How to See Alaska (Without Taking a Cruise)

***Disclaimer:  No shade to AK cruisers!  We hear that's a wonderful way to see our 49th state... we just prefer to go by land!

Hello travelers!  Whisked Away has returned from a wonderful 2-week Alaskan adventure, and if you are dreaming of Alaska too (you should be) but don't know where to start with your plans, just copy + paste & get on the road!

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Whisked Away Surprise Travel:  Alaska Itinerary

First stop:  Soldotna (via Anchorage)

Soldotna lies on the Kenai Peninsula, about a 2-hour drive south of Anchorage, where you'll most likely fly into.

We stayed the night in Anchorage post-flight, woke up the next morning to grab our rental car and then hit the road. 

The entire drive pretty much looked just like this:

Whisked Away Surprise Travel:  Drive from Anchorage to Soldotna, AK

Soldotna is located on the Kenai River, which is famous for salmon-fishing and jaw-dropping glacial blue beauty.  It's also a great home base from which to explore Homer for an easy (an amazing) day trip.

Here's where we stayed, and let me tell you:  waking up every morning to this view was gratitude + tear-enducing.  

Day Trip from Soldotna:  Homer

Homer is known as the "end of the world" and when you are driving there you can see why.  Straight south on Hwy 1 past moose grazing and epic cliff views over the ocean, it doesn't get much more remote.

Or more beautiful.

Homer is an adorable little town that has a spit!  A spit is a slice of land that juts out into a body of water (basically) and the Homer spit is surrounded by the type of beauty that Alaska does best.  Snow-capped mountains, water, and bald eagles all over the damn place.

We took long walks on the pebbly beach, ate a delicious lunch and then visited a nature center to learn about native Alaskan plants.  A great day and highly recommended.

Then on to:  Seward (Maybe)

Ok, here's the deal.  Seward is a town on the opposite side of the peninsula from Soldotna, about a two-hour drive.  They have fjords there which are absolutely spectacular, and this area is known to have whales, dolphins, sea otters, you name it.  

Glorious, right?

In planning for this trip, I booked this fjord day cruise, so we could get out and have a lovely animal-watching day.  

The weather had other ideas.  It was stormy, rainy, and there were 20-foot swells bashing our boat anytime the captain went anywhere near open water.

The family behind us started discussing the movie "The Perfect Storm" with Marky-Mark.  So, yeah.

Did we see whales?  Yes.  Did we see dolphins?  Yes.  Did we all feel very seasick and over it?  Yes.

As I say in the two-week emails for Whisked Away clients, weather is a fickle friend.  We took a chance- maybe you'll have better weather!  

PS:  One amazing thing about Seward that can be enjoyed in any weather is Exit Glacier.  A variety of hiking opportunities here for all skill levels and being that close to a glacier is a spectacular experience.

Whisked Away Surprise Travel:  Where we stayed in AK

Last stop:  Talkeetna

Talkeetna lies about 2.5 hours north of Anchorage, and is known as the gateway to Denali National Park.  All the crazies that want to summit our continent's highest peak have to pass through here.

If you don't want to put your life in the hands of 50/50 odds (seriously) then you can just enjoy amazing views of Denali from the comfort of Denali Brewery in "downtown" Talkeetna!

As an FYI, downtown Talkeetna consists of one paved road, zero traffic lights, lots of adorable shops and delicious restaurants & bars, and is not lacking in history and ghost stories!

What more could you want?

We stayed here, about 10 minutes outside of town and we had views of Denali from our freaking living room window.  I mean, really.

While in town we hiked the XY Lake Loop (5 min drive from our cabin), the Byers Lake Loop (in Denali State Park) and took a 4-hour float trip down one of the most beautiful rivers ever. 

In all, we saw only a small sliver of the ginormous state, but it was easily doable in 10 days with multiple generations of family members.  In conclusion:  a success!

Have you been to Alaska?  What are your favorite places? 

Leave a comment below for our traveling tribe!