Homer is a city on the Kenai Peninsula in Southcentral Alaska and is long known as the "Halibut Fishing Capital of the World." It is also known as the "End of the Road". The most westerly point on the North American contiguous highway system is in nearby Anchor Point. There the road (AK 1) turns southeast and ends at the tip of the Homer Spit, a natural sandbar stretching some four miles into Kachemak Bay, at the End of the Road Park.
Homer is named after Homer Pennock, a charismatic con man who led an expedition to the area in 1896 in search of gold. They found coal instead. Pennock left the expedition, supposedly to secure more funding, and never returned. For much of the history of this area the larger settlements were those on the opposite side of Kachemak Bay. The completion of the Sterling Highway (AK 1) provided road access in 1951, causing Homer to begin expanding and overshadowing its neighbors across the water. The 1964 Good Friday Earthquake severely damaged the Homer Spit, causing portions of it to sink about six feet, destroying the road and the surrounding habitat, now known as "Mud Bay." The US Army Corps of Engineers reconstructed the first few miles of the Spit, giving it its present appearance.
The Spit is the main tourist area and the location of the harbor, but it is not the whole town. If you only visit the Spit, you miss the town where people live and work. There are over 5,000 people in Homer, and only a dozen or so live on the Spit full-time.
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- 1 Homer Chamber of Commerce & Visitor Center, 201 Sterling Hwy., ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Main center is open daily Memorial Day weekend thru Labor Day, and Monday-Friday the rest of the year. During the summer, the Chamber also has a staffed satellite location on the Homer Spit, noon till 7PM daily.
Flying into Homer is common, with several flights each day from Anchorage on Ravn Alaska, a local airline. Homer is a 40-minute flight from Anchorage.
Driving the 4 - 5 hours from Anchorage is well worth it. The route takes you along Turnigain Arm and up into the epic scenery of the Chugach National Forest and Turnigain Pass. Follow the Seward Highway to the Sterling Highway. When you get to the end of the Sterling, you made it. There is also a regularly scheduled van service, the Stage Line, that shuttles travellers between Anchorage and Homer. The scenery is breathtaking and it will give you a chance to visit some of the smaller towns on the Kenai Peninsula.
Homer is also a stop on the Alaska Marine Highway, the state-run ferry system.
By cruise ship
Cruise ships use the terminal at the Deep Water Dock on Freight Dock Road (east of the Small Boat Harbor). It's about 1½-mile walk or shuttle ride from the cruise Dock around the Small Boat Harbor to reach the main area where the shops and attractions begin on the Spit. To get to the Old Town from the Spit, which is about 5 miles northwest, you can take a taxi or use the hop-on hop-off Homer Trolley.
There isn't a public transportation system to speak of in Homer, so your options come down to walking, riding a bike, catching the seasonal trolley, hitching a lift, renting a car or taking a taxi.
Distances, as with most places in America, are fairly large, but there are good footpaths all around Homer. If you are fit, walking can be a great way to see and get a feel for the town. Homer is laid out rather oddly, in "chunks" of areas with businesses separated by residential areas or wetlands. Old Town, south of the Sterling Highway between Ohlson Lane and Main Street, is where you will find the Homer Chamber of Commerce & Visitor Center, a good place to get a map. Northeast of Old Town is the Business District and the main drag Pioneer Ave, which becomes East End Road after Lake St. Old Town and Pioneer Ave are walkable; further out, biking might be better and easier.
There are paved bike and walking paths on East End Road, on Ocean Drive and the Beluga Slough, and on the Spit. If you are walking, pedaling, or roller-blading in these areas, it is recommended that you stay on the paths and off the roads. It is about 5 miles from the center of town to the harbor area on the Spit, and it can become very windy and cold at any time anywhere in coastal Alaska. Alaskans know that wearing layers that can be added or removed easily is the key to being comfortable outdoors in this highly variable environment.
You can rent bicycles at Homer Saw and Cycle.
