As a photographer, I’ve been doing adventure travel stories for years, and in the process I’m always looking for places that I want to take my family back to. I've had quite a few jobs in Alaska over time and have been keeping tabs of places I thought my family would enjoy. We also took my dad with us, as he's been to Alaska and has a fondness for Homer. That was a place that I, too, had connected with on previous trips, so we made sure that Homer was the final destination for this family trip.
The thing with Alaska is that it’s such an enormous place that it’s really hard to do too much, especially for the sake of a family trip. We were there for 12 days, so we tried to compartmentalize Alaska and focus on a smaller chunk of it. I selected destinations in and around Anchorage that were relatively accessible. We weren’t in the car for more than 2.5 hours at a time between places, other than the last day – the drive from Homer back to Anchorage was about five hours. It was a really doable trip for our family.
Anchorage is easy to fly in and out of, so we took a float plane with Russ's Flying Service out to Redoubt Bay. You land right in front of the lodge, and can then take day excursions from there. You can go on guided walks, kayak tours and helicopter ride to take in the scenery. It was really exciting for the kids — we even saw a few grizzly bears from a boat. It was also the kids' first time in a float plane, which is a remarkable way to experience Alaska — flying off the water, landing on a beautiful bay, pulling up to the dock — there's nothing like it.
From Redoubt Bay, we went back to Anchorage for a night to get a rental car. The plan was to drive from Anchorage to Homer, stopping at a few places along the way.
First up on this road trip: the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center in Girdwood. It's an easy stop for an hour or two as you're driving south toward Seward. It's beautiful — you can see caribou, grizzly bears and more. The habitats that are set up are large enclosures, so it doesn't feel like a zoo. Rather, it's a great way to educate the kids on what roams around in the Alaska wild. You can get up close and personal and learn about the different landscapes and the various animals that we might see as we continue our road trip in Alaska.
From Girdwood, we made our way to Seward. Seward is a remarkable place because it sits right on Resurrection Bay. The mountains come right to the ocean there. You can explore the mountains but you can get on the water easily, too. For a day trip excursion we took a boat out to Holgate Glacier. It’s about a 3-hour trip to get there, but on the way you’re seeing whales and puffins and bald eagles. Everything that you can imagine that you might see in an ocean environment in Alaska — it's all there. We saw parts of the glacier falling off, which was one of those visceral experiences makes you stop in awe.
We did a little bit of river rafting at the next stop in Cooper Landing, then ended our road trip in Homer. We stayed at Kachemak Bay Wilderness Lodge – the gem of all of these locations we'd seen so far. It's rustic, beautiful, private — with incredibly hospitable staff. The lodge has oversize canoe to paddle, fish and check out the sea lions. We paddled up China Poot Bay and pulled off in a tributary to fish, hike and explore.
With little kids, you don’t need to go more than ten feet on a trail as they look at rocks and run through puddles and play around. It’s the kind of place that’s great for the kids to explore and be immersed in the outdoors. For the sake of family travel, it’s adventurous but with so much variety within a pretty confined area.
By Brown Cannon III