Presented by Travel Alaska
This year, travelers everywhere put their plans on hold, presenting Alaskans with a unique opportunity to get out and explore the state’s incredible destinations while supporting Alaska small businesses. Travel Alaska is encouraging residents to “Show Up For Alaska” by exploring new places and taking advantage of deals just for locals. Read on to learn about the adventures that await!
Think you’ve experienced everything the Kenai Peninsula has to offer?
No matter how many times you’ve visited spots like Seward, Homer or Cooper Landing, you’d be surprised to learn how many hidden gems there are left to discover.
Tucked away among the beaches, fjords and hillsides of Southcentral Alaska, you’ll find a range of one-of-a-kind getaways for couples and families, adventure-seekers and luxury lovers, young and old alike.
A different side of Seward
Whether it’s a day trip to the Alaska SeaLife Center or a wild Independence Day weekend watching the Mount Marathon race, you’ve probably spent some time in Seward.
But have you seen it from the other side of Resurrection Bay?
“I live in Seward,” said Charity Lehman, who owns Resurrection Bay getaway Shearwater Cove with her husband Jason. “I love that I am right on the ocean.” But, she adds, what she loves even more is getting out on the ocean and exploring more of what the bay has to offer.
The Resurrection Bay Marine Trail traces and loops around the bay’s rocky coastline, with various segments suited for sea kayakers of varying experience levels. Even beginning paddlers have opportunities to see sea lions, harbor seals and other wildlife from a new perspective.
“We’ve had humpback whales off the charts out there,” Lehman said. “It’s just incredible to be in a kayak or on the deck of your yurt and look out and see a humpback whale feeding in the cove.”
Even for guests who’ve spent time on the bay in larger watercraft, a kayak can provide a host of novel experiences.
“It’s just really neat to go paddling at the different tides,” Lehman said. “You never know what you’re going to see when you’re out paddling on the water.”
Across-the-bay destinations like Shearwater Cove offer a completely different way to enjoy Seward, she added.
“Our cove is this little nook,” Lehman said. “It’s kind of a cool new view on Resurrection Bay. It’s definitely an intimate experience of the fjords.”
The Resurrection Peninsula, which forms the eastern shore of Resurrection Bay, is home to several state marine parks that can only be reached by boat. Some of them require braving open waters and are better suited to expert paddlers, but there are also a handful of private accommodations that provide their own transportation, as well as options south of Seward on the bay’s western shore. Shearwater Cove guests travel by boat to a sheltered collection of well-appointed hillside yurts in a sheltered spot near Humpy Cove, where they can use the included kayaking gear to set off on guided or independent adventures, then relax in the evening with a view of the ocean they’ve spent the day exploring.
“We are completely surrounded by state land -- like, wilderness,” Lehman said. “It really brings this true wilderness feeling, yet you’re super comfortable in your yurt.”
Stage your peninsula adventure from Cooper Landing
Barbara Gayer wasn’t always in the tourism business. She used to work in a bank. Then, one day, a gentleman walked in to refinance the Cooper Landing resort in which he was a silent partner.
“He came in for a loan and ended up with a wife,” Gayer said. Thomas and Barbara Gayer married in 2006, and in 2008 the couple became the sole owners and operators of Eagle Landing Resort, with 12 rental cabins dotting a four-acre property along the Kenai River.
“It’s just a great location, great spot to be, right here on the river,” Gayer said. “We’re very lucky to be in this spot where you have mountains behind you and in front of you. We take it for granted, living here.”
The majority of Eagle Landing clients are headed to the Kenai Peninsula to fish, but Cooper Landing also offers horseback riding, river trips, hiking, and gorgeous scenery.
“As the Chamber of Commerce says, it’s the Gem of the Kenai Peninsula,” Gayer said. “It’s such a short drive from Anchorage to get out of town and go fishing. There’s horseback riding here. There’s scenic float trips that people can take. There’s hiking trails around here. We’ve got the Russian River Falls ... Most people do that when they’re here because it’s an easy walk. They can sometimes see the salmon jumping, trying to get up the fall there.”