By trolley (seasonal)
The red and green Homer Trolley offers seasonal hop-on, hop-off service and stops at a number of key locations like the Pratt Museum, Farmer's Market (Wed & Sat), Land's End Resort at the tip of the Spit, and the Alaska Islands & Ocean Visitor Center. It operates daily 11AM-6PM from mid-June through mid-August and for all cruise ships. Day pass is $15 for adults; family rates available. You can buy tickets from the driver when you board.
There are two car rental firms in Homer: Hertz and Adventure Alaska. Hertz and Adventure Alaska also have rentals in Anchorage so if you want to rent a car in Anchorage and drive to Homer you can drop your car off and fly back to Anchorage. Anchorage is the main city in Alaska where most flights from outside the state end up. From there you fly or rent a car and drive to the next town.
There are several 24-hour taxi companies in Homer. Short in-town rides are about $5 per car-load, expect to pay about $15 to go between the town and the Spit.
- 1 Homer Spit. Open all year, however shops at the end of the spit generally close around mid September and re-open in April. The Salty Dawg Saloon, Coal Point Seafoods, and Land's End Resort are the among the few exceptions that are open year round. The Spit is a massive landspit jutting some four miles out into the middle of the bay. Although it is a naturally occurring formation, damage from the massive 1964 Good Friday earthquake made the harbor and other facilities inaccessible at high tide, and the Spit was partially rebuilt by the Army Corps of Engineers. The Spit is the center of all fishing-related activity in Homer, and has a host of gift and specialty shops and eateries. Water taxis and ferries provide sea access to smaller settlements on the other side of the bay such as Seldovia and the artists colony of Halibut Cove. Marine and avian wildlife can be seen along the spit, including large numbers of bald eagles. Careful observers may also see sea otters, harbor seals, or even sea lions or whales. The "fishing hole" is a man made lagoon that is stocked with hatchery-bred salmon. These salmon leave the lagoon as they mature and live normal lives at sea, returning to the lagoon some years later due to the salmons natural instinct to return to the place it was born in order to spawn and die itself. This is one of the most accessible saltwater salmon fishing locations in all of Alaska, and includes a wheelchair ramp. A walk from the start to the end of the spit will take around an hour. A walk along the beach is a beautiful way to see the spit but be careful of the tide as the beach isn't always accessible at high tide. Kachemak Bay experiences tidal variances of up to 30 ft (9.1 m) in a day, so always be aware on any beach in the area that you may need to head to higher ground to get back the way you came.
- Skyline Drive. Open all year, is a beautiful way to see the spit from above (it's actually where most of the postcard photos come from). Drive up East Hill Road to Skyline Drive and turn left to reach a scenic viewpoint pullout. Walking up the road will take significantly longer but provide you with lots of opportunities to stop and marvel at the surroundings.
- Homestead Trail. This trail gives visitors a chance to see the backcountry without getting on a boat or a plane first. From the trailhead on Roger's Loop Road hikers have the option to take one of several short hikes, to climb to a lookout for a for spectacular view, to carry on across Diamond Ridge and past a second trailhead and parking area,crossing down into Bridge Creek Valley. The trail then climbs to Crossman Ridge and runs along the old homesteader road on the ridge top, descending at the end to the Homer reservoir. The trail is about 7 miles long. All three access points have parking areas, if you have two vehicles you can leave one at either end, or drop your car off and take a taxi to the other end. Sturdy water resistant footwear is essential as parts of the trail are through muskeg, a bog-type environment common in coastal Alaska. This trail is not recommended for bikes, although the Crossman Ridge section can make a nice but very muddy ride unto itself. Be sure to be "bear aware" on this hike, especially in late summer as the trail passes near numerous berry patches favored by bears. You may also see moose, porcupines, eagles, ravens, owls, snowshoe hares, and possibly coyotes or lynx.
- 2 Pratt Museum (natural history museum), 3779 Bartlett St (north of Pioneer Ave), ☎ . Summer (May 15 – Sept 14): daily 10AM-6PM; Winter (Sept 15 – May 14): Tu-Sa noon-5PM. This is the only natural history museum in all of Kenai Peninsula, the one place to learn all about it. Indoor exhibits focus on art, natural history, native cultures, homesteading, fishing, and marine ecology. Outdoor exhibits include the historic Harrington cabin, botanical garden and forest nature trail. In addition, there are Alaskan wildlife, salt-water aquaria and a Museum store. Adults $10, Seniors $8, Youth 6-18 $5, Children under 6 free.
