27 Must-Do’s on the Kenai Peninsula

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The Kenai Peninsula is my favorite area of Alaska. This is the place to find all the quintessential Alaska experiences; whale watching, hiking, glaciers, fishing, dog sledding, rafting, kayaking, bear viewing, and cute small towns. This place truly has it all.

And it’s my top recommendation for any first-time visitors to Alaska.

I created this article with specific things to do on the Kenai Peninsula. These aren’t generic suggestions, but actual things you can do, book, and enjoy.

Where is the Kenai Peninsula

The Kenai Peninsula starts just south of Anchorage along the only road, Highway 1. It’s also known as the Seward Highway, which then turns into the Sterling Highway.

Alaska has a habit of changing names of roads and highways multiple times (it drives my non-Alaskan husband crazy), so don’t be surprised if you’re on one road and all of the sudden it has a different name.

Regions on the Kenai Peninsula include Seward, Cooper Landing, Soldotna, Kenai, Ninilchik/Deep Creek, and Homer. There are lakes, hikes, a few small towns, and camping in between, but these are the main areas to visit along the Kenai Peninsula.

Note: Some people include Girdwood, Portage, and Whittier in this area, but it’s technically not part of the Kenai Peninsula so it’s not on this list. For information on Girdwood, you can find my complete Girdwood guide here. And for more day trip ideas near Anchorage, you can find a full list here.

What is the Kenai Peninsula Known For?

This area of Alaska is where you can find all the quintessential Alaskan experiences in one location. These are things like dog sledding, glaciers, hiking, mountains, whale watching & wildlife viewing, and world-class fishing. For the more adventurous there’s also kayaking, rafting, skiing, and even zip lining.

The popular Kenai Fjords National Park is located here as well, along with many state recreation areas (8 total). The Kenai National Wildlife Refuge is nearly two million acres in size and is the most visited in the state.

It’s a large area but for Alaska standards, it’s compact enough that you can fit in a lot in just a few days here.

This is the area I ALWAYS recommend for people visiting Alaska for the first time.

37 Things To Do On The Kenai Peninsula

1. Kayak at Spencer Glacier

Being able to kayak alongside large pieces of floating glacial ice is something you just have to experience for yourself. It’s incredible. To add to this adventure, the only way to get here is via the Alaska Railroad, another bucket list item you can check off.

I recommend booking with this tour (I get a small commission if you book with Viator but you can also book this exact tour directly). The train ticket is included in the tour and they handle all the logistics for you. Lunch and all the kayaking gear is included too.

2. Take the Train from Anchorage to Seward

For a beautiful way to see the scenery without worrying about driving, consider taking the train from Anchorage to Seward. This route crosses some of the most beautiful scenery in Alaska.

You pass Turnagain Arm, a stretch of tracks that skirt the large Cook Inlet waters, then make your way through the mountainous landscapes until you reach Seward.

With this tour there’s enough time built in for either a 4 or 6 hour whale watching/glacier tour while in Seward.

3. Go on a Bear Viewing Tour from Homer

Near Homer are a few popular bear viewing locations. By popular, I mean some of the best in the world to see brown bears and grizzly bears.

These tours either fly or take you by boat to get a chance to see these bears. Most of the time you’ll have a few hours on land to watch these magnificent animals in their element.

The top places to visit are Lake Clark National Park and Katmai National Park. Katmai is home to Brooks Falls, and in July when the salmon run you can see them catching fish trying to swim upstream. It’s an incredible experience and hard to describe how humbling it is to see these powerful animals in the wild.

A few great companies include JBear Tours, Alaska Ultimate Safaris, Emerald Air, and Beluga Air. I’ve also heard great things about Mel with Bear Viewing in Alaska. There are many other options, these are just some of the best known in the area.

4. Stay at an Off Grid Yurt

There are some fun yurts you can visit in Alaska that require a boat, hike, or some sort of extra mode of transportation to get there.

For a touch of luxury, Orca Island Yurts are some of the best off-grid yurts you can stay at in Alaska. They’re located across the bay from Seward in an area called Humpy Cove. To get there you’ll take their water taxi (included in the price). And the location is simply magical.

These yurts are eco-friendly and mostly use solar power. Each yurt has a full kitchen and bathroom with a compost toilet.

