Seward is a great little town in the North Eastern Kenain Peninsula, with lots of things to see and do- before mid September. Once the high season comes to an end all tour operators close, and the bustling town becomes somewhat sleepy with just the Aquarium and Exit Glacier to explore. Both of these can be visited in a day (even half a day) and while we could have just relaxed for another day enjoying the good views we decided to continue our 5 day RV rental heading across the Kenai Peninsula towards Kenai. We didn’t want to rush our way towards Homer (it was already quick enough) and were hoping to spend the night somewhere with good views, and thus wanted to find out overnight spot while there was still some light.
From Seward head back North via Seward Highway towards and past Exit Glacier , and turn left when you reach Sterling Highway. Just a few minutes later you’ll find a lake on your left; if the day is clear and light conditions are good it is well worth a picture, though unfortunately there aren’t many places where to pull over to take one. Stop in the first one you see.
Look for Bears and Salmon at Russian River Falls
The road meanders through valleys, along Kenai River and crisscrosses streams and trails. We’d been told by a local that it’s relatively easy to spot Brown Bears eating Red Salmon that are swimming upstream in Cooper Landing, in an area known as Russian River Falls. Keep an eye open for signs once you reach Cooper Landing, and you’ll find the exit on your left. We parked the RV and set off for a walk that would turn out to be quite long, around 45 minutes each way, but very pleasant. We did reach the falls, and we did see the salmon ,but unfortunately no bears. Interestingly a lady we encountered told us that the week before the trail had been closed because of an excess of bears that were being spotted even on the trail!!
We then continued our trip towards Kenai, again enjoying the mountain views for the first hour or so after leaving Cooper Landing. There are many gorgeous lakes on the way too which can be spotted along the way, and I do recommend you pull over often and walk down off the road and down to the waterfront as you may be rewarded with fantastic views like these.
Overnight in Kenai
I expected Kenai to be a little bot more interesting than what it turned out to be, but it really doesn’t have much going on. The tourism office was closed when we got there, and we didn’t see anything particularly interesting while we were looking for gas, and thus decided to find where to park for free for the night. It took us longer than expected, but some locals eventually recommended the public parking at North Beach (head North on Kenai Spur Highway and turn left on S Spruce Street). Note that free overnight parking is not allowed, but as it was September and the low season was on the way cops tend to be more lenient as long as you don’t make noise and stay quiet. The parking is in a quiet area and has good views of the ocean when the sky is clear (it was raining while we were there).
Going South: Stop at Ninilchik
After a nice breakfast we started the final leg of our RV trip across the Kenai Peninsula. Leaving Kenai behind we made our way to Kalifornsky Rd (keeping an eye open for the moose we were told we should have seen but never did) and picked out Ninilchik as town we would pull off to check out of the many there are along the road. With a population of about 800 people the Russian influenced community of Ninilchik overlooks Cook Inlet and several volcanoes. It’s a nice stopover on the way to Homer and there’s a couple of things to check out: its old Russian Orthodox Church and the many eagles that often abound on its beaches. The area is also known for its big razor clams, and there’s a souvenir shop with old Russian and Alaskan art worth visiting as well.
The End of the Road: Homer
As we continued our way South the sky began to open up and we got to see the first rays of sunshine we had seen in the past three weeks. What a difference! Beautiful colors appeared everywhere, the ocean and sky no longer merged into a gray mist, green trees and colorful flowers surrounded us…it was great! The wind also seemed to be picking up, but we didn’t really mind.
Known as the Halibut Fishing Capital of Alaska and the Carmel of the North Homer has an eclectic mix of artists, fishermen and outdoor lovers drawn by its slow pace, good fishing and the clear waters of Kachemak Bay.
Perhaps its most famous landmark is the Homer Spit, a long 7 km finger of sand stretching into Kachemak Bay. It’s dotted with restaurants and other business and has a lot of recreation opportunities. It’s also a favorite spot for overnight RV parking, and this is where we spent the night too. The spit gets a lot of wind though, and our RV was constantly shaken all night making it somewhat difficult to sleep comfortably.
Homer also has many tours on offer during the high season, but we were late for those as well. It didn’t really matter as simply exploring the town and meeting locals is just as entertaining. There are many hiking trails, fishing opportunities and kite surfers will find the strong winds ideal, but you may want to visit the tourism office to get all the insider tips when there, or check the Homer Visitor Center website. We spent just a day in Homer, but you can plan on spending at least a couple days if you want to hit some of the trails and/or join a tour.
The drive from Seward to Alaska takes about 4 hours if you drive without stopping, but we made it an overnight trip and it can easily be split into another day or two more (you can of course make it as long as you want if you decide to hike through many of the trails). I’d say that my top three highlights of the trip include the trek to Russian River falls, stopping to take pictures of the many spectacular lakes you’ll find along the way, and sleepy Ninilchik, as well as The Spit in Homer. The city of Kenai didn’t really have much to offer, and some of the other towns mentioned in guides are really very small- they may perhaps be more interesting during the high season. Expect a lot of wind in Homer and enjoy the drive…you’ll get to see some amazing views like these!
Our great motor home was partly sponsored by Alaska Family Motorhomes in Anchorage, a great family run company that provides RVs in many sizes at the best rates I found online. Visit their website and call Tom for his recommendations on what suits you best!