Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula is a favorite destination for visitors and residents, all of whom are drawn by its incomparable scenery and world-class fishing. Geographically speaking, the Kenai Peninsula—measuring 160 miles long by 70 miles wide—extends southwest from Turnagain Arm and Passage Canal. It is bounded on the south and east by the Gulf of Alaska and on the west by Cook Inlet.
The Kenai Peninsula is accessed from Anchorage via the Seward Highway, which winds along the north shore of Turnagain Arm, crossing the isthmus that separates the Kenai Peninsula from the rest of Southcentral Alaska some 50 miles south of Anchorage. If it weren’t for the “Welcome to the Kenai Peninsula” sign at Milepost S 75, motorists probably wouldn’t notice they’d crossed onto a peninsula, having left behind the urban setting of Anchorage just a few miles down the Seward Highway.
Once the Seward Highway crosses on to the Kenai Peninsula, it first climbs to Turnagain Pass, a stunning alpine area that is a favorite winter recreation area as well as a summer viewpoint. Beyond Turnagain Pass at Milepost S 56.3, the Seward Highway junctions with the 18-mile Hope Highway, which leads to the historic mining town of Hope on the south shore of Turnagain Arm.
Much of the Seward Highway is on Chugach National Forest land, and highway trailheads offer access to several popular hiking trails. The Seward Highway ends (or begins) at the picturesque town of Seward on Resurrection Bay, which is Mile 0 of the scenic Seward Highway. Seward is also the gateway to Kenai Fjords National Park and home to the Alaska SeaLife Center.
The Sterling Highway is the other major highway on the Kenai Peninsula. The Sterling Highway begins at its junction with the Seward Highway at Milepost S 37, Tern Lake Junction, 90 miles south of Anchorage. From here, the Sterling Highway travels 57 miles west to Cook Inlet, before turning south and following the west coast of the Kenai Peninsula 85 miles to the scenic town of Homer on Kachemak Bay. (This stretch of highway offers magnificent views across Cook Inlet of 3 active volcanoes: Redoubt, Iliamna and Augustine.) Across from Homer are the settlements of Halibut Cove and Seldovia, both accessible by boat.
The Sterling Highway also provides access to the world-famous Kenai River and other equally well-known fishing streams, like the Russian River, Kasilof River and Anchor River, to name just a few. A number of fishing guides and outfitters for the Kenai River are located along the Sterling Highway.
The Alaska Sport Fishing Division has a wide variety of brochures about different sport fishing opportunities available in each region of Alaska: what fish are available, when to go, where to go, and what to use when you get there. For regional fishing information, run timing, fishing forecasts etc., click on Sport Fish Publication listed under Publications and then click on the Regional Sport Fishing Brochures for the Kenai Peninsula.
The Kenai River flows next to the town of Soldotna, a bustling service center for the area and also a place where you can charter a boat and find a fishing guide. A local resident caught a 97-pound, 4-ounce world record-breaking king salmon here in 1985. It's on display at the visitor center.
The town of Kenai—not to be confused with the peninsula, river and refuge of the same name—is 11 miles from Soldotna via the Kenai Spur Highway. Visitors can also fly-in to the full-service Kenai Municipal Airport, just 20 minutes by air from Anchorage. The town offers summer baseball, golf, and fishing for recreation. Sightseeing should start at the Kenai Visitors and Cultural Center, located in downtown, which provides brochures, wildlife displays and restrooms. The Holy Assumption Russian Orthodox Church in Kenai is one of the oldest and most picturesque in Alaska.
The Sterling Highway provides access to other Kenai Peninsula communities such as Cooper Landing, Sterling, Ninilchik and Anchor Point. Cooper Landing is located at the west end of Kenai Lake, at the head of the Kenai River; many fishing lodges, guides and outfitters are clustered in this area. Sterling is located at the confluence of the Moose and Kenai rivers and is a popular canoeing, fishing and camping spot, as well as a highway service center. Ninilchik, on the west coast of the peninsula, is a center for salt-water halibut and salmon charters, camping and fish processing. The picturesque Holy Transfiguration of Our Lord Russian Orthodox Church is at Ninilchik. Just down the Sterling Highway, 20 minutes from Homer, is Anchor Point, the westernmost highway point in North America. Anchor Point is noted for its excellent seasonal king and silver salmon, steelhead and rainbow fishing opportunities in the nearby Anchor River and Cook Inlet.
Hiking and canoeing are two equally popular pursuits on the Kenai Peninsula, and the Sterling Highway provides access to the popular Resurrection Pass Trail and to canoe trails in the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge on Swanson River Road.
The Sterling Highway ends at the tip of Homer Spit, a 5-mile-long narrow bar of gravel jutting out into Kachemak Bay. The ferry terminal, cruise ship dock and boat harbor are found on the Spit, as well as charter fishing boats, shopping and other services. Turnoff the Sterling Highway before the Spit for downtown Homer shopping and services. Homer's Pratt Museum and the Alaska Islands & Ocean Visitor Center are both highly recommended places to learn about Kachemak Bay sea life.
Homer is a jump-off point for trips to: the charming waterfront community of Seldovia and visitor center, accessible by air and by state ferry and private ferry; the artist's community of Halibut Cove on the east shore of Kachemak Bay, accessible by private ferry; as well as parks and wilderness areas around Kachemak Bay, Kodiak Island by state ferry or via flight from Anchorage, and other points by charter air taxi or water taxi.
Detailed information about the attractions of the Kenai Peninsula, including the geography, history, communities, wildlife, fishing, camping and other recreation, is found in the current edition of The MILEPOST®.