The Kenai Peninsula is a great place to spend a (long) weekend in Alaska. It is perfect for getting a quick taste of wild Alaska, as it is relatively close to Anchorage. Prepare to see majestic mountains, beautiful glaciers, historic towns, and a chance of wildlife during your trip to the Kenai Peninsula. Be sure you have your camera charged and ready at all times! Wildlife doesn't pose and wait for you to be ready.
This blog post will cover the top sights on the Kenai Peninsula so that you can plan your very own weekend getaway in Alaska, including some of the best cabin airbnbs for the perfect stay.
We worked with Pursuit Collection to be able to share the full Alaska wildlife experience with you for our weekend in Alaska! This blog post also contains affiliate links, meaning that at no extra cost to you, we will earn a small commission should you click on our links and make a purchase. As always, all our opinions and photos are our own. Thank you for supporting the businesses that support us.
The Best Weekend in Alaska on the Kenai Peninsula
The Kenai Peninsula is a relatively small area of Alaska when compared to the entire state, but it packs in so much beautiful nature and activities that it is the perfect destination if you only have a weekend to spend in Alaska.
The top experiences for a weekend in Alaska on the Kenai Peninsula are:
- City of Seward
- Exit Glacier
- Kenai Fjords National Park Tour
- Homer Spit
- Seeing Wildlife
Continue reading for pictures and all of the details on these top experiences!
What is the Kenai Peninsula?
The Kenai Peninsula extends approximately 150 miles (240 km) southwest from Anchorage and includes mountain ranges with glaciers, many lakes and rivers, historic towns, and the famous sounds and fjords of the Gulf of Alaska. The Kenai Peninsula doesn’t include all of the popular sights of Alaska, but it is a great starting off point. We highly recommend it for your first trip to The Last Frontier state and it makes a great trip for a weekend in Alaska, whether you are looking for a romantic getaway or adventure-packed weekend.
How to Get To The Kenai Peninsula
You will almost certainly be flying into Anchorage, which is the largest city in Alaska, and also has the largest airport. All major US carriers fly here multiple times per day throughout the summer. Flight frequencies drop off significantly once the weather gets cold.
You can also fly seasonally from Canada, Germany, Russia, and Iceland! Due to the distance from Alaska to the lower 48 states, there are a lot of flights that arrive and depart late in the evening. With that in mind, you might consider spending your first night in Alaska near Anchorage airport so that you can get a great nights sleep and be ready to explore the Kenai Peninsula the following morning.
Once in Anchorage, we highly recommend you rent a car to explore the Kenai peninsula as it makes getting around much easier and you can make the most out of your weekend in Alaska. You don’t need to rent an SUV or truck to get around, as a car will easily reach all of the main sights on the Kenai Peninsula.
When you are ready to set off from Anchorage, drive south on the Seward Highway (Highway 1) and get ready for some amazing sights!
Best Sights and Things to Do on the Kenai Peninsula
Now that you are ready to hit the road, read on for the best things to see and do on the Kenai Peninsula for your weekend in Alaska.
Charming Seward, Alaska
The city of Seward, founded in 1903, is located at the southern terminus of the Alaska Railroad. That means you can get to Seward by car, train, boat, or by air! Seward is an easy drive 2.5 hours south of Anchorage and perfect for your first day. Seward’s harbor and location makes it one of the best bases to explore the beautiful Kenai Fjords National Park. The Kenai Fjords National Park is famous for being where the mountains, ice, and ocean meet. This is epitomized by the massive Harding Icefield, which contains almost 40 glaciers.
Seward also has a number of popular restaurants and other places to stock up on groceries for your long weekend in Alaska. It's quaint downtown area is easy to walk and explore, and is situated right along the waters edge.
Exit Glacier, Kenai Fjords National Park
One of the major attractions of the Kenai Fjords National Park is just a few minutes outside of Seward and is one of the most accessible glaciers in Alaska, the Exit Glacier. From the parking lot it is an easy 1 mile (1.6 km) loop to the glacier viewpoint, with further trail options to get even closer to the glacier. Also be aware of the mosquitoes here, the hike is not long, but the bugs are all over, be prepared! Getting covered in bug bites is not the best way to start your weekend in Alaska.
Hours: Open 24 hours a day and all year-round.
Facilities: There are public washrooms at the parking lot.
Cost: Free. There are no entrance fees to visit Kenai Fjords National Park.
Location: Exit Glacier
Kenai Fjords National Park Tour
The Kenai Fjords National Park Tour is one of the highlights of spending time in the Kenai Peninsula, and lasts for 6 hours out on the open water. There is the potential to spot whales, dolphins, sea lions, seals, and puffins! The tours are a great addition to any Alaska getaway, and perfect for a weekend in Alaska.
