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
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
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
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.
HOMER'S SATURDAY FARMERS' MARKET
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.)
HOMER SPIT: ENOUGH TO KEEP YOU BUSY FOR DAYS
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
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
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
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.
"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil,
and Cody the ultra Lab
© 2012 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil