Where Alaskans Go For Vacation

May 15, 2013  
Filed under Travel

The glacier fjords of the Kenai Peninsula are some of the most spectacular in Alaska. (Photo courtesy of Jim Farber)

Exploring The Kenai Peninsula

By Jim Farber

Alaska is so vast that trying to take it all in during a single visit is practically impossible. And while Denali National Park (crowned by Mount McKinley) is certainly the state’s marquee nature attraction, focusing a visit on a less remote, more diverse area of the state — say the Kenai Peninsula — may ultimately prove more rewarding.

Here is a landscape of towering snow-capped peaks, rushing rivers and mighty glaciers that have carved their way to the sea. This is also one of the great wildlife centers of the world, where boisterous rookeries of gulls and puffins nest, colonies of sea lions bask in the sun, and pods of orcas, other whales and dolphins slip gracefully through the waves.

The Kenai Peninsula extends approximately 150 miles into the Gulf of Alaska south of Anchorage, separated from the mainland on the west by the Cook Inlet and on the east by Prince William Sound. The towering Kenai Mountains form its southeast spine. But the region’s crown jewel is the Kenai Fjords National Park.

Getting to the Kenai Peninsula is at least half the fun. Anchorage and the peninsula’s two major cruise ship ports, Seward and Whittier, are connected by the Alaska Railroad, which features some of the most spectacular stretches of track in all of Alaska. The railroad has a package that allows passengers to get off the train, hike to a glacier, then return and board a later train.

Many visitors arrive by way of the Alaska Ferry system or aboard any number of cruise ship lines. Visitors can also take advantage of the state’s ever-popular floatplanes.

Renting a car is another great way to explore the peninsula’s mountainous interior and historic seacoast towns, such as the fishing port of Homer, where, incidentally, the road comes to an end.

If fishing is on your itinerary, the Kenai River offers a yearly salmon run that is world-famous.

From fish camps to luxury resorts, the Kenai Peninsula offers a wide range of accommodations for visitors. One of the most unusual of these getaway spots is the Tutka Bay Lodge. Accessible by small boat from Homer or by floatplane, the lodge is located on the piney wooded shore of Kachemak Bay.

In contrast, the town of Seward (named for U.S. Secretary of State William H. Seward, who fought for the purchase of Alaska in 1867) bustles with visitors. The city is located at the picturesque end of Resurrection Bay and is the primary port for the fleet of day boats that ferry visitors to the Kenai Fjords National Park.

Seward is also home to the Windsong Lodge. Located close to town but secluded in a woodland setting, the lodge is the gateway to Exit Glacier, one of the few easily accessible glaciers in Alaska and ideal for hiking.

For those who are seeking a different form of escape, however, few experiences can match a two-night, three-day stay at the Kenai Fjords Wilderness Lodge on Fox Island. Dropped off by boat, overnight visitors stay in one of nine rustic cabins that line the pine-fringed, rocky beach.

Mount McKinley is one heck of a mountain and a must-see for anyone’s first trip to Alaska. But the Kenai Peninsula offers a whole other experience, which is why it is where Alaskans go to spend their vacations.

For general information:

www.travelalaska.com/destinations/regions/southcentral/kenai%20peninsula.aspx  


 

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