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I hear it all the time: “I want to visit the part of Alaska without crowds.” “Tell me where to go to avoid the tourists.” “We want to go off the beaten path!” Here’s the reality: there are tourists and crowds everywhere in Alaska in the summer months – the only places off the beaten path are places off the road network, like smaller communities out in the bush or accessible only by ferry in the Southeast. But if you want to get close to that off-the-beaten-path, crowd-and-tourist-free kind of place, Homer’s gotta be at the top of the list.
Despite the fact that I grew up in Alaska, I had never visited Homer before a trip in August 2022; don’t ask me why my parents never made the journey, as Homer is truly delightful, and one of the last major communities where you can escape cruise crowds in the summer! Now, you may not say I’m an Alaskan as I no longer live there, but I’m an Alaskan at heart – I was raised there and it’s the place I most love to visit. (Take that as you will…)
Learn from my mistake in waiting so long to visit: make sure Homer is part of your Alaska itinerary, and I promise you won’t regret it. There are some incredible things to do in Homer, and you really need several days to even tick your own must-sees off the list.
Below I’ve put together what I consider to be a pretty comprehensive collection of Homer’s top attractions, tours, and experiences, but there may be others you hear about; if you have questions, I’m always happy to help in the comments at the end of this post. Ready to see why Homer is a must-visit spot and all you can do while there? Let’s go!
In this post, I promote travel to a national park that is the traditional lands of the Alutiiq (Sugpiaq) and Dena’ina Ełnena peoples. With respect, I make a formal land acknowledgment, extending my appreciation and respect to the past and present people of these lands. To learn more about the peoples who call these lands home, I invite you to explore Native Land.
Explore the Homer Spit
Let’s begin this list of things to do in Homer with a visit to the iconic Homer Spit. This narrow, five-mile strip of land extends into Kachemak Bay and is home to a variety of shops, restaurants, and stunning views. Here are a few specific things to do on the Homer Spit.
Stroll the Beach
As one might expect for a five-mile strip of land, that’s a whole lotta beach to go beachcombing on! I don’t recommend walking the whole distance, but you can certainly head down onto the beach as part of visiting the Spit to see what the tide has brought in. You might even spot seals or otters resting on the beach depending on the ocean conditions!
Grab a Drink at the Salty Dawg Saloon
A trip to Homer wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the historic Salty Dawg Saloon, and as such, my first (and only) trip to Homer was incomplete as I never went in for a drink myself!
This iconic watering hole, housed in a charming log cabin with a neighboring lighthouse, is not only a great place to enjoy a drink but also a living piece of local history. Covered in dollar bills from visitors around the world, the Salty Dawg Saloon is a must-see even if you don’t stay and order anything. Speaking of, the menu features a mix of various Alaskan craft beers and other domestic/international beers – but they keep it simple and everything is served in cans.
Stop at the Seafarer’s Memorial
The Seafarer’s Memorial is an interesting spot on the Spit – it’s also a good starting point to get a little local history before heading to the streets for shopping and dining. This touching tribute honors the Homer-based and Alaskan fishermen who have perished at sea. It provides a quiet place for reflection while enjoying panoramic views of Kachemak Bay, and is an important part of understanding the seafaring history of Homer.
See the Homer Swing
While it isn’t officially called the “Homer Swing,” that’s the easiest way to describe that: it’s a swing hidden under the buildings on one part of the Homer Spit, and it’s an iconic photo destination.
Even if you’re not “doing it for the ‘gram” this is a quirky little spot unlike anywhere else you’ll find in Alaska, so maybe it is worth visiting and taking a photo – just to immortalize what makes Homer unique!
Go Wildlife & Whale Watching
Many Alaska visitors come here to see whales; I’ve done many whale-watching tours myself both growing up in Alaska and on return visits.
While most people head to Seward, or perhaps Whittier or Valdez, for whale watching, Homer is another spot where you can head out and try your luck. Homer’s waters are teeming with marine life, including whales, sea otters, and porpoises.
You’ll find numerous tour operators in the area offering excursions that give you a front-row seat to the displays of these magnificent creatures; as part of my day tour to Seldovia (more on that below) with Rainbow Tours, we had several whale encounters with humpbacks in Homer’s waterways.
Visit the Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies
If you’re looking for Homer activities to do with children, the Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies is a great alternative; it’s also interesting for adults as it provides some context to the importance of understanding and protecting the coastal ecosystems of Homer – and Alaska as a whole, of course.
This educational facility offers programs and exhibits that highlight the unique ecosystems of the area. You can participate in guided tours and hands-on activities to connect with the natural world. The Creatures of the Dock tour is fantastic: you get to look at sea life attached to the dock as well as hold a few things and learn some interesting facts about the dock and its inhabitants.
Explore the Pratt Museum and Park
There’s no better way to delve into the land-based portion of Homer’s rich history and culture than at the Pratt Museum. Though small, the museum is crammed with exhibits that provide an insight into the people who came to Alaska for a fresh start. There are fantastic exhibits on Homer’s history, the Valdez oil spill – yes, it affected Homer, too –, bears, and sea life. You’ll also find exhibits on the region’s Native Alaskan heritage, which you know I find an important aspect for all Alaska travelers.
