My Trip to Alaska
Alaska is a spectacular destination! From the exquisite mountains and vistas to the snow-covered glaciers, diverse wildlife, the outstanding hikes, to the fabulous fishing, Alaska is like no other place on earth. Alaska is truly a bucket-list trip! After spending an incredible 10 weeks in Alaska on our 6-month road trip, I am providing a series of 3-to-10-day itineraries for those who want to visit Alaska on their own. We found that we were able to see more than those on cruises or in tour groups on our bucket-list 10-day self-guided Alaska Kenai-Peninsula itinerary.
- My Trip to Alaska
- Why Visit the Kenai Peninsula?
- Where is the Kenai Peninsula?
- 10-Day Self-Guided Alaska Kenai-Peninsula Itinerary
- Arriving in Alaska
- Kenai-Peninsula Itinerary Highlights
- Visiting Anchorage Alaska
- Travel from Anchorage to Portage & Whitter
- Travel to Seward Alaska
- Why go to Homer Alaska?
- Homer Accommodations
- Last Day
- Getting around Alaska
- What is the Best Month to go to Alaska?
- Alaska Trip Planning
Why Visit the Kenai Peninsula?
From the Kenai Peninsula, you can see almost everything an Alaska trip has to offer. Visit and hike to glaciers, observe volcanoes and exquisite vistas, Alaska’s wildlife, fish for salmon and halibut, go birding, and visit remote lands accessible only by boat or plane. Cruise on Cook Inlet and Kachemak Bay. Visit National and State Parks and Forests. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime bucket-list 10-day self-guided Alaska Kenai-Peninsula itinerary.
Where is the Kenai Peninsula?
The Kenai Peninsula is in Southcentral Alaska, directly south of Anchorage. It is approximately 1-hour’s drive on what some consider America’s most scenic highway, Seward Highway/Alaska Route 1.
10-Day Self-Guided Alaska Kenai-Peninsula Itinerary
This first Alaska itinerary and definitely a bucket-list area takes us from Anchorage through the Kenai Peninsula. There is so much to see and do on the Kenai, which means it’s possible to take your time and spend a month on the Kenai Peninsula rather than the 8-days proposed in this itinerary. We spent 3 weeks on Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula vetting the best things to do. Now we can share them with you as the best of Alaska in this 10-night day Alaska Kenai-Peninsula itinerary.
Arriving in Alaska
Anchorage is often the arrival point for most Alaska visitors, as it is a major port city and the largest city in Alaska. People fly or cruise to and from Anchorage.
Those who drive generally enter Alaska near Tok, the farthest eastern town. If driving, there are many choices on which direction to go from Tok; some of my upcoming itineraries will offer those options.
For this 10-day self-guided Alaska Kenai-Peninsula itinerary head to Anchorage; drive time from Tok taking Route 4 to Route 1 is just under 6 hours. There are several places to stop along the way, and you’ll find those in my upcoming itinerary called Palmer to Valdez Alaska. Let’s start with visiting Anchorage on Day 1.
Kenai-Peninsula Itinerary Highlights
- Anchorage – 1-night
- Portage & Whittier – 1-night and 2-days
- Seward 3 or 4-nights, 3-full days
- Homer – 3 or 4-nights (if you have more time, spend 5 nights in Homer)
- Anchorage – 1-night
Visiting Anchorage Alaska
No matter where you enter, once in downtown Anchorage, there is so much to see. I recommend two nights (especially if the first night is after your travel to Anchorage), and one full day in Anchorage before setting off for the Kenai Peninsula.
The downtown area looks much like any American city filled with office buildings; however, there are many businesses dedicated to tourists’ interests and needs. With so much to do and see, get an early start. Start at the downtown Visitor Center and ask the staff to help plan your day around the following activities.
1-Day in Anchorage
- Visit the Alaska Native Heritage Center to learn about the indigenous people of the ‘last frontier,’ a great way to start on an Alaska excursion. It is important to understand the history and culture of Alaska. Visiting the Heritage Center gives visitors this foundational understanding. Tickets and transportation can be arranged at the visitor center.
