In Deep – Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula
When we starting planning (as much as unplanners do) our great RV road trip to Alaska we allotted a good chunk of time in the Kenai Peninsula. It’s touted as Alaska’s Playground so we knew our time here would be action packed and filled with adventure.
Now, at this point in the trip we’ve been in the Kenai Peninsula for a couple of weeks and as we’re heading for the west coast of the Peninsula we’re thinking to ourselves, “is this pointless”? Girdwood was filled with small town charm and breathtakingly beautiful hikes. Hope was far more than we could have ever hoped for with extreme white water rafting and a kickin’ party at the end of the road. Seward hit it out of the park with the non-stop fishing, glacier climbing, and whale smashing awesomeness…what more could possibly be left on the Kenai or be more incredible than what we’ve already experienced?
It’s in these moments, the ones where we think we’ve got a beat on Alaska that it sinks the hook in a little deeper.
We decided to make the tiny historic town of Ninilchik and the Deep Creek Beach our base camp. We checked out a few of the other options and in the end, we feel this is the sweet spot.
Ninilchik, a tiny town of less than 900 is the oldest settlement on the Kenai Peninsula. It was established in the early 1800’s by a Russian company for its elderly and disabled employees who couldn’t make the journey back to Russia. There isn’t a whole lot here beyond the old Russian Orthodox church, the Buzz coffee shop (it’s awesome) and of course the beach front camping. It’s wonderfully peaceful.
Deep Creek State Recreation Area is at mile marker 137.3 and is coveted for its fishing and razor clamming. The fishing boats are launched in, and pulled out of, the water by tractor (it’s quite the show) but we really had our hearts set on clamming right out our front door and making fresh clam chowder! Sadly, the clamming was closed this year because a big storm wiped out a lot of the razor clam population and they needed to repopulate (however clams do that?!?).
We arrived a few days before the big local music festival known as SalmonFest (formerly SalmonStock). We didn’t join in on the festival because, at the moment, we were coming down from our epic Seward adventure highs and we kinda blew our budget there. We were content hitting the water for some paddle boarding, sitting on the beach with friends and watching the sun set on the volcanic range across the water.
It was a nightly performance of the sun melting into Mount Redoubt and Mount Iliamna while the sky bursts into a canvas of color not even Monet would attempt to compete with. Every night seemed to be impossibly better than the last while the moon rise kept us up to the wee hours of the morning.
We only spent one day in Homer which for those of you that love this little spit, I am sure you’re gasping with disapproval. It is a charming and colorful small town that seems to be the Florida Keys of Alaska. It’s lovely with its panorama of mountains, white peaks and of course the famous Homer Spit (a long strip of land that stretches into the big blue bay) but it’s also touristy and crowded. We grabbed some coffee and a tasty pastry at Coal Town, walked the spit up and down and had a beer at the Salty Dawg Saloon (much like No Name Pub in the Keys but without a house beer on tap)…in the end we decided we enjoyed Old Towne the most.
One very interesting tidbit on Homer is the climate. It’s protected by the Kenai Mountains to the north and east so winter temperatures rarely drop much below zero degrees, while summer temperatures rarely rise above 70 degrees. Now I can understand why it’s such a popular destination!
Kenai & Captain Cook
We took a day trip to the town of Kenai and Captain Cook State Recreation Area with our friends Eric & Janette. Other than a good Moose encounter and a very tasty flight at Kassik’s Kenai Brewing it was a fairly uneventful trip. While the scenery was lovely, and the Kenai river was full of salmon, it kinda seemed like more of the same…it could also be we were looking for any excuse not to leave our beach front camping in Ninilchik.