- 3 Alaska Islands and Ocean Visitor Center (Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge), 95 Sterling Hwy (east of Main St), ☎ . Late May-early Sep: Daily 9AM-5PM; early to mid-Sep: M-Sa 10AM-5PM; mid-Sep-mid May: Tu-Sa noon-5PM; mid- to late May M-Sa: 10AM-5PM. Alaska Islands & Ocean Visitor Center is primarily a walking experience to expose you to the largest seabird refuge in the world! Stroll through indoor exhibits and explore interpretive trails on the Center's 60-acre site. If you intend to enjoy the trails, consider bringing sunglasses, sunscreen, a hat, gear for windy or rainy conditions and appropriate shoes or boots to explore the beach. Visitor Center offers ample parking, including bus and RV spots, restrooms, sitting areas, and drinking fountains. There's even an Alaska Geographic bookstore inside. All indoor exhibits are accessible by wheelchair. Daily summer programs, including guided hikes, ranger-led talks, and hands-on activities are offered June – August. Free.
- 1 Homer Public Library, 500 Hazel Ave (near Heath St), ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. Has free internet access, with 19 public use computers that can be reserved up to one day in advance. Visitors are allowed up to two 45-minute sessions per day on a computer, and must either have a library card or a guest pass to log on.
- Fishing: Homer claims the title of "Halibut fishing capital of the world. There are more than fifty charter operators that can take you deep-sea fishing for these monster flatfish. You can only keep two per day, but since in Homer they throw back fish under 20 pounds that will be more than enough for most. Homer's harbor is a great place to observe commercial fishing boats offloading halibut, salmon, cod, rockfish, and even crab. Saltwater salmon fishing trips can also be booked through many charter operators, or you can go to "the fishing hole" on the Spit and try your luck. Be sure to get a license before doing any fishing for salmon, halibut or steelhead, which can be found in the Anchor River some fifteen miles outside Homer. Up in the hills above Homer is the Homer Reservoir, which has Dolly Varden Trout and is a great place to see wildlife. If you just want to cook it but not catch it, several fish buyers on the Spit feature retail sales of a variety of seafood bought right off the boats that caught it. There is also an outlet for the Kachemak Bay Shellfish Growers which sells fresh oysters and mussels.
- Wildlife and adventure tourism If you want to observe shorebirds or seabirds there are beaches on the Spit and below Old Town, as well as the Beluga Slough wetlands which lie between downtown and the Spit. The Calvin and Coyle trails just east of town and the end of FAA road (the airport road) have observation platforms to view wildlife in the wetlands, often browsed by moose. For those looking for a bit more adventure there are numerous kayak guides, whale watching boats, and so forth with offices on the Spit and at the various floatplane docks on Beluga Lake.
- Winter sports Homer has an excellent network of ski and snowshoe trails. The Baycrest ski trails have two easy access points near the dump on the Sterling Highway. There are groomed trails suited for Nordic or classic cross country skiing, as well as a heavily forested snowshoe trail system following part of the route of the Homestead Trail. Over on East Skyline Drive is the Carl Wynn Nature Center, which has non-groomed trails for skiing and snowshoeing. Following East Skyline to Ohlson Mountain road, you can find another large series of groomed ski trails, as well as a privately run tow rope used for downhill skiing and tubing. Ohlson Mountain itself is a free option, but you must walk the entire distance to the summit, there is no longer vehicle access at any time to the top unless you have a snow machine (that's what Alaskans call a snowmobile). Speaking of snow machines there is a local club known as the "Snomads" that can provide information and tips on recreational opportunities in the vast area known as the Caribou Hills between Homer and Ninilchick. Their main trailhead is about sixteen miles east of Homer. The Tustemena 200 Sled Dog Race can be observed from the McNeil Canyon area, about 14 miles east of Homer. There is an ice skating rink on the Spit and, if the ice is thick enough on Beluga Lake, a variety of winter sports occur there, including the amusing spectacle of ice racing in customized cars on Sunday afternoons.