- Take the Trolley Tour for a fun overview of Anchorage, its history, and to learn about and see the areas affected by the earthquake of ‘64.
- Visit Alaska Public Lands Information Center across the street from the Visitors Center to see the exhibits on history and culture of Alaska, learn from the rangers there, and see the various films about Alaska – all free.
- Ride the free shuttle to the Ulu factory and check out the salmon runs at Ship Creek. If eating dinner out is on your agenda, Bridge Seafood has excellent food, and their windows overlook Ship Creek.
There are plenty of accommodation options in Anchorage. Head out early the next morning to Portage and Whittier on the Kenai Peninsula.
Be sure to stock up on groceries while in Anchorage, so you are ready for the excursion to the Kenai since the first 5 days are in areas where there are very limited and overpriced food stores.
Travel from Anchorage to Portage & Whitter
This is 2-days with 1-night. Since there a few to no food stops, pack lunch before leaving Anchorage.
On the early morning drive, make sure passengers are awake to view the Seward Highway, considered one of Alaska’s five most scenic highways. Route 1/Seward Highway hugs the shoreline during most of the 1-hour trip along the Turnagain Arm.
The Route to Portage and Whittier
- If traveling between mid-July through August, stop at Beluga Point lookout, just south of Anchorage, to see if you can spot the white whales.
- Along the Seward Highway at the 100 mile-marker in Bird Creek, stop to see the sculptures and exquisite Turnagain Gallery Alaskan Arts and Gifts with wood carvings and other artwork from over 35 Alaskan artists. https://www.turnagaingallery.com/ – Summer hours 10-6.
- If a bore tide is predicted, stop at Bird Point about 30 minutes before the tide’s predicted arrival. Funnel tides are rare to see and can take a variety of forms. Read about them here.
Things to do in Portage and Whittier – Day 1
- Stop at the Portage Visitor Center to view interactive state-of-the-art free exhibits incorporating sensory experiences, video tours and movies all highlighting the Prince William Sound and Chugach National Forest.
- From Portage, hike to the Byron Glacier in the Chugach National Forest. A 3.2-mile easy out-and-back trail gets you onto the snow at the base of the hanging glacier. It’s fun to play in the snow in summer!
- Take the Portage Glacier Cruise to get up-close to the glacier and learn about the area, the glacier and its history from a US Forest Service narrator on board. This is an inexpensive glacier boat tour; if you have Toursaver coupon book, it is a 2-for-the-price-of-1.
- Take a drive through the historic and unusual Whittier tunnel. Once on the Whittier side if you are up for a moderate hike, hike up the Portage Pass Trail to the top, overlooking the Portage Glacier and Lake. Personally, I think this gorgeous view is not to be missed, so it’s worth the energy climbing to the top.
- Dine in Whittier at Swiftwater Seafood where orders are taken inside and food is eaten on the outside deck on the canal – a beautiful setting.
There are several choices for overnighting in Whittier – an Inn, condos, and a few campgrounds. Or, go back to Portage and camp in Williwaw National Park. Or head to Girdwood or Alyeska to stay in resort accommodations.
- If staying in Whitter or Portage, stop at the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center before leaving the area to see the Alaskan wildlife.
- If staying in Alyeska, ride the Aerial Tram in the morning before leaving. Or head there after the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center before going to Seward for your next Adventure.
- On Day 2, head to Seward to arrive by lunchtime at Exit Glacier.
Travel to Seward Alaska
If you skip Portage and Whittier, I still recommend the stops south of Anchorage on the scenic Seward Highway.
Seward has one of the most picturesque harbors and waterfronts in the world! If you have just 3 nights in Seward, you can pack 3-days full of fun things to do. Kenai Fjords is one of the most unique and beautiful National Parks that is accessed from Seward. There’s so much to do in Seward, and I have included the top things for a 3-day visit.
The Route to Seward
- On the way into Seward, picnic and hike to Exit Glacier, and see parts of Kenai Fjords National Park as you hike. It’s an easy hike.
