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Need Alaska Help

Old Dec 20th, 2006, 11:27 AM
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Need Alaska Help

I've been getting so much information from this message board - I hope you can help me out with some specific questions about our first trip to Alaska..

We will be going to Alaska in July '07. The first thing we formalized was a bear trip with Emerald Air on 7/26. The second is that we will be sailing southbound from Seward on 7/29. We will have 2 1/2 to 3 weeks total, including the cruise. Aside from the bears, we do not want to miss Denali or Kenai Fjords. (Obviously, animals are a priority.)

We originally thought we'd fly into Fairbanks and work our way south. However, I've read that it may not be the most efficient use of time to do that. So ...

1. Would it be preferable to fly into Anchorage?
2. I think we would would like to spend at least a little time on the railway - I've read that it's probably most scenic from Anchorage to Seward. Would it make sense to rent a car in Anchorage and drive to and from Denali and then take the train to Seward?
3. If we do that, can we rent a car in Seward to get around the Kenai peninsula? Not being sure of the distance (in time) from Seward to Homer (to catch Emerald Air), would it make sense to go to Kenai Fjords from Seward (before Emerald Air) or go to Homer from Seward, then to Kenai, and then back to Seward for the cruise (8PM).

I think I'm confusing myself even more in writing this out - any suggestions would be extremely appreciated.
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Old Dec 20th, 2006, 05:09 PM
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I'm not sure how much time you have outside of the cruise, but we spent a week in just Homer and Seward, with the last night in Anchorage. If you have 2 weeks, then Fairbanks to Denali to the Kenai peninsula might be doable. Although I have also heard the train is nice, the road from Anchorage to Seward is pretty much the same view from what I understand, plus you can pull off at the many viewpoints to check for Beluga whales, Dall sheep, etc. Renting a car in Fairbanks and keeping it until you get on the boat might be cost effective and more convenient than switching between train and car. Just a thought.
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Old Dec 20th, 2006, 05:11 PM
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Oops! I meant to include in my reply that the drive from Seward to Homer is about 3 hours (as I recall). And you can't get to the Kenai Fjords from Homer - the boats into the National Park only leave from Seward.
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Old Dec 20th, 2006, 06:56 PM
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I'd fly to Anchorage,take a train to Denali and back, and then rent a car in Anchorage for as many days as you have - you can drive to Seward and back in a day , and maybe take the train on the last day as well, if you can't get a one-way rental,from Anchorage. As Chrissy says, there is much to see and do on that road - Potters Marsh, belugas, Portage Lake cruise and walk to Byron Glacier, great wildlife refuge park for up-close photos, tunnel to Whittier and possibility of day cruises etc.
The drive from Anchorage to Valdez is one of the best in the world IMHO, and though Anchorage to Denali is great too, we didn't think Fairbanks compared in any way with Valdez.
Have been in Spring and Fall, not much traffic at all - July may be a different experience,however.

Just thought, you could rent car in Anchorage, drive to Seward etc at leisure, catch ferry with car to Valdez, and drive back to Anchorage (don't forget Hatcher Pass on the way) We've done all this and more in less time than you'll have, including day trips by boat from Whittier, Seward and Valdez.
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Old Dec 21st, 2006, 04:57 AM
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With 2 weeks for interior Alaska travel, I would skip the train, especially the Anchorage/Denali Park/Fairbanks leg.

Going into Anchorage will offer you more flight options, so yes, do consider it.

I would look at a loop if at all interested. Anchorage- Denali Park, Fairbanks, Valdez, ferry- then Kenai peninsula. Allow 4 hours Seward/Homer.

I suggest you get your routing in order, BEFORE you make any more reservations. It is vital to avoid backtracking and time wasting.

IF you want to take the Alaska RR, Anchorage/Seward, there is Hertz in Seward that would be a good option, since it would be a round trip rental.


So keep doing your homework, but determine your overall route- first- I know I'm repeating, but I often see this haphazard segment planning that ends up costing time and/or money due to cancelation fees etc. Work out your itinerary, then make your reservations.
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Old Dec 21st, 2006, 05:26 AM
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I think part of your confusion is about Kenai. The popular cruises to the Kenai Fjords leave from Seward. Both Seward and Homer are on the Kenai Penninsula. I'll go with the 4 hour time estimate for Seward to Homer. I usually guess 3 hours. There is a town named Kenai next to Soldotna. When you drive from Seward to Homer you will pass thru Soldotna. If you take the longest cruise to the Kenai Fjords, it's about a 9 hour trip. It's a great cruise but long. Some people napped on the way back from the glaciers. Since it returns about 6pm it's a good time for dinner since Seward has some nice restaurants and there aren't many choices between Seward and Anchorage. Figure 3 hour drive from Anchorage to Seward BUT as others have pointed out, you can easily take all day to do the drive so you can also enjoy the other things along the way (was tram ride up Mt Alyeska mentioned?). A train ride would give the driver a nice break but I wouldn't want to miss the things to do along the drive. An option would be to rent a car in Seward and make the trip north toward Anchorage as a day trip then south but toward Soldotna for an overnight before continuing to Homer. South of Anchorage heading to the Kenai Penninsula is some of the most beautiful scenery you will encounter. I think there is more to do in less miles on the KP. If you go to Denali, I second to idea to stop off at Independence Mine/Hatcher Pass area but the Pass won't be open before July 4. Traffic between Anchorage and Seward increases on Fridays/Sundays and whenever the salmon run starts. We've been in the Soldotna/Seward area at the end of June. The Russian River area will be mobbed with fishermen around the time you are there and there will be traffic congestion around the ferry. It's fun to stop and watch for awhile. Both Kenai and Soldotna are more suburban types of towns and lack the dramatic scenery of Seward and Homer.
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Old Dec 21st, 2006, 02:16 PM
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Keep in mind that Emerald Air typically departs Homer between 7-9 depending on weather. That means that you'll probably want to stay in Homer the night before your trip. They also return fairly late in the day so another night in Homer is your best bet. Homer is a neat place and spending a few days there would be well spent.

As for Emerald Air - we flew with them the first week of Sept '06 and had the trip of a lifetime! Make sure to either have plenty of film or a 1 Gig memory card for you digital camera and enough battery life for the whole day and MANY pictures. I took over 300 photos in that one day.

Here is a link to my webshots page with an album that has just some of the bear pictures we got along with otehrs from Denali, Seward, etc.

http://community.webshots.com/user/jfmkem1

I am envious - we only had 8 days and now I want to do just like you are planning - a cruise combined with a road trip as well.

Enjoy!
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Old Dec 21st, 2006, 06:27 PM
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Thanks so much to you all for your comments - you've given us a lot to think about. I think we'll skip Fairbanks and concentrate on the areas you've suggested. Budget Queen - you're absolutely right about getting our routing in order. I'm used to taking the lead on that on our vacations, but I'm just finding this overwhelming - much like the state.

And jfmkem - your pictures are spectacular.

Thanks again, everyone.
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Old Jan 24th, 2007, 04:18 PM
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A good place to check out in Homer for place to stay is the Lodge's at Land's End Resort. An a fun stop in Kenai is Kenai Landing, a renovated cannery. Have fun, the Kenai Peninsula is one of my favorite destinations.
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