Home » 2006 Alaska RV Road Trip

Homer, AK

Thursday, July 20, 2006 - 12:00pm by Lolo
42 miles and 1 hour from our last stop - 3 night stay


After leaving Ninilchik, we continued south on the Sterling Highway to the town of Homer, truly the end of the road. Before reaching the town, we made a brief stop at a scenic overlook at mile 170, where there was a tremendous view across Kachemak Bay to the volcanic mountains on the other side. Truly a lovely place, and one which I was dying to see in the sunlight, if this lousy weather would ever leave us.

Homer Bald Eagle in flight over beachHomer Bald Eagle in flight over beachAs we approached town, we caught our first glimpse of the famous Homer Spit jutting 4 ½ miles out into Kachemak Bay, and I knew that that was where I wanted to be. Unfortunately, in a panic I had made reservations for tomorrow and the next night at the Oceanview RV Park, which was on the edge of the town of Homer rather than on the Spit. I now realized that this was probably a big mistake. We decided to drive out onto the Spit and see what we could find for tonight and then decide what to do about tomorrow.

There were so many camping options along the Spit, ranging anywhere from inexpensive dry city camping to the Heritage RV Park, the most expensive camping I have ever encountered (something like $75 a night). They did have some great amenities--satellite TV, modem hookups, voice mail, etc.--but who the heck cared. I was in Alaska and the last thing I was looking for here was technology that I could get back home. We continued on to the Homer Spit Campground at the very end of the Spit, right across the road from the Salty Dawg Saloon, which would be very convenient if the weather didn't improve.

Inlet to Homer's 'Fishing Hole'Inlet to Homer's 'Fishing Hole'We were able to get a site, but not on the beach. Too bad, because the beach sites had great views, but the other sites were pretty bad--more like a parking lot. We were right next to the laundry, which although not exactly aesthetically pleasing, was quite convenient as I had about 6 days of dirty clothes to deal with. Herb and Hans took the boys to the end of the Spit to fish while Michelle and I did laundry--how embarrassingly stereotypical. At least the men did produce and manage to catch some fish. Actually, the men didn't catch anything, but the boys did. Jonathan caught a lingcod, Andrew caught a flounder, and Tommy caught a very ugly unidentified fish. They didn't come back until about 10:00 so we had another one of our midnight dinners. We were really having a tough time adjusting to the fact that it didn't get dark until the middle of the night.

The next morning Michelle went to the office first thing, before anyone else was awake, and began to try to finagle our way into a beach site. Michelle is a very persistent person, so if there was anyone that could get us a better site, it was her. Surprisingly, the office told her that several sites on the beach were opening up that day, and if the occupants didn't come in by 11:00 to renew, they were ours. And to think that all this was going on while we were still asleep.

Herb with Salmon DinnerHerb with Salmon DinnerThe only down side to switching sites was that we had to wait around the campground all morning to see who checked out. However, it was well worth it. We wound up getting the two best sites in the whole campground--right on the beach at the very end, next to the Fishermen's Memorial. Michelle was quite pleased with herself and so were we.

After making our claim to the new beach sites, we all piled into the Kalchbrenner motorhome and took a drive back down the Spit towards town and then out on the East End Road, which runs along Kachemak Bay for about 20 miles. We were barely out of town before Hans yelled, "Moose!" Hans has the most incredible knack for spotting wildlife of anyone I know, even when he's the one driving. We pulled over just in time to see the moose leave the front lawn of a house and enter into a nearby woods. Apparently, this is not such a rare sight around here. Moose are Homer lawn ornaments.

The views along the drive would have been great, but we were dealing once again with a very overcast day. This bad weather was starting to get old. To top it off, poor Alexis had caught a pretty awful stomach virus and spent the whole drive just sleeping in the back bedroom. That's the nice part about a motorhome though. If you're not feeling so great, it's pretty much just as comfortable as being home.

Homer fishingHomer fishingOn the way back towards Homer, we stopped for lunch at the Fritz Creek General Store, which had a very cozy country setting and really good sandwiches and pizza. On the way out, we checked the bulletin board to see what was happening in Homer. These people really know how to have a good time. That night there was going to be a duct tape costume party. This really got Herb's and Hans' imaginations going. Thankfully, we hadn't packed any duct tape.

Back on the Spit, we decided to stop and try our luck at the famous Homer Fishing Hole. Some of us had a little ethical dilemma as to just how sporting this fishing actually was. You see, the Fishing Hole is really sort of a trick played on some unsuspecting salmon. Every year the Alaska Department of Fish and Game stocks this little bight with king and silver salmon smolt. When these little smolt grow up into salmon, they eventually return to their birthplace to spawn. Rather than finding a river to swim up and lay their eggs in, they are greeted with a crowd of anglers lining the banks of the bight. There is nowhere for them to go, but the end of a fisherman's line. Not particularly sporting. However, we really did want to catch salmon while we were in Alaska, so we convinced each other that these fish were just going to die anyway, so we might as well have them for dinner. We walked across the street to the Sports Shed to buy fishing licenses for $55 a piece.

