We have up to two weeks following our cruise into Anchorage. We, of course, want to see Denali and to fish for halibut. We are not high-end travelers, but are willing to train when suggested and stay where recommended. Should we rent a car right away for Delali or train there? Can you recommend a reasonable place to stay on the Kenai for fishing? We love scenery, where do you recommend we head?
I have lived in Alaska seasonally since 2010, and have traveled extensively throughout the state. In fact my job is leading tour groups all over Alaska and the Yukon so I've had the opportunity to do a lot of the tours, attractions, and sightseeing that is available.
I think it is wonderful that you are spending some time in the state after your cruise! While cruising provides an excellent opportunity and can be more relaxing, it is so nice to step away from the crowds!
After your cruise you will end up in Anchorage. You can definitely spend a couple days in the city at some point. Tony Knowles Coastal Bicycle Trail is accessible from downtown and is a great place to walk or ride a rental bike to enjoy the views of Cook Inlet. There is very reasonably priced Anchorage Trolley Tours that takes you around to all of the main attractions. There are many options.
After Anchorage it sounds like your two "bucket list" items are Denali National Park and halibut fishing on the Kenai Peninsula. You have probably realized that they are in opposite directions, which is fine as long as you don't mind lots of driving/ train travel. There aren't many roads up there so you will be back tracking, luckily most of the driving is very scenic!
You can drive or take the train to Denali, both are good choices. The train is very relaxing and incredibly scenic. You can choose from two classes, Adventure or Gold Star. Gold Star is the more expensive and gets you a seat on the top floor of the double-decker glass dome Gold Star car. Adventure class is only one level, but you have access to an upper level dome car, the old "Bud cars." There is a cafe car and dining car available to both classes. It is an 8 hour train ride. The train arrives right by the Denali Visitor Center and all of the hotels in the area provide (usually free) transfers if they know when you're arriving.
Driving is another great option. If you drive I recommend staying in Talkeetna for a couple of nights too. Actually the train stops here as well, but getting around the Talkeetna area is a little easier in a car unless you only stay in the center of town. There are some awesome bed and breakfasts up on the hill outside of town that offer amazing views of Denali/Mt McKinely (when she chooses to show herself).
Driving to Talkeetna from Anchorage is about 2.5 hours and another 2.5 roughly to the Park.
You can't drive your car for more than a few miles into the park, so it is recommend to take the park shuttle or do one of the bus tours offered by the NPS (operated by Aramark). It is your best chance of seeing big wildlife in the park. A wildly popular tour is Husky Homestead. It is one of the more affordable tour options and is unanimously loved.
If you do have the car I also recommend making the 15/20 minute drive north of the park to Healy where you can go to 49th State Brewing Company for good food, beer, and atmosphere. They also have the movie prop bus used for "Into The Wild."
Whether you train or drive you would follow the same route down to Anchorage. If you don't mind a big travel day, you could continue down the the Kenai Peninsula. Perhaps you would like to go just one hour further and stay in Girdwood. This fun small town is home to Alyeska Resort, but there are other accommodations as well.
The two main places on the peninsula that people join Halibut charters is Seward and Homer. Perhaps you already saw Seward if your ship disembarked there. No matter where you are on the Kenai, the scenary will be beautiful. There are small hotels/inns in both places, but I recommend search HomeAway.com and AirBNB.com. These places are owned and operated by locals and each one is unique. While you won't find any "cheap" options almost anywhere in AK, I usually find some of the best prices on these sites. Just be sure to read the reviews!
Well, I could take all day (literally) about Alaska, but I hope this is enough to get started. Feel free to contact me on The Traveler's Toast if you want more Alaska info!
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My husband and I went on our honeymoon to Alaska this past August. It was AMAZING. We started in Denali and stayed in the City of Healy at a small, cute cabin Aspen Haus. We took the park bus into the park 2 days in a row and so much scenery and so many animals.
We then went to the Girdwood area where we stayed in the Northstar Cabin. It was cute, cozy and had a hot tub. If you stay here you should do the hike to the hand tram in the area, very cool.
Then we headed to Homer where we stayed at Jenny Lane cottage, our favorite accommodation of the trip. Amazingly gorgeous vies of the bay. Here we did the Alaska Costal Studies Peterson Bay Tour and were not disappointed.
We ended our trip in Seward where we stayed at Beach House Rentals. We did the 9 hour Kenai Fjords tour with Saltwater Lodge and had the best time.
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Just returned from Denali National Park. Stayed at the Backcountry Lodge. It is at the end of the road in Denali National Park. Cute cabins, food is good and the creek running through is very charming.
Homer is where we stayed at the Home Inn and Spa. Great rooms overlooking the bay. Massages at the spa were wonderful also.
We have just returned this week from three weeks in Alaska and rented a car for the two weeks off ship. Car rental is about $130.00 a day plus 18% tax in Anchorage. If you can, rent outside town. If you rent from Enterprise they will pick you up from your hotel to pick up the car and return you there too. This saves a hefty taxi ride. Denali is waaay out there and there is very very little nearby. We stayed in Cantwell about 25 miles south at the Bluesberry Inn which was well priced and a little old and cabinish but scrubbed clean and in a beautiful wildflower meadow. He charges less after the first night if he doesn't have to make up your room. The advantage of staying in Cantwell is that the Denali Hwy is there and it's gorgeous to drive. It is not adjacent to the park. (We understand only Enterprise and Costco will let you drive on the Denali Hwy because it is unpaved, but can't verify this information) For a more upscale cabin I'd recommend McKinley Creekside Cabins 12 miles closer to the park.) They have a great restaurant and lunches to go for your Denali tour.. Two pieces of advice: Absolutely book your trip into Denali in advance. They had nothing available for two days when we arrived. You don't see much the first two hours of the bus rides, so book at least the 6 hour trip and even better the 8 hour. The shuttle is much less expensive than the guided tours and often has a driver that chats right along with the information...ours didn't though. Secondly, there is road construction (we had two stops out of Cantwell towards Denali). Account for these when you leave for your prepaid tour so you don't miss it. Oh! And do see the dogsled area at the park...the Huskeys and demonstration are wonderful. Have fun! P.S. If at all possible go to the Kenai Penninsula and Homer. It is incredibly beautiful there and the highlight of our trip! We recommend Scenic View B&B for the incredible view, great price, and oir unit had a full kitchen and two bedrooms. It is on a peony farm!