braces chop stumps, saw logs, and heave axes at a bullseye. It’s great fun.

Getting there

Ketchikan is just 90 minutes by air from Seattle, with several daily flights in and out provided by Alaska Airlines. A scheduled daily jet service is also available to and from Anchorage and there are regular services to several other Alaskan towns. Ferries connect Ketchikan with the lower 48 states, and Canada. Many cruise lines operate Alaska cruises from Vancouver and Seattle to Ketchikan

www.LenRutledge.com

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Words: Len Rutledge   Images: Phensri Rutledge

Yellowstone National Park, USA

Yellowstone Where the Concept of National Parks Started

Posted on Sep 26 2019 — 11:33pm by Len Rutledge
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With geysers, grizzlies, an impressive grand canyon, and great mud pools, Yellowstone National Park in America’s west is dramatic, imposing and at times overwhelming. The world’s first national park, established in 1872, is a wonderful blend of land, water, forest, grassland, wildlife and geothermal features. It challenges your senses and stirs your soul.

Yellowstone Where the Concept of National Parks Started
Old Faithful

The first expedition to reach here returned with accounts that were rebuffed by magazine editors and politicians who said their accounts were too far-fetched to be believed. Writers need to be careful even today. Fortunately, images and video readily available on our screens confirm today’s words.

Yellowstone is in Wyoming with small parts spilling over into Montana and Idaho. Heat and volcanic activity from the depths of Earth power this dramatic landscape which is visited by four million visitors each year. In 1978, Yellowstone was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

There are several different approaches that feed into the Grand Loop Road, a figure-eight highway in the middle of the park. Rather than a single focus, Yellowstone has several hubs so travelling around is essential. Most visitors do this by car but various tours are available which visit most areas. During my recent visit, I thought these were some of the park highlights.

Old Faithful Village

A highlight here is Old Faithful Inn, a masterpiece of national park rustic architecture, with the lobby containing a massive stone fireplace and soaring timber ceiling. Just outside, Old Faithfull Geyser erupts around 17 times per day to an average height of 40 metres. Wait on the wooden boardwalk built around the geyser and watch it erupt with your camera in hand. With its reliable eruption times it’s easy to plan a visit to witness a blowout.

Yellowstone Where the Concept of National Parks Started
Old Faithful Inn

Afterwards, the Old Faithful Visitor Education Centre explains the geology behind the world’s most famous geyser. Visitors can then easily hike the Upper Geyser Basin, home to around 60 percent of the world’s geysers.

Further north is the Norris Geyser Basin, where geological wonders like Artist Paint Pots, Roaring Mountain, and Steamboat Geyser are complemented by the indoor exhibits of two museums. Visitors can also explore the eerie Norris-Canyon Blowdown with its ghost trees, or fly fish for trout in the swift-flowing Gibson River.

Yellowstone Where the Concept of National Parks Started
Colourful hot spring

Grand Prismatic Spring

Yellowstone’s largest hot spring, is in the Midway Geyser Basin and is accessible by boardwalk. It is a large turquoise pool ringed with orange and yellow with steam coming off the surface. Temperatures around the pool are high, especially during the summer. The rainbow colours are best viewed from a height so take a slightly strenuous hike up the Midway Bluff trailfor the perfect vantage point.

Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone

This is an immense multicoloured trench that stretches 38 kilometres and rises as much as 360 metres above the Yellowstone River. Trails lead to outstanding viewpoints like Artist’s Point on the south rim and Lookout Point on the north rim, for great views of the 100-metre-high Lower Yellowstone Falls. The canyon is marked by steep white-and-yellow cliffs and its vents and spires reveal thermal activity that continues unabated underground.

Yellowstone Where the Concept of National Parks Started
Lower Yellowstone Falls

Yellowstone Lake

The largest high-altitude lake in North America offers the park’s best opportunities for boating, fishing, and waterfront camping but it is too cold for swimming. There are rental boats, guided fishing charters, and scenic lake cruises, as well as shuttle services to remote campsites along the 141-mile lake shore.