Gang roasting marshmellows around the beach fireGang roasting marshmellows around the beach fireThere definitely was a technique to this, but we didn't have it down yet. We watched one local woman pull in her limit of silvers in less than an hour, while we were still just flogging the water with our lines. Herb tried to have me spy on locals to find out what they were doing, because there definitely was a difference in results between what they were catching and what the tourists were catching. Finally, Jonathan did manage to catch one. Score 1 for the tourists.

The boys and I finally gave up and went for a run up and down the spit--separately of course. The boys wouldn't be caught dead running with their mother, nor would I be able to keep up with them. I ran along the bike path back towards the town of Homer. I really didn't know what to think of this place. It was a strange mix of charming fishing village and junkyard. There were abandoned rusty cars and old dilapidated boats just left on the side of the road and the beach. There was definitely no pretense here or sprucing up for the tourists. It was very real and I finally decided, very refreshing.

Well, that night we ate the fish Jon had caught, and it was so good that we were determined to crack the code tomorrow and find out the locals' secret technique so we could get some more. The atmosphere for our dining was wonderful as well--right on the beach with a nice campfire going. Alexis was even feeling well enough to join us. I guess it was just a 24 hour virus. Hopefully, no one else would get it.

Duct Tape Party at HomerDuct Tape Party at HomerAs we sat by the fire that evening, we would occasionally hear the mournful ringing of the bell from the nearby Fishermen's Memorial. It was sad to think of all the fishermen that have died while fishing these waters. It reminded us too that while for us, fishing was an entertaining pastime, for many of the people of Homer it was their livelihood, and a dangerous one at that.

The next morning Hans and Jonathan went off on a ½-day halibut charter. Herb, Andrew, and Tom are really not into fishing charters, but prefer to fish from shore. So, they decided to stay back and take the ladies out for a day at the Fishing Hole. They certainly do know how to treat a lady.

When we got there, the same local woman that had fished so successfully the day before was back again, so Herb went in for the kill. Surprisingly, she had no problem sharing her technique with him. I guess she didn't consider Herb to be much of a threat. Besides, she was already catching her limit within the first hour of fishing each day. What Herb learned was that you didn't really "catch" these fish with bait or lures, rather you snagged them in the mouth, which was the only place where you were legally allowed to snag a salmon (at least at this time of the season). This woman would come down to the Hole at low tide, when you could actually see the fish. She would set up her rod with a fine green line that the fish couldn't see and simply attach a bobber, a small weight, and just a hook. The hook was wrapped with a small piece of yarn to get around a regulation technicality where you were not allowed to fish with a bare hook. Then she would just wait, and as a salmon swam past her hook, she would snag it in the mouth. Perfectly legal and very effective. Later in the season when the salmon were going to die soon, the regulations would actually be loosened to allow fishermen to snag them not just in the mouth, but anywhere. In the meanwhile, you had to aim for their mouths.

Homer Mama Moose & youngHomer Mama Moose & youngWhile Herb was doing his espionage, Michelle had her own unique technique for fishing success, which was much more entertaining than Herb's. You have to really know Michelle to appreciate this. Michelle is a very attractive and outgoing blonde that loves to talk with everybody she meets. I happened to glance across the Fishing Hole only to see Michelle right in the middle of the most crowded section of the Hole, elbow to elbow with serious fishermen, flailing away with her fishing line, and getting completely tangled in the lines of all around her. While she smiled and chatted, several local fishermen gathered around her, practically tripping over each other trying to help her undo the giant bird's nests she was creating with every flail of her line. It was very entertaining to watch.

Eventually Hans and Jonathan met us after what had been for them a productive halibut charter. They caught their limit and were having it frozen and shipped back to New Jersey. Besides being a great experience, the trip had paid for itself in fish. They kept some of the halibut out for us to eat during the trip.

Homer's 'Fishing Hole'Homer's 'Fishing Hole'After awhile we decided to take a break from the fishing and wander around the Spit. Besides being a fishing village, Homer is also somewhat of an artist community so there were many lovely galleries and shops to explore. The Spit was definitely a very lively and fun place to be. On the walk back to the Fishing Hole, Michelle started to feel a bit queasy. When we got back to the RVs, she disappeared inside and wasn't seen again for another 24 hours. Apparently, this stomach virus wasn't done with us yet. It reminded me a bit of Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None. We all wondered who was going to be next.

Herb, Hans, and the boys employed their new-learned local fishing technique at the Hole and were quite successful--another 3 silver salmons to bring home for dinner. I was not as pleased because I really wanted to go out to dinner. However, the chances of that weren't looking very good right now. According to reports from the Kalchbrenner motorhome, Michelle was feeling pretty awful, and we didn't want to go out to eat without her.

