Outside its hub communities, the Kenai Peninsula offers visitors a quirky variety of friendly small town experiences.
Hope -- The peninsula's northernmost community began as a Gold Rush boom town. Today the 130 residents retain small mining and logging operations. Visitors can visit the picturesque old town, check out its museum, pan for gold and mountain bike and hike the Resurrec-tion Pass Trail.
Moose Pass -- This picturesque hamlet of about 120 on the road to Seward offers vistas of the Trail Lakes, a station on the Alaska Railroad and quiet getaways.
Cooper Landing -- Turquoise Kenai Lake and the striking Kenai Mountains draw droves of summer visitors and keep about 285 residents year-round. The town is home to the Kenai Princess Lodge and river rafting outfits. Surrounded by Chugach National Forest, it is near trail heads and the popular Russian River fishery.
Sterling -- Sterling is home to about 6,000 people and the gateway to the Swanson River canoe area in the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge. The confluence of the Kenai and Moose rivers attracts fishing, camping and boating. Check out Sterling Day celebrations on Aug. 5.
Nikiski -- Also known as North Kenai or Nikishka, it's home to about 4,000 people and the area's petrochemical industry. Recreation facilities include the North Peninsula Recreation Center pool with its water slide and Captain Cook State Recreation Area north of town. Celebrate midsummer with the Family Fun in the Midnight Sun outdoor festival at the recreation center June 17.
Ninilchik -- The old Russian village is a favorite with photographers and anglers, who flock to the Ninilchik River and Deep Creek for salmon and to offshore charters for halibut. The landmark Orthodox church welcomes viewers but asks them to respect the adjacent cemetery. The Peninsula Fairgrounds in Ninilchik host the borough fair Aug. 18-20. The library or the chamber of commerce kiosk across from the fairgrounds provide visitor information.
Anchor Point -- The westernmost point on the U.S. highway system, this town of 1,200 prides itself on the Anchor River's fly-fishing, steelhead trout and salmon runs. Events include a fishing derby for children on June 10, Fourth of July festivities and the winter Snow Rondi festival. The Anchor Point Chamber of Commerce has a summer visitors' center by the school and a Web site at www.xyz.net/~apcoc/.
Nikolaevsk -- This colony of Russian Old Believers has about 480 residents tucked in the backcountry west of Anchor Point. The community's church has striking exterior icons. Shops sell handicrafts such as embroidery and Russian souvenirs.
Halibut Cove -- The ferry Danny J takes visitors from Homer to the cove, which welcomes guests with its lodges, art galleries and even a gourmet restaurant. The 70 residents live in a splendid setting on the doorstep of Kachemak Bay State Park.
Seldovia -- This south Kachemak village of 700 is one of the peninsula's most historic. The former fishing port reinvented itself as a tourist destination. The annual Fourth of July bash is a traditional favorite. Check out the old boardwalk, pocket parks and Alaska Tribal Cache. Seldovia offers access to Jakalof Bay, scenic Red Mountain or the Alutiiq villages of Port Graham and Nanwalek. The chamber of commerce is online at www.xyz.net/~seldovia.
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