- 2 Trails End Horse Adventures, 53435 E End Rd, ☎ . Horseback ride down the switchbacks with Cowboy Mark and his dog, Alyeska. Ride along Kechimak Bay and up to the summer pasture lands of his cattle and those seen on Alaska; the Last Frontier. Get a lot of local lore and with any luck, Cowboy Mark will recite some of his poetry! The return trip takes you through the woods - be on the look out for wildlife! He can be tricky to get a hold of during certain times of the year, so when you call, leave a message and he will call you back. Riders meet at the yard at 11.2 mile East Rd at 8:15AM to gear up and then car pool (saddled horses are trailered) 12 miles to the end of the road, returning to the yard about 2PM. Be prepared for breezy/rainy weather. Wear sturdy, stiff soled shoes (rubber boots are a good idea if you have them). Bring lunch/snacks/water, camera, field-glasses, bug-dope, and possibly a change of clothes to leave in the car. $100/person.
- 3 Farmer's Market, Ocean Dr (across from the Washboard), ☎ . May 23-Sep 30: Sa 10AM-3PM, Jul 1-Sep 30: W 3PM-6M. During the summer, visit the local farmer's market. Buy fresh produce, crafts, and other items.
Unlike many areas of Alaska, Homer has a local sales tax. The Kenai Peninsula Borough taxes sales at 3% and Homer adds an additional 4.5%. Large purchases are only taxed on the first $500.
There are two standard items commonly purchased in Homer: Salty Dawg hoodies and art. The Salty Dawg Saloon is a local landmark and actually makes more income from merchandising than from booze. Anywhere you go in Alaska you will see people wearing hoodies, t-shirts, hats, do rags, and even underpants featuring the image of the iconic building that houses the Dawg. Pioneer Avenue and the Spit have numerous art galleries featuring local artists. You could end up with something as simple as a postcard, a lamp made from beach stones, or a painting or sculpture. Be sure to consider the shipping cost if you are not able to take such large items with you.
Homer is a foodie paradise. There is a very wide range of places to eat, and only two franchise fast food places (Subway and McDonald's).
On the Spit
Most of these businesses are only open in the spring through the early fall. The Spit is a bit of a ghost town in the winter. Many of the small shops on the board walks on the Spit change businesses from one year to the next, explore and you might find something you really like.
- 1 Finn's Pizza, 4287 Homer Spit Rd (on the spit), ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. May: W-M noon-8PM; Jun-Sep: daily noon-9PM. This restaurant has a nice view of the water from the back deck. Wood-fired handmade pizza and local beer.
- 2 The Little Mermaid, 4246 Homer Spit Rd, ☎ . Th-Tu 11AM-9PM, closed W. Run by long-time fixture of the Homer food scene Evan Vogle, this small establishment puts out some big food. The poke salad is not to be missed. Also amazing pizza and other entrees.
- 3 The Harbor Grill, 4262 Homer Spit Rd, ☎ . Features a variety of fresh seafood.
- 4 The Chart Room, 4786 Homer Spit Rd (at Land's End Resort), toll-free: . A bit pricey, but the view can't be beat.
- 5 Boardwalk Fish and Chips, 4287 Homer Spit Rd, ☎ . "Where the fish comes on a stick". What else is there to say?
- 6 The Happy Face, 4400 Homer Spit Rd, ☎ . Features fried fish and Asian cuisine at very affordable prices.
- 7 The Glacier Drive In, 3789 Homer Spit Rd, ☎ . A local landmark. The annual re-opening each spring brings out locals hungry for better weather and old-school greaseball burgers.
- 8 La Baleine Café, 4460 Homer Spit Rd, ☎ . Tu-Su 5AM-4PM, closed M. Great soups and sandwiches. Salmon dips are absolutely delicious!
This area is below the Sterling Highway just above Bishop's Beach.
- 9 Pho and Thai, 345 Sterling Hwy, ☎ . The pork larb is particularly good.