Tours leave from Seward harbor, which has lots of parking and is walkable from all locations in downtown Seward. It's common for Seward to be covered in thick fog, but don't worry as the whole tour will not be in the fog! Once out on the open water the weather can easily change so that you can take in all of the sights.
One of the most common first sighting on the tour are sea otters. They like to sit in groups and just bob in the water, relaxing without a care in the world!
There are a number of small rocky islands where a large number of birds are nesting, including puffins! This is also a common area to spot groups of Steller sea lions sunbathing on the rocks.
After this wildlife viewing spot, it is a bit of a longer boat ride to the next destination, allowing for the perfect time to dig in to the provided lunch. Once you are finished with the provided lunch, you will soon reach the piece de resistance of this tour, the Aialik Glacier.
As you approach the Aialik Glacier you will realize that the size of the glacier is unlike anything you have seen before. The scale of the glacier compared to the tour boats is impressive and awe-inspiring. To fully appreciate it, it should be seen in person.
Here the captain will turn off the boat motors so that everyone on the boat can sit and listen to the cracking of the glacier with the odd bit of ice falling into the water. You may have the chance to witness some significant calving of the glacier.
Calving is when a glacier suddenly releases a mass of ice. The deep and loud booms of the ice cracking echo across the bay. This is followed by the silent mid-air fall of the ice, and the final plunge into the ocean. The boat will rock back and forth from the rippling waves, even though the ice is dropping into the ocean almost a half mile away.
To get the full impression of the ice calving and how majestic it is, click to the right to see the video below.
If you are lucky you may even have the chance to pose for a picture with some glacier ice that has been picked up from the bay.
On the boat ride back to Seward you will again have a chance to see more sea life. This is a great time for whale watching! Unfortunately whales don't always want to do a full 'Free Willy' jump out of the water, so you may be left trying to snap a few tail photos off in the distance. While there is no guarantee of seeing whales on the tour, this is one of the best locations for whale watching, so it is highly likely that you will be able to see a pod or two of whales.
The boat will then makes its way back towards Seward harbor, indicating the end of the tour. The amount of wildlife that you can see during the Kenai Fjords National Park Tour is impressive and we can highly recommend adding it to your itinerary for a weekend in Alaska.
Kenai Fjords National Park Tour Key Information
Dates: Tours begin in May and run to September. Check Kenai Fjords Tours for the most up to date schedule.
Time: There are multiple tours daily, with more during the summer months. The first tours of the day begin at 8:00AM and the last around 12 noon. Tours last about 6 hours.
Cost: Tickets start at $116 USD for an adult, and $58 USD for a child, purchased from Kenai Fjords Tours. If you purchase your tickets in advance online, you can save 10%.
What's Included: A Kenai Fjords National Park Tour ticket includes:
- 6 hour boat ride to see:
- Sea life, including whales, dolphins, sea otters, seals, puffins (unfortunately there are no guarantees on what you will see)
- Aialik Glacier
- Packed lunch on the tour boat
Check Out Homer Spit, Alaska
Homer is located at the end of the road, or the end of the Sterling Highway, on the edge of Kachemak Bay. The Spit is a bit of a geographical oddity, but is one of the main highlights of Homer, and is a narrow gravel bar that sticks out 4.5 miles (7.2km) into the bay.
Once you make it to Homer Spit, you can walk around the harbor and stroll along the colorful houses on the promenade. There are lots of quaint shops to purchase local handicrafts, as well as numerous restaurants and snack bars. Most importantly, try some local Alaskan fish and chips!
The sea fog can be very thick as the Spit sticks so far out into the bay, however it creates a magical atmosphere when the sun is out and shining!
Once the sun burns off the sea fog, you will be able to see the surrounding mountains which are worth a trip themselves.
If you want to get the perfect Instagram shot on Homer Spit then make sure to check out the swing! It's located under the promenade near 4350 Homer Spit Road. It's best to access the swing from the beach where you will see it hanging between the pilings underneath the buildings.
Explore Nature in the Kenai Peninsula
With your rental car you can explore a large portion of the Kenai Peninsula, with additional side trips to Whittier, Chugach State Park, or wherever your heart desires to complete your weekend in Alaska trip.
The Kenai Peninsula has fairly similar weather throughout, however you are most likely to find sunshine and fresh air on the western edge of the Kenai Peninsula. The mountains of the Kenai Peninsula can sometimes hold clouds, creating cloudy weather or rain near the center of the Peninsula.
Wildlife can be found almost everywhere on the Kenai Peninsula. Remember to take only pictures and leave only footprints!
If you have time, you can also venture to Captain Cook State Park to take in the late afternoon sun and go for a walk along the beach.
