Homer is a fun outdoorsy place for a weekend getaway. As you enter Homer, the last settlement at the end of the Kenai Peninsula that can be reached by road, you’ll get a great panoramic view of the town, surrounding mountains and the Spit stretching into Kachemak Bay. The Spit is a thin strip of land that juts out into the bay where most of the tourist traps are located; souvenir shops, fishing and kayaking charters, and a few bars including the infamous Salty Dawg Saloon. Here are the top 7 things not to miss while visiting Homer.
#1- Salty Dawg Saloon looks like an old lighthouse for midgets. As you walk in, everybody 5’5” and above has to duck to cross the threshold. (Sometimes it’s good to be vertically challenged.) There’s a bar that spans one wall, and thick wooden benches and tables throughout. Every surface is covered; the floor with cedar chips, walls and ceiling with money, business cards, student I.D.s, bras, and panties. Most of the money has something scrawled across it like “Jim and Angie Sept. 23, 2003”, but a few have drunken poems that make it a fun and entertaining place to hang out.
Drunken tourist bars usually have an array of colorful characters, and one character I met was “Art the Dart”. I was sitting there listening to a group of guys tell yet another drunken story, feeling like a water balloon after so much alcohol and no food, stirring a brand new drink that someone had bought me. I had been stirring this drink for quite a while. Art, a salty 60-something year old fisherman came over and informed me, “If ya keep stirrin’ that drink instead of drinking it, you’re gonna develop carpel tunnel.” It’s kind of embarrassing when someone old enough to be your granddad hassles you about your drinking habits.
#2- The Alaska Maritime Wildlife Refuge which stretches for most of the Alaskan state coastline is a hiker’s and photographers playground. This refuge offers protection, breeding and feeding areas to millions of sea birds and mammals. There’s a visitor center with information and the beach is open to humans and dogs.
#3- The Pratt Museum is the only natural history museum on the Kenai Penninsula and has traveling and permanent exhibits such as the Exxon Valdez oil spill exhibit. They also have live remote cameras of bears fishing for salmon in Kachemak State Park.
#4- Skyline Drive offers great views of the surrounding landscape, and campgrounds and RV parks are scattered across town and on the Spit.
#5, #6, and #7- There’s no end to the selection of fishing charters and wildlife and kayaking tours. Most charters and tours are for a full day excursion. If you’re kayaking, watch out for the harbor seals. They try to hitch rides on the kayaks.
Special Attraction: On the way to or from Homer, stop at the Tustamena Lodge where the bar is covered with thousands of baseball hats. Over 23,000 hats covered the ceiling, the walls, even some of the posts were completely hidden by this plethora of hats! And even the word “plethora” doesn’t seem to capture the whole visual experience though we did find a couple of doubles.
Necessity Stop: And just in case you’ve been roughing it for awhile and need facilities, Soldotna, the halfway point between Homer and Anchorage or Seward, has a Wash & Dry laundromat complete with showers for a small price. Much like a Waffle House calling out your breakfast order, the ladies-with-the-80s feathered hairstyles call out the next person when a shower becomes available. Soldotna is also a great place for shore fishing along the river.
Enjoy Homer, affectionately known as, “the quaint little drinking village with a fishing problem.”