While fishing at the Hole, we discovered another one of Homer's claims to fame--bald eagles. Homer is actually the eagle capital of the world and the place where most of those great eagle photographs in magazines like National Geographic are taken. We were fortunate enough to have one pose for us. Herb and Andrew set up their tripods and took some fabulous photos of an eagle feeding on the beach. Andrew even got a great one of an eagle in flight with its dinner in its talons.

Fishing HoleFishing HoleThat night back at our lovely beach site, we made another campfire and cooked the salmon we had caught that afternoon. It was delicious. There really is a difference in taste with salmon that fresh. Poor Michelle never made an appearance that night, but hopefully, like Alexis, this would only last 24 hours.

I couldn't possibly leave Homer without visiting the infamous Salty Dawg Saloon, so around 11:00 pm on our last night in Homer, Herb and I told the kids we would be back shortly and wandered across the street to this famous Homer landmark. We entered a small, dark room with dirt floors and walls covered in bumperstickers and dollar bills. It was very noisy and crowded, but somehow I managed to squeeze into a seat at the bar sandwiched between two men. Herb and I ordered some Alaskan beers and I got ready for a true Homer experience. We struck up conversations with the men around us, hoping to hear tales of rough days at sea, only to discover that they too were tourists seeking the same Homer essence we were. Oh well. They were nice to talk to anyway and the beer was really good. I felt bad Michelle missed this because she would have loved it. Also, I'm sure she would have been able to find a genuine Homer fisherman or two to chat with.

The next morning Michelle reappeared feeling somewhat better, but now Hans was feeling queasy. We were a bit worried how he was going to manage the 4 hour drive to Seward, but he insisted that he could do it. I think he would have had to have been hospitalized before he would let Michelle behind the wheel.

As we left Homer, I gazed fondly at the Salty Dawg, the Fishing Hole, the galleries, and even the dilapidated boats left on the beach. The unique charm and quaintness of this place had definitely grown on me.


At the end of the Sterling Highway in the southwestern-most corner of the Kenai Peninsula lies the charming and quirky fishing village of Homer, known for its mild climate, large halibut, bald eagles, and art galleries. The town has an undeniably beautiful setting as well--surrounded by a panorama of water and the snow-capped Kenai Mountains across the bay.

Homer Bald Eagle in flightHomer Bald Eagle in flightWhile most of the village lies on the shores of Kachemak Bay, its most famous part, the Homer Spit, is a bar of sand, gravel, and rock that juts 4 ½ miles out into the bay itself. The Spit is where the action is. Its 4 ½ miles are lined with charter boat services, unique gift shops and art galleries, restaurants, the infamous Salty Dawg Saloon, the famous "Fishing Hole," and several public campgrounds. A paved 3-mile bike path starts at the base of the Spit and continues to the Fishing Hole. The Homer Spit is also home to hundreds of bald eagles. In fact, most of the photos you see of bald eagles, including those in National Geographic magazine, were shot here.

Homer calls itself the halibut fishing capital of the world, and with good reason--halibut caught in these waters are not only frequent but their size often exceeds 200 pounds. Tourists flock to Homer to go out on one of the many halibut charters offered on the Spit, and most do not come back empty-handed. There are several companies on the Spit that will flash freeze your catch and ship it so that it's waiting for you upon your arrival home.

For those that want to fish but don't want to go out on a halibut charter, there is great king and silver salmon fishing at the Fishing Hole, right on the Spit. The Alaska Department of Fish & Game stocks this little bight with king and silver salmon smolt. Each year the salmon return, fooled into thinking this is where they are to swim up river and lay their eggs. Instead, they are greeted with a crowd of anglers lining the banks of the bight. Fishing licenses are available right across from the Fishing Hole at the Sport Shed.

There is ample camping along the Spit. The city maintains several camping areas that do not have hookups. In addition to the city campsites, there are three privately run RV parks on the Spit that do have hookups: the Homer Spit Campground near the tip of the spit, the Sportman's Supply near the boat launch, and Heritage RV Park. There is also camping off the spit in the town itself.

The ferry terminal for the Alaska Marine Highway is located near the end of the Spit. From here, ferries run twice a week to Seldovia, three times a week to Kodiak, and once a week to Seward, Valdez, and Cordova. See www.ferryalaska.com for more information regarding ferry schedules and prices.

MIKE on June 11, 2008

I came across your site while looking for xtream rvs, so glad i did AWESOME stories and pics of ALASKA My wife and I also visted there without our rv but hope to someday with our two sons. It has been a passion of ours to rv to alaska from our home in NEW HAMPSHIRE. Keep up the good work THE MORINS

Herb on June 12, 2008

Hi Mike,
Thanks for the encouragement. I too wanted to get to Alaska using our own RV, but from NJ it's about 10,000 miles. I calculated that at 9.5 mpg and $4.00 gas it would cost over $4,200 in gas alone. Plus, we would need to take a few more weeks minimum if we wanted to have any fun on the way. The rental RV worked out great, especially since I had the airline miles for 4 free tickets. However, this trip is still on the list of ones that need to be done when we get a little more time. Safe Travels!

Homer location map in "high definition"

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