Where to Stay in the Kenai Peninsula for a Weekend in Alaska
If you are planning to see all of the Kenai Peninsula in a weekend or long weekend, having a base somewhere near the middle of the peninsula is a great way to go. That way you can explore each day without having to pack up and stay somewhere new each time. We highly recommend finding a cabin to stay in for the full Alaska experience. We used Airbnb to rent a cute cabin in the woods! Our cabin was near the small town of Soldotna. There is no better way to experience the outdoors than staying in a cabin for your weekend in Alaska!
There are so many other options available all over the Kenai Peninsula on Airbnb. You can choose from single rooms, small cabins, or massive houses all to yourself; just pick your favorite! If you haven’t used Airbnb before you can signup using this link to get a $40 discount on your first booking. We have put together a list of some of our favorite places to stay on the Kenai Peninsula, including the cute cabin where we stayed, perfect for a romantic getaway in Alaska!
Our cabin was brand new and included a small kitchen with outdoor barbecue, bathroom with shower, and a loft for sleeping which was super fun!
Before arriving in Alaska in summer, it's important to be prepared for the early sunrises and late sunsets. In the middle of June and into July, the sun will rise around 4:20 AM and set around 11:30 PM. This means that it will never truly become ‘dark.’ The benefit of this is that you can easily be out sightseeing and driving to 9:00 PM, and not have to rush anywhere to see something before the sun sets. There are just so many sun-filled hours in the day! However, falling asleep can be somewhat difficult given that it was still broad daylight at 10:00 PM.
How Many Days Do You Need in Alaska?
We highly recommend the Kenai Peninsula as a starting off point when visiting Alaska. The state is massive, and it's not possible to see everything in one trip. The Kenai Peninsula includes some of the best sights in Alaska, and is easily accessible from Anchorage. To explore the Kenai Peninsula we recommend having at least 3 days. A long weekend is perfect, and will allow you to get the full experience. However, if you prefer to travel at a more relaxed pace, you could easily spend a week or more touring the Kenai Peninsula alone. There is no shortage of things to do and see.
What Is the Best Month to Go to Alaska?
Due to Alaska being so far north, the state experiences extreme cold during many months of the year. The best months to explore the Kenai Peninsula and Alaska are July, August, and early September. Timing your trip during these months will give you best chance of some warm and sun-filled days for your long weekend in Alaska.
Have You Experienced a Long Weekend in Alaska?
We loved our weekend in Alaska, exploring the Kenai Peninsula and can absolutely recommend as it is a great beginner’s “taste of Alaska” to start your adventures in the state. If you've completed a similar trip, let us know what you enjoyed the most!
The Next Trip Top 5 Tips for a Weekend in Alaska - the Kenai Peninsula
1) Rent a car.
There is no better way to see the Kenai Peninsula then by driving the open roads for your weekend in Alaska. This gives you the flexibility to stay exactly where you like. When driving, you can stop at any viewpoint along the way, including when you see wildlife! Some tour buses will stop when wildlife are near the road, but you don’t want to be on the one that drives right by!
2) Prepare for the sun.
While it may not get as hot as the lower 48 states, Alaska can still have long days of sun during the summer months. Don’t take this to mean that the sun is less intense. It is just as intense in Alaska as it is in other places, and sometimes more so depending on elevation. In addition, as the days are longer you will have more exposure to the sun each day. It helps to prepare with sunglasses and sunscreen during the day. For the night, don’t forget a good sleeping mask to sleep properly when it is still light outside!
3) Prepare for the unknown.
Despite the Kenai Peninsula being relatively populated compared to the rest of Alaska, this is still “wild Alaska.” You should always know where you are and where you are going, without relying on any cell service. You should also always make sure to have enough gas in the car and water and snacks, in case you end up stranded somewhere. Even if you don’t end up stranded, it can be a long drive to the next town if you get hungry or thirsty. Furthermore the temperatures can drop drastically. So make sure you pack right for the perfect weekend in Alaska.
4) Bring your best camera and a zoom lens.
Moose, deer, and bears don’t generally walk up to your car so they can be nicely framed in your phone’s camera. The animals are usually a bit further away, and if they are close you should probably back away, so be prepared by bringing your best camera with an excellent zoom lens.
5) Book a tour.
We are staunch believers in doing your own thing when traveling. However, sometimes it is not always reasonably possible, and a tour is the best way to go. For Alaska, you are likely here to see nature and wildlife, and the best way to do that can be to go with someone who knows the area best. We highly recommend setting aside time for a whale watching, glacier, or other tour that intrigues you the most. We completed the Kenai Fjords National Park Tour which we can highly recommend for your weekend in Alaska.
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