Homer: A bit of paradise on the peninsula

Posted: Saturday, April 20, 2002

Seen from the air, one soon grasps the fact there is no place like it on Earth. Once on the ground, that assessment is only confirmed. Nestled along the toe of a steep ridge falling to the north shore of Kachemak Bay, the city of Homer and its surroundings have become the stuff of near legend, blessed with extraordinary scenic beauty, ocean air currents that bring relatively easy winters and comfortably mild summers, and an active, involved and artistic population.

Among the most stunning vistas can be found atop Baycrest Hill a few miles west of downtown Homer on the Sterling Highway. From the paved pullout and parking area, the entirety of Kachemak Bay and part of lower Cook Inlet can be seen. To the south are the Kenai Mountains. To the west, the peak of the Mount Augustine volcano rises from the horizon.

Perhaps the city's most famous feature is the Homer Spit, a finger of land that reaches almost five miles into Kachemak Bay. Homer's port and harbor are at the far end and around them has grown a vital commercial and recreational center intimately connected to the marine environment. It is a hangout for mariners, tourists and bald eagles.

Hosts of fishing charter outfits offer anglers a shot at salmon, halibut and other species. The Home Spit Fishing Hole, a man-made lagoon seeded each year with salmon smolt, lets landlubbers hook returning adult salmon from the shore. There's even a wheelchair ramp.

Kachemak Bay is a designated critical habitat area and a national estuarine research reserve. Several tours take visitors on sightseeing trips to view the bay's myriad wildlife. Visitors are drawn to it all, from the graceful flight of seabirds to the unhurried tempo of tide pools. Visitors also may sail or fly to Kachemak Bay State Park, Seldovia and Halibut Cove on the bay's south shore.

Homer can be reached by air or via the Sterling Highway about 90 minutes south of Soldotna. Be sure to visit the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge visitor's center just past the Best Western Bidarka Inn and the Homer Chamber of Commerce's new visitors center about a block further. The chamber runs the Homer Jackpot Halibut Derby through Labor Day.

Homer is famous for its art and supports several art galleries. Other businesses include gift shops, cafes, music venues, live theater and nature trails.

The Pratt Museum on Bartlett Street showcases history, wildlife and art as well as live video links to Alaska brown bears and a seabird colony.

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