Guests get full access to kayaks, SUP boards, and rowboats, which is a fun way to explore the area. Note that there isn’t food available here so you’ll need to bring everything in yourself.

5. Hike Exit Glacier

About 20 miles north of Seward is Exit Glacier. This is the only area of the Kenai Fjords National Park that’s accessible by road.

There’s an easy and mostly flat network of trails to explore. The Glacier Overlook Trail is an easy one mile trail, and there’s an additional .6 miles you can take (there’s a bit of an incline) to reach the overlook viewpoint.

The glacier has been steadily retreating for years which is easily seen by the year markers staked out on the ground and roadway. So if you see a 4-digit sign, that’s the year the glacier was there.

Back at the parking area there’s a nature center and plenty of parking spaces (including RV spots too!). There are restrooms and a water bottle station. It’s an easy side trip from Seward and definitely worth a visit!

6. Hike to the Harding Icefield

Near Seward is the Harding Icefield, a 700 square mile sheet of ice that sits high up in the mountains. Over 40 glaciers jut out from this massive ice field with many on the waters of Kenai Fjords National Park.

There is a 8.6 mile out-and-back hike that you can take from Exit Glacier to see this massive display of ice. Most people (myself included) state it’s one of the best hikes they’ve ever done.

The hike starts at the Exit Glacier parking area. You’ll continue past the Exit Glacier trail and make your way along a series of brush, rivers and creeks, open fields, and rocky cliff edges as you ascend.

This is bear country so be on the lookout for movement in the brush and woods, and consider bringing bear spray if you know how to use it.

This is a challenging hike but the rewarding views are well worth it! This hike is best done in July and August once the snow has melted.

7. Try Local Beer at one of the Many Breweries

Alaska has a large and growing craft beer and cider scene, and the Kenai Peninsula is no exception. The Homer Brewing Company and Cooper Landing Brewery are my favorites, but there are many others to choose from.

In Homer, there’s also a meadery and Bear Creek Winery.

Homer Brewing Company Front of Building Alaska

8. Go Dog Sledding with Seavey’s

Seavey’s is a local dog musher that’s won the Iditarod 3 times! The family lives near Seward down Exit Glacier road.

We booked the 1.5-hour dog sledding summer tour a few years ago and had a blast. You learn about the dogs, dog mushing, the mushers schedule, and how they train. These dogs are well-loved and cared for, and it’s very evident when you’re there. My favorite part was being pulled through the winding wooded trails by the sled dogs.

Seavey's Summer Dog Sledding tour alaska summer

9. Hike the Mt Marathon Race Trail

If you love a challenging hike, don’t miss Mt Marathon in Seward. The 3,022-foot tall mountain is located to the right of downtown as you’re heading into Seward.

There are a few routes to get up the mountain. The racing side is a steep hike and can be quite dangerous, so hike with caution. I’ve hiked up the roots trail and then down the cliffs section, which is really a section of huge boulders with some water running down. The roots trail requires you to use your hands to hold on as it’s very steep. Here’s a link to the race map for a better idea of trail options.

Once you’re closer to the top, the entire area is covered in shale or scree. I found going up is quite a challenge. If your knees are good, you can almost ski down this loose rock, just know it can get a bit dicey.

There is a longer, more gentle route called ‘Jeep Trail’. It’s more mellow than the race trail at the beginning then gets much more challenging once you reach Skyline Trail. Access is off a neighborhood road so you might need to park in town then walk to the trailhead. Use AllTrails to see this route and get a feel for the trail.

Seward Alaska Mt Marathon Race Alaska fourth of july mountain shot

10. Watch Mt Marathon Race on July 4th

If you don’t want to hike all the way to the top but still appreciate those who do, check out the Mt Marathon Race. This is perhaps the most popular race in Alaska and one of the oldest foot races in the country. It started in 1915 and the story goes that two sourdoughs (local name for Alaskan men) argued they could make it to the top in less than an hour.

On the Fourth of July, racers start in downtown Seward. They run a mile to the base of the mountain, climb the steep race trail, run down the scree at lightning speed, then run back downtown for the finish. This is an incredible feat that draws runners from all over the world. The fastest time is 41 minutes and 26 seconds from start to finish which seems impossible when you look at the route.

