“Blast from the Past” Cultural & Historical Adventure

8 Nights, 9 Days Exploring The Kenai’s Magnificent Museums & Historical Attractions

Anchorage – Girdwood – Whittier – Portage – Hope – Moose Pass – Seward – Cooper Landing – Sterling – Kenai – Soldotna – Ninilchik – Homer – Seldovia

 

DAY ONE: Anchorage

Flickr - zummerland

 

Arrive in Anchorage, Alaska’s largest city and the launching point for your Kenai Peninsula “Blast from the Past” Cultural & Historical Adventure. Pick up a rental vehicle from Innoko Rentals, LLC or ABC Motorhome Rentals.

 

Optional Activities:

  • Learn about Alaska’s profound history, traditions and culture at the Anchorage Museum or the Alaska Native Heritage Center
  • Visit the Oscar Anderson House Museum or the Alaska Aviation Heritage Museum
  • Explore nature and wildlife at the Alaska Zoo or the Alaska Botanical Garden
  • Get above it all with a picturesque panoramic view over the city at Flattop Mountain
  • Enjoy a scenic walk with fresh air and incredible views at the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail, Kincaid Park or the Delaney Park Strip
  • Visit the historic Earthquake Park to learn more about the infamous 1964 Good Friday Earthquake

 

Overnight in Anchorage at any of these great hotels and motels listed HERE. If you’re looking for a resort lodging experience, head down to Girdwood a night early and stay at Alyeska Resort.

 

Yummy restaurants in Anchorage include Moose’s Tooth Pub & Pizzeria, Jen’s Restaurant, Table 6, Club Paris, Glacier Brewhouse, and Gwennie’s Old Alaska Restaurant. If you choose to overnight in Girdwood, check out the local resort restaurants or try the Double Musky Inn, Jack Sprat, or The Bake Shop.

 

 

DAY TWO: Girdwood – Whittier (69 miles)

Flickr – Ayleen Gaspar

 

Get up early and grab breakfast in town before departing Anchorage and head towards the town of Girdwood. 

 

Take the scenic Seward Highway heading south towards the Kenai Peninsula. The Seward Highway was voted America's Most Outstanding Scenic Byway by Scenic America, and trust us – it’s a phenomenal driving experience.

 

Hop in your rental car and follow the breathtakingly beautiful Turnagain Arm while enjoying many interpretative rest stops and viewpoints along the way. Depending on the season, it is not unusual to spot beluga whales or Dall sheep from your car window. You might even spot a bear munching on berries or roaming throughout the mountainside.

 

Stops Along The Way:

  • McHugh Creek (Mile 111); enjoy a hike or picnic in the Anchorage foothills of the Chugach State Park
  • Beluga Point (Mile 110.5); great opportunities for viewing beluga whales from mid-July through August
  • Bird Creek (Mile 101); fisherman’s paradise with observation platforms that photographers will love
  • Bird Point (Mile 96); a scenic stop where you can enjoy a long hike or bike ride with spectacular views

 

Historic Stop #1: Crow Creek Historic Gold Mine, located 42 miles south of Anchorage. From the Seward Highway, turn left onto Alyeska Highway and veer left onto Crow Creek Road where you will follow the winding path up to the mine. Established in 1896, Crow Creek Mine is one of Alaska’s most renowned hydraulic gold mining operations in state history. The mine provides a unique opportunity to relive the historic Gold Rush Era that Alaska is so well known for. Visitors can enjoy a unique blend of historical buildings including the ‘Mess Hall’ which is actually the oldest building in the Anchorage municipality on the National Register of Historic Places. Other attractions include many antigues, mining equiptment, lush gardens, breathtaking mountain scenery and even hiking trails the run along the Historic Iditarod Trail. Plus, you can even explore and prospect the mines’ original claims. If you have gold rush fever, this exceptional experience will transport you to the past.

 

Next, hop back on the Seward Highway making your way south towards Whittier. Turn left on Portage Glacier Road, approximately 20 miles away from the mine.

