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Kenai - Alaska - Kenai Peninsula - Seward Highway

Alaska: Exploring the Seward Highway

We left Anchorage and travelled south towards the Kenai Peninsula. One thing we have learned so far is the unpredictability of the Alaskan weather – today is one of the better days with partially clear skies. Sorry to continue on about the weather but it is a big thing here up in Alaska. In the southern coastal areas, south of the gigantic peaks of the Alaska Range of mountains, the weather is relatively temperate ( it is still cold by most people’s reckoning in the winter) and they get a lot of rain (and snow in the winter – the roadside snow markers are about 12 feet high!!). No need to worry about snow today though! Our route takes us down the Seward Highway along a tidal estuary known as the Turnagain Arm. The views are amazing with steep, snow-covered mountains of the Chugach Range on either side of the estuary and visible far into the distance. Absolutely stunning!

1. THE ALASKA WILDLIFE CONSERVATION CENTRE

About 40 miles south of Anchorage we pulled over into a roadside Visitor’s Centre to get our bearings and realised we were only a mile or two from the Alaskan Wildlife Conversation Center (at Mile Marker 79 on the Seward Highway). Of course with an animal mad girl with us stopping was compulsory.

In fact, it turned out to be great fun, with elk, musk oxen, caribou, brown & black bears and of course moose on display. The highlights for us were the brown bears and the moose.

The three brown bears were in a playful mood and when we reached them they were happily frolicking in the pond – despite their mock ferocious attacks it was plain to see they were simply enjoying each others company. We got some great shots as they splashed around for some 15 minutes or so. After that they disappeared into the undergrowth in their enclosure (which to be fair was large – not always making it easy to spot the animals). This would have been enough for us but by the main building of the Center were three very tame moose. Now Emily is a huge fan of moose, but had yet to get close enough to touch one – but these moose unlike their wild cousins were very amiable and sidled up to the fence where we were able to pet them and touch their antlers (commonly referred to as “paddles”). Some of the visitors, who claimed to be locals, were feeding these moose bananas and allowed Emily to have a try. Normally we would not be approved of this as they obviously were not supposed to be doing this, but Emily does love her moose and may never get a chance again to feed one, so we turned a blind eye. We were all now very happy!!

A reindeer chilling out at the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Centre
A beady-eyed bald eagle
Petting a friendly moose
A big bull moose seemingly with out care in the world
These grizzlies are having a tiff
Things are really kicking off with these bears
Address:Mile 79, Seward Hwy, Girdwood, AK
Website:https://www.alaskawildlife.org/
Telephone:+1 907-783-0058
Hours:

Open year round but hours vary so check the website for the current hours

Admission FeesAdult: $18 per person
Alaska Resident: $16 per person
with valid Alaska ID | Nov. 30 – April 30 only
Military: $16 per person (with US military ID)
Senior: $16 per person
Youth (age 5-17): $14 per person
Child (age 4 and under): FREE

2. BEGICH BOGGS VISITOR CENTRE: PORTAGE LAKE

A short distance from Wildlife Conservation Center is a turnoff from the Seward Highway which squeezes down a pass through the mountains to the port town of Whittier on Prince William Sound. We didn’t plan to go all this way but wanted to visit the Begich, Boggs Visitor Center at Portage Lake. From here you get a great view across Portage Lake, which has been created by the melting waters of Portage Glacier, which is no longer visible from the Visitors Center and requires a boat trip out onto the lake which we didn’t have time for today. Portage is also the site of the 1964 earthquake, which had a moment magnitude of 9.2 and was an 8.4 on the Richter scale. It was the most powerful recorded earthquake in U.S. and North American history, and the third most powerful ever measured by seismograph. 131 people died mostly in the tsunami waves which were created by the earthquake. There are some great exhibits in the Visitor Centre, covering the story of the glaciers in the area, the impact of people on global warming, the earthquake and the wildlife in the valley. Life is pretty tough here, especially in the winters – although milder than interior Alaska they get feet and feet of snow here.

