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"The Sterling Highway finally gets to where it's going. And it's not Sterling. It's Homer.  
The highway sweeps down a hill along the bay, bypassing the older part of town,  
and runs on out to the Homer Spit. Waves crash against the spit. Seagulls and eagles
rise and fall. The wind blows. It's another great summer day in Homer, Alaska, 
and all you've got to do is sit back and enjoy it."
~ from "End of the Road -- No Place Like Homer" in the Bearfoot Guide to the
Kenai Peninsula produced by Alaska101.com, Summer 2012, p. 40

This is a continuation of the description of our day trip from our campground near Kasilof to the popular town of Homer on the southwestern end of the Kenai Peninsula. We saw and did so much again today that I'm dividing the photos and information into several segments.

We didn't know how long the weather would stay dry and the wind would be calm so our first goal today was to explore Homer Spit, a very narrow strip of land that juts out into Kachemak Bay for almost five miles. You can see what it looks like from the hill above the town at the end of the page in the previous entry.

Here's the AAA map section of the western part of the Kenai Peninsula again so you can see where we went today:

That doesn't show the Spit. You can see it on this more detailed map from The Milepost website:

Note that north isn't straight up. I'll put a map of the part of town on the mainland on the next page.

Just how narrow is Homer Spit?

When I say "narrow" I mean an average of perhaps 300 feet wide along its length. It's particularly skinny at the beginning near Coal Bay. I took this picture as we were driving near the north (beginning) end of the Spit, before we reached wider places where buildings are located:

It was a little bit wider before the infamous 1964 earthquake lowered the level of land by four to six feet, requiring some of the flooded buildings to be relocated. It also looked a little wider to us today because the tide was fairly low while we were there.

The Spit is also vulnerable to high winds and tides in Kachemak Bay that can vary up to 28 feet from very low to very high. It has the second highest tides in the world and strong currents. We also didn't want to be there if it was raining. The views would have been even more limiting than they were while the sky was cloudy.

I'll talk more about why the Spit is an extremely popular tourist destination in a minute.


The Sterling Highway heads south and east through Homer, a town with a year-round population of about 5,400 people. As with most Alaskan towns, many thousands of visitors (not all at the same time, thankfully) swell the ranks in the summer months.

The highway continues south to the end of the Spit. You simply cannot drive any farther or you'll be in the Kachemak Bay.

Just before reaching the Spit we stopped at the Saturday farmers' market on Ocean Drive. It was pretty busy at lunchtime today. From July to September the market is open on Wednesdays, too. It is an interesting mix of produce, seafood, other food products, flowers, herbs, and handmade art/crafts:


For lunch we each had a bowl of yummy Thai salmon soup, described as fresh red salmon in spicy Thai coconut with mushrooms and cabbage. I liked it so much I got a second serving to take home for supper.


Jim also got some deep-fried cod and “chips” (potatoes) at another booth. For dessert we had rhubarb coffee cake from yet another vendor.

We both sampled some fresh salad greens and healthy condiments at a different booth:

Grazing was fun and probably less expensive than eating at one of the sit-down restaurants on the Spit.

We enjoyed browsing through the interesting booths with flowers, herbs, and other plants, photos and paintings, quilts, and various other authentic, locally-made Alaskan art and other products. Many artists live in this area so the arts scene is described as "vibrant."



Note the ironing boards converted into tables.

The reflection of the trumpeter swans is a stunning photo, not a painting.

We also had the opportunity to talk with some local residents. They said they love living here and don't mind the winters because they are more moderate than in some other parts of the state, thanks to the warming effect of all the surrounding air and sea water and protection by mountains to the north and east.

Cody had to stay in the truck but it was a cool day so he didn't mind. (Dogs aren't allowed in the market area.)


After we ate lunch at the farmers' market we continued driving south on the Sterling Hwy. to the end of the Spit, a distance of about five miles.

The Spit widens just a bit as you travel south past Coal Bay and an old boat yard. About halfway down, the two-lane road is lined with lots of private and municipal RV parks, hotels, restaurants, a small boat harbor, a deep sea port, and numerous shops and art galleries:

RVs parked near the water at one of the public (city) campgrounds


Most of the commercial buildings are very close to the water, too.
Wonder what property insurance costs here??

Many vehicles were parked along the road and in parking areas but the road itself wasn’t as busy as we expected – and we didn’t see all that many people walking around.

We guess many of them were in the shops and restaurants at lunchtime, out on their personal watercraft, or on charter boats/ferries that take visitors across the bay to Kachemak Bay SP, the towns of Halibut Cove and Seldovia, and other scenic sites that can be reached only by boat or plane.

I took several pictures of interesting scenes on the Spit, including the iconic Salty Dawg Saloon & Lighthouse,

picturesque old weathered boats permanently "beached" near the road and framed with lush blooming lupines in the summertime,

the small boat harbor, and the Seafarers’ Memorial (a monument to honor those who have been lost at sea):

Near the end of the Spit are the canneries, large and small boat harbors, ferry terminal, and charter services.

Before turning around and returning to the mainland we drove over to the deep-water dock but didn’t see any large ships there. This is a major dock facility that can accommodate cruise and cargo ships as long as 800 feet, as well as Coast Guard vessels.

There is also a ferry terminal and small-boat harbor with launch ramps:

On a clear day our views across the Bay would have been more scenic from the Spit. Today they were better from higher up on Skyline Drive. I'll show them to you on the next page. Most of the mountains, glaciers, and forests you can see to the south from Homer are in the huge 400,000-acre Kachemak Bay State Park. You can rent boats or take charter tours by sea or air to explore the wilderness, which is popular for fishing and bear-viewing.

In the interest of time (the lack of it) we refrained from going into any of the shops or restaurants. There is so much to do along the Spit that we wouldn't have had time to do anything else in Homer.

Above and below:  the bike path runs right next to the abandoned boats, RVs, and
a few old buildings near the north end of the Spit. They give the place more "character."


Visitors really do need to spend at least several days in this area to do it justice.

I think it would be fun to camp in one of the private or public campgrounds on either the bay or harbor side of the Spit -- in good weather -- and just walk or ride our bikes on the bike path to shop, eat, and sightsee. The parking areas in front of most of the businesses were packed today. We don't recommend taking a large RV down this road unless you're heading to one of the campgrounds and will park it there.

I'd also like to take one or more boat tours to Seldovia, Halibut Cove, the state park, and other sites across the bay.

City on the hillside

Then there are all the things to do in town on the mainland. Let's go back there and see some more interesting places . . .

Continued in the next entry.

Happy trails,

"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil, and Cody the ultra Lab

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© 2012 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil