The town of Homer is a bit quieter than the Homer Spit. There is less traffic and fewer people but we found the town itself has a lot to offer. One of the first places that we went was the Islands and Oceans Visitor Center. (There is also a Homer Visitor Center, too.) In this modern building there is a number of wonderful exhibits about the Kachemak Bay area. In addition to the exhibits, they have ranger-led information sessions. We attended one that focused on the Kachemak Bay State Park. It was informative and we got to ask lots of questions of the ranger.
Behind the Visitor Center is a large wetlands area with a nature trail that runs through it. You can often spot birds and moose there. We saw sand hill cranes and many other birds out in the marshes.
Hiking and beach combing is also a favorite activity. Bishops Beach, near the Visitor Center, is a popular place to go walk or drive on the beach at low tide. We walked part of the beach one day but we heard that you can actually drive from Homer to Anchor Point, which is 20 miles north, along the beach (we did not attempt this). The locals did caution us about the tides since the water level can rise and fall more than 24 feet. When the tide is low, there are wide stretches of beach and tidal pools to explore but you do not want to get caught out unaware by the incoming tide.
We also went on a short hike through the boreal forest at the Carl E. Wynn Nature Center. The Wynn Center is a 140-acre preserve located off the East Skyline Road. On a small section of the preserve is a Nature Center and over five miles of hiking trails. There are daily guided hikes or you can go on a self-guided hike. It is a good place for birders and there are lots of wildflowers in bloom in summer. They have several observation decks for wildlife viewing as well since it is on a migration path for bears and moose. We went on a Sunday and admission was free that day. The Wynn Center is a very peaceful place to spend a few hours and the drive up East Skyline Drive offers spectacular views of the Kachemak Bay below.
We learned more about the Kachemak Bay when we visited the Pratt Museum. This museum highlights the history of this area from the first homesteaders’ arrival to the present. Outside there was a homesteader’s cabin that you could tour and there was a docent there to answer questions and provide information. Inside there were numerous exhibits about life in Homer. One section of the museum focused on the effects of the Exxon Valdez oil spill in 1989. This massive and tragic oil spill impacted not only Prince William Sound but also the other bays and islands along the Alaska coastline. Unfortunately, Alaskans are still finding remnants of crude oil along the coast today. To date, many of the marine birds and mammals have not returned to Prince William Sound after this disaster. It was a real environmental and economic tragedy that still impacts Alaskans today. Another interesting exhibit had a web cam on one of the bird islands. You can operate the camera and view many migratory birds nesting on the rocky cliffs. There is also Alaskan artwork interspersed throughout the museum. The Pratt Museum offers fascinating insights into the culture of Homer and the Bay area.
Homer has over a dozen art galleries and art coops and we visited several of them. One of them is called Bunnell Street Arts Center and it was just down the street from where we camped. It had lots of artwork from local artists. They are a non-profit organization and they offer artist’s talks, concerts, art exhibits, workshops, and they have an Artist in Residence program. We were very impressed with the work that this organization was doing in the community and we spent some time talking to one of the delightful artists who was in the Center that day.
Just a few miles north of Homer is the Norman Lowell Art Gallery. Norman and his wife, Libby, came to Alaska over 60 years ago as homesteaders in the Homer area. As an artist, he was inspired by the landscape and spent all of his life painting scenes of Alaska. He also taught art classes over the years. Located up a mountain at the end of a gravel road sits a very modern art gallery that features his artwork. The paintings on display are a retrospective of his life’s work. It is fascinating to see how his style progressed and changed over the years. Unfortunately, he laid down his brushes last year at the age of 90. He suffers from glaucoma and is blind now. He still comes to the gallery often but he was away the day that we visited. We did get to meet his son who was there that day.
You can also tour the grounds and see the original one-room cabin where they first lived. We are so glad that we sought out this gallery. It was a real surprise to find this “jewel” just a few minutes from Homer in the town of Anchor Point.
Anchor Point is about 20 minutes north of Homer and many people head that way to go fishing. The views along the coast are breathtaking, especially of the volcanoes across the Cook Inlet.
David wanted to see the “boat tractors” that retrieve the boats from the inlet. This far the north, the large tidal swings make it difficult to have a typical boat launches.
Finally, here’s a word about food in the town of Homer. There is a small but wonderful Farmers Market on Wednesdays (2 PM – 5 PM) and Saturdays (10 AM – 3 PM) during the summer months. We bought some delicious fresh vegetables and seafood from the local vendors. It was a busy market so be sure to get there early!
We discovered two good eateries in Homer that we would definitely recommend. The first is the Two Sisters Bakery. It is located a quaint small house on Bunnell Avenue near Bishops Beach. Their baked goods are amazing and they have some gluten-free options. In addition they serve both lunch and dinner. On that same street is a small creperie called Wild Honey Bistro. This restaurant looks like a nice café in Paris and the staff is very friendly. They are open for breakfast and lunch. They serve both sweet and savory crepes and they are excellent. We enjoyed a leisurely breakfast there one morning.
We were blessed to have wonderful weather while in Homer. In fact, we liked the town so much that we extended our stay for a few more days. In our opinion, Homer is a “must-see” place to visit.