Lamar Valley

This is the best place in Yellowstone to get a glimpse of the wolves that have been reintroduced to the park. Bison and elk also frequent the valley with its lush grasslands.

Here and elsewhere there is abundant wildlife, including elk, bison, grizzlies, black bear, pronghorn antelope, moose, and bighorn sheep. March and April are the best months to view bear, while the winter months are best for wolves and bighorn sheep. Elk, moose, bison, and mountain goats can be spotted during the summer months.

You are guaranteed to see bison. The park’s herd dwindled to just 23 animals during the late 19th century, but the population later bounced back thanks to more effective protection and now totals roughly 5,500.

Surrounded by mountain towns immediately to the north, east, and west, and bordered by Grand Teton National Park to the south, there is plenty to do not only within, but also around the park.

Accommodation

These hotels provide accommodation in the park. Old Faithful Inn is the world’s largest log structure with restaurants, bars and shop. Lake Yellowstone Hotel with its Greek Revival facade is the park’s oldest hotel overlooking the lake. Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel is a classic motor lodge with motel-style rooms and cabins, restaurant, shop, and map room.

The park has 12 developed campgrounds, including Mammoth, Canyon, and Grant Village.

www.LenRutledge.com

Yellowstone Where the Concept of National Parks Started
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Len Rutledge

Len Rutledge has been travel writing for 40 years. During that time he has written thousands of newspaper articles, numerous magazine pieces, more than a thousand web reviews and around 50 travel guide books.He has worked with Pelican Publishing, Viking Penguin, Berlitz, the Rough Guide, and the Nile Guide amongst others.

Along the way, he has started a newspaper, a travel magazine, a Visitor and TV Guide, and completed a PhD in tourism. His travels have taken him to more than 100 countries and his writings have collected a PATA award, an ASEAN award, an IgoUgo Hall of Fame award, and other recognition.

He is the author of the Experience Guidebook series which currently includes Experience Thailand, Experience Norway, Experience Northern Italy, Experience Myanmar, Experience Istanbul, Experience Singapore, Experience Melbourne, and Experience Ireland. They are available as ebooks or paperbacks from amazon.com

Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Germany

Rothenburg ob der Tauber is a highlight on Germany’s Romantic Road

Even with crowds, overpriced souvenirs, and a rather ordinary, highly-promoted pastry specialty called Schneeball, Rothenburg is still an absolute treasure.

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In the Middle Ages, Rothenburg was Germany’s second-largest city, Today, it’s the country’s most exciting medieval town, enjoying tremendous popularity with tourists. There’s a thousand years of history packed within the walls that completely surround the Old Town. This is the area that you won’t want to leave.

The ancient town of turreted fortifications and winding cobblestone streets in some ways feels more like something out of a Disney film. It’s touristy, but if you want it to, it somehow manages to remain genuine.

A walking tour helps bring the Old Town alive. To learn something of Rothenburg’s history, I suggest you take the tour offered by the town’s tourist office in Market Square. Then for a thoroughly fun hour, take the Night Watchman’s Tour and follow his black cape and broad-brimmed hat as he points out places of interest and explains their place in Rothenburg’s history in a unique entertaining style.

 Specific attractions in Rothenburg
Images: Phensri Rutledge

Walking the streets of the town without a plan is my favourite thing to do here and I could spend hours just doing this but there are a few specific attractions to see. For views and a great medieval feeling, walk the top of the wall that surrounds the Old Town. This is at its most attractive before breakfast or at sunset when it is almost deserted. You can walk most of the 1.5 kilometres but this would have taken me days because I found every metre so fascinating.

 St. Jakob’s Church, with its twin towers rising above most of the town, contains a must-see art treasure: a glorious 500-year-old wooden altarpiece depicting the Biblical scenes of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, the Last Supper, and the Mount of Olives. Also here is the Twelve Apostles Altar, and some lovely stained-glass windows.