The beautiful setting, anchored by the jewel-tone Kenai River, is equally suited for simply hanging out and enjoying the view: “We have people that just sit here on the bank and watch the boats go by.”
One of the things that makes Cooper Landing special -- in addition to its very convenient location -- is the sense of community, Gayer said. Eagle Landing frequently makes recommendations and connections to local fishing guides and other experiences, or even other accommodations if necessary -- part of belonging to a supportive community of tour businesses.
“Everybody helps everybody,” Gayer said. “If we can’t accommodate somebody, we try to find them something else here locally.”
Along with being a charming community, she added, Cooper Landing is the perfect scenic spot to stage a visit to the Kenai Peninsula, no matter what kind of adventure you’re seeking.
“We’re a great base camp for seeing the Peninsula,” Gayer said. “You can shoot off for a day trip down to Homer, day trip down to Seward.”
The magic of Seldovia
Homer is a favorite Alaska destination for a lot of reasons -- the fishing, the boating, the quirky arts community and food scene. But if you want to discover something even more unique, hop on the Seldovia Bay Ferry and make the 45-minute trip across Kachemak Bay to beautiful, secluded and historic Seldovia.
With beautiful beaches, scenic overlooks, tidepools to explore, forests to hike, berries to pick and fish to catch, Seldovia calls itself “Alaska’s best kept secret.”
Scott Ogan calls it something else.
“The back bay of Seldovia is incredibly special,” Ogan said. “I call it my cathedral.”
Ogan’s love for Seldovia Bay has been a driving force behind the construction of Treehouse Cove Lodge, a timber-frame beachfront getaway that he and his wife Janet opened for business just this year.
“We love Seldovia Bay, and we love our little piece of heaven we have in Seldovia Bay, and we really enjoy sharing it with people,” he said.
Now home to just a few hundred people, Seldovia was once a fishing and trading hub, first for Alaska Native people and then for the Russians. It later became the home of the Kachemak Bay fishing fleet and cannery operations, but that changed after the construction of the Sterling Highway and the 1964 Good Friday earthquake. The quake lowered Seldovia’s waterfront by several feet, putting the original boardwalk and buildings underwater at high tide.
Most of the buildings along Seldovia’s waterfront have been built since 1964, but the town is as charming as ever.
“There are several great restaurants,” Ogan said. “There’s a bar. There’s good food. In the summertime, there’s usually entertainment on the weekends, and there are some great places to shop for art. It’s got a little bit of something for everybody.”
Seldovia sees a good run of hatchery king salmon into the lagoon, he added, and excellent hikes like the Otterbahn Trail -- great for birdwatching -- and the steep, winding Rocky Ridge Trail. Treehouse Cove guests can arrange a guided kayaking expedition, checking out the hidden lagoons and beaches of Kachemak Bay, or travel by six-person UTV to scenic overlooks.
Inspired by the magic of Seldovia, Ogan has been hard at work on an even more special way to experience it -- a treehouse getaway perched between two spruce on a hillside.
“The treehouse is going to be so awesome,” he said. “I have a waterfall out back and the ocean out front. We built a beautiful access up to it -- it’s got a stone spiral staircase. It looks like a fairy tale.”
The treehouse is expected to open for “glamping” in August, and next season it will be available as a full-service experience just like the beach cabin, complete with running water. It’s one more way for Ogan to share his “cathedral,” and he can’t wait.
“I love what I do, and I love where I live,” Ogan said. “I like sharing it with people.”
Presented by Travel Alaska, encouraging you to Show Up for Alaska this summer! Whether it’s a quick trip to your favorite fishing spot or a new adventure in a corner of the state you’ve never explored, Alaska’s small tourism businesses offer something for everyone -- and every budget. Browse summer travel opportunities and specials for Alaska residents at ShowUpForAlaska.com.
This story was produced by the creative services department of the Anchorage Daily News in collaboration with Travel Alaska. The ADN newsroom was not involved in its production.