Day 1 Our exploration begins at 8AM, meeting in downtown Anchorage at previously arranged locations. Dispatching quickly with Alaska’s largest city, we’ll head for more tranquil locales, turning south and hugging the shore of Turnagain Arm where the Chugach Mountains meet the sea. Rising up over Turnagain Pass in the Kenai Mountains we’ll then descend toward the Gulf of Alaska and the scenic town of Seward, situated at the uppermost reaches of Resurrection Bay. A deep water port that remains ice-free all year, Seward was one of the earlier Alaskan settlements, serving the mining and various trades of the Interior, as the southern terminus of the state’s single rail line. It is also the historic start of the Iditarod Trail. Surrounded by mountains the scene is quite impressive, with the quaint downtown nearly at water’s edge. After lunch we’ll head out to Lowell Point for our afternoon sea kayaking exploration of the west side of Resurrection Bay. Back to land, we’ll head back through town to the turn-off accessing Exit Glacier of the Kenai Fjords National Park, walking up to its terminus while noting the dates of its historical retreat (-hint: where we parked was mighty icy about World War I). After all this fine fresh air, it’s time to check into our accommodations for the evening and have a nice dinner downtown.
Day 2 After breakfast we’ll be first in line at the impressive Alaska SeaLife Center, to garner a good background for the day’s foray into the maritime world. Boarding our vessel late morning, we’ll head out of the bay and around the point, and into the Chiswell Islands Wildlife Refuge, sliding between the rocky islands that are home to an incredible variety of marine mammals and sea birds. Reaching Kenai Fjords National Park, the vast majority inaccessible by road, we’ll head into Aialik Bay and linger off the face of a calving glacier for an otherworldly experience. We’ll cruise right up to the rugged coastal cliffs, providing wonderful opportunities for viewing murres, puffins, harbor seals, and sea lions, with the stretches in between always holding promise of porpoises, sea otters, humpback whales and maybe even orcas. Arriving back in the late afternoon, we’ll then head back up the road through the Kenai Mountains. Skirting the pristine waters of Kenai Lake we’ll make our way to Cooper Landing the “Gem of the Kenai Peninsula”. Overnight Cooper Landing.
Day 3 After an early breakfast we’ll hit the road to Homer to arrive in time for our 11AM appointment with a boat. Enroute we’ll pass through Soldotna to skirt the eastern side of Cook Inlet with the towering volcanoes of Iliamna, Redoubt and Augustine framing the other side. We’ll dawdle a bit more on the return trip, but the views are nonetheless, quite regal in any direction. Arriving at the end of the Homer Spit, we’ll board the boat to cross picturesque Kachemak Bay. With the nearby mountains and glaciers on the other side of the bay and the Alaska Range across the mouth of Cook Inlet, it is truly a beautiful mix of geography. Aiming toward the mouth of the Bay, our captain will circle Gull Island and a few others enroute to our destination, giving great explanation to the sights before us. Early afternoon finds us on the dock in the unique community of Seldovia, inaccessible by road. Originally and still a fishing village, the name comes from the Russian word for salted herring, as this fish was the reason for its existence, prior to the purchase of Alaska in 1867. Seldovia is also a place of refuge for artists and those looking for a little less access and the pace of life that it brings. It’s a special little town to wander, with the great Sitka spruce forests unlike any other we’ve seen, starting at the end of almost every street. A good stroll is in order before dinner on Main Street. Our lodging for the night is in a lovely waterfront Inn overlooking the boat harbor, where sea otters are a frequent sight.
Day 4 The morning is as leisurely as it should be, with time to further explore town or just watch the tide come in out the back door. Those looking to stretch their legs might try the “Otterbahn”, a great little trail starting by the school that weaves through tall grass and spruce thickets to end at the ocean for an unlimited opportunity to stroll or beachcomb. We’ll then catch our return flight with a quick hop across the bay to Homer. It’s almost hard to get back in a vehicle again, but we’ll have to to peruse some of Homer’s singular shops, in this town known for its artist community drawn to the local beauty. Lunch will be in a local eatery. Heading back north, we’ll pass through Anchor Point and make a photo stop at an old Russian Orthodox Church on a high bluff overlooking Cook Inlet. The faith of Alaska’s earliest non-Native settlers remains strong among many of the coastal Native communities. We’ll rejoin the Seward Highway as we make our way to the end-of-the road town of Hope for the evening. One of the oldest gold rush communities in Alaska, Hope boasted three thousand souls long before Anchorage existed. As gold rushes pass so did many of the people, with now about two hundred folks in the community. Its unique atmosphere is quite palpable, in the many log cabins, the log Social Hall, the one room schoolhouse and certainly in the local folk that have chosen to call it home. It’s a piece of Alaska many have in mind before they come. Dinner and overnight in Hope.
The next day we explore the spectacular marine world of the Kenai Fjords National Park and Chiswell Islands Wildlife Refuge lingering off the face of a calving glacier. From Seward we travel the Kenai Mountains to the wilderness community of Cooper Landing, nicknamed the Emerald because to its waters, tinged a unique blue-green thanks to suspended ultra-fine glacial silt. On Day 4, we cross the bay by air taxi, before heading to quiet gold rush town of Hope. Day 5 we round Turnagain Arm and stop in Girdwood and the famous resort of Alyeska, before returning to Anchorage in the afternoon. If time is somewhat limited, or you’re looking to add some authentic Alaska to your existing plans, this special tour carefully skirts the crowds and promises an unencumbered and wild tranquility guaranteed to satisfy.