- Or, take the trail to Harding Icefield, an expansive icefield in the Kenai Mountains. While a spectacular hike, it is a strenuous 8.2-mile roundtrip with an elevation gain of over 3800’. If you are interested in this hike, plan for a full day.
Things to do in Seward
- When you arrive in Seward, a top destination o the Kenai Peninsula, walk along the waterfront at Resurrection Bay and on the seaside path to take-in one of the world’s most beautiful harbors. Walk through Waterfront Park to watch the otters and other wildlife.
- On your first evening, check out the Alaska SeaLife Center – and its schedule of events for the next 2 days. Choose a day to go and plan to spend most of the day there.
- At the SeaLife Center,
- Go to each of the animal demos that interests you. If you don’t want to pay extra for the Puffin Experience, you can stay in the exhibit and watch others feed the puffins.
- Make sure to check out the touch tanks in the SeaLife Center; I loved feeling some of the underwater animals that I am not allowed to touch when I scuba dive.
- Observe baby otters that are being nursed, watch the sea lions being trained, and check out the harbor seals up-close.
- Take breaks when not attending programs, picnic outside on the waterfront, and stroll along the waterfront.
- The Toursaver coupon book has a 2-for-1 coupon for the SeaLife Center.
- Sign-up for an all-day Glacier and Wildlife Cruise in Kenai Fjords National Park to see whales, puffins, otters, sea lions, seals, the glaciers and more. I highly recommend the all-day tour with Major Marine for an incredible all-day cruise, and splurge on the buffet – it’s one of the best meals for the money that you’ll get in Alaska. Major Marine has a discount in the Toursaver coupon book.
- If you have a fishing license, equipment, and time, fish along the shore in your evenings.
Food and Accommodations in Seward
While there are many restaurants in Seward, the only restaurant that we ate at was Apollo on 4th Street. We had an excellent pizza. We heard other diners rave about the seafood, especially the king crab legs. A table next to us brought in fish they caught, and the restaurant cleaned and cooked them to eat there.
There are lots of places to stay in Seward – hotels, lodges cabins, B&Bs, private and city campgrounds. If camping and planning to stay at the sought-after Seward City Waterfront Campground, arrive around 7:30 AM on Tuesday through Thursday to secure a prime spot in summer. Weekends are often full; people arrive on Thursday morning to secure a weekend site. This campground is used regularly by local Alaskans, so it can be full in the summer.
Why go to Homer Alaska?
Homer and Homer Spit on the Kenai Peninsula offer some of the most beautiful views of the harbors, bays, glaciers, and volcanoes. It is considered the ‘Fishing Capital of the World,’ and fishing is an experience worth having when in Alaska. Many fishing charters leave out of Homer, and fishing along the shore is a popular pastime on Homer Spit. Options for flightseeing and bear-viewing abound out of Homer, and both are ‘once-in-a-lifetime-experiences.’ We loved our time in Homer.
If your whole Alaska trip is 10-nights, plan to spend 3 in Homer. If you have more time, spend at least 5-nights in Homer. We spent 6-nights in Homer, and if we wanted 1-day to relax, 7-nights would have been better. The agenda I propose will offer a packed schedule, but all of the recommendations/excursions are worthwhile.
The Route to Homer
Rise early since the trip to Homer can be a long one (depending on roadwork) with provisioning and sightseeing stops too. If camping or cooking your own meals, stop at the Fred Meyer Supermarket in Soldotna to stock up; it has the best prices and selection. They even carry fish from the local fisherman at very reasonable prices. Otherwise, food is very expensive and limited in Homer.
- On Route 1 South, stop in Ninilchik, an Alaskan Native Village with a Russian settlement on the water, known for fishing. Visit the local gallery and learn the history of the settlement.
- Next stop is Anchor Point. Tourists often visit during salmon runs. There is a state park, art gallery, and 2 nature preserves in Anchor Point.
- In Homer, stop at the Skyline Drive Overlook of Kachemak Bay. It looks out to the Augustine volcano. It’s an exquisite vista of mountains, snow, ice, sea and sky.