 

Historic Stop #2: Here you’ll drive through the Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel to access the charming coastal town of Whittier. Keep in mind that there is a small toll to pass through this historic tunnel. This is the longest combined road/rail tunnel in North America and it is a historic attraction all on its own. Back in 1914 the Alaska Railroad began to discuss ways to construct a railroad spur to what is now known at the town of Whittier. Fast forward to 1941 when the United States Army began construction of the railroad leading from Whittier to Portage. At the time, this line of transportation was a crucial supply link during the Cold War and into WWII. Although the tunnel road/rail tunnel wouldn’t be completed until the year 2000, visitors today can enjoy the undeniable amounts of historic charm that this special place offers.

 

Once you make it through the tunnel and into Whittier, check out the abandoned historic Buckner Building (located on a bluff on the edge of town) which was used to house the entire military community during the 1950’s. It withstood the notorious 1964 Good Friday Earthquake with minimal damage, but has since been abandoned and is said to be far too dangerous to destroy. A very intriguing piece of history known as the place that housed ‘an entire town under one roof’ in Whittier.

 

Optional Activities:

  • Go wildlife viewing and stroll the boardwalk through several ponds at the Moose Flats Wetland Trail
  • Learn about the historic Portage Valley at the Begich, Boggs Visitor Center
  • Hike out around Portage Lake or through the valley to Byron Glacier
  • Explore the glaciated waters of Prince William Sound via kayak or water taxi; book a tour HERE
  • Learn about the local culture and explore all that there is to do in the area with a visit to the local chamber

 

For an unforgettable dining experience, try the popular Varly’s Swiftwater Seafood Café in Whittier. For a convenient overnight stay in town, check out the Inn at Whittier, which also has a delicious restaurant. Or you can choose to spend the night in a remote paradise inside Prince William Sound, such as Eshamy Bay Lodge, which is only accessible via boat or float plane. If you choose to stay remote, we recommend staying for a least two nights, to fully soak in the mesmerizing experience.

 

DAY THREE: Portage – Hope (50 miles)

Flickr – Erik Halfacre

 

Depart Whittier on Portage Glacier Road, back through the Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel.

 

You’ll drive through the town of Portage, which is a sunken ghost town that nature has slowly reclaimed. Prior to the 1964 Good Friday Earthquake, it was a small settlement home to a small number of local residents. After the earthquake, the town sunk 6-10 feet below the high-tide level, making it impossible to survive the devastating floods. Today, visitors can explore the historic area through interpretive boardwalks and can also see partial remains of old homestead cabins right off of the Seward Highway.

 

For the next 30 miles, you’ll wind through the mountainous Turnagain Pass (mile 68.3) passing by the gorgeous east fork of Sixmile Creek (mile 61.7) before crossing the gold-bearing Canyon Creek (mile 56.7). Stop along the way and enjoy the scenic pullouts that your heart desires.

 

Next, turn right at Hope Junction. Follow the road into the town of Hope, known as the historical mountain hideaway by the sea. Along the way, stop in the Sunrise City Historic District at the mouth of Sixmile Creek, just east of Hope. Mile 17 on Hope Road will bring you to the Hope Historic District which encompasses the surviving elements of the former mining boom town. In the 1980’s, the site at Resurrection Creek was where Alaska’s first gold rush began. Although the town is much sleepier today, it’s home to undeniable amounts of charm.

 

Visit the Hope & Sunrise Historical and Mining Museum, located on 2nd Street in town. Displays at the museum include a road grader, dog sled, rock crusher, blacksmith equipment and postal boxes. There is also a log museum and a mining bunkhouse as well as a full blacksmith shop to tour.

 

Optional Activities:

  • Enjoy a leisurely outdoor activities such as hiking, fishing or beach combing
  • If you’re looking for a thrill, hop on a whitewater rafting excursion down Sixmile Creek; book a tour HERE

 

Overnight at the Seaview Café, which also has great food. Another delicious dining option in town is Tito’s Discovery Café. For additional lodging options in town, contact the local chamber for more ideas to suit your every need.

 

DAY FOUR: Moose Pass – Seward (72 miles)

Flickr – Jimmy Emerson, DVM

 

Head out on the one road leading into Hope and make your way back towards the Seward Highway. At Hope Junction, turn right onto the Seward Highway heading south towards the charming coastal town of Seward.

