Shortly before reaching the southern end of the Sterling Highway, you will drive over a hill and see a panoramic view of Kachemak Bay, with the town of Homer sitting on its edge. The narrow, wiggly strip of land reaching into the bay is the 4 mile Homer Spit, a terminal moraine composed of sand, gravel, coal and other debris left by a glacier retreating from the Kenai Mountains. Today the spit is home to Homer’s freight and recreational boat harbors, as well as a complex of boardwalks, shops, cafes, campgrounds, food-stands, fishing charters, and hotels.
The town attached to the Spit is no less exciting, with more shops, galleries, restaurants, and recreational opportunities than you can shake a halibut at. Highlights include the Alaska Islands and Ocean Visitor Center, at Mile 95 of the Sterling Highway, which serves as headquarters for the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge and provides hands-on educational programs, indoor exhibits, and a trail system leading to the seaside gravel of Bishop Beach, where visitors can observe a variety of shore-life, including seabirds, starfish, and the occasional seal.
Bishop Beach is also accessible through an adjacent parking lot at the end of Beluga Lane, or — for the more ambitious — via a mile-and-a-half trail leading from the top of Diamond Ridge, which overlooks the town from the north. The trailhead for this route can be found by turning off the Sterling Highway on the unmarked lane across from Diamond Ridge Road.
Another scenic overlook of Homer and the Kachemak Bay can be had by cruising down Skyline Drive, a sometimes-rough road that follows the ridge overlooking town. At Mile 1.5 of East Skyline Drive, the Wynn Nature Center provides guided nature tours and hikes, as well as educational programs.
For those who come to Homer before or after the peak of summer, the cross-country ski trails at Baycrest and Ohlson Mountain remain snow-covered well into the spring.
From Skyline and Diamond Ridges, one can look across the bay at the mountains, forests and glaciers of Kachemak Bay State Park. These 400,000 wilderness acres are accessible only by boat or air travel. Charter operators, water taxis and boat rental companies in Homer can provide transport across the water. The towns of Seldovia (page 41) and Halibut Cove also lie among the steep, roadless mountains across the bay, where they too are accessible only by air or water.