Alaska is famous for its spectacular scenic beauty, abundant wildlife, and opportunities for all sorts of recreation–from hiking and paddling to world-class fishing. When most people envision the state, they think of soaring mountains, glaciers, icy fjords, and residents bundled up in parkas surrounded by endless snow. But it’s so much more than that.
The warmer months of the year bring plenty of color to the landscapes–wildflowers dotting lush meadows with streams and rivers meandering through. There are secluded bays and coastal waters filled with marine life like orcas, humpback whales, and seals that frame fabulous beaches. Whether puffy clouds float among patches of blue or there are gray skies with misty rain, the wildness of Alaska beaches creates an enchanting atmosphere that can be even more alluring than palm trees and warm, tropical sands.
These stunning Alaska beaches offer everything from peaceful strolls, horseback riding, and kite-flying to tide-pooling and surf fishing. No matter which you choose, Instagrammable photos are practically guaranteed.
1. Mariner Park Beach
Located in the charming town of Homer at the base of Homer Spit, Mariner Park Beach is one of those often-overlooked gems. It’s part of a 111-acre multi-use area that draws birdwatchers, whale-watchers, surfers, fossil hunters, horseback riders, kitesurfing, boulderers, and beachcombers.
While few associate Alaska with kitesurfing, Kachemak Bay is ideal for the sport as it provides small waves that break over a sandbar one minute and endless glassy, flat water the next. The huge tides help make it a prime spot too. Rock climbing in its purest form can be enjoyed here, with bouldering a popular activity fun for the whole family.
If you walk from the park towards the end of the spit, you’ll see boulders on the left side, starting from about a quarter-mile to 1.5 miles down, varying from three- to 10-feet in height.
2. Black Sand Beach
As the crow flies, this beach isn’t far from Anchorage, about 36 miles from Whittier, but its position makes it accessible only via a tour, booking a boat charter, or an extended paddling excursion. It’s worth the effort to get here as one of the most spectacular Alaska beaches, with views of Coxe Glacier looming across the water.
The contrast of midnight black sands against glacial blue is something that will take your breath away when you first lay eyes on Black Sand Beach. This remote stretch, nestled along the shore where Barry Arm meets Harriman Fjord in Prince William Sound, is just a quarter-mile long. But the surrounding mountains and glaciers not only provide awe-inspiring scenery, but they also help protect you from the elements.
Sea kayakers often camp here, with a five-minute paddle leading to massive rocks exposed by the receding glacier. It calves icebergs that are often left stranded on the sand like works of crystal art. At low tide, you can walk past the beach to explore further.
3. Bishop’s Beach
Just outside Old Town Homer stretching to the mouth of Beluga Slough, Bishop’s Beach is accessed via a short trail from the Islands and Ocean Visitor Center. Swept by the 25-foot tides of Kachemak Bay, it’s known for its outstanding surfing and at lower tides, one of the most breathtaking coastal walks in the state. When the tide recedes, one can search through tide pools with all sorts of marine creatures like sea anemones and starfish. With Pleistocene bones discovered in the area, you might even find a fossil.
There’s plenty to do at Bishop’s, whether you want to get active or relax. Watch and listen for the bald eagles perched in the black spruce trees or flying overhead, keeping an eye out for sea otters commonly spotted floating along the water.
4. Eagle Beach
An approximately 30-minute drive from Juneau along Glacier Highway will bring you to Eagle Beach. Even when the cruise crowds arrive, you’ll probably be surrounded by more bald eagles than people here, as few, other than the more adventurous, independent traveler, make it up this way.
Bald eagles are frequently spotted throughout the region, but there is an exceptionally high concentration here, especially from about mid-July through early fall. They come to feast on the salmon that you’ll see swimming in shallow streams out on the flats. It’s one of the best places to get a close-up look at the majestic birds in their natural habitat, with views of Lynn Canal and a backdrop of photogenic mountains, making it even more magical. You might see a black bear scoping out a meal along with sea lions and harbor seals that approach when the tide comes in.
5. Kasilof River Beach
Kasilof River Beach is located on the east side of the Kenai Peninsula, where the Kasilof River flows into Cook Inlet, about 15 miles south of Soldotna. It’s a favorite destination for dip-netting and beachcombing, while the adjacent estuary is an ideal place to view birds and other wildlife.
This beautiful stretch of sand framed by surreal blue waters with a backdrop of snow-dusted peaks is part of the Kasilof River State Recreational Site. It also features salt marshes, dunes, and grasslands. While many come to fish for coho, king, and sockeye salmon from mid-June through mid-August, a tranquil experience can be enjoyed without the crowds outside of that period.
6. Whittier Beach
Just 60 miles from Anchorage at the head of Passage Canal, just off the road to the town of Whittier, this gravel beach opens to a large flat at low tide. The only beach accessible by road in the western region of Prince William Sound, from this rocky peninsula, you can watch the boats sail by while enjoying sights down the fjord of a vast kittiwake rookery and often an abundance of wildlife like Steller sea lions and harbor seals.
This area is home to over a dozen waterfalls that spill from icefields, glaciers, islands, and forests. In addition to wildlife watching, there are many scenic trails to hike that reveal jaw-dropping views. While it can be windy, it’s also possible to launch kayaks and boats from here.
7. Kincaid Beach
Even Alaska’s largest city offers beaches for strolling, bonfires, wildlife watching, and more, with Kincaid Beach one of the best. This “secret’ stretch is located at the edge of Kincaid Park just outside of downtown. It’s the perfect spot to unwind with a view of Cook Inlet, the Kenai Peninsula, Fire Island, and even Mount Denali after a day of adventure.
Kincaid is also a great spot to look for colorful Japanese glass fishing boats and long strolls on the beach. Even at high tide, you can easily walk for a mile or two along the sandy shore to the south, with steep dunes and bluffs on one side and the ocean on the other.
8. The Homer Spit
A thin stretch of land stretching 4.5 miles surrounded by Kachemak Bay on three sides, the Homer Spit offers miles of beach as one of the most famous in all of Alaska. Hang out and enjoy the waves, watching for a pod of orcas to pass by, beach comb, fish, or stroll with the easily walkable, gently sloping sand amid a stunning mountain panorama.
While the scenery is wild, this is a destination where you’ll find plenty of facilities, including restaurants, bars, shops, and tour operators for charters, fishing, kayaking, and more. Before you leave, be sure to pay your respects to all lost at sea at the Seafarers Memorial and stop in for a beer at the Salty Dawg.
Make Your Visit Unforgettable
With Homer Spit one of the most captivating places in all of Alaska, you may not want to leave. The good news is that you can stay right here at Land’s End Resort, the only hotel on The Spit. Set right on the beach, you won’t have to tear yourself away from the views of the bay and mountains. In fact, you might even spot whales, sea otters, and other wildlife right from your room.
This highly-rated resort hosts a wide range of accommodations, suiting visitors of all types, including families with luxurious beach homes that have as many as four bedrooms. With a one-of-a-kind location and a staff who treats every guest like a member of the family, it’s a place you’ll want to return to again and again.