 

Along the way you’ll have the opportunity to stop and check out the Harry A. Johnson Trapline Cabin, located roughly 15 miles southwest of Hope. This remote cabin on the Kenai Peninsula was built in 1926 by a railroad worker, and was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2000.

 

Continue going straight past the Sterling Highway cut-off continuing south. Directly after this point, turn right and enjoy a scenic stop at Tern Lake. Here you can enjoy a plethora of wildlife viewing opportunities as you snap photos of the majestic mountains reflecting like a mirror into the waters below. 

 

Make your way eight miles down the road where you’ll drive through the picturesque town of Moose Pass. Stop for lunch and a peaceful stroll on the shores of Trail Lake Lodge. This is also an excellent town to enjoy wetting a line before making your way down the road to Seward.

 

Stop and check out the historic Ed Estes’s wooden water wheel and sharpening area, which has been around since the early 1900’s. The pull off is directly to the right side of the road when coming into town.

 

Another neat attraction nearby is the Lauritsen Cabin, a historic miners cabin that was built in 1896 as one of the original gold rush era cabins during the late 19th century. In 1979, the cabin was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It is located just east of Lower Summit Lake on Canyon Creek.

 

Along the way from Moose Pass to Seward, the Alaska Central Railroad Tunnel No. 1 is a historic tunnel just north of Seward that was dug in 1906 to serve the Alaska Central Railroad, which later become the Alaska Railroad. At the time it was known as the ‘loop district’ before being rerouted in 1951.

 

Stay overnight in Seward for two nights; view a list of hotels and motels HERE and a list of resort properties and cabins HERE. If you prefer to stay in a cozy bed and breakfast, view options HERE. If you want to get away from it all, consider staying at the remote Kenai Fjords Wilderness Lodge on Fox Island, just a short 45 minute boat ride from Seward. For delicious dining recommendations, click HERE.

 

DAY FIVE: Seward

Flickr – Kim F

 

After such a long day of driving and stopping to check out historic attractions, take a full day to relax and soak in all the fascinating sights that Seward has to offer.

 

Seward Historical Attractions:

  • Ballaine House historic homestead (current B&B) located at 437 3rd Avenue
  • Brown & Hawkins Store founded in 1904, located at 205, 207, and 209 4th Avenue
  • Lowell Creek Diversion Tunnel at Lowell Creek
  • Government Cable Office and historic telegraph office, located at 218 6th Avenue
  • Hoben Park on the enchanting waterfront, constructed in 1923 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2006
  • Original Jesse Lee Home For Children (now abandoned), located on Swetmann Avenue
  • St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, opened in 1906 and added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1979, located at 2nd Avenue and Adams Street
  • Seward Depot, constructed in 1917 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places, located at 501 Railway Avenue
  • Swetman House, constructed in 1916 and added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1978, located at 325 5th Avenue
  • Van Gilder Hotel, constructed in 1916 and is still in operation and said to be haunted (by friendly spirits), located at 307 Adams Street
  • Learn about the local culture and explore all that there is to do in the area with a visit to the local chamber

 

DAY SIX: Cooper Landing – Sterling – Kenai (104 miles)

Flickr – Jimmy Emerson, DVM

 

Depart Seward and head towards Cooper Landing and on to Kenai. You’ll need to backtrack on the Seward Highway for about 36 miles before turning left onto the Sterling Highway (at Tern Lake) where you’ll then follow that same road all the way down through Cooper Landing and into Sterling.

 

Follow the road for about 12 miles as it twists and turns into the town of Cooper Landing. Along the way, the striking beauty of the towering Kenai Mountains and the fiercely-blue Kenai Lake will give you a major dose of eye-candy. The breathtakingly beautiful glacial waters of the world-renowned Kenai River will leave you gasping for air.

 

Drive through the Cooper Landing Historic District, and stop and check out the Cooper Landing Post Office. This historic building was constructed by gold prospector Jack Lean, between 1910 and 1920, and was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1978. Today the post office and old school house (which was open from 1955-2001) is home to the Cooper Landing Historical Society and Museum. It is open from May 15th through September 15th, open Wednesday through Monday from noon until 5pm.

