Exploring Kachemak Bay

If you have three days in Homer, spend at least one of them on beautiful Kachemak Bay. A great way to do this is through a Natural History Tour (907/235-6667, late May-early Sept., $140 adults, $90 children under 12) with professional naturalists from the nonprofit Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies. You’ll spend time at bird rookeries, tidepools, rainforest trails, and prehistoric sites, and will gain a lifetime appreciation for the marine world. These eight-hour experiences are a bargain and include a visit to Gull Island during your boat ride across to Peterson Bay. Bring your own lunch, binoculars, and camera; rubber boots are provided.

Combine the natural history tour with a two-hour guided sea kayak trip for $180 per person. Overnight stays (just $35 pp in a yurt with kitchen access) are also available at the Peterson Bay Field Station. The Coastal Studies office is in a yurt near Ramp 2 on the Spit. At the nonprofit’s headquarters (708 Smokey Bay Way), there are additional displays on local flora and fauna and snowshoes for rent during the winter. Coastal Studies offers many other day trips throughout the summer, from 1.5-hour Creatures of the Dock tours ($7) to four-hour Ocean Connection tours where you even get the chance to play with an underwater remote operating vehicle.

giant rock formations in the bay with seagulls flying over them
Gulls flock over Kachemak Bay. Photo © troutnut/iStock.

Water Taxis and Tours

A small fleet of boats plies the waters of Kachemak Bay all summer, offering wildlife-viewing trips to Gull Island, whale watching in the bay, transport for kayakers and hikers heading into the state park, and access to remote wilderness lodges. An hour-long visit to Gull Island costs $50 per person, and water taxis will drop you at remote beaches inside Kachemak Bay State Park for $75-80 per person round-trip. The most popular of these hikes is from Glacier Spit Beach to Grewingk Glacier and then back over the Saddle Trail to Halibut Cove, where you can get a water taxi back to Homer. Just want to check out the scenery? A $50 ride-along is a fun way to explore the bay and join an existing trip.

A two-person minimum is required, but if your time is flexible water taxis can generally get singles onboard with another group heading in the same general direction. Some water taxis have discounted rates for families and kids under 13. You’ll find water-taxi kiosks on the Spit, though some just use their boat and cell phone as a floating office.

The following are all excellent operators: Ashore Water Taxi (907/399-2340), Bay Excursions (907/235-7525), Bay Roamers Water Taxi (907/399-6200), Mako’s Water Taxi (907/235-9055), Red Mountain Marine (907/399-8230), and Homer Ocean Charters (907/235-6212 or 800/426-6212). Most of these run May-September, but both Mako’s and Ashore operate year-round. Kayak rentals and a variety of specialized tours are offered by Mako and other operators.

An avid naturalist and serious birder, Karl Stolzfus of Bay Excursions (907/235-7525, Apr.-Sept., $65 adults, $35 under age 13) leads excellent two-hour Gull Island and Sixty Foot Rock tours. He also guides three-hour K-Bay birding trips ($75 pp).

Biologist Glenn Seaman operates Seaman’s Ecotour Adventures (907/235-2157, May-Sept., full-day custom trip $550 for two people, $650 for four people, $450 half-day for two people), providing a variety of boat-based environmental tours around Kachemak Bay, covering the gamut from birding to cultural history. All-day custom trips are geared to your interests. This means having your own private guide and boat for seven hours. As the former head of Kachemak Bay Research Reserve, Glenn has a deep knowledge of the region.

Central Charters & Tours (907/235-7847, $59 adults, $49 seniors, $39 kids) has daily round-trip sailings to Seldovia, with a narrated wildlife tour that includes stops at Gull Island to watch nesting murres and gulls, and Sixty Foot Rock for sea otters.