Are you planning a drive from Anchorage to Homer? Alaska is big, and there is a lot to see. Out of all the towns you can pay a visit to, Homer is ranked as one of the most popular and often referred to by many as their “favorite place on the planet.”
What makes Homer so special?
In this article, we will cover the reasons this location is worth including in your itinerary, as well as some of the scenic stops along the way! The great thing about Alaska is that the journey can be just as incredible as your ultimate destination, so you surely don’t want to miss out on these easy detours!
Where Is Homer?
Homer is located approximately 225 miles, southwest of Anchorage at the bottom of the Kenai Peninsula.
The drive time from Anchorage to Homer is about 4 1/2 hours, without stops.
It is known as the Halibut Capital of The World and is a large fishing community that spits out right into the middle of the bay. For this reason, the roadway taking you there is known as the “Homer Spit” and offers many shops, restaurants and attractions to suit your needs.
It also offers panoramic views of the Kenai Mountains, the Cook Inlet and some volcanic peaks including Mt. Augustine, Mt. Iliamna and Mt. Redoubt.
You will see better views of these along the Sterling Highway as you approach Homer, but they can still be visible from Homer under the right conditions.
What Is There To Do In Homer?
There are many thing to do in Homer! Homer is full of scenery, wildlife and experiences for everyone! It is an abundant fishing location known for its halibut, salmon, lingcod and rockfish.
You can fish from ashore, or you can opt to take a charter to get into deeper waters. You can also take part in a day cruise that will take you around Kachemak Bay, Seldovia and Halibut Cove.
With many fish readily available, this naturally draws in many other predators.
Eagles are seen practically everywhere, but you can also be lucky enough to spot different owls, puffins and other shore birds along the spit. Additionally, many seals and sea otters will frequent the harbors diving for food and lounging around the docks.
Homer is a great location for wildlife enthusiasts as it grants easy access to neighboring islands and parks such as Kodiak, Katmai, Lake Clark and Kachemak Bay.
These locations are only accessible via plane or boat, which keeps the wildlife well preserved and thriving.
Want to see the biggest bear in the world? Paying a visit to the Kodiak Islands will allow you this opportunity as it is the only location in the world which these creatures inhabit.
These bears can stand up to 10 ft tall and weigh up to 1,500 lbs. Kodiak is also another large fishing community with a town that can be explored, however it is highly advisable to book a tour if you are interested in bear-viewing. You don’t want to come face to face with one of these beasts and not be prepared!
Parks such as Katmai, Lake Clark and Kachemak Bay may require reservations and access via scheduled flights/boat tours.
Additional information about visiting each of these locations can be found on their websites.
Driving From Anchorage To Homer
The drive from Anchorage to Homer is relatively simple.
Leaving from Anchorage, you will begin your journey by going south along AK-1 (also known as Seward Highway), with the beauty of the ocean on one side and the rocky cliffside on the other.
This stretch of highway is known as Turnagain Arm and is incredibly scenic.
Here you will have a chance to spot a variety of wildlife including whales, Dall sheep, birds, and maybe even moose! For a more intimate experience with these animals, be sure to check out the next 3 stops!
For bird watchers and wildlife enthusiasts alike, this is a great location to spot a wide variety of animals including, but not limited to:
- Canadian geese
- Northern harriers
It also houses a large amount of eagle nests and owls can sometimes be heard hooting in the backwoods. There is a 1,500-foot boardwalk that will take you around different areas of the marsh, allowing you to spot a variety of creatures roaming about.
Moose are known to frequent the marsh in the earlier months of the summer, and muskrats can also be seen swimming in the waters below.
During salmon season (May – August) you can also spot many fish swimming upstream through Rabbit Creek. This is definitely a quick and easy stop and is highly recommended for a peaceful walk through nature!
As its name might imply, this location is known for spotting Beluga whales. It is just a short walk from the parking lot to the rocky overlooks that offer stunning views of the ocean and mountains, with the chance of spotting one of these creatures swimming along.
The best chance for viewing Belugas will be 3-4 hours before Anchorage high tide, anytime between mid-August and October, with peak viewing around the first week in September.
Beluga Point is located at mile marker 110.5.
Pullouts Near Beluga Point
The pullouts around Beluga Point also offer a chance to spot Dall sheep roaming on the rocky cliff-sides above.
They are also known to be spotted at the Windy Point turnout, so be on the lookout for them as you continue your journey onwards!
Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center
If you want to ensure you see quintessential wildlife, all the while paying a visit to a very scenic and natural habitat for Alaskan animals, the wildlife center is for you!
This is an outdoor sanctuary dedicated to providing a home to the injured, orphaned, and otherwise incapable animals that can no longer be released back into the wild.
Bears, moose, bison, coyotes and porcupine are just a few of the creatures you can spot here, and you may travel the grounds by simply driving the 1.5 mile loop or you may also walk.
For bear-viewing, there is a boardwalk in which you will have a greater chance to spot them roaming the grassy hillsides below or even lounging in the water.
- Address: Mile 79 Seward Hwy Girdwood AK 99587
- Phone: (907) 783-0058
- Website: alaskawildlife.org
Girdwood is most known for Alyeska Ski Resort but also offers a place to stop for bathrooms, food, gas etc. If time allows, there are many hiking trails in the area or you may want to ride the aerial tram in Alyeska that offers stunning views of the town below, with Turnagain Arm in the distance.