After Portage Lake we continue south to the town of Seward, where we will be staying for the next few days. 

Address:Portage Lake Loop, Girdwood, AK
Website:https://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/chugach/recarea/?recid=71946
Telephone:+1 907-783-2326
Hours:

Open seasonally. Check the website for the current hours

Admission FeesFees: $5.00 for adults. Fee includes admission to film and exhibits. Children 15 and younger are free!

Best time to visit Seward

The best time of year to go to Seward is summer, between May and September. Although there is plenty to do in the winter, it will be cold and you’ll have fewer hours of daylight. In addition you’ll find that many businesses are closed.

Most businesses are open in Seward from mid-May through mid-September. Some are open a bit earlier or later. The first half of the summer has less rain than the second half of the summer, although you need to be ready for rain any day of the year.

Other things to do whilst in Seward

1. THE IDITARIDE

After spending the previous day at sea we decided to focus our last few days in Steward on terra firma. Since arriving in Alaska and Emily finding out about the existence of kennels for dog sledding huskies that were open to the public, we had been pressurized into visiting one of these establishments. Luckily enough one such place existed close to Seward. Despite this being summer and the snow is long gone this tour also promised us a sled ride – how could we turn down this opportunity. So, we set off to the “Iditaride” Dog Sled tour.

Dog sledding is a big winter sport here in Alaska and the blue riband event of the sledding world is the Iditarod, the largest sporting event in Alaska (which is not saying too much).

2. EXIT GLACIER

On the last day of our stay on the Kenai Peninsula, the sun finally decided to poke its head out from the clouds. Full of hope we decided this would be a good time to go and explore a place we had wanted to visit all week – the romantically named Exit Glacier. The glacier is actually a National Monument and as we approached the Visitor Centre on the entry road there are markers on the roadside with dates going back into the last century. The markers show where the front face of this glacier was in that year. Exit Glacier is as its name suggests is “exiting” – retreating back up to the Harding Ice Field from whence it came, waiting for the next appearance of global cooling before starting its next march forward. The retreat is inextricable and scarily rapid – we’re just glad to be here to see Exit before it exits

3. NORTHWESTERN FJORD CRUISE

Another Alaskan summer’s day – cold with a low dank mist covering the mountains. We had an early start, and we wearily raise ourselves from our slumber, grabbed a quick breakfast from the provisions we bought at the local store and hit the road. The plan was to take a 9 ½ hour boat trip from Seward up the Northwestern Fjord, some 70 odd miles down the coast. The overcast weather put some doubt in our mind on this endeavour, but we had already bought the tickets, so we were committed to the trip.

Where to stay in Seward

1. BEAR LAKE LODGINGS B&B

Bear Lake Lodgings B&B has lake views, free WiFi and free private parking, located in Seward.

The units come with hardwood floors and feature a fully equipped kitchen with a fridge, a dining area, a flat-screen TV with satellite channels, and a private bathroom with shower and bathrobes. Some units have a seating area and/or a balcony.

An American breakfast is available each morning at the bed and breakfast.

Bear Lake Lodgings B&B has a sun terrace.

After a day of hiking, fishing or canoeing, guests can relax in the garden or in the shared lounge area.

Moose Pass is 21 miles from the accommodation, while Cooper Landing is 26 miles from the property.

2. EXIT GLACIER LODGE

Located in Seward, Exit Glacier Lodge has free WiFi, and guests can enjoy a restaurant and a bar.

If you would like to discover the area, hiking is possible nearby.

Moose Pass is 23 miles from the lodge, while Cooper Landing is 27 miles from the property.

3. SUNSHINE HOUSE BED & BREAKFAST

Featuring free WiFi, Sunshine House Bed and Breakfast offers accommodations in Seward. Free private parking is available on site.

Breakfast is provided daily at the property.

You can engage in various activities, such as fishing and canoeing.

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