Rising above the market square and the town hall stands the bell tower, the tallest building in Rothenburg. It offers a panoramic view of the entire town and the surrounding Tauber Valley. We climbed countless steps and then found the area at the top to be very confined for the 20 or so people allowed up there at the one time.

The Puppen & Spielzeug Museum has the largest doll and toy collection in Germany, model trains, stuffed animals, and other toys from the past 200 years. The most popular museum is the Kriminalmuseum. Here we found 10,000 grisly devices include iron maidens, a spike-covered chair, and much more over three floors.

History is on display everywhere in the half-timbered gables and the grooves of centuries of horse carts in the old cobbled streets. This gradually seeps into your being as you enjoy the Old Town. It is difficult to describe but easily felt.

The classic image which appears in countless promotion items for Rothenburg, is of the distinctive yellow half-timbered house sitting between the Siebers Tower and the Kobolzeller Gate. With its shutters, colourful flower boxes, and a small fountain at the front, it is picture-perfect. My wife waited until the crowds had gone then snapped away until after the sun went down.

Käthe Wohlfahrt, the world-famous Christmas store, is the home of the German Christmas Museum. It houses a permanent collection of ornaments, decorations, toys and artefacts. We learned about German Christmas traditions and history, including the fact that Germany invented the Christmas tree, prior to making our way through several rooms of exhibits.

Just outside town is an historic medieval double road bridge that spans the Tauber Valley. the structure was blown up by German troops in World War II but it was rebuilt and reopened in 1956.

When to visit

Images: Phensri Rutledge

Rothenburg is great to visit anytime but there are a few special occasions. Every June at Pentecost, the city becomes a stage reflecting the events of the devastating 30 Years War (1618–1648) between Catholic and Reformation Protestant forces which ravaged central Europe. The 400-year anniversary of the outbreak of war was celebrated last year.

Then there is the Imperial City Festival in September, when historical groups perform music, there is a knights’ encampment in front of the town’s gates, and you will be able to see the royal court in their colourful attire. The impressive program also includes two evenings of fireworks and public theatrical productions on Market Square.

Rothenburg hosts one of the most popular Christmas markets in Germany from the end of November to Christmas. This is the busiest time of year for this little town.

Is Rothenburg real?

Images: Phensri Rutledge

I have no doubt that Rothenburg has gone to great lengths to maintain a certain vibe and match tourist expectations. It is certainly effective in attracting hordes of tourists. This could be off-putting if you are looking for a quaint village away from the crowds, but you should still go. Instead of visiting during the middle of the day when the crowds are heavy, go in the late afternoon and evening and stay for the night. By 7 p.m. the streets are virtually empty.

Even with crowds, overpriced souvenirs, and a rather ordinary, highly-promoted pastry specialty called Schneeball, Rothenburg is still an absolute treasure. This was my third visit but I will certainly go back again.

There are non-stop and one-stop flights to Frankfurt, Germany from Johannesburg and one-stop flights from Cape Town. There are trains from Frankfurt Airport which require one change and take about three hours.

South African passport holders require a short-term tourist visa (Schengen visa) to enter the country, but the visa application process is a relatively painless one! You will need to apply at one of the Intergate Visalink Visa Application Centres in South Africa.

Exploring Transylvania for signs of Dracula

Exploring Transylvania for signs of Dracula

Published by Pique News Magazine October 30 2019
Bran Castle in Brașov, Romania - SHUTTERSTOCK
  • Bran Castle in Brașov, Romania

WE ARE DRIVING along narrow, winding roads through dense, dark, ancient forests and over steep mountain passes through the Carpathian Mountains in Transylvania.

Tales of the supernatural have featured in Romanian folklore for centuries and the countryside seems so right for this that we now find it easy to be caught up in the Dracula story. Certainly, Transylvania evokes powerful images of vampires and Gothic castles.