 

Optional Activities In Cooper Landing:

  • Take a scenic stroll on the shores of Kenai Lake down Snug Harbor Road
  • Venture to the Russian River and enjoy walking the well-maintained trails or fishing for trout and salmon
  • Take a two-mile hike up to the Russian River Falls where you’ll likely find bears feasting on salmon
  • Adventure Guru Paddle Boarding; Paddle around Kenai Lake, Cooper Lake, Rainbow Lake or the Kenai River
  • Enjoy guided fishing or scenic floats on the spectacular Kenai River; book a tour HERE

 

In Sterling, check out the prehistoric archaeological site known as the Moose River Site, located at the confluence of the Kenai and Moose Rivers. This site is said to be used as a fishing camp as long as 1500 years ago. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978.

 

Visit the Kenai Visitors & Cultural Center to enjoy incredible art exhibits and a delightful dose of local history. The Holy Assumption of the Virgin Mary Church (located at 1106 Mission Avenue in Kenai) was completed in 1896 and is one of the oldest-standing Russian Orthodox churches throughout the entire state of Alaska. This beautiful structure was declared as a National Historic Landmark in 1970.

 

Optional Activities In Kenai:

  • Go beach combing or horseback riding on Kenai Beach
  • Head north to the Captain Cook State Recreation Area in Nikiski for hiking or ATV’ing fun
  • Go to the driving range or hit a round of 18 holes at the Kenai Golf Course
  • Enjoy the prolific fisheries on the renowned Kenai River on a guided fishing excursion; book a tour HERE

 

Overnight in Kenai. Choose from lots of great lodges, resorts and cabins in Kenai by clicking HERE. Check out a list of motels and hotels in town by clicking HERE. Click HERE for a list of great bed & breakfast lodging options in Kenai.

 

A few great restaurants in Kenai include Veronica’s Café, Everything Bagels, Main Street Tap & Grill, Acapulco Mexican Restaurant, Iditarod Café, Jersey Subs, and many more options available HERE

 

DAY SEVEN: Soldotna – Ninilchik – Homer (88 miles)

Flickr – Amy Meredith

 

The neighboring town of Soldotna is just a quick drive from Kenai. Hop on Bridge Access Road where you’ll drive by the Kenai River Estuary, a popular place for viewing a vast array of bird species. Keep your eyes peeled for caribou herds lingering on ‘the flats’ and beluga whales swimming in the Kenai River beneath the bridge.

 

In town, check out the Soldotna Homestead Museum & Historical Society where you can observe lots of different pioneer objects as well as Alaska Native artifacts. Homesteaders first arrived in Soldotna in 1947, so you’re sure to get a kick out of the original schoolhouse displayed along with the other items in the museum. This seasonal operation is open from May 15th through September 15th. This wonderful attraction is located at 461 Centennial Park Road in Soldotna.

 

A visit to the original Soldotna Post Office on the corner of East Corral Street and the Kenai Spur Highway, is also a must-experience when in town. This log cabin served as the first post office in town, and has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since September 17, 2008.

 

Optional Activities In Soldotna:

  • Enjoy a nice run, bike ride or hike at the nearby Tsalteshi Trails
  • Check out a variety of fun local events, great fishing and scenic boardwalk sights at Soldotna Creek Park
  • Float plane fly-out’s and bear viewing in Lake Clark National Park and beyond; book a tour HERE
  • From the bush to the bottle” shopping and organic wine tasting at Alaska Berries
  • Reel in delicious salmon and much more on a guided fishing excursion; book a tour HERE

 

Make your way south on the Sterling Highway towards the town of Ninilchik. Here, be sure to stop and check out the Holy Transfiguration of Our Lord Chapel, which is located on the bluff and has panoramic vistas overlooking mountains and ocean views as far as the eyes can see. This building was constructed in 1901 and was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978.