- 10 Fat Olive's, 276 Ohlson Ln, ☎ . Began as a tiny pizza stand in the corner of a local bar and has grown into a thriving business serving wood fired specialty pizzas, enormous single slices, full menu with daily specials, and wine bar. (Don't worry, they have beer too. Beer is everywhere in Homer.)
- 11 Two Sisters Bakery, 233 East Bunnell Ave, ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. M-F 7AM-6PM, Sa 7AM-4PM, Su 9AM-2PM, dinner W-Sa 6PM-9PM. One of the few places in Homer that bothers to serve breakfast, lunch, dinner, and fantastic baked goods.
Although Homer does have a road named "Main Street", Pioneer Avenue is the "main drag" of downtown Homer, featuring local shops and galleries as well as great places to eat and drink.
- 12 Cafe Cups, 162 W Pioneer Ave, ☎ . Features "panoramic food with a mediocre view." If you are looking for fresh local seafood prepared creatively but not pretentiously this is the place, but the also serve steaks, burgers, and daily specials recited to each table in person by one of the owners. Cups is not cheap, but nothing in Alaska is. At least here you'll know you spent a lot on a meal that was actually worth it. Reservations recommended in summer months.
- Mike's, 158 W. Pioneer, ☎ . W-M 9AM-5PM. Mike's is a tiny cafe serving giant food, both in volume and flavor. An instant hit with locals and visitors alike, Mike's serves a variety of sandwiches, salads and soups, as well as build-your-own tacos and grilled cheese sandwiches. Be sure to check out the daily specials. Catering available.
- 13 Don Jose's, 127 E. Pioneer Ave, ☎ . Features mid-grade Mexican food and high-test margaritas. They also often feature ceviche in the summer months.
- 14 Duncan House Diner, 125 E Pioneer Ave, ☎ . A local favorite. It's a diner. If you know what that is you know what to expect from Duncan House.
- 15 Cosmic Kitchen, 510 E Pioneer Ave, ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Another local favorite, although quite popular with visitors as well. It's the kind of place with a menu that guarantees that virtually any two people can go there and both find something they like, from steak burritos to wasabi encrusted grilled salmon, to a cheeseburger or a falafel. If it is even slightly warm and sunny sit outside on the deck and watch the world go by.
- Vida’s Thai Food (Pioneer Avenue, just east of Svedlund Street), ☎ . Fresh, tasty Thai food. In the heart of Homer. $12-20.
Follow Homer East Road, locally known as East End.
- 16 The Bagel Shop, 3745 East End Rd (corner of East End and Kachemak Drive), ☎ . Don't let the outside fool you, inside are delicious homemade bagels topped in creative ways with fresh ingredients and served by the happiest bunch you will ever meet.
- 17 Wasabi's, 59217 East End Rd, ☎ . Winter (starts August 29th): W-Sa 5PM-close, Summer (starts May 20th): Tu-Su 5PM-close. About four miles out, serves "Pacific rim cuisine" and sushi for dinner.
- 18 The Homestead, 55829 East Rd, ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. Eight miles out, "white tablecloth" restaurant and local institution.
Not all bars in Homer accept credit cards or checks, but there are ATMs available.
- 1 The Salty Dawg Saloon, 4380 Homer Spit Rd, ☎ . On the spit is a colorful unique establishment inside a hodgepodge of rustic buildings. Don't miss this place. Go inside and leave your dollar bill on the wall! Open year-round.
- 2 Kharacter's Alaskan Bar, 197 E Pioneer Ave, ☎ . A local favorite featuring quirky nightly events such as "craft night" and the "substandard variety show".
- 3 The Alibi, 453 E Pioneer Ave, ☎ . Features some pretty decent bar food and regularly has DJs or karaoke.
- 4 Down East Saloon, 3125 East End Rd, ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Regularly features live music, and one of Homer's better selections of on-tap libations.
- 5 The Homer Brewing Company, 1411 Lake Shore Dr, ☎ . The brewery has a retail area that sells beers directly from the taps by the 1/2 gallon growler or 16 & 32 oz bottle to go. The taproom offers sample "flights" or pints. There are no tours, but the brewery is fairly open and easy to view from the retail area. In the warmer months, there is an outdoor beer garden and fresh oysters for sale.