If you enjoy a party and watching a fun race, be sure to check out Seward for the Fourth of July. Just note this place gets absolutely packed (the population goes from about 6,000 to 30,000 over the weekend!), and lodging prices double or even triple over the holiday.

Seward Alaska Mt Marathon Race Alaska fourth of july

11. Camp Out at Kenai Lake

Kenai Lake is a long 21-mile lake, about 20 miles north of Seward and 40 miles east of Cooper Landing. This is an emerald green lake that’s absolutely stunning. The area is quite wild and there isn’t a ton of lodging available lakeside, but there are a few nice campgrounds.

Kenai Lake at Sunset Fall Alaska

Trail River Campground has large sites on three loops. There’s a large covered picnic area, grills, a volleyball court, horseshoe pie, and even a playground (not common at many campsites in Alaska).

Ptarmigan Campground is another great option also with large sites. There are no hookups here and it’s less developed, but prices are reasonable and it’s a pretty spot.

Primrose Campground is a small campground located at the southern tip of the lake. There are only 8 sites available with many right on Primrose Creek which feeds into the lake.

Closer to Cooper Landing is Quartz Creek Campground. This is not only a local favorite but also is popular among visitors. The sites fill quickly so be sure to get a reservation well ahead of time. Many sites are large and a trail system in the woods leads campsites to the lake. Most sites are not lakefront but just a short walk to the shores.

Views at Quartz Creek Campground

12. Visit Seldovia

Seldovia is an incredibly small town of 242 people across Kachemak Bay in Homer. To get here, you take a 45-minute ferry over.

This town is remote and not on any road system which makes it feel so peaceful and laidback. This is a fishing town with a few accommodations and some good hiking (the Otterbahn Trail is my favorite and ends at a beach).

There’s a lovely boardwalk on stilts to explore. It’s small, but there are a few shops and you can get good views of it from the bridge on Airport Avenue.

Seldovia Boardwalk Homer Alaska

The ferry is set up so you can do this as a day trip, just be sure to book your ferry ahead. There are also a handful of Airbnb’s and lodges you can stay at. Most are no frills, but it’s a place to lay your head in this stunning area. And there are a few restaurants to grab a bite if you do decide to stay overnight.

Seldovia Homer Mountain Alaska
View of Mt Iliamna on the ferry

13. Explore the Homer Spit

Back in Homer, one of the best things to do is walk along the Homer Spit. There are many shops, restaurants, and bars along here with 360 degree views.

It’s often windy, so I recommend a windbreaker or even better, a rain coat (because, well, Alaska).

My favorite shops along the spit include AK Starfish Co, Sea Lion Art, and Homer Clayworks.

Many of the restaurants have fantastic views, but it’s hard to beat the Chartroom at Land’s End Resort. There’s a good size deck out back to grab a drink. Their afternoon service doesn’t open until 4pm, but there are many other options along the way.

And lastly, a visit to the Spit isn’t complete without a stop at Salty Dawg Saloon. And don’t get too discouraged by the musty smells once inside, it’s all part of the ambiance.

Read Next: Should I Visit Seward or Homer (or both)?

14. Hike to World War II Bunkers (Seward)

There’s a popular hike just south of Seward in an area called Lowell Point. This is one of my favorite areas in Alaska; it’s quiet and peaceful, you’re at the end of the road so there isn’t any traffic, and there’s a huge beach area that’s perfect for tide pooling.

Caines Head Trail and Tonsina Trail both start at Lowell Point State Recreation Site. There are two parking area, the main gravel parking area and the upper lot.

The first trail takes you to Tonsina Point. From here, you can continue a few miles to reach Fort McGilvray.

Here’s the tricky part: you need to time your hike to coincide with a low tide. You’ll need to leave BEFORE low tide so you can time your hike to walk the beach portion once the tide is low. Because of this, many people camp overnight then come back the next day at low tide. Another good option is to take a water taxi with Miller’s Landing. You can find all of that information here.

If you don’t want to worry about timing the low tides, then you can hike to Tonsina Trail and beach area. The hike starts in a beautiful wooded area, then turns to heavy brush and trees surrounding you for most of the hike (no views), then toward the end you take switch backs down a pretty trail area. You’ll cross a bridge and can turn left to the beach area at Tonsina.

