If you only have two days in Homer, spend half of one visiting enchanted Halibut Cove (pop. 75) across Kachemak Bay on Ismailof Island. At one time Halibut Cove was the center for a thriving herring fishery, with 36 saltries operating. The fishery collapsed in 1928, and today the town is a small center for artists and fishers.
Halibut Cove has long been known for its picturesque harbor ringed by dense green forests; unfortunately, most of the trees were killed by a devastating spruce bark beetle infestation in the 1990s, so the land is in recovery mode now.
The town consists of a long boardwalk that connects shorefront businesses and homes. Learn more about the area at www.halibutcove.com.
The boat docks in front of the Saltry Restaurant. Follow the boardwalk through an old boat barn, past the horses, and on to Halibut Cove Experience Gallery (907/296-2215, www.halibutcoveexperience.com), an excellent cooperative.
A short distance down the boardwalk are side stairs climbing steeply to the studio of the late Diana Tillion (907/296-2207), known for her subtle octopus-ink watercolors. The boardwalk passes Clem and Diana Tillion’s classic Alaskan home (a resident for over 70 years, Clem is jokingly called “the king of Halibut Cove”) before ending at a sandy beach.
If you’re looking for a little hike, walk along the boardwalk from the Saltry Restaurant till you see a gate on the left. Go through the gate and follow the trail up the hill for all-encompassing views of Halibut Cove, Kachemak Bay, eagles, and a rocky arch along the shore below.
At Cove Country Cabins (907/235-6374 or 888/353-2683, www.halibutcovealaska.com) stay in three attractive timber-frame cabins, each with a kitchenette, running water, and an outhouse, plus a central shower house. These range from a little unit ($150 d) to a two-story house ($200 d) with a fine view. The owners also operate Bay Roamers Water Taxi.
Quiet Place Lodge (907/296-2212, www.quietplace.com) features three romantic cabins and all-inclusive packages: $3,360 d for three nights.
Alaska’s Ridgewood Lodge (907/296-2217, www.ridgewoodlodge.com, $450 pp per day) is a large and modern place in Halibut Cove.
Stillpoint in Halibut Cove (907/296-2283, www.stillpointlodge.com) hosts workshops, retreats, and weddings in an architecturally stunning setting.
Halibut Cove’s acclaimed Saltry Restaurant (907/296-2223, www.thesaltry.com, lunch and dinner, entrées $16–35, mid-May –early Sept.) serves daily pasta specials, a wonderful seafood chowder ($8 with bread), Kachemak Bay oysters, and buffalo steaks. Everything is homemade, from the decorated plates to the fresh breads, pies, and chocolate cheesecake. There’s a waterfront deck for alfresco dining on a sunny afternoon, a full bar, a clamshell-shaped aquarium filled with tide-pool creatures (free talks are at 3:30 p.m.), and a blazing fire in the outdoor pit. The Saltry is open for lunch and dinner; dinner reservations are required.
Getting to Halibut Cove
Most visitors arrive on board the Danny J, a classic wooden boat that has been transporting passengers from the Homer Spit to Halibut Cove for decades. It does the run twice daily Memorial Day–Labor Day. The noon sailing costs $49 adults, $45 seniors, $30 kids and includes a tour of the Gull Island bird sanctuary, which Alfred Hitchcock should’ve known about; wear a hat and breathe through your mouth!
After three hours onshore in Halibut Cove, the boat returns to Homer. Its second trip ($30) leaves Homer at 5 p.m., and is only for visitors with dinner or lodging reservations. For details and reservations, contact Central Charters (907/235-7847 or 800/478-7847, www.centralcharter.com).
As an alternative, Bay Roamers Water Taxi (907/399-6200, www.halibutcovealaska.com) has a combination trip ($105) that includes transport from Homer to Kachemak Bay State Park (typically Grewingk Glacier trails), an evening water taxi to the Saltry in Halibut Cove, and return on board the Danny J.
© Don Pitcher from Moon Alaska, 10th Edition