Simply visiting the small town of Homer, Alaska is an unforgettable experience of a lifetime with its spectacular panorama of dramatic mountains, glistening glaciers, and a sparkling blue bay.
The cultural capital of southcentral Alaska, it’s an artsy place with lots of art galleries, museums, live theater, and music venues, along with coffee bars, cafes, and fine-dining restaurants.
Homer is a haven for birdwatchers, with puffins, gyrfalcons, and more bald eagles than you can count, as well as offering extraordinary opportunities for watching whales.
Seeing whales in their natural habitat is an exceptionally moving experience. You might witness breaches, bubble-net feeding, lunge-feeding, tail slaps, and more, all out in the wild among some of the world’s most breathtaking scenery. Orca whales, gray whales, and humpback whales are all commonly spotted off the shore in Kachemak Bay, and occasionally you might see finback, beluga, or even a blue whale.
Read on for tips on whale watching in Homer, Alaska.
Go at the Right Time
The best time for a whale-watching trip in Homer is generally the summer months with June and July the peak time, although they can be seen from mid-to late spring through early fall.
Humpbacks arrive in abundance in June as the most frequently encountered whale in the waters here. Orcas are quite common around Halibut Cove out to the open water now, especially when the salmon are here to feast on.
Whales and other marine life like dolphins, porpoises, sea lions, seals, sea otters, proliferate in Lower Cook Inlet and Kachemak Bay during the summer season, often feeding along the southern shores from Halibut Cove to the Herring Islands area.
Farther out where the shimmering bay opens into the vast Cook Inlet with the remarkable cone of Augustine Volcano on the horizon, you’ll have an even better chance for a close encounter with one of the majestic humpbacks, with fin whales and even blue whales reported occasionally too.
By visiting during this time you’ll enjoy the warmest weather of the year and long days with 18 hours and 40 minutes of daylight on July 1st. That means more time for enjoying all the activities the area offers, like hiking and kayaking, too. A hike to Bishop’s Beach is especially unforgettable – you might even see a whale right off the shore while dipping your toes in the water.
Bring the Right Attire
No matter what the temperature outside, it’s likely to be cold out on the water which is why it’s essential to bring clothing that can be layered. With winds picking up as you cruise across the bay, consider covering up with several layers. Dress so that if you get too warm you can simply peel off a layer. Some ideas:
- Fleece leggings to go under waterproof pants
- Thermal top with a fleece jacket
- Thin waterproof jacket
- Waterproof shoes with rubber soles to keep your feet warm and dry as well as to prevent slipping.
- A wide-brimmed, waterproof hat can protect you from the rain and the sun.
Keep in mind that sudden showers are always possible even if the sun is shining when you depart. The spray that kicks up can also get you wet. Stay protected from the sun’s rays by using sunscreen liberally and wearing sunglasses as the glare from the water can be powerful.
Consider Different Modes of Transportation
There are many tour operators that depart from Homer Spit, a peninsula that stretches for 4.5 miles into Kachemak Bay. Consider the following:
Highly-rated Coldwater Alaska offers wildlife tours that include the chance to spot everything from whales, sea lions, and sea otters to tufted and horned puffins. Captains are great at keeping track of where the animals are so they can take you right to where they are.
These boat tours of Kachemak Bay you might observe whales and a wealth of other marine life with the chance to visit waterfalls, local oyster farms, or a local salmon hatchery. A visit to Gull Island is included too, known for its many different bird species, including puffins, gyrfalcons, and eagles. Or you can simply take a water taxi to Kachemak Bay State Park and watch for all the animals that inhabit the bay along the way.
If you want to be your own captain, you can rent a boat and enjoy endless whale watching through outfitters like Bayes Boat Rental. The boats come with fishing gear, bringing the opportunity to catch a meal as you keep an eye out for the whales.
You’ll need USCG Merchant Marine credentials or a Boater’s Ed Certificate, but if you don’t have a certificate and do have experience helming a vessel on Alaska’s saltwater, rentals can still be arranged.
Have the Best Accommodation To Come Home To
Of course, there’s nothing better than coming back to a comfortable room with modern amenities and breathtaking views after an unforgettable day of whale watching. A stay at Land’s End Resort will put you right on the tip of Homer Spit. The only hotel on the Spit, it offers a variety of accommodation options, including beachfront rooms and cabins.
The resort sits right along the water’s edge boasting a view of Kachemak Bay and the Kenai Mountains while providing immediate access to the beach and wildlife sightings, including whales, so the fun doesn’t have to end.
There’s even two waterfront hot tubs for soaking while gazing out at the bay. Plus, the on-site restaurant is one of Homer’s most popular eateries, serving local halibut, salmon, and oysters.