While it seems everyone talks about Alaskan summers, there are plenty of reasons to visit Homer in the spring. It’s an exciting time to be here, with temperatures rising, yet there will still be snow on the mountain peaks. Alpenglow colors cast sublime shades of reds, pinks, and orange at sunset every evening while whales and other marine life will be returning, bears start to come out of their dens, and moose calves are born.
By early May, the sun won’t dip below the horizon until after 10 p.m., bringing long hours of daylight to enjoy it all, minus those summer crowds. This is also when Homer’s Shorebird Festival takes place.
During the Kachemak Bay Shorebird Festival, birders from across the globe come to join in Alaska’s largest wildlife festival, a four-day event celebrating spring and the return of 100,000 migrating shorebirds of 25 different species.
History of the Festival
The festival began in 1993 when a group of Homer residents with cultural, environmental, and economic interests came together, envisioning a festival that was fun while educating the public about wetlands and shorebirds.
It requires significant effort, funds, and expertise, but thanks to partnerships with the Friends of Alaska National Wildlife Refuge and Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge, and the generosity of volunteers, and sponsors, it’s managed to thrive ever since.
Experiencing Homer in the spring is just one of the reasons to attend the state’s largest wildlife viewing event. The whole town comes out to celebrate, providing a more authentic experience that will allow you to mingle with the locals while getting a more authentic glimpse at life here.
Activities for all ages are available, like the Junior Birder program that inspires hundreds of young people, ages 5 through 12, and their families to learn more about birding. There’s a Teen Birder program for the 13 and up crowd too.
Join guided birding excursions, kayaking and boat tours, wildlife viewing excursions, and more. As an artsy town, you’ll be able to explore art shows with works focused on birds and there will also be presentations from experts and talks by knowledgeable locals.
There may be no better way to welcome the season than by exploring glorious nature while getting to know the friendly Homer residents.
While the festival events change every year, you’ll have plenty to look forward to by attending Homer’s shorebird festival.
The Mud Bay Family Walk is a guided walk led by local naturalists that will bring you along the beach to Mud Bay to explore the mysteries of the tidal areas while watching for local shorebirds and waterfowl. You’ll be outfitted with a spotting scope while learning how to identify the various species, and it doesn’t cost a thing.
If you want to search for birds and marine mammals, the Marine Wildlife Tour is a family-friendly boat trip that will take you out on the bay, including a visit to Gull Island. Or, get active together by joining a kayak birds and wildlife tour where you hop in a water taxi to Yukon Island and then paddle around, looking for sea otters, sea ducks, eagles, shorebirds, and more. Enclosed boat with open back access. No facilities. Limit of 15 and $95 per person–$85 for kids 12 and under.
While many of the activities can be enjoyed by all ages, adults who are avid birders will especially appreciate the Schantz Scholar Presentations on topics like bird migration using weather surveillance radar and the development of new bird monitoring programs. Nature photography workshops and the First Friday Art Opening featuring bird-themed art are always popular too.
Bear Creek Winery Tasting & Tours will also be available now, bringing the chance to sample wines that showcase the unique character of the terrain, using ingredients sourced only from Alaskan soils.
If you don’t want to adhere to a schedule, there are opportunities for self-guided tours. Bring your binoculars or scopes to Lighthouse Village to look for birds and other wildlife, including bald eagles, sandhill cranes, all sorts of waterfowl, shorebirds, and songbirds.
The self-guided bird identification trail walks allow you to practice your bird ID skills along three family-friendly hiking trails. Watch for both live birds and special laminated birds that are hidden along the way, with bird checklists and field guides available at the trailheads.
For Bird Lovers
This festival is all about the birds so you’ll find endless opportunities to indulge your passions from the bird-related works of art to talks, walks, boat tours, and more. The Anchor River Bird Walk will bring you to discover the hottest birding spots along the river with an experienced guide.
Raptors, shorebirds, waterfowl, songbirds, and seabirds can all be seen, including some rare feathered creatures like the horned lark or Bristle-thighed curlew.
Where to Stay
If you want to be in the heart of it all while enjoying an idyllic location, there’s no better place to stay than Land’s End Resort. The only hotel on the Homer Spit, you’ll be surrounded by views, including the sparkling waters of Kachemak Bay, dramatic mountains and volcanic peaks, while being able to watch birds and other wildlife that pass by.
Accommodation includes everything from beachfront rooms to luxurious multi-bedroom homes. And, with staff that treats their guests like family, you’ll be able to tap the knowledge of insiders to get the latest scoop on the best things to do at the festival and beyond.