15. See Glaciers & Whales on a Day Cruise (Seward)

This is perhaps my FAVORITE thing to do in all of the Kenai Peninsula. There are two main companies that run these tours; Major Marine and Kenai Fjords. I’ve gone on tours with both companies and they’re quite similar.

The boats I’ve been on with Major Marine are larger and wider, which made them more stable when we entered the bigger open waters. We always book with Major Marine now, but that’s just my personal preference.

There are quite a few different tour options. The 6-hour tour, in my opinion, is the perfect amount of time and covers the best sights in the area. You get up close with the stunning Aialik Glacier, a tidewater glacier that calves regularly.

Seward Alaska Boat Cruise Major Marine Tours Glacier

You’ll also visit a large sea lion population, stop at some of the large bird areas, and likely see some whales. We often see orcas, humpbacks, and whales. Sometimes porpoises come up to the boats to play around them too.

Read Next: Whale Watching in Alaska: Best Time of Year and Complete Guide

16. Go on a Halibut Charter

Homer is known as the Halibut Capital of the World. From Homer you can take a fishing charter for the day.

About an hour from Homer is Deep Creek and Ninilchik. This is also a popular location for fishing charters. The boats are launched using a tractor on the beach, which is a unique way to get out on the water! Many people prefer this area over Homer as the ride is shorter and there’s less of a chance for seasickness.

However, halibut fishing involves getting out in big, open water and it’s not uncommon for people to get seasick. So you might be out in 2 foot seas, or you could be stuck in 7 foot seas or higher. But hey, while in Alaska, right?!

Seward is another great place for halibut and rockfish.

Read Next: The Perfect 2 or 3 Day Homer Itinerary

Fish cleaning station at Miller’s Landing near Seward

17. Visit a Winery in Homer

Wineries?! In Alaska? Yes, there are a handful here. In Homer there’s Bear Creek Winery.

You won’t find the typical reds and whites though, instead there are sweeter varieties mostly made of fruits such as raspberry, blueberry, and apple (although there are many others). They offer a red blend, port wines, tiers, sparkling apple, chardonnay, and zin wines.

The winery also has private suites. The area is rustic yet has a romantic atmosphere, and who doesn’t want to stay at a winery?

Homer Alaska Fall September partial view of Homer Spit
Homer

18. Eat Dinner in an Old Train Car

Addie Camp is a unique restaurant located in a historic 1913 rail car in Soldotna, Alaska. It’s an upscale eatery with beautiful views of the Kenai Mountains.

Originally used by the railways in Oregon in the lower 48, the rail car now serves as a dining space offering gourmet meals.

They serve food with an Alaskan flare. They’re open for dinner only and require reservations. If you’re a foodie, this is a great stop on the way to Homer or if you’re staying in the Soldotna area.

19. Jet Ski to a Glacier

What’s better than jet skiing? Jet skiing to a glacier, of course! In Seward, you can book a jet ski tour that takes you out around Resurrection Bay. You’re almost guaranteed to spot whales, sea otters, sea lions, or other wildlife as you make your way along the bay.

This is a half day tour that covers over 40 miles. While it’s not an inexpensive tour, it’s sure to be one of the best parts of your trip.

Holgate Glacier Seward Alaska

20. Raft on the Kenai River

There’s a little town called Cooper Landing that runs along the massive Kenai River. You’ll pass through Cooper Landing on the way south to Kenai, Soldotna, and Homer. The town is small and is mostly a fishing and recreation area.

A fun thing to do here is raft along the Kenai. This river is a stunning shade of emerald green with beautiful mountain views everywhere you look.

What’s nice about these raft options is the river is much more mellow than other places around the state. You can even book a scenic river cruise if you want to get out on the water but avoid the rapids. As you drive through the town (much of town is along Highway 1) you’ll see tons of raft companies. For a longer raft option, check out Alaska River Adventures, but there are many other options available too.

