One of the largest coastal parks in the nation, Kachemak Bay State Park spreads for 200 miles along the southwestern edge of the Kenai Peninsula . Within the park’s 400,000 acres are glaciers, high mountains, lakes, islands, beaches, and a scenic rocky shoreline.
Highlighted by constantly changing weather patterns, the park’s outstanding scenery is a backdrop for high-quality recreation. Hiking and camping along the shoreline and in the surrounding forests and mountains are excellent. Five very popular public-use cabins are available ($65), along with over 80 miles of hiking trails. Above tree line, skiers and hikers will find glaciers and snow fields stretching for miles.
Almost three-quarters of the land is wilderness; it’s officially called Kachemak Bay Wilderness State Park. Land mammals include moose, black bears, mountain goats, coyotes, and wolves. Kachemak Bay  supports a rich diversity of marine life and is famous for its halibut and salmon fishing, plus the chance to view sea otters, seals, porpoises, and whales. Unfortunately, a major spruce bark beetle outbreak in the 1990s left massive stretches of dead trees within Kachemak Bay State Park (and in many other parts of Alaska ). New trees are gradually moving into these areas.
For an outstanding day (or multiple-night) hike, have the water taxi drop you at the Glacier Spit Trailhead, where an easy and very scenic two-mile hike leads to a lake in front of picture-perfect Grewingk Glacier. You can camp nearby, and return via the one-mile Saddle Trail, which takes you over a small ridge to Halibut Cove , where you can get a ride back to Homer.
Water taxis cost $75 per person round-trip. A multitude of side trips are available along this route, including ones that take you high into the alpine area over the glacier, and a delightful beach walk. Contact the park for many other hiking options.
Guided sea kayak tours to Grewingk are available through Three Moose Meadow Guide Service (907/235-0755 or 888/777-0930, www.threemoose.com ). These cost $175 per person, including a water taxi from Homer, a hike to the lake, and inflatable kayaks to paddle up to the glacier. Fly-in trips are $295.
In addition to the daily summertime boat tours of Kachemak Bay , local water taxis provide hiker or sea kayaker drop-offs within park waters, for around $75 per person round-trip, or $190 for a double sea kayak and transport of two people, no extra charge for kayaks or bikes.
A number of delightful lodges fill coves surrounding Kachemak Bay State Park. Note, however, that spruce bark beetles have killed the forest in much of this area, so it may not look quite as nice as the Web photos. One exception is Tutka Bay Wilderness Lodge, where the beetles have not wreaked havoc.
For a wonderful escape, Porter’s Alaskan Adventures (907/235-8060, www.portersak.com ) rents three modern cabins on the shore of Hesketh Island near the mouth of Tutka Bay, seven miles from Homer . All cabins contain full kitchens, decks, and waterfront views, but you’ll need to bring sleeping bags. There’s a sauna on the beach for bathing, and an outhouse in the back. Four people can stay here for $150 on weekdays or $165 on weekends; add $70 per person round-trip for the water taxi from Homer. Sea kayak rentals are available through True North Kayak Adventures (907/235-0708, www.truenorthkayak.com ).
Sadie Cove Wilderness Lodge (907/235-2350 or 888/283-7234, www.sadiecove.com ) is an off-the-grid wilderness retreat in the heart of Kachemak Bay State Park. Guests stay in quaint cabins built by Keith and Randi Iverson, who have lived here since the 1970s. This is a place to escape to a quieter time, so you won’t find in-room phones or TVs, though they do have a sauna and creek-side bathhouse, communal lounge, and professional chef. Lodging, three meals, and kayaks cost $450–550 per person per day, plus $150 for the water taxi from Homer. A two-night minimum is required, but most guests book for five nights.
Tutka Bay Wilderness Lodge (907/235-3905 or 800/606-3909, www.withinthewild.com , mid-May–mid-Sept.) occupies the south shore of Kachemak Bay  between Halibut Cove  and Seldovia , nine water miles from the Spit. The lodge caters to nature lovers, photographers, bird-watchers, and anglers with an appreciation for the finer things in life and a willingness to pay dearly; two people pay $2,740 for one day, up to $6,730 for four days. This includes round-trip transportation from Anchorage , delicious family-style meals, boat tours, sea kayaking, guided walks, beachcombing, clam digging, wildlife viewing, yoga, or just soaking in the hot tub. Also available for an extra fee are deep-sea fishing, flightseeing, and bear-viewing. Accommodations are luxurious; there is no roughing it here, and it’s where you might run into the likes of Jim Carey and other celebrities.
Peterson Bay Lodge & Oyster Camp (907/235-7156 or 866/899-7156, www.petersonbaylodge.com ) occupies the head of this remote bay, where the owners raise famous Kachemak Bay  oysters. Guests stay in four surprisingly comfortable canvas-walled cabins with screened porches, a sauna, and access to the lodge kitchen to cook meals. Upon arrival, they are given a tour of the oyster farm, along with the chance to sample fresh oysters and mussels. Lodging, kayaks, and a continental breakfast costs $145 per person; a water taxi from Homer is $65 round-trip.
A classic Alaskan lodge, gorgeous Kachemak Bay Wilderness Lodge (907/235-8910, www.alaskawildernesslodge.com ) lies within China Poot Bay in the heart of the state park, with trails to nearby Peterson Bay. Guests stay in cozy artistic cabins, each with a cedar bath, a picture window, and homemade quilts, and are served gourmet organic meals. All-inclusive rates are $3,750 per person for five days or $1,750 for two nights.
For something different, Alaskan Yurt Rentals (907/235-0132, www.alaskanyurtrentals.com , May–Sept.) maintains nine cozy yurts ($65) located at trailheads around the park, including China Poot Bay, Glacier Spit Beach, Haystack Beach, and Tutka Bay. Each includes a woodstove, sleeping space for six, foam mattresses, and a camp stove. These can also be booked through local water taxis. The yurts are made in Homer, and you can visit the Nomad Shelter (www.nomadshelter.com ) facility at Sterling Highway and Olson Lane.