Love is in the air this week, so we thought it was only appropriate that we discuss a few of the more romantic adventures around our neck of the woods. Even though Valentine’s Day is in February, these areas and activities are romantic any time of the year, so if a little sweetheart-time is on your agenda for your summer travels, take a look below.
The Homer Spit is the Alaska place for the ubiquitous “long walk on the beach” that entices romantics everywhere. The spit extends for more than 4 miles into Kachemak Bay, so a beach walk could be a true hike if you wanted it to be. During your walk, scan the sky for eagles, and the bay for otters. Skip a few rocks, get your feet wet in the waves (maybe!), stare out at the glacier-studded mountains and the looming volcanic cone of Mt. St. Augustine.
On your way back, cruise along the spine of the spit, and stop in some of the small shops, restaurants and charter services that line the boardwalks, including a few that offer a Kachemak Bay specialty: oysters. The cold-water grown shellfish are an Alaskan delicacy and appear on fine dining menus all over the state, and this is the place to try them straight out of the ocean.
Seward has something for everyone. From large cruise ships that end and begin their voyages in the tiny port town to extreme surfing expeditions for those brave enough to try the chilly waters of the Gulf of Alaska, there’s an adventure for every comfort level in this town. Kayaking is one of those activities that can be placid or extreme, depending on your fitness level and preferences, and it’s extremely popular in Seward, at the head of the Resurrection Bay fjord.
Take a half-day tour from one of the several kayaking companies in Seward, or rent a double if you have experience. You’ll find, to your romantic heart’s delight, a plethora of secluded beaches, hidden waterfalls, and surprising solitude. Even in a group, when you’re out on the water, it feels like it’s just you and the ocean.
If paddling’s not your thing, but you still have the desire to get out on the water a small-boat cruise in Prince William Sound might be the answer. Start in Whittier, about 45 miles south of Anchorage and accessible via a 2.5-mile long tunnel.
Cruise ships dock in Whittier as well, but boats of all different sizes can be found in the harbor. For the most intimate option, try a charter or six-pack operator. There will be fewer people on the boat with you, and the captain is more likely to accommodate your sightseeing desires than on tours with set routes. Blackstone Bay, with two glaciers, countless waterfalls, and harbor seals hauled out on ice floes, is the closest to Whittier and therefore the most popular—but its sheer size means that even when it’s peak time for boats, it doesn’t feel crowded.
Another possibility is to grab a couple of empty seats on a water taxi. It’s common in the summer for water taxis to take kayakers out to a point away from the majority of boat traffic. Inquire around Whittier for taxis with empty seats—sometimes they’ll sell the seats at a discount if it means they wouldn’t fill them otherwise. You won’t get to choose your destination, but you’ll probably see a unique out-of-the-way place that most other travelers to the state don’t get to see. You’ll get a few minutes to yourselves while the kayakers are unloading their gear, and if the taxi is only doing a drop-off, you’ll have the boat to yourselves on the way back.
One of the jewels of the trail system in Anchorage is the Coastal Trail. Stretching 12 miles from downtown Anchorage to Kincaid Park, the path winds along the coastline, providing urban wilderness recreation and spectacular views of Cook Inlet. It’s a multi-use trail, so you’ll see people walking, running, biking, roller-blading, roller-skiing, and probably a few other creative ways people can think of to move down a track. You’ll also see a lot of dogs, and sometimes even a moose or two.
Rent a couple of bikes in downtown Anchorage—there are a few shops that offer them—and head south toward Kincaid. The trail is mostly flat, with some gradual rises and descents, and paved or packed gravel. Stop along the way at one of the many benches set up at strategic viewpoints to marvel at the low tide mudflats in Cook Inlet, or to catch a glimpse of the mountains of the Alaska Range across the inlet. The trail is popular in both summer and winter, but on the sections where it winds through the woods, finding a secluded spot is easy.
A unique Alaska hike can be found in Girdwood, where you can hike the 2.2-mile North Face Trail at Alyeska Resort. The trail’s not too long, but the elevation gain is more than 2,000 feet. The views at the top are spectacular, though, and all of that effort is worth it when you reach the cocktail bar on the mountaintop deck and see the Chugach Mountains unfold in front of you, with Turnagain Arm at their feet.
There are two restaurants at the 2,300-foot level of Mt. Alyeska, serving skiers in the winter and sightseers in the summer. The restaurants are housed in the upper terminus of the Aerial Tram, which means that, after your celebratory post-hike cocktail, you don’t have to hike back down! (Of course, you don’t actually have to hike up, either, but where’s the celebration in that?) The Bore Tide Bar is the more casual option, with both indoor and outdoor seating areas, and Seven Glaciers is the fine dining restaurant, with a separate bar that’s a little more casual than the dining room, yet still feels exclusive. Both restaurants offer specialty drinks to go along with their spectacular views, and there’s nothing more romantic than a vista that takes your breath away.
Camping … Anywhere
And, of course, the beauty of driving around in your home away from home is that you’re always ready for a romantic interlude. The views out of the rooftop tent are pretty spectacular, especially framed between two pairs of feet, so head out on your adventure, and stop whenever the moment takes you. There are no shortage of those kinds of views here, so be ready!
Got another suggestion for a romantic getaway in Alaska? Share in the comments. Or book your campervan today to take your second (or first, or third…) honeymoon.