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elgordo Aug 27th, 2005 07:24 PM

alaska destinations
Hi everyone,

I'm trying to decide which places to visit on an upcoming trip to Alaska. I'm definitely heading to Denali, Anchorage, and Seward. I may have time to visit all or just one of the following: Whittier, Valdez, and Homer. Does anyone have some insights or recommendations? (Also, I'd really love to try kayaking for the first time - would that influence your response?)

Thank you SO much for your help on this!

birder Aug 28th, 2005 03:33 AM

The big question is, how long do you have in Alaska? 7 days? a month? Both Seward and Homer are known for excellent sea kayaking.

Pat2003 Aug 28th, 2005 03:53 AM

Do search here on this forum under alaska and under specific places you want to chose between. You will find many very helpful posts and get Milepost from your library. If I have to make this choice again for my first visit it would be Homer. No, I think it would be Valdez. Tough choice but if you want to go halibut fishing or/and see bears in Katmai National Park and Preserve, Homer is the place to go. In this case my choice is Homer. Both are good for kayaking.
But you are right, for 10 days you should decide on one or another. Do you have 10 days/9 nights or 10 full days?
What are your interests besides kayaking? Why are you going to Alaska? Are you going alone, with children, what are their ages? Are you physicaly active, are you interested in history of the state, are you hiker, birdwatcher, what month are you going, are you renting RV, are you interested in wildlife? You need to help us so we can help you. Have fun planning your trip

elgordo Aug 28th, 2005 05:54 AM

Thank you for your replies!
In response to your questions:

My dad and I will be getting to Alaska late on Sept 1 and departing late on the 10th, so we'll have 9 full days.

On Sept 2, we'll head to Denali, stopping in Eklutna, Palmer for the state fair, and possibly Wasilla. Overnight booked in Healy.

Sept 3 will be spent at Denali NP.

On Sept 4, we'll start heading south, stopping in Talkeetna and possibly Independence Mine.

After that, I'm at a loss. Assuming that we make it as far as Palmer for the night of the 4th, we've only got 6 full days left. My dad is a young 56 and I'm only 29, so we're both fit and looking forward to spending a great deal of time outside hiking and just walking around/exploring. We'd also like to visit museums and other cultural sites (I'm a museum educator so this will be of particular interest to me).

With regard to my rationale for choosing the cities I mentioned in the initial post, I've been told and read that Seward is a must-see. I've also heard that Homer is very unique and "artsy," which I suppose could be a very bad thing if the shops are filled with blown-glass igloos. Regardless, we won't be travelling to Katmai due to the expense. As for Whittier and Valdez, I was thinking this would be an either/or choice. By all accounts Valdez is breathtaking, but I don't know if we'll have the time to get there. Therefore, I was thinking Whittier might be a good alternative that would still allow us to see Prince William Sound. I also read that the sound's waters are calm and therefore good for first-time kayakers (I don't know, however, if this is in contrast to the waters surrounding Seward and Homer).

I hope that provides you with better context. I really appreciate your insights, so if you have other thoughts to share I would LOVE to hear them. And I will keep reading the other Alaska posts, too, as you suggested. Thank you again!

Pat2003 Aug 28th, 2005 06:59 AM

Are you talking about September 1, 2005 or 2006?

elgordo Aug 28th, 2005 08:42 AM

We're leaving this Thursday - that's right, this Thursday(!) I decided to have my mid-life crisis a few years early, and this last-minute trip is the result.

Julie304 Aug 28th, 2005 09:43 AM

We've visited all three of the cities you menion, and I would dfinitely choose Homer or Valdez over Whittier. If you have an opportunity to pass through that area on your travels, you'll quickly see why people don't recommend it as a destination.

Homer is a much nicer town than Valdez, with more dining options and, as you mentioned, a very artsy feel. We preferred the scenery in and around Valdez, although the city itself is not attractive and there is quite a bit of industrial looking development along the immediate shoreline. If you go to Valdez, I would recommend driving in and taking the car ferry back to Whittier on the return (although at this late date the car ferry may be booked). Others may differ, but I would probably rank the drive into Valdez through Thompson Pass as the most incredible scenery we saw in all of Alaska. We kayaked out of this area (along the face of Shoup glacier) which was an incredible experience as well. I can recommend Anadyr Adventures if you decide to go this route, but I would call ahead to see if they even have room at this point. Trips can book up pretty far in advance.

Good luck and have a great time!

roguebkpkr Aug 28th, 2005 04:33 PM

Hi Elgordo:

Since, you are pushing September. I'm not 100% sure if the information that I'm going to give is accurate. From what I have read, Some things start to shut down in September so you are going to have to contact the vendors to make sure they are still up.

I personally believe that only having 1 day in Denali is not enough but .....

Whittier: Not much there to do except it is a great location to launch to the Prince William Sound. There is at least two kayak companies that offer trips. I believe one is a day trip company and one mainly specializes in private multi day trips. There are also a couple of vendors that offer half day trips out to explore glaciers/wildlife. There are some hiking trails around Whittier but I didn't look into them.

Seward: A much better option than Whittier. A good launching point for the Kenai Fjords. There are at least two kayaking companies there. I know one of them does offer day trips. There are also at least three vendors that offer wildlife/glacier trips. Seward has a lot more to offer.

Homer: a little out of the way but this maybe will be worth it. There is at least three kayak vendors that offer kayaking along with at least one vendor that does wildlife viewing. There is hiking across the bay and I believe there are some trails near Homer. I've just started looking into this for next year.

You may want to look into the Alaska Marine Ferry to see if you can get reservations/space to Whittier, Valdez and/or Homer. You may get lucky and have the dates line up so you could squeeze something in.

It looks like there is a fairly regular schedule from Whittier to Valdez so you may want to look into this.

Good luck.


dfrostnh Aug 29th, 2005 03:28 AM

Whittier is a former WW2 secret military base. Getting there requires travel thru a tunnel that was an engineering feat. The visitors center at Portage Glacier nearby is very interesting and could be a short stop on your way to Seward. The town of Portage no longer exists because of the 1964 earthquake. Homer is about 3-4 hours from Seward on the other side of the mountains. The Pratt Museum is small but very interesting. I especially enjoyed the short videos on life in Alaska. There was a good exhibit of effects of the Exxon Valdez oil spill as well as historic artifacts. A couple of galleries were very nice and did not have hand blown igloos. Cafe Cups is housed in a building decorated with zany mosaics. If you go to Homer, you will have to pass thru Soldotna. You might want to do a short side trip to Kenai. The visitors center has an interesting exhibit. On your drive thru Wasilla you will also pass the Museum of Transportation which has some exhibits on early flight in AK. Since you are a museum educator, I don't think you should miss Independence Mine. It is a fascinating example of the growth and death of a town. There's also hiking opportunities in the area.
Have a great trip!

elgordo Aug 30th, 2005 03:23 PM

Thank you for these thoughtful responses - each of you has really helped me plan this trip, and it was so nice of you to share your insights. I'll be sure to post a trip report.

Thanks again!

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