Best Pitt Stop Between Soldotna and Homer
The adorable seaside town of Ninilchik is at the mouth of the Ninilchik River, nestled among the cliffs along Alaska’s Sterling Highway. It provides the backdrop for an expansive view of Cook Inlet that offers visitors panoramic views of the snow-capped volcanic peaks of Mt. Spurr, Mt. Redbout, Mt. St. Augustine, and Mt. Iliamna.
Most visitors to this popular pitt stop between Soldotna and Homer come here for two things: a photo of the Russian Orthodox Church and for clamming. Those with enough time to spend have been lucky enough to do both. But since 2015 and a collapse of the razor clam population, beaches have been closed to aspiring clam diggers. The cause of the decline is unknown although some speculate it could be linked to a massive storm that killed a large number or mature clams. Another possible culprit is the giant patch of warm water known as “the blob” that many blame for the large number of sea-otters, sea stars, and murres perishing in recent years.
I was lucky enough to visit Ninilchik in the Summer of 2016, while touring Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula with a friend. We had seen each other only twice in the 14 years we had known each other before deciding to take a road trip in Alaska. What could possibly go wrong? Let’s just say that I didn’t get to spend nearly as much time there as I would have liked to to, but I’d love to have the opportunity to check it out again.
3 Awesome Things About Ninilchik, Alaska
1) Funky Town:
Old Ninilchik, which is on the ocean side of the Sterling Higway, is authentically off-beat. Ghost town meets seaside cottage town, it boasts a Russian Orthodox Church, life sized ornamental dolls, and seafaring ornaments galore. This place is a photographer’s dream and definitely worth checking out if you are en route to or from Homer.
2) Seafood Extravaganza!:
The town is perched at the mouth of the Ninilchik river where residents and visitors can enjoy an expansive view of Cook Inlet. It’s also a favourite spot for sport and commercial fisherman to reel in large halibut and King salmon. Ninilchik is host to Salmon Fest, a three day festival full of “fish, love and music” that celebrates the connections between fish, the water and people. Prior to 2014 the little town was also a hot spot for razor clams, but unfortunately low survey numbers have that harvest on hold all the way through 2017.
3) It’s Number 1
One cool fact is that Ninilchik is the oldest non-indigenous settlement on the Kenai Penninsula. Even today, some of the towns original descendants still call the funky town home. Prior to European settlement, the Dena’ina Athabaska First Nations inhabited the area and referred to it as Niqnilchint which means “a place where a lodge is built.