With a vast setting and a small-town vibe, Homer is a destination with something for everyone. Known as the “Cosmic Hamlet by the Sea,” the town enjoys one of Alaska’s most glorious settings with views of Kachemak Bay and dramatic volcanic peaks like Redoubt, Iliamna, and Augustine.
As the Halibut Fishing Capital of the World, many charters focus on halibut, but you can also opt for combo trips targeting salmon or prized lingcod.
Visit the Visitor Center
Located at the end of Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula on the picturesque Kachemak Bay, Homer is the “city at the end of the road,” known for its cerulean bay, world-class halibut fishing, and easy access to prime bear viewing and hiking areas. Whether you’re here for a day or a week, there are plenty of ways to explore this charming seaside town.
Start your trip at the Islands and Ocean Visitor Center, which poetically describes itself as “where the road ends and the adventure begins.” This modern facility is a comprehensive introduction to marine life in this part of Alaska’s coast. Expect to spend about an hour here.
Then stroll the 4.5-mile Homer Spit, where locals and visitors gather to enjoy many sights and activities. Depending on your time of year, this could mean taking in the view from the Baycrest Overlook or heading out on a halibut fishing charter (check out North Country Halibut Charters or True North Kayak Adventures).
For some culture, head to Bunnell Street Gallery. Featuring art by local artists, this small gallery is a great place to connect with the community. Check out the Saturday or Wednesday farmers markets for a taste of the local food scene.
The Salty Dawg Saloon is a must if you’re looking for a drink. Known for its unique history and quirky design, this bar is one of Homer’s most iconic attractions. Grab a seat on the outdoor patio and sip a local beer, like an Alaskan Brewing Company pale ale or a brew from Homer’s Kodiak Island Brewery.
Hike at Wynn Nature Center
No trip to Homer is complete without a walk on the Spit, a narrow sliver of land that separates Kachemak Bay and Cook Inlet. It’s also a day-trip destination for nature lovers, who can hike the pristine forest trails of Carl E. Wynn Nature Center, which doubles as a wildlife refuge for bears and moose.
The park’s 1.4-mile loop trail is popular for hiking and walking and offers thick fauna, wildflowers, and multi-glacial views. The course also features a staff yurt and 800 feet of handicapped-accessible boardwalk, including a trail for the visually impaired. The paved parking lot and Daisy Lee Bitter interpretive log cabin are free for all to use, but reservations are recommended for guided walks led by naturalists.
Other trails offer a scenic vista and a variety of landscapes, from open meadows to dense forests teeming with birds, wildlife, and dazzling fauna. The courses also have plenty of benches for resting along the way.
The park also hosts a series of group activities in the winter, from craft projects to fire building and tracking, according to Reiske. He says the winter months offer opportunities to see more elusive animals during summer, from snowshoe hares and moose to coyotes and lynx.
Pack waterproof gear, a warm jacket and pants, sturdy shoes, and a daypack to carry food and water. A pair of binoculars will help you spot birds, whales, and other wildlife. The park is a short drive from several restaurants on the Spit, but you can also stop at AJ’s Old Town Steakhouse for a steak dinner or Broken Oar Oyster Bar for the best halibut in town.
Visit the Salty Dawg Saloon
If you’re visiting Homer, Alaska, drive to “The Spit” and drop into the iconic Salty Dawg Saloon. It’s not just a bar; it’s a favored hangout of local fishermen and Spit business people, who gather there at the end of their long, hard days for a cold beverage, conversation, and a bite to eat. It’s a place that celebrates its rich history and has a unique allure that makes it a must-see for visitors and residents alike.
Whether you want to grab a quick beer or take in some great musical performances, this is the place to go. The bar is cash only (merchandise available behind the bar and in the Salty Girl gift shop), so make sure you bring plenty of your spending money. The bartenders are fun and friendly and know how to make a great drink. The bar is often crowded, especially when cruise ships dock, but the atmosphere is worth it!
Many of the walls and ceilings at the Salty Dawg are adorned with dollar bills signed and stuck by people who visit. These, along with life rings and other maritime trophies from boats that went down at sea, remind visitors why fishing is sometimes called the most dangerous job in America. It’s a saloon that remembers its past and the people who made it what it is today.
The Salty Dawg has been around for a while now, having been built in 1897, not long after Homer was established. Over the years, it has served as a post office, railroad station, grocery store, and coal mining office before Chuck Abbott opened it as the Dawg in April 1957. It’s a recognizable landmark thanks to its lighthouse facade that covers a water storage tank, and it has even been featured on Discovery’s Deadliest Catch reality show.
Shop on the Spit
If you like to shop, Homer is worth a stop. Local independent shops offer a wide range of Alaskan-made creations and essential gear for outdoor adventures.
Plenty of restaurants along the Spit, from clam chowder to fresh-caught halibut. You’ll also want to try some of the local craft beer that Homer is famous for. Try the Red Knott Scottish ale, named for migrating shorebirds, or the China Poot Porter, which gets its name from one of the mountains that tower over Kachemak Bay.
You’ll also find a small but well-stocked grocery store on the Spit and a few liquor stores and souvenir shops. Ulmer’s on the Spit is a favorite of locals as it has everything from a large selection of beer and wine to snacks, toiletries, and a little bit of everything else. It’s a great place to pick up items for camping trips, including tents, sleeping bags, and cooking equipment, as well as things like tarps and hammers.
Another must-stop is the Homer Gold Mine Gifts store, jam-packed with all sorts of Alaskan-themed novelties and souvenirs. You’ll find everything from smoked salmon and halibut to fuzzy animal slippers, Alaska-themed clothing, and Christmas ornaments. It’s also a great place to stock up on gifts for friends and family back home.
It’s not uncommon for the weather to be chilly in Homer, so having a light jacket or raincoat is a good idea. You could also get a backpack to carry an extra sweater, water, snacks, and a phone while exploring. This North Face waterproof backpack is an excellent option because it folds into itself, making it easy to store and take out again for your next adventure.
Explore the Alaska Islands and Ocean Visitor Center
The Alaska Islands and Ocean Visitor Center is a fun, interactive museum with plenty to do for families. This museum focuses on the wildlife and natural beauty of Alaska’s 5,000 miles of Pacific coastline. It features exhibits about the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge and Kachemak Bay Research Reserve. It also houses a model of a biologists’ field camp and a Bering Sea bird rookery. The Visitor Center also features a film about ship-based marine research and offers a schedule of educational programs and guided walks.
The best time to visit Homer is when bears and moose are most active in summer. June, July, and August are the best times to see marine wildlife in Homer. You can cruise across Kachemak Bay and watch for whales, sea otters, seals, bald eagles, and more. During the summer, you can also tour the Kilcher Homestead Living Museum, a working pioneer homestead.
A trip to Homer wouldn’t be complete without a stroll down the Spit. The Spit is a long, thin piece of land that juts into the waters of Kachemak Bay. It is one of the world’s longest roads into ocean waters and is a gathering place for everyone from fishermen to shoppers.
Whether you are looking for a unique souvenir or a beautiful piece of art, you can find it in Homer. The city’s local artisans create various works, including watercolors, sculpture, pottery, woodwork, and jewelry. You can also check out the Bunnell Street Gallery in Homer to find art that reflects the area’s rural and coastal lifestyle. The Alaska Islands and Ocean Visitor Center is another excellent way to learn more about the culture of Homer.