Best of Alaska
Fly into Anchorage, settle into your hotel, and then cruise downtown to check out the flowers, gift shops, and visitors center. Enjoy a fine seafood dinner at Simon & Seaforts, where you can sip an 11 p.m. cocktail as the sun arcs across the summer sky over Cook Inlet.
Hop on the 8 a.m. Alaska Railroad northbound train, arriving in Denali National Park eight hours later. (The luxurious GoldStar railcars cost more, but they have open-air viewing platforms to take in the grand scenery along the way.)
Stay at one of the hotels just outside the park entrance; Denali Bluffs Hotel or Denali Crow’s Nest are good choices.
Join an all-day bus tour into Denali National Park. It’s eight hours round-trip to the visitors center at Eielson (with fine views of Mt. McKinley when it’s visible), or 11 hours if you want to go all the way out to Wonder Lake and back.
This tour is the highlight of many Alaska visitors’ trips, and you’re likely to see grizzlies, moose, caribou, Dall sheep, and the occasional wolf along the way.
After a morning visit to the Denali Visitors Center and a short hike, take the noon train back south, getting to Anchorage that evening. It won’t get dark, so you might as well take a stroll out on the scenic Tony Knowles Coastal Trail.
Rent a car and drive 225 miles down the Kenai Peninsula to the town of Homer. There’s plenty to see and do, from sea kayaking and beachcombing to shopping and fine dining at Homestead Restaurant or Wasabi’s.
If you’re looking for a spectacular bay vista, stay at the appropriately named Halcyon Heights B&B.
This is a day that could go in three completely different directions. If you have the cash, hop on one of the all-day bear-viewing flights to Katmai National Park.
Sea kayaking is a less expensive option, and True North Adventures has an all-day trip that includes a water taxi to Yukon Island, where you join a guided kayak adventure.
The third option is to hop on an early morning halibut fishing charter boat. You’re almost certain of getting your limit, and fish over 100 pounds are occasionally pulled in. Coal Point Seafood will process, freeze, and ship your catch.
Head out early and drive back north to Whittier. (It is 191 miles from Homer to Whittier; allow at least four hours’ travel time plus any tunnel delays.) In Whittier, take a leisurely five-hour glacier tour to Blackstone Bay. Seals lounge on the icebergs, and several active glaciers are visible at once.
You’ll want more time for your next Alaskan adventure!
© Don Pitcher from Moon Alaska, 10th Edition