You’ll drive through Soldotna coming and going to the west coast of the Kenai and it’s the best spot to fill up with fuel and stock up on groceries. The Fred Meyer welcomes RVers to stay overnight but this place is packed and they only allow RVs in a certain area, so don’t expect to stay here unless you arrive early! If you’re lucky and score a spot at the Freddie’s like we did then make sure to walk next door to St Elias Brewery. The pizza looked awesome but we just dove in on the tasty brews and ridiculous dessert. Hooray to good beer…and to walking home 🙂
All in all, we loved every bit of the Kenai, but it was here in Ninilchik, on the west coast of the Peninsula when we realized we were in deep with Alaska…the kind of deep where there is no turning back. This isn’t a place you come to, check it off your list and move on, it’s the kinda place you long to come back to sooner rather than later.
Have you been to the Kenai Peninsula? What was your favorite town or adventure? Have a question about your upcoming road trip? Tell us all about it in the comments below!
Fuel Prices – In general the least expensive fuel is found in Anchorage so make sure to fuel up before you hit the Kenai Peninsula. Here on the west coast of the Kenai we found the fuel in Soldotna to be the lease expensive.
Road Conditions – The Sterling Highway is well maintained and was in great shape.
Weather – Highs in the 70’s with lows in the upper 40’s. We had beautiful sunny weather during our entire stay.
Dates Visited – July 28 – August 4
See all our Alaska Travels and Tips here: #AlaskaBound
I had the good fortune to visit the Kenai Peninsula this year the 3rd week of July. All I can say is AWESOME!! Did not want to leave! Best spot, hands down, was Skilak Lake. Beautiful scenery, no crowds, great day fishing!! I’d love to go back in September for the fall colors and less people
Jim & Cindy Nelson
Hi Guys! Sorry we missed the chance to invite you to our slice of heaven here at Kenai Riverfront Resort on the Kenai River near Soldotna (www.kenairiverfront.com), but maybe next time?! We have the kind of relaxing, family camping atmosphere that you would have enjoyed with incredible sunsets on the river that rival Ninilchik PLUS the bonus of more than a million salmon swimming right past our riverfront every June-Sept–except for those that get caught and end up on the campfire of course! PLEASE be our guest next time you’re in Alaska, you won’t be disappointed and it’s a HUGE upgrade over camping in the Fred Meyer parking lot! We have 15 spacious RV sites, riverfront lodging, outstanding salmon & trout fishing, Wifi, shower/sauna, and much more!
Thanks for your blog, it’s great information for us when we travel in our RV too!
Jason and Nikki, we spent summer 2015 RV’ing Alaska with our 4 kids! (We arrived in Seward the day you guys left!) It’s been so fun to see your pictures, because we went to almost all the same places! We came home and thought about buying a sailboat to see other parts of the world, but it’s a toss up…we can’t seem to shake Alaska off!
yep, AK is BEAUTIFUL! We keep tossing the idea around of one day sailing up to see it from the water…but that’s a long way away.
Truly awesome that you two were in Ninilchik, AK! As I started going through your posts about AK, decided I had to read this one about Kenai Peninsula, since I purchased land in Ninilchik last year (sight unseen) Your review of the area reinforces my decision considering my purchase there. One of my managers even made snide remark to our Postmaster saying “This is Derek, he just bought land in Alaska, sight unseen” Pointed out to him, yup, I’ve seen it, on Google Earth!
Anyhow, love the blog, love the awesome videos! Maybe one day Jason will share with us which editing program he currently uses, maybe even older programs that he wishes were better, as well as what computer he’s found easiest to edit with (guessing he’s the video editor)
Just promise us all, resist the temptation to participate in one of those awful ‘reality’ shows about Alaska!
We loved Ninilchik! I did share my editing software, cameras and computers on our post last weekend: https://www.gonewiththewynns.com/best-travel-camera-video-photography
The mountain/sky/water pictures are some of the most beautiful pictures I have ever seen! All those colors!! And the moon picture with the cabin’s window light, that’s pretty cool (thinking Thomas Kinkade)… That’s funny, now I always look for a cat photo-bombing a picture – it’s like where’s Waldo!!! lol – I found 1 picture that was photo-bombed in this blog… Thank you for the great info…Ninilchik/Deep Creek on my list….