- If it is open, stop at the Islands and Ocean Visitor Center. Tour the exhibits, see the films, find out what ranger tours are being given while you are in Homer in case you want to come back for something like birdwatching the Sandhill Cranes. If they are not open, plan another time to visit.
- Nearby is the Two Sisters Bakery for a snack or a sweet treat.
On Day 2 and 3 in Homer …
- If you plan to fish, Homer is the place. Make sure to get a license before fishing. There are places in Homer to purchase a license, or you can buy one in advance online. Definitely go fishing on a charter boat. I recommend choosing a smaller 6-pack charter for personalized attention. We loved our all-day halibut fishing trip with Daniel’s Personalized Guide Service. To learn more about fishing in Homer check out my article.
- Don’t miss our top experience of the entire 10-weeks in Alaska – Bear-viewing. This is an opportunity to see the bears up-close in their habitat where food is plentiful (so they are not interested in humans at all). It’s fun to observe their behavior and watch sows with their cubs. You can read all the details here. Choose the morning trip so you have the rest of the day for other sightseeing, like walking around Homer Spit and the waterfront.
- If time allows, consider a trip to Seldovia from Homer Spit to enjoy a cruise across Kachemak Bay, watching snow-capped mountains, remote coastline, and Alaskan sea life on the way to a remote tiny Native and Russian town surrounded by natural beauty.
I recommend the Wildlife Cruise to Seldovia with Rainbow Tours. It’s reasonably priced, includes a wildlife tour, and there are both senior and children’s discounts if you ask.
In Homer and on Homer Spit (which is where I recommend staying), there are several private and city campgrounds, hotels, condos, cabins, lodges, BnBs, cottages, house rentals – plenty of choices. Alaskans vacation in Homer so it can be crowded in summer. If you are up and out early, you can miss the crowds. At happy hour the crowds are out in droves.
After all of this fun, head back to Anchorage for an overnight if you must fly home after 10 nights. If you have more time consider adding another one of my recommended itineraries. Stay tuned for the next itinerary publication. I will be writing about Fairbanks and Denali, so you can proceed to Fairbanks or Denali which are great areas to spend several days. Or if you drive in from the Yukon, you can start with my upcoming itinerary for Fairbanks.
Getting around Alaska
While we traveled by motorhome, you don’t need to do the same for this 10-day self-guided Alaska Kenai-Peninsula itinerary.; there are plenty of hotels, AirBnBs, or camping options if you prefer to drive a car – whether it’s your own or rented. If you want to travel by motorhome and don’t own one, many places in Alaska rent them; there are also manufacturers from whom you can volunteer to pick-up a new RV and deliver it to a customer in Alaska. If driving, I highly recommend buying The Milepost travel planner since cell and internet service is scant throughout much of Alaska, Yukon, and British Columbia. You can also arrange to take the Alaskan Marine Highway System ferry or fly between different parts of Alaska.
What is the Best Month to go to Alaska?
We were in Alaska from June through mid-August, and I think summer is the best time to visit for this bucket-list 10-day self-guided Alaska Kenai-Peninsula itinerary. The weather is best in summer. Although, it is unlikely that the Aurora Borealis will be seen since there is 20 hours of sunlight in June and July in Alaska. Mosquitos can be bad in summer, but we had no issues. Late June through early August is a good time to see the best of Alaska’s wildlife with more bear activity towards the end of July and early August when the salmon are running.
From mid-June to mid-August is also the height of the tourist season so Alaska is busy. The best way to avoid crowds is early morning and evening adventures, especially once the cruise ships leave.
If you go in summer and want to do specific activities like fishing on a charter or flightseeing to remote places to watch the bears, it’s best to book several months in advance. Most other activities can generally be booked a week in advance unless they are in a cruise port city.
Alaska Trip Planning
If you want to spend multiple weeks traveling in Alaska, stay tuned for my series of new itinerary postings that allow for adding excursions and Alaska destinations to any self-guided Alaska trip itinerary. The best way to know when I post additional itineraries is to subscribe to AdventurousRetirement.com to be notified when there is a new itinerary. If you only have 10 days then this 10-day self-guided Alaska Kenai-Peninsula itinerary is a perfect Alaska Trip.
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