We are here now because we want to visit some sites associated with Dracula and try to sort legend from truth. When Irish writer Bram Stoker wrote his famous novel, he started something outside the country which at first was shunned by the locals but is now accepted by many for what it is; a great tourist attraction.

Count Dracula, a fictional character in the Stoker novel, was inspired by one of the best-known figures of Romanian history, Vlad Dracula, nicknamed Vlad the Impaler, who was the ruler of the Romanian province of Walachia in the mid 1400s. As we travel around, we find some physical evidence and hear many stories about him, which have vague connections with the Count.

The city of Sighisoara is at the heart of the Count Dracula legends. This was founded in the 12th century by Transylvanian Saxons, but it’s Dracula that has put the town on the map with today’s visitors. Designated as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, the town is full of cobbled streets and ornate churches. We climb the 175-step wooden staircase leading up to the Church on the Hill, following the steps of Saxon churchgoers, students, and visitors since it was built in 1642.

Sighisoara is the birthplace of Vlad Dracula. You can visit his birth home which is now a restaurant and museum. As we climb the narrow stairs to the museum in almost complete darkness, something falls on my neck causing goose bumps all over my body. Emerging into a darkened room we come face to face with a vampire in a coffin. As we approach, his arm springs out causing muffled screams from several visitors. For one second I almost believe in vampires.

Not too many people can call vampire acting their full-time occupation!

The birthplace of Vlad the Impaler - PHOTO BY PHRENSI RUTLEDGE
  • PHOTO BY PHENSRI RUTLEDGE
  • The birthplace of Vlad the Impaler

Brașov is the largest city in this part of Romania. It is fringed by the Southern Carpathian Mountains and resplendent with glorious architecture and historical attractions. It was founded by Teutonic Knights in 1211 on an ancient site and was settled by the Saxons as one of their seven walled citadels.

We stroll around the old Town Hall Square where we admire colourfully painted and ornately trimmed baroque structures. We go inside the Black Church, the largest gothic church in Romania, named for damage caused by the Great Brașov Fire of 1689, when flames and smoke blackened its walls. The interior is impressive and it houses one of the largest pipe organs in Eastern Europe.

Part of the defensive wall, once 13-metres-high, two-metres-thick, and over three-kilometres-long, can still be seen today. So too can Rope Street, the narrowest street in Europe, at just 1.3‑metres wide.

The relationship between Vlad Dracula and Brașov was problematic over a number of years. In 1460 he invaded southern Transylvania and destroyed the suburbs of Brașov, ordering the impalement of all men and women who had been captured. It is said that Brașov has the distinction of seeing more stakes bearing Dracula’s victims than any other place. Fortunately, there is no evidence of this today.

CLICK TO ENLARGEBrașov, Romania - PHOTO BY PHRENSI RUTLEDGE
  • PHOTO BY PHENSRI RUTLEDGE
  • Brașov, Romania

Sibiu is the other city in this region. The heart of the city is its medieval centre complete with open squares, stone wall defences, towers, and centuries-old buildings and churches. Staircases link the Lower Town with its small, colourful houses and the Upper Town, which was inside the main fortifications.

The Council Tower dates back to the late 1500s and sits in the passageway between the Big Square and Small Square. We climb the stairs for fantastic views overlooking the city. We notice the houses with eyes. They’re actually ventilation windows, however, throughout periods of political strife, locals believed they were being watched by the “eyes” to ensure they were not causing trouble.

Sibiu, Romania - PHOTO BY PHRENSI RUTLEDGE
  • PHOTO BY PHENSRI RUTLEDGE
  • Sibiu, Romania

From 1451 to 1456 Vlad Dracula lived in Sibiu yet just four years later he mercilessly raided this region and killed, impaled and tortured 10,000 of his former fellow citizens and neighbours. I wonder if Count Dracula would be impressed.

Perched on top of an 80-metre-high rock, Bran Castle owes its fame to its imposing towers and turrets as well as to being the castle Stoker used in his book.

