Homer

Homer is on the Kenai Peninsula in Southcentral Alaska and is known as "the end of the road". The most westerly point on the North American contiguous highway system is actually located in nearby Anchor Point, the road then turns east and ends at the end of the Homer Spit, a natural sandbar stretching some four miles into Kachemak Bay.

Picture of Homer, Alaska showing the Homer Spit

Understand

Homer is named after Homer Pennock, a charismatic con man who led an expedition to the area in 1896 in search of gold. They found coal instead. Pennock left the expedition, supposedly to secure more funding, and never returned. For much of the history of this area the larger settlements were those on the opposite side of Kachemak Bay. The completion of the Sterling Highway provided road access in 1951, causing Homer to begin expanding and overshadowing its neighbors across the water. The 1964 Good Friday Earthquake severely damaged the Homer Spit, causing portions of it to sink about six feet, destroying the road as well as the surrounding habitat, now known as "Mud Bay." The US Army Corps of Engineers reconstructed the first few miles of the Spit, giving it its present appearance.

Climate

 Climate Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
 
Daily highs (°F) 30 33 37 46 54 60 63 63 55 45 34 31
Nightly lows (°F) 17 18 20 28 34 41 46 45 39 29 21 19
Precipitation (in) 2.1 1.4 1.3 0.8 0.7 0.8 1.6 2.5 3.3 2.4 2.4 2.9

   Data from NOAA (1981-2010)

Get in

Flying into Homer is common, with several flights each day from Anchorage on Ravn Alaska, a local airline. Driving the four hours from Anchorage is well worth it. The route takes you along Turnigain Arm and up into the epic scenery of the Chugach National Forest and Turnigain Pass. Follow the Seward Highway to the Sterling Highway. When you get to the end of the Sterling, you made it. There is also a regularly scheduled van service, the Stage Line, that shuttles travellers between Anchorage and Homer. The scenery is breathtaking and it will give you a chance to visit some of the smaller towns on the Kenai Peninsula. Homer is also a stop on the Alaska Marine Highway, the state run ferry system. In recent years some cruise lines have also made stops in Homer.

Get around

There isn't a public transportation system to speak of in Homer so your options come down to walking, riding a bike, hitching a lift, renting a car or taking a taxi.

There are two car rental firms in Homer: Hertz, Adventure Alaska. Hertz and Adventure Alaska also have rentals in Anchorage so if you want to rent a car in Anchorage and drive to Homer you can drop your car off and fly back to Anchorage. Anchorage is the main city in Alaska where most flights from outside the state end up. From there you fly or rent a car and drive to the next town. Homer is a 40 minute flight from Anchorage or a 4-5hr drive. There are several 24 hour taxi companies in Homer. Short in-town rides are about $5 per car-load, expect to pay about $15 to go between the town and the Spit.

By foot

Distances, as with most places in America, are fairly large but there are good footpaths all around Homer and if you are fit walking can be a great way to see and get a feel for the town. Homer is laid out rather oddly, in "chunks" of areas with businesses separated by residential areas or wetlands. There are paved bike/walking paths on Homer East Road (locally known exclusively as East end road) on Ocean Drive and the Beluga Slough, and on the Spit. If you are walking, pedalling, or roller-blading in these areas it is recommended that you stay on the paths and off the roads. Be aware that it is a distance of about five miles from the center of town to the harbor area on the Spit and it can become very windy and cold at any time anywhere in coastal Alaska. Alaskans know that wearing layers that can be added or removed easily is the key to being comfortable outdoors in this highly variable environment. You can rent bicycles at Homer Saw and Cycle.

See

The Homer Spit is a 4.5-mile (7.2 km) long piece of land that juts out into Kachemak Bay.

Do

Bald eagles in Homer

Buy

Unlike many areas of Alaska, Homer has a local sales tax. The Kenai Peninsula Borough taxes sales at 3% and Homer adds an additional 4.5%. Large purchases are only taxed on the first $500.00.

There are two standard items commonly purchased in Homer: Salty Dawg hoodies and art. The Salty Dawg Saloon is a local landmark and actually makes more income from merchandising than from booze. Anywhere you go in Alaska you will see people wearing hoodies, tshirts, hats, do rags, and even underpants featuring the image of the iconic building that houses the Dawg. Both Pioneer Avenue and the Spit have numerous art galleries featuring local artists. You could end up with something as simple as a postcard, a lamp made from beach stones, or a painting or sculpture. Be sure to consider the shipping cost if you are not able to take such large items with you.

Eat

Homer is a foodie paradise. There is a very wide range of places to eat, and only two franchise fast food places. (Subway and McDonald's)

On the Spit

Most of these businesses are only open in the spring through the early fall. The Spit is a bit of a ghost town in the winter. Many of the small shops on the board walks on the Spit change businesses from one year to the next, explore and you might find something you really like.

Old Town

This area is below the Sterling Highway just above Bishop's Beach.

Pioneer Avenue

Although Homer does have road named "Main Street" Pioneer Avenue is actually the "main drag" of downtown Homer, featuring local shops and galleries as well as great places to eat and drink.

East

Follow Homer East Road, locally known as East End.

Drink

The Salty Dawg was originally one of the first cabins built in Homer back in 1897 and has served as a post office, railroad station, schoolhouse and an office for Standard Oil Company.

Bars

Not all bars in Homer accept credit cards or checks, but there are ATMs available.

Coffee and Tea

If you spend any time in Alaska you will notice the massive popularity of drive up coffee stands and coffee houses.

Sleep

As with most accommodation in Alaska it is best to ring ahead and book a place a few nights in advance during the spring, summer, autumn (fall) tourist season. The Homer area features over 200 bed and breakfast establishments, with a wide range of prices and amenities. Location is a strong selling point of some of these, be sure to ask about the view!

Budget

Mid-range

Splurge

One thing Homer does not have is "five star" hotels. The upper end of the lodging options are more in the vein of remote lodges.

Go next

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Monday, March 14, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.