Heading to the Kenai Peninsula from Valdez we broke up what would have been a pretty long drive with a stay in Palmer, AK. Palmer is a bedroom community to Anchorage sitting 35 miles to its northeast in the Matanuska Valley just off the Glenn Highway.
The town of Palmer was established in the 1930’s as part of President Roosevelt’s Federal Emergency Relief Administration that was created to provide jobs for the many left unemployed by the Great Depression. Since Palmer sits in a fertile valley, the plan was to bring in 203 families from the hard hit states of the Midwest to work the land into a vibrant agricultural center. Each family received a 40 acre tract of land and a home to help establish their place in an unfamiliar territory. A visit to Palmer’s visitor center offers a movie and fascinating display about these brave pioneers and though the failure rate was high, the few who were successful left a legacy that continues today in this proud farming community.
From Palmer we continued on the Glenn Highway to Anchorage where we turned onto the Seward Highway that would take us into the Kenai Peninsula and down to Seward itself. The Kenai Peninsula is bordered by Cook Inlet on the west and the Gulf of Alaska to its east. It is billed as the “Playground of South Central Alaska” for all who seek the wilderness experience. Famous for its fishing, wildlife viewing, mountain views and coastal fjords it offers something for everyone. We spent 3 nights in Seward and 3 nights in Homer before leaving this beautiful “playground”.
Views along Seward Highway
Seward is located at the head of Resurrection Bay off of the Gulf of Alaska on the east side of the peninsula. It is a town of approximately 2,600 residents who enjoy views of the glacial colored bay against a backdrop of mountains. Since cruise lines stop here, its harbor and downtown areas are dotted with gift shops and restaurants to provide for the influx of tourists. Charter fishing is a big attraction (see halibut picture below) as well as boat tours into the Kenai Fjords National Park that allow views of glaciers and marine wildlife. Provided with our tour was admission to Seward’s popular SeaLife Center where we learned all about puffins. These birds are spotted all up and down coastal Alaska and spend most of their lives on water – only living on land to incubate and raise their young. While in Seward we also visited the Exit Glacier and enjoyed a 3 ½ hour dinner cruise to Fox Island approximately 12 miles from Seward’s harbor. Unfortunately for the bulk of our stay here, the weather was overcast and rainy so most of the view was obscured by low clouds. Oh well, all the more reason to come back in the hopes of better weather!
Seward is the Mural Capital of Alaska…Here’s a few!
Sea Life Center
Exit Glacier (note warning on trail to Glacier View – can’t believe we still went!)
(Highlight and comment mine…)
Fox Island Dinner Cruise
After leaving soggy Seward we backtracked 30 miles on the Seward Highway to the Sterling Highway which would continue our way west and then south to Homer at the tip of the Kenai Peninsula. We had expected this drive to be particularly scenic, but in all honesty, nothing yet has beat the Richardson Highway to Valdez. The westward portion of the drive is inland and follows rivers that are full of salmon and thus fisherman this time of year. As you bear south you parallel the Cook Inlet and enjoy peek-a-boo views of the water and several snow-capped volcanoes on the other side. According to the Milepost (a must have for any driving in Alaska) we would also be traversing an area known for lots of moose. I’m sorry to report we saw not a one!
When we arrived in Homer we were rewarded not only with sunshine and mild temperatures but views that didn’t stop and a camp site that looked upon them! Homer is known as the “Halibut Capital of the World”, but we call it a “little bit of heaven on earth”.
Sitting on the green-blue water of Kachemak Bay with views of the Kenai Mountains this vibrant little town has it all. Our campground sat on what is called the Homer Spit a 4 ½ mile jut of land that extends out from Homer into the bay. The nose of our RV was beachfront!
The Spit is where all the action is and was very busy with tourists. Shops, restaurants, fishing boats all vied for attention. Several in our tour opted for a halibut fishing excursion but we, not really known for having sea legs, did not. We bought our fresh catch from a local vendor and enjoyed feasting on halibut for 2 nights.
While we did explore the area’s scenic drives, most of our time spent in Homer was in a chair by our fire pit enjoying the view. With a bit of beachcombing and rock castle building thrown in we were about as relaxed as relaxed can be.
We head to Anchorage next, but none of us (the entire tour included) want to leave Homer!