I have no idea how to break up these Alaska posts. With an eight day trip where we traveled to a new city just about every day, there’s a lot to share. The bottom line: it was the best trip ever.
I’m not a good trip planner. I’m organized and Type A about a lot of things, but planning a trip really stresses me out. I hate not knowing the “best” way to do something. The best
area to stay in, the best
things to do, the best
time to go. It’s overwhelming. Thomas
took the lead for trip planning– aka he planned the whole trip. Occasionally he’d send us options or ask us for for opinions, but I generally just watched him plan the trip in our Google doc. (He’s hidden a couple of great planning tips in this post… the Google maps trick is brilliant
This is all to say… all the credit goes to Thomas for planning the perfect trip and for many, many of the photos from the trip shown in this post! We all kept joking that he could package and sell it as a tour guide. It was perfect for what we wanted to do and gave us a great taste of everywhere we went. I wish we could have spent the entire summer exploring, but considering that we were there for eight days, it’s unbelievable how much we saw and did!
As I mentioned before, we opted to drive ourselves around
(versus taking a cruise) and I can’t imagine doing anything but that. We could completely go at our own pace, pulling over to take photos as we wished and not feeling rushed to go to the next place or inclined to stay somewhere we didn’t love.
Day 1: Fly into Anchorage, Drive to Seward
Hotel: Holiday Inn Express
When we landed in Anchorage, I was pretty confused. I was expecting to be immediately blown away by the great outdoors but it was just like any other small city… with mountains. We stopped at the Target there for one last Starbucks coffee and some snacks for the week. Then we set off driving to Seward. It wasn’t even 15 minutes before we were pulling over and taking in breathtaking views. The “great outdoors” feeling set in fast
at that point.
Seward is stunning. Right on the water, it is the coastal town of your dreams. The pictures speak for themselves. We did a little tour of Exit Glacier and then made our way back to find dinner. We found the best restaurant, Chinook’s
, next to our hotel. (We ate there the following night we loved it so much.)
Day 2: Glacier Cruise, Drive to Homer
What a way to kick off our first full day in Alaska! The glacier cruise was unreal.
We couldn’t have asked for a better day. I can’t recommend Kenai Fjords Tours
enough for the cruise. The entire staff was so friendly and helpful. The pace was great and they would slow the boat down if we spotted any kind of wildlife, even driving the boat closer for the best views. I was nervous about being sea sick or uncomfortable for the long cruise, but the boat was incredibly comfortable inside and had plenty of space on the decks so that everyone could get a good view. We saw puffin, sea lions, seals, porpoises, orca whales, mountain goats, humpback whales, and so
many eagles. It was thrilling!
On the drive to Homer, we saw tons of moose. We couldn’t get over how many there were just chilling on the side of the road or even jaunting across the road. I really loved Homer, by the way.
Day 3: Hang out in Homer, Drive to Girdwood
We spent the morning in Homer (Halibut Fishing Capital of the World!!!) driving around and walking around a lot. It was the chilliest day, by far, but we still managed to have a great time. We had two great food experiences: La Baleine Cafe
for breakfast and Two Sisters Bakery as an afternoon snack before we hit the road.
We drove to Girdwood for our stay at the Alyeska resort. It’s a ski resort during the winter, but there’s still plenty to see and do when it’s warm. Also, this is the first place the mosquitos (which are giant) were noticeable for us. After resting in the hotel for a tiny bit, we took the tram up to the top of the mountain for dinner. Talk about a view!
Day 4: Hike, Drive to Talkeetna
The hike in Alyeska was the best! It’s shady, not too strenuous, and the views are aplenty. There’s even a hand tram that you can pull yourself over the Gorge with– a highlight of the trip for sure. I’m not a hiker to say the lease and this hike was totally doable.
Talkeetna was a fun town. It definitely has a touristy feel to it and there are tons of activities to do here. It’s fun to walk around the town and explore the town. The hotel here was unreal. The rooms were meh, but the view is what has to be the BEST view in Alaska. We were so lucky and could see the Mt. McKinley in its entirety, something that supposedly doesn’t happen often as it’s so huge that it is almost always covered by clouds.
Day 5: Fishing in Talkeetna, Drive to Denali
I am not a huge fan of fishing. I get bored easily and don’t have that much experience with it at all. I was not looking forward to the fishing, but was going to be a good sport and go. SO MUCH FUN. It was freezing being in the water (don’t skimp on your sock choice for the day), but we all caught at least one fish. Our guide Allen was extremely nice
and was genuinely excited whenever one of us had a fish on the line.
We did a little driving around Denali to take in the views and were pretty tired at this point in our trip so we tried to relax a bit.
Day 6: Hike in Denali National Park
After spending so much time in lush areas and all these stunning cities, Denali looked a little different than what Julia and I expected. It’s a national park with hiking trails (you can go on wildlife tours by bus as well), but pretty “dry” feeling. It wasn’t Green! and Blue! like we were used to seeing. The hike was surprisingly challenging and very tiring. I was basically dying after 25 minutes because the climb was pretty steep very fast. We didn’t make it all the way up because I was pretty terrified of the height and the very strong wind, but the views were gorgeous. There are bears in the area and while we kept our eyes open, we didn’t see any. (Kind of a relief if you ask me.)
One cafe we went back to three (maybe four?) times was The Black Bear.
Day 7: ATVing in Denali, Drive to Anchorage
After a somewhat disappointed opinion of Denali, I don’t think Julia and I were looking forward to ATVing too much. However, it ended up being my absolute favorite part of the trip. While you can’t ATV in national parks, there is a sliver of a rectangle of Denali that’s not actually part of the park because there was an old mine there. So it’s like being in the park– same animals, same terrain.
We did the tour with Denali ATV Adventures
it. 100% recommend so much so that I think it’s a MUST DO in Alaska. It’s worth doing a private tour… ask for Zack
It was sad to leave, but we scraped off all the dirt and dust from ATVing and then hit the road to return to Anchorage. Everyone recommended we eat at the Moose’s Tooth for dinner and it felt like we joined everyone in Alaska for dinner there, ha!
Day 8: Fly home 🙁
Quick note about hotels: I am not a hotel snob. I love staying in a super nice hotel with swanky sheets and 24 hour room service, but I’m also just fine staying in a plain jane hotel. The hotels in Alaska are pretty limited in terms of glam. It ended up being just fine as we spent most of our time exploring and on the road, but it’s something to keep in mind. You’re definitely not going to Alaska for the quality of hotel sheets, let’s just put it that way. A place to sleep and shower!
A note about the light: It was pretty amazing that the sun was out for almost the entire day, but I lost complete sense of day/night. It would be 11pm and we’re outside shooting “sunset” photos and not tired for sleep at all. Getting adjusted for sleep was not easy. We preferred to sleep in in the morning and have a slow start to the day and then go go go until late.