Kenai Lake feeding into the Kenai River

21. Stay at the Kenai Princess Wilderness Lodge

Also in Cooper Landing are a handful of lodges including the Kenai Princess Wilderness Lodge. This lodge is part of the Princess Lodges that you’ll find around the state. The lodge sits right above the Kenai River with a wraparound seating area to take in the views. There are bungalow style rooms, a cocktail lounge, and an on-site restaurant.

If you want to fish the famous Kenai, go rafting, hiking, or need a beautiful place to stay between Anchorage and Homer, this is the perfect place.

If you use One Key with hotels.com or any Expedia brand, you can earn points toward a discount or free stay.

Kenai Princess Wilderness Lodge

22. Stay at Tutka Bay

Across Kachemak Bay from Homer sits many coves and bays. One of which, Tutka Bay, has a luxury lodge but also some yurts for rent. The yurts are no frills and fairly remote, requiring a water taxi to get there.

They’re affordable in an otherwise expensive state and a fun way to experience Alaska. You’ll need to pack in everything you bring, though, so a cooler and some packing essentials are required.

REI has a camping set rental you can grab in Anchorage for a reasonable price, and my recommendation instead of purchasing costly equipment.

For a little more luxury, check out Tutka Bay Lodge. There are private cabins, trails, coves, and much more.

23. Camp at Skilak Lake

Skilak Lake is a large and uninhabited lake just past Cooper Landing at Mile 58 (turn on Skilak Lake Road). The lake is 15 miles long and upwards of 4 miles wide. There’s an 18-mile gravel road that you can take off of Highway 1 (Sterling Hwy) to reach the lake.

There are four campsites. Upper Skilak Lake Campground is the largest campground with 26 campsites, and there’s a Lower Skilak Campground with 14 additional campsites. Neither has hookups but there is a dump station, tables, fire pits, and a boat launch. Upper Skilak also has water and toilets.

There’s no reservation system and all campsites are on a first-come, first-served basis. Please note you need to check with your vehicle rental company to see if you can drive this gravel road (many do not allow it).

24. Grab a Drink at Salty Dawg Saloon

No dive bar in Alaska is more iconic than the Salty Dawg Saloon on the Homer Spit. There’s a musty smell that can only be attained by years of spilled drinks and seawater. The entire bar is covered in signed dollar bills and patrons are encouraged to add their own bill to the wall. The bills are taken down each year and donated to charities like the Special Olympics.

The saloon dates back to 1897. It was a post office, railroad station, grocery store, and coal mining office. And with an addition added it even served as a school house at one point. The Salty Dawg Saloon officially opened in 1957.

Soon after during the 1964 earthquake it was dropped into the sea – along with 70% of the spit.

It was then moved to another location on the spit near a boat harbor. Interestingly, the lighthouse was never actually used as a lighthouse. Rather, it was built to cover a water tank.

25. Stay at Odyssey Lodge

The Odyssey Lodge is a remote luxury lodge across from Homer, on Kachemak Bay. Here you feel immersed in nature and can choose from a bay view cabin or treetop suite.

The lodge is brand new with newly built facilities in 2024. Amenities include a sauna, golf simulator, exercise gym, yoga studio, and pool table.

There’s also the possibility to book excursions including kayaking, hiking, fishing, bear viewing, and glacier viewing.

They also offer a day pass where you have access to all the amenities and can eat at The Meandering Goat, their on-site restaurant.

26. Visit Hope, a Historic Mining Town

Hope is a tiny town, really more of a village, about two hours south of Anchorage along the Turnagain Arm. There are only 70 full-time residents that call Hope home.

The town was one of the first sites for the famous Alaska Gold Rush. The town was formed in 1895, even before Anchorage was founded. Miners were here just a few years before the larger Klondike Gold Rush in Canada’s Yukon began.

Today many of the original buildings still stand. The oldest building is the Hope Social Hall, built in 1902. There’s a small museum called Hope-Sunrise Mining Museum

The town is located about 20 minutes from the main highway. There are many hiking trails and rafting is popular too.

27. Raft Six Mile Creek

Near Hope is a popular and *extreme* whitewater rafting stretch with class IV and V rapids. There are 2-3 pool-drop canyons to descend, depending on the difficulty you choose. This trip, done with NOVA, is known for being the most challenging in Alaska and even requires a pre-trip swim test.

If you enjoy rafting, be sure to check out this NOVA rafting trip.

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