Was in Seward years ago…but will be returning next summer in my RV. I like the advice about Homer being touristy. I’ll just make that a 2 day stop, and move on. That Deep Creek MM 137 is laid back. Looks like a great spot to launch my kayaks.
Deep Creek was awesome however, as an FYI, the tides there are very extreme and paddling out there is like being stuck out on a treadmill. We did it anyway but we didn’t make it very far.
The sunsets are beautiful! Did you use a special lens to capture all of the interesting colors?
I lived on the Kenai for 9 years. You went right past my house before you got to Soldotna. I left AK after a heart attack in 2012. But now I am better and I’m going back there to stay! You are absolutely on the money by saying once you go to AK you will be back.
I truly enjoyed your Alaskan Adventure.. Wish my friend David Connelly in Maryland had tipped me off of your adventure before today as I reside in Kenai. Would have been a delight to sit and have a beer or three~ born and raised on the Kenai Pen.
Oh man, that sounds awesome! Sad we missed you. We have another article coming out this evening about our last Kenai adventure!
You two are a trip…on a trip. Pardon, I’m just trippin.
I dream of when I can do this but I’m thankful for my family while they’re still at home.
Love your videos. I’ll travel through you for now.
You guys have a fantastic blog! It’s beautiful, informative, and well organized. Please keep up the great work.
My wife and I just bought a vintage Argosy we are restoring, and are planning on spending a few months hitting the western national parks next summer with our kids. Jason and you have definitely been an inspiration to us.
We wish you the best adventures and safest travels, thanks for taking the time to say hello.
Anchorage is my adoptive home town — we moved up there from Orange County, California when I was a kid — and I purely LOVED the Kenai Peninsula when I was growing up there. I spent a lot of time there again when I was stationed at Elmendorf AFB up in Anchorage. Although I’m not what you’d call a sportsman (I don’t care for hunting or fishing), I did relish every opportunity that came along to go hiking and camping all over the place down there whenever I could. I’m glad to see that you’ve come to enjoy it as much as I did.
Absolutely loved our time in Alaska, there is no place like it!
We were up there this summer too. Left California June 6th and got home August 19th Great first trip for us and we plan to go back. We plan on spending more time on the Kenai next time. Alaska is huge and we plan on chunking it up on the few trips up there. I liked Valdez the best, but Seward and Homer were good too. Lots of places we missed including where you stayed.
Love these words: “This isn’t a place you come to, check it off your list and move on, it’s the kinda place you long to come back to sooner rather than later.”
It was (is) so wonderful to read your words. They brought back memories I had sitting by myself on the Yukon River some years ago. . . .
Imagine if every person, as part of signing nominating papers for an elected office, were required to spend a minimum of six days (10 for federal office) camped out on a desolate beach or river? When you are out in the true wilderness life’s big problems melt into meaninglessness replaced by the strengthened importance of family and friends. It would be so great if more people could be so enlightened.
We were on the Kenai in 2000. We loved it. We had lunch in Hope. One interesting thing, we had dinner in Homer, ordered halibut and it was bad. What a shock. My wife Lois and I love your videos. They are so well produced. Keep up the good work.
We totally agree that Alaska gets into you and we can’t wait to go back. We disagree on Ninilchik probably because I picked the wrong campground! We could have definitely skipped it, but LOVED Homer! We stayed in a great campground outside of town, overlooking the bay with views of those wonderful volcanic peaks: Baycrest RV Park. Seward was a disappointment for us-think it was the campground. Wish we had found something besides the municipal one. We were NOT disappointed though with the Kenai Fjoirds NP tour! Simply breathtaking! We did enjoy Kenai and Cooper Landing. My husband is a fisherman so he enjoyed fishing on the Kenai and Russian Rivers. The return trip will definitely be focused on the Kenai Penninsula.