Although Stoker never visited Transylvania, his book has encouraged persistent myths that this was once the home of Vlad Dracula. While the association with Dracula is dubious, the castle continues to hold a strong attraction for all fans of the Count, so naturally we have to visit.

Narrow winding stairways and torturous passages lead through some 60 timbered rooms. It’s easy to tour the castle on your own, but expect to spend several hours doing so and keep in mind there are always crowds. The castle is in private hands and the owners have, fortunately, resisted the temptation to add any Dracula features here.

While Bran Castle is the spooky place that inspired Stoker’s tale, it’s really Poenari Fortress about two hours west that is considered to be the real Dracula’s Castle. Poenari Castle was erected around the beginning of the 13th century then later was abandoned and left in ruins. In the 15th century, Vlad the Impaler repaired and consolidated the structure perched high on a steep precipice of rock, making it one of his main fortresses.

The ruins of Poenari Fortress are all that are left today. If you decide to climb the 1,462 stairs, you’ll be able to touch pieces of the walls and towers that are still standing.

Did we find Dracula?

We encountered a make believe vampire and learned much about Vlad Dracula and his exploits. While vampires may not be real, there is no doubt that Stoker’s Dracula has become a powerful reminder of the rich and authentic Romanian folklore, and a great tourist attraction and money-spinner for the country today.

IF YOU GO:

There are one-stop flights from Vancouver to Bucharest the capital of Romania. Transylvania is about 200 km north of Bucharest. You can reach there on package tours, by train or by rental car.

Sibiu, Romania - PHOTO BY PHRENSI RUTLEDGE
  • PHOTO BY PHENSRI RUTLEDGE
  • Sibiu, Romania

The lure of the Kenai Peninsula

Imagine a breathtaking land shaped by glaciers, an ancestral home for Native Americans, pristine wilderness with abundant wildlife and some scenic towns ideal for those seeking meaningful connections with nature. That, in a nutshell, is the Kenai Peninsula, Alaska, one of the last U.S. frontiers.The Kenai peninsula extends approximately 150 miles southwest from the Chugach Mountains, south of Anchorage, and is bordered on the west by Cook Inlet and on the east by Prince William Sound. The glacier-covered Kenai Mountains, rising nearly 7000 feet, run along the southeast spine.

There are several cities and towns in this region, including Seward on the Gulf of Alaska Coast and Homer on Kachemak Bay. One of the most visited tourist areas in Alaska, this area is especially popular with anglers of all ages lured by its excellent salmon and halibut fishing, so visitor facilities are excellent and there are tour opportunities galore.

Alaska is often seen as a young person’s outdoor adventure area and it certainly is that, but I found it is also excellent for seniors, as hundreds of thousands of cruise passengers who visit each year can confirm.

Seeking sealife in Seward

A nice catch in Seward on the Kenai Peninsula

Seward, a town of around 3000 permanent residences, is at the end of the Inside Passage cruise boat route from Seattle and Vancouver, and is about two hours by road south of Anchorage, Alaska’s largest city. The area is a photographer’s paradise with glaciers on land and porpoise, whales and sea lions in the water.

The long summer days are perfect for enjoying world-class fishing, tours of Kenai Fjords National Park, walks along the waterfront, learning about local history and culture, and enjoying the town’s restaurants, bakeries, shops and galleries.

Seward is home to some of Alaska’s finest year-round sport fishing. Anglers can fish for giant Pacific halibut, fight an acrobatic silver salmon or catch a trophy lingcod. Thirty fishing charters offer half-day or all-day excursions.

A highlight in Seward is a visit to the Alaska Sealife Center, which is designed as a research, rehabilitation and education facility. It has 15 aquariums and a huge netted space showcasing 150 different animals from the Gulf of Alaska, including birds, seals, sea lions, octopus and invertebrates. Allow several hours for a visit.

