Visiting Alaska is one of those bucket list items that lots of people dream about doing at least once in life. I feel so lucky to have visited “The Last Frontier” and wanted to share an Alaska travel guide, since planning a trip Alaska can be a bit over-whelming. One important tip a life long Alaskan gave us when we were planning our trip was to choose a region and stick with it (summary of each region). Alaska is way too big to see all of it in a two week trip. By choosing a region you will get to do all the typical Alaskan activities and minimize time in the car. We choose the southcentral region (includes Anchorage, Homer, and Kenai Peninsula), since one of the major reasons for our trip was to visit friends.
When to go: June through August is considered the best time. The days are long with with the sunrise around 5 AM and sunset around 11 PM. Rain seems to be variable. The best thing to do is just accept you will probably have some rainy days during your trip and pack some water-proof clothing.
What to do: Alaska is an outdoor enthusiasts dream. For us the must do things included: hiking, glacier viewing, wildlife tours, boating, fishing, and seeing the salmon run. All of these things were easy for to schedule in because in the south-central region all of these activities are abundant.
While we were in Anchorage we let our friends who live there plan our days. They showed us some great sites! Our first day we visited the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center, which had beautiful 360 views and variety of animals to see. Then we visited the Begich Boggs Glacier Center at Porter Glacier, which is built next to a lake and gives gorgeous views of several glaciers. It’s a cute center with lots of educational stations for kids. It started raining really hard, but luckily we had packed lot of rain gear (thanks to our friends advice), so then we continued on and did a short hike to one of the glaciers. The second day it rained a lot, so we casually wandered around Anchorage and visited the Saturday Market in the morning. The afternoon we hiked Flat Top Trail Head, which was an easy hike in rolling mountains type setting.
Homer, Alaska: After a few days in Anchorage we made the 5 hour drive to Homer. The drive was picture perfect and we had planned to make frequent stops and go on little hikes or wander along the rivers that run near the highway, but it rained hard the entire drive. Luckily, just as we arrived at the town limits the rain let up. Homer’s welcome outlook site is definitely worth stopping at. It has beautiful views and tons of planters that are maintained by the botanical society.
We had a hard time finding a hotel. Many of the hotels were really, really expensive and lots of them wouldn’t allow toddlers. We finally settled on The Homer Ocean House Inn, which was conservatively priced, kid friendly (they even had a playground), and had direct access to a rocky beach. It was the most dreamy setting with mountain and ocean views, scenic hot tubs, and lots of places to lounge outside. I wish we would have stayed there for more than one night.
Homer is the Halibut fishing capitol of the world and attracts tourists from around the world looking to catch a 5 foot long trophy fish in the deep seas. The Homer Spit is really cute with lots of little places to eat and few shops. We ate breakfast at Two Sister’s Bakery, which has huge pastries for $3 and Fish & Chips for lunch. The morning was spent wandering around the dock watching boats come and go and setting up our water taxi to take us to the wilderness lodge.
Wilderness Lodge: The biggest decision when planning our trip was whether or not to splurge on a wilderness lodge. Don’t be fooled by the name, most are the equivalent of an all inclusive resort just in a remote setting. Many of them provide 3 gourmet meals a day, personal trip planners and activity guides. We ended up choosing to stay 5 days at the Ridgewood Lodge on an island at Halibut Cove and were so glad we did!
The Ridgewood Lodge was so remote that it was only accessible by a 30 minute boat ride from Homer. It was a stunning lodge with a 360 degree porch with views of the ocean and the expansive rolling lawns, ponds, and gardens that made up the property. The food was comparable to our favorite 5 star restaurants and we had a personal guide take us on each activity. It was the perfect mix of luxury, for me, and wilderness adventures, for the hubby.
The first adventure day was a 3 mile hike to a glacier lake, kayaking around the lake, then hiking back to the beach to catch the boat that returned us to the lodge. The next day was my favorite! We boated along the islands watching otters, porpoises, bald eagles, black bears, sea lions, and tons of birds. We fished for white fish off the boat and then baited bald eagles to fly near the boat to get the fish. It was truly the most amazing thing I have ever seen! The final adventure day was spent fishing as we walked along the ocean to a trail head. When we reached the trail head we did a moderate hike to river look out and then crossed the river via a hanging gondola. Needless to say, we got our fair share of Alaskan wilderness!
Honestly, I think we could have done most of the activities we did through the lodge by staying the entire time at Homer and using the individual companies to book each activity, but it would have been a lot more stressful to do so. I am so glad we stayed at the lodge, but I know it may not be in everyone’s budget. If it’s not, don’t get discouraged. You can do all these activities and stay in Homer with more planning.
What to Pack: It took this desert girl forever to figure out what to pack. Luckily our friends were really helpful! They recommended water proof pants and hiking boots with gortex lining and I am so glad they did. I wore these sturdy rain boots pretty much every day and did all my hiking in these stylish hiking boots. A light weight vest is definitely key for dealing with the fluctuating temperatures and water-resistant pants are a must.
I hope you get an opportunity to visit Alaska and have a wonderful time enjoying The Last Frontier!
See more posts from our trip to Alaska: Pit Stop in Homer, Beach-Coming in Homer, Evenings in Alaska, Alaskan Rain & Wildlife