- Address: Tram Cir Girdwood AK 99587
- Phone: (907) 754-2275
- Website: alyeskaresort.com
This will require a detour and a short hike, but the views of the glacier as well as the neighboring glacier fed Portage Lake will make it worth it.
Just about 6 miles off the Seward Highway will take you to the Byron Glacier trailhead. From here, it is about a 3-mile round trip hike that is relatively flat and easy terrain, great for all ages.
You will pass through the woods which open up to rugged mountain views and eventually Byron Glacier in the distance. Snow packed hillsides often create a good place to sled, or you may choose to explore further beyond the overlook.
This does not come without risk or danger though, as there can be many ice crevasses and loose snow.
Use caution and adventure at your own risk. As you walk along the main trail, you will also spot a body of water off to the side. This is Portage Lake and it is just down the road from the Byron Glacier trailhead.
If you choose to visit Byron Glacier, it is suggested to continue down Portage Lake Loop just another mile or so which will take to you the Begich Boggs Visitor Center parking lot.
It offers stunning views of this bright blue water, which is fed by Portage Glacier located right around the bend.
If your schedule allows for it, you may opt to take one of the boat tours that will take you closer to the majesty of the glacier itself. These generally depart daily, but also run on a schedule, so will need to be booked.
During summer, the only way to access the glacier otherwise would be a kayaking trip across the water or hiking the Portage Pass Trail which is accessible in Whittier.
Portage Glacier Cruises
- Address: 1500 Byron Glacier Rd Girdwood AK 99587
- Phone: (800) 544-2206
- Tours: Book A Glacier Cruise
This will require more of a lengthy detour, but if you are looking to fill your trip with as many stops as possible, then Whittier is an interesting town offering some unique experiences.
It is about 10 miles from the Seward Highway and requires you to travel through a shared railway tunnel.
This tunnel in particular is 2.5 miles long, making it the longest tunnel in North America. There is also a toll fee required to transit this tunnel, but it is definitely a one of a kind experience that truly showcases the power of human ingenuity and determination.
You will be greeted with views of neighboring glaciers and waterfalls before passing through the tunnel and arriving in Whittier, as well additional glaciers in Whittier itself.
The town of Whittier is a small industrial port equipped with many hiking trails, restaurants and historical elements.
Be sure to check out the Buckner Building, an abandoned military building that once housed many soldiers and was a complete “city under one roof.”
From Whittier, you may also choose to take a glacier cruise into Prince William Sound, which is full of additional scenery and wildlife.
Information about the tunnel as well as the schedule can be found here:
- Website: dot.alaska.gov/creg/whittiertunnel/
Kenai River/Cooper Landing
After making your way back to continue on the Seward Highway, you will eventually have to branch off onto the Sterling Highway, which takes you all the way to Homer.
During this journey, you may notice a beautiful river flowing alongside you. This is the Kenai River, and you may wish to stop at one of the pullouts to take in the beauty of the turquoise waters.
Skilak Lake Road
This 18-mile long gravel road is known for some of the best wildlife viewing on the Kenai Peninsula.
It essentially runs parallel to the Sterling Highway and is a great alternative route if you are looking to get “off the beaten path” in search of animals or additional views of lakes, glaciers and mountains.
You may choose to simply drive it, stop for a hike, or even camp. It has 2 access points at mileposts 58 and 75.2 and can be traveled in either direction.
Kenai National Wildlife Refuge
Shortly after passing through the town of Soldotna is a 1.92 million acre wildlife habitat preserve, located just about one mile off the Sterling Highway.
It is home to many moose, bears, lynx, caribou, sheep and more! Here, you can stop at the visitor center and explore local trails or obtain additional information.
- Address: 33398 Ski Hill Rd Soldotna AK 99669
- Phone: (907) 262-7021
- Website: fws.gov/refuge/Kenai
Anchor River State Recreation Area
This is just a short 1.2 mile detour off Sterling Highway and gives you the ability to say you have traveled to the most westerly point on the U.S. highway system.
It also offers hiking, fishing, camping and wildlife viewing. It is great for eagles, exploring tide pools and seeing the different volcanoes across Cook Inlet.
From here, Homer is just another 16 miles!
Final Destination – Homer Alaska!
You made it! Now that you have reached your destination, it’s time to relax and explore! If you are looking to find some local hot spots, the Salty Dawg Saloon is one of the most popular bars/pubs in Alaska and is known for the thousands of dollar bills tacked onto the walls.
There are a variety of shops, restaurants and art galleries located along the spit as well as the educational value found at the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center.
If you are looking for a scenic drive, traveling up Skyline Drive offers incredible views of the spit and the landscape below.
To extend your adventure, you may also wish to take a ferry to Seldovia, which offers access to a quaint and historical village. From Seldovia, you can also travel to Kachemak Bay State Park or Kenai Fjords National Park.
No matter what kind of adventure you are looking for, you are sure to find something in Homer that speaks to you!
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My name is Michelle Hanson and I am a nature/travel photographer based in Anchorage, Alaska. I first discovered this great land during my time working on cruise ships, and knew it was a place that I needed to return to. I have been here since July 2021 and have already spent countless days on the road, exploring as much as possible. Through the course of these travels, I have built an extensive photo collection which I use to showcase nature’s beauty and inspire others to come experience Alaska for themselves. It is a powerful place that will steal your heart and speak to your soul. Feel free to follow along @mhphotoco, and thanks for reading!