Stop by the Alaska Islands & Ocean Visitor Center
Looking for free things to do in Homer? The Alaska Islands & Ocean Visitor Center is an awesome free attraction, and is part of the massive Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge which encompasses some 4.9 million acres, 2,400 islands/islets, and 40 million seabirds (among many other species of marine and land mammals).
The Visitor Center is actually a museum and is great for discovering more about the diverse landscapes and ecosystems of the region. Besides the great content, most of the exhibits are interactive, so the kids can have fun pressing buttons. The museum is a short walk from Bishop’s Beach in case you want to get a first-hand experience of the ocean life. Speaking of…
Stroll on Bishop’s Beach Park
If you’re up for a serene experience (or romantic one), head to Bishop’s Beach Park. This beautiful stretch of coastline is perfect to unwind with a leisurely walk along the shore while taking in the stunning views of the mountains and bay.
You can also try your hand at beach-combing for unique treasures washed ashore; during low tides, the beach stretches way out, so it’s important to understand how to stay safe (i.e. avoid) mud flats while beachcombing in Alaska.
Visit the Kilcher Homestead Living Museum
Fans of the reality show “Alaska: The Last Frontier” will recognize – and appreciate – a visit to the Kilcher Homestead Living Museum.
In this property, you can explore the history and lifestyle of the Kilcher family, who have called Homer home for generations. The idea of the museum is to show the self-sustaining lifestyle people had in the old days in America: no stores to buy meat, filling the freezers with wildlife, and trying your best to live off the land.
Take a Fishing Charter
Whether you’re an experienced angler or a novice, fishing is one of those essential things to do in Homer; I can’t tell you how many questions I get about it! After all, the Alaskan city is the self-proclaimed “Halibut Fishing Capital of the World,” and thus this is the kind of charter you should book. (Seward is a close second when it comes to halibut, just in case you’re trying to decide between the two..)
Homer’s fishing charters cater to all levels of expertise, and most provide the necessary equipment; I haven’t done a charter myself as I don’t love fishing and am susceptible to seasickness, but the local tourism board has a comprehensive list of the charters available (there are 41 in all as of today!). Don’t miss the chance to experience the thrill of Alaskan fishing in the deep waters of Kachemak Bay.
Day Trip to Seldovia
It might seem strange to come to Homer only to go somewhere else, but there are actually two Alaskan destinations you can only reach by going through Homer – literally, as you’ll need to board a boat out on the Spit to reach them!
First up is the one that I did during my short visit: Seldovia. Seldovia is a charming village accessible by ferry or plane – most take the 45-minute ferry ride from Homer that departs several times a day, but there are also day tours that include some sightseeing, whale watching, and narration along the way there and back.
Seldovia itself is very compact, so you can see most of it on foot. Wander through its boardwalk-lined streets, visit the Seldovia Museum, or hike out to one of the secluded beaches for some privacy. Oh, and keep your eyes peeled for the wood carvings that are scattered throughout the town; they’re relics of the annual Seldovia Craft Invitational Chainsaw Carving Competition.
If you’re sold on making the trip, be sure to check out my guide to visiting Seldovia as a day trip from Homer.
Explore Kachemak Bay State Park
As you’ve gathered, Katchemak Bay is the waterway near Homer (and surrounding the Homer Spit); you might think that the state park for this bay is easily reached from Homer, but it’s actually not! Katchemak Bay State Park sits across Katchemak Bay from Homer, which means you’ll need to work a bit harder to get there – but also can escape even the sparse crowds of Homer when you do.
The park has over 400,000 acres of wilderness filled with hiking trails, camping sites, and breathtaking vistas of glaciers (including one essential one, mentioned below), mountains, and fjords. There’s also a 10-mile coastline strip that is excellent for fishing and kayaking.
To reach Katchemak Bay State Park, you’ll take a water taxi; this is a very DIY adventure so be sure to read up and understand where you want to go, and for how long, plus bring all you need with you as amenities and tourism infrastructure are limited. (There are several water taxis – just Google it and you’ll see at least a half-dozen options to consider!)
Hike toward Grewingk Glacier
Last but certainly not least, Grewingk Glacier is the highlight of visiting Katchemak Bay State Park, and as such I wanted to call it out as one of the separate things to do in Homer.
After catching a water taxi across Katchemak Bay, the hike to Grewingk Glacier is considered a challenging route – it takes an average of 5 hours and 30 minutes to complete. If you’re not that adventurous, you can do the short version, starting from the Saddle, and then switch to the Grewingk Lake Trail, which is 1.5 miles. My friends Sam & Chris did this as part of their visit to Homer in Summer 2023; their YouTube video is a good resource to see what it’s like (Grewingk Glacier starts around 2:04).
That wraps it up on my end – surely that’s enough to convince you Homer is well worth the drive and spending some quality time there. Have any questions about these things to do in Homer, or other activities you’ve heard about? Let me know in the comments below!
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