The Sealife Center in Seward

A sightseeing tour into the Kenai Fjords National Park offers the chance to see calving glaciers, humpback whales, orcas, otters, sea lions, eagles, puffins and other birds. One such trip includes lunch on exclusive Fox Island, where orcas come right up on the beach to rub against the rocky shore.

Seward’s Exit Glacier is one of the most accessible in Alaska. The wheelchair-accessible Glacier View Loop Trail meanders through a cottonwood forest before arriving at a panoramic viewpoint. The Glacier Overlook Trail is an additional 0.7‑miles full of jaw-dropping sights. Tours offer the chance to walk on the ice and those with a sense of adventure can try ice climbing.

Angling the Russian River

Russian River drift fishing on the Kenai Peninsula

Forty-five miles north of Seward is where you find the gin-clear Russian River. This is one of the few streams in North America where sockeye salmon are easily caught on artificial flies. There are two contrasting zones: the infamous crowds of the ‘combat zone’ and the much quieter area near Russian River Falls, where you can see leaping salmon. The upper river is an area where you are more likely to see a bear than another angler.

In both areas, an angler fishing from the bank can catch trophy-size rainbow trout and Arctic char, but odds of catching good fish increase dramatically if you are able to float the river in a drift boat. Fortunately, experienced drift boat guides are available. All offer-full-day charters while a few also offer two-day trips.

Apart from fishing, this area of the Kenai Peninsula has one of the most extensive systems of maintained hiking trails in Alaska. You are likely to see eagles, mountain goats and Dall sheep. Brown and black bear, moose, wolf and caribou are also in the area.

Homer: The end of the road on the Kenai Peninsula

Shops on the Homer Spit on the Kenai Peninsula

This charming, colorful town is literally at the end of the road if you have driven up from the Lower 48 states. The town is surrounded by an incredible panorama of mountains, white peaks, glaciers, and the famous Homer Spit, a four-mile-long strip of land that stretches into beautiful, deep blue Kachemak Bay.

The Spit is a hub of bustling activity during the summer. There are throngs of tourists, people camping on the beach, charter boats heading out to catch halibut, beachcombers, and birders amazed at how many bald eagles they can spot. King salmon can be caught here from mid-May to the end of June, while silver salmon run in August.

Some of the most colorful and attractive shops, restaurants and food stalls you can imagine line the spit road. Many are built on stilts over the water and are accessed by boardwalks. Scattered among them are bars, charter operators, art galleries, and grocery and liquor outlets. It may be a town planners’ nightmare, but the public loves it.

Back on dry land, there are plenty of lodging choices, more shops, some interesting museums, a botanic garden, a farmer’s market on Wednesday and Saturday, and waterfront walks. Festivals include Winter Carnival in February, the King Salmon Tournament in March, the Shorebird Festival in May, and the Writer’s Conference in June.

On the other side of the bay is Kachemak Bay State Wilderness Park, a 350,000-acre paradise of glaciers, mountains, protected coves for paddling, and an extensive trail system to explore on foot.


What’s appealing to the over-50 luxury traveler?

  • The laid-back vibe throughout the Kenai Peninsula encourages visitors to take their time and enjoy all there is to see and do.
  • If offers unique opportunities to see wildlife both on land and water. You are likely to see seals, sea otters, porpoises, whales and numerous species of sea birds while out on the water, and moose, black or brown bear, eagles, sandhill cranes, and perhaps rabbits, fox or porcupines on land.
  • Bear viewing is popular because people can see these wild animals up close in their natural surroundings, in relative safety and comfort. Well-equipped lodges and experienced guides make this popular with all ages.

Take note

  • This area gets very cold and has short days in winter, so it is not ideal for sightseeing at that time. Some shops, tour operators, and lodgings close but you will escape the crowds.
  • May to September is the popular time for most visitors. Days are long and everything is open. Lodging and restaurant prices can be higher than in the Lower-48 because the season is relatively short, and some pre-booking of accommodation is recommended.

All photo credits (except lead photo): Phensri Rutledge