 

Optional Activities Near Ninilchik:

  • Head up into the Caribou Hills to enjoy ATV’ing, wildlife viewing, hiking and more
  • Enjoy a guided freshwater or saltwater fishing excursion for halibut, salmon and more; book a tour HERE
  • Visit Anchor Point Tours & Travel for a list of wow-worthy excursions sure to satisfy everyone in your crowd
  • Scenic pullouts at Falls Creek, Ninilchik River, Deep Creek, Stariski Creek, Whiskey Gulch or the Anchor River

 

Once you arrive in Homer, get ready for even more historical charm. Visit the award-winning Pratt Museum where you can learn about natural history and explore exhibits centered on life in Kachemak Bay and southcentral Alaska. It is located at 3779 Bartlett Street in Homer.

 

The Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies offers daily guided natural history tours across Kachemak Bay where visitors will view a seabird rookery. You’ll also have the opportunity to enjoy hiking on forest trails and visiting secluded remote beaches. A kayaking tour combination is also a possibility if you prefer to paddle your way through this wildlife viewing paradise. 

 

Head to 1660 East End Road in Homer where you’ll not only have great panoramic views along the way, but you’ll be headed to the historic Thorn-Stingley House. The house was built in 1945 following World War II, and was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2001.

 

Optional Activities In Homer:

  • Go bear viewing across the bay for a once-in-a-lifetime experience; book a tour HERE
  • Take a water taxi to Halibut Cove for dinner and floating amphitheater concert at Halibut Cove Live
  • Enjoy a guided wildlife viewing or birding tour while hearing the waves crash around you; book a tour HERE
  • Flightseeing with incredible aerial perspectives from Katmai to Lake Clark National Park; book a tour HERE
  • Reel in massive fish from halibut to salmon on a guided saltwater trip; book a tour HERE
  • Take the Seldovia Bay Ferry to the tiny little idyllic town of Seldovia for a scenic day trip, sans the crowds
  • Learn about the local culture and explore all that there is to do in the area with a visit to the local chamber

 

Stay overnight in Homer. Click HERE for a great list of local resorts, lodges, and cabin properties. Click HERE for a great list of local hotels. Click HERE for a great list of local bed and breakfast options.

 

Delicious restaurants in Homer include AJ’s Old Town Steakhouse, Chart Room at Land’s End Resort, Captain Pattie’s, Fat Olives, Wasabi’s Bistro, Little Mermaid Café, Café Cups, Cosmic Kitchen and Two Sisters Bakery.

 

DAY EIGHT: Seldovia (25 nautical miles)

Flickr – Francois Philipp

 

The exceptionally beautiful town of Seldovia is located roughly 25 nautical miles away from Homer. Hop on the Seldovia Bay Ferry for a fast and comfortable transport from Homer to the coastal shores of the remote community of Seldovia.

 

Visit the Seldovia Museum, Visitor Center & Gift Shop and prepare to experience the rich history of the local area. The Native Alaska artwork and exhibits throughout the museum will leave you mesmerized. The cultural traditions of the Aleut, Yupik, Alutiiq, Athabascan, Russian and European-American people who inhabit the Seldovia Bay area can be found all throughout this captivating place.

 

Be sure to also check out the historic St. Nicholas Chapel which was built during the 19th century and added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1980. This Russian Orthodox Church is absolutely stunning and even features a large octagonal bell tower.

 

Optional Activities:

  • Walk the docs and enjoy incredible opportunities to view marine life right from town
  • Take a long walk on a private sandy beach at low tide
  • Enjoy world-class nature photography capturing the towering snow-capped mountains in the distance and the tranquil waters that greet you 

 

Stay overnight in Seldovia and choose between incredible options such as the Seldovia Boardwalk Hotel or Thyme on the Boardwalk. The Seldovia Boardwalk Hotel has delicious food, as does the Tide Pool Café and the Linwood Bar & Grill.

 

DAY NINE: Return to Homer (25 nautical miles), then on to Anchorage (221 miles)

Flickr - Travis

 

If you choose to stay overnight in Seldovia, you’ll need to hop back on the ferry over to Homer before continuing back northbound on the Sterling Highway to Anchorage on the final day of your trip. Make your way to the Seward Highway junction where you’ll turn left and continue all the way into the city of Anchorage.