- 6 Bear Creek Winery, 60203 Bear Creek Dr, ☎ . Bear Creek winery makes fruit wines and fruit grape wine blends. Visitors can visit the wine tasting room, tour the facility, or walk the gardens.
Coffee and tea
If you spend any time in Alaska you will notice the massive popularity of drive-up coffee stands and coffee houses.
- 7 K-Bay Caffe, 378 E Pioneer Ave, ☎ . Handcrafted espresso drinks. At the "slow bar", rare coffees are made to order by the cup with an elegant vacuum coffee maker. Food and baked goods are available, with a focus on organic ingredients.
- 8 Captain's Coffee Roasters, 295 E Pioneer Ave, ☎ . A sort of homegrown Starbucks with a drive-through.
- 9 All Hopped Up Espresso, 280 W Pioneer Ave. Coffee and food, drive-thru available.
As with most accommodation in Alaska it is best to ring ahead and book a place a few nights in advance during the spring, summer, autumn (fall) tourist season. The Homer area features over 200 bed and breakfast establishments, with a wide range of prices and amenities. Location is a strong selling point of some of these, be sure to ask about the view!
- 1 Seaside Farm Hostel, 40904 Seaside Farm Rd. Nice little hostel maybe 5-10 minutes outside of town. It is a working farm and contains a hostel plus rooms and cabins that you can sleep in. Great people who run it. It is about 4 miles from the town and about 9 miles from the harbor, so you will probably need transportation. Cabins from $95.
- 2 Young's Downtown Inn, 565 E Pioneer Ave. A small hotel and Asian restaurant. If you stay here you will smell like Chinese food by morning, but it is relatively cheap and centrally located.
- 3 Beluga Lake Lodge, 204 Ocean Dr, ☎ , toll-free: , e-mail: email@example.com. Has a variety of room types to suit your budget. Very close to the airport, and has a unique view looking back at Homer from its restaurant, which has great "fat burgers".
- 4 Best Western Bidarka Inn, 575 Sterling Hwy, ☎ . If you arrive by road this will be one of the first things you see once you make it down the hill. Features The Otter Room fireside lounge and grill (a favorite watering hole of the crew from the Time Bandit of "Deadliest Catch" fame), and free breakfast buffet. Two hot tub rooms available as well. $80-180 depending on room type and availability.
- 5 Ocean Shores Motel, 3500 Crittenden Dr, ☎ . Right next door to the Bidarka, the closer you get to the beach on this terraced property, the more expensive (and nicer) the room. Unique layout provides plenty of good views of the bay and mountains. Not open in winter.
- 6 King's Landing Hotel, 147 E Pioneer Ave, toll-free: . This log building in the center of Homer is one of the older hotels in the area. Cheap rooms are right off the lobby but several room types are available, including a suite with a jacuzzi.
One thing Homer does not have is "five-star" hotels. The upper end of the lodging options are more in the vein of remote lodges.
- 7 Land's End Resort, 4786 Homer Spit Rd (located at the very end of the Homer Spit), ☎ . The rooms are really nothing special, but the view on the bay side of the building can't be beat. The Lodges at Land's End are a more upscale option featuring two-story beachfront condos.
- Tutka Bay Lodge (located on the other side of the bay. Access by 25-minute water taxi from Homer). It is remote and very quiet, although it also features a cooking school and hosts the annual "Champagne and Chopin" concert by the Kenai Peninsula Orchestra. Open May 1-Sept 15.
- Sadie Cove Lodge (Inside Kachemak Bay State Park), ☎ , toll-free: , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Another remote wilderness lodge in isolated Sadie Cove.
- Hallo Bay Wilderness Lodge. Geared towards bear encounters and is located on the other side of Cook Inlet. They have a booking office near the base of the Spit.
- Kachemak Bay State Park - Located across the bay, Kachemak Bay State Park is the first and largest of the parks in the state. Many guides in Homer offer adventure trips to the park, or you can take any one of many water taxis from Homer.
- Anchor Point
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