The Ultimate 9 Day Alaska Itinerary
Day 0: Fly into Anchorage
I’m not counting this day in the itinerary because it was a travel day for us. So, zero it is! Depending on when you get into Anchorage your itinerary might change a bit. We got in after 6 pm and while it was light until about 2 am we were super tired and didn’t feel like doing much.
If you have a similar situation, I recommend grabbing your rental car and heading to Moose’s Tooth, a popular pizza place in Anchorage that comes highly recommended by the locals for their pizza and beer. We got a pizza, salad, and growler to take back to our hotel and it was a wonderful way to end the day.
Anchorage in the summer is typically packed with tourists and buses, but the city itself is pretty small, so it’s easy to find everywhere you need to go. We were there during the pandemic so it was like a ghost town, but if you’re there on normal days in the summer you might need to deal with larger crowds.
Where to Stay in Anchorage
We stayed in both the Captain Cook Hotel and the Historic Anchorage Hotel in downtown Anchorage. Both are very quintessential Anchorage, in the heart of downtown and we loved them both.
Apparently, the Historic Anchorage Hotel is haunted! It definitely had an old-time feel but was still well kept and nice (no haunts over here)! The Captain Cook Hotel is one of the most popular hotels in Anchorage and is where a lot of the cruise ship guests stay when they port. If you choose to stay here, I recommend booking ahead.
See current accommodation prices for the Anchorage Hotel & Captain Cook here.
Day 1: Drive to Denali National Park
Today is Denali National Park day! We woke up fairly early and went to eat at Snow City Cafe which was one of our favorite spots for breakfast on the trip. We walked around downtown Anchorage a bit and made a stop at the Balto statue and then we drove the 4 hours to Denali. We made a few stops along the way because I had done some research on great places to go beforehand.
Honestly, I think the only places worth stopping on this drive despite what other people might say is:
- Eklutna Lake – Even though this is a 15-mile detour from the highway on Eklutna Lake Road, it’s worth it. The lake is surrounded by Chugach State Park and was carved out by the Eklutna Glacier. We were amazed at how gorgeous it was! There’s a photo of it below with Jack walking towards the water.
- Eklutna Village – This is the oldest Native American settlement in the area that is still inhabited. We thought it was pretty cool and while we didn’t go inside of anything, we did see the famous graveyard which was pretty interesting!
- Talkeetna – Talkeetna is a small eclectic town and will be a tiny detour, but so worth it! It was a major highlight for me. I highly recommend grabbing lunch here and spending some time wandering around. It’s a cute little hippy town with lots of fun local shops and is located halfway between Anchorage and Denali. We grabbed a beer and lunch at Denali Brewery and spent some time checking out the local shops.
- Denali Viewpoints – On the drive, you’ll also want to look out for Mount Mckinley (aka Denali)! It only comes out occasionally and you’ll be lucky to spot it because the mountain literally creates its own weather. We got lucky and got to see the top, but only for a little bit. There are a few viewpoints you’ll want to pull over for like The Denali Viewpoint South and Denali Viewpoint North. The views here were unreal.
Once you make it to Denali National Park you can either go straight into the park or go check into your hotel and save it for the next day. We decided to drive into the park 15-miles upon arriving to the park because we really wanted to see some wildlife. We didn’t see anything until turning around and getting closer to leaving the park and then we spotted a moose! My first one! It was so exciting and a great way to end the day.
Where to Stay in Denali National Park
We stayed at the Crow’s Nest because it was literally the only thing left when we booked. They were very overpriced for what we got, but they ended up being cute and cozy for our two-night stay. The floors were slanted (lol) but other than that it felt like a fancier glamping moment. The location was perfect and right next to the park entrance. It was also walkable to food and the bars right outside of the park. Plus, the restaurant here was very good and had a beautiful view! We ended up eating at their Crows Nest deck for dinner and recommend it because the food and cocktails were surprisingly delish!
Day 2: Denali National Park
This morning we got up early, had snacks for breakfast, and headed off to do our day-long bus tour.
We went on the Eielson bus tour instead of the fancy buses and it was WORTH IT. You can depart in the morning any time from 5 am to 11 am and we chose one of the earlier time slots at 7:30 am. After a lot of research, we decided to take the Eielson tour which took 8 hours. To me, this was the perfect amount of time. Any longer and I would have been really tired.
The entire bus trip cost $60 each. Check this site for more information on times and prices. Most of the drivers of the green Eielson buses are retired park rangers that aren’t required to talk to you at all, but most of them do! Ours spoke the entire time giving us amazing history and facts and helped us spot animals throughout the park.
If you do go the bus route, make sure to pack enough water, snacks, and lunch since the full day is about 8 hours. You’ll catch the bus at the Eielson Visitor Center and with these buses, you can also hop on and hop off at your leisure.
Since covid was happening while we were there, there was limited seating on the buses and they had limited buses, so we decided to stay on our bus the entire time.
We got to see 6 grizzly bears, 5 moose, 2 Dall sheep, tons of caribou, 1 snow hare, and a retired sled dog! 🙂 It was a magical day and I was so happy we went on this tour.
I was so tired after spending an entire day on the bus and was happy we had a place to stay that was so close to the park. We got pizza at the Prospectors Historic Pizzeria and thought it was a great way to end the night!
Day 3: Back to Anchorage
We slept in as much as we could in Denali but were so tired from the night before that we decided to eat leftover pizza for breakfast and make the 4-hour drive back to Anchorage from Denali National Park. Sorry, I don’t have any breakfast recommendations in the Denali area!
The drive back was uneventful (minus the rain) since we had already made all of our stops on the way up to Denali. However, we did get a slight boost of energy when we were getting close to Anchorage and decided to tack on Portage Glacier to our drive. It is located very close (or maybe considered in) the town of Whitter, AK. In order to get to the town, you drive through a tunnel through the mountain for 2 miles! It was slightly spooky, but also very fun.
The rain was beating down, but we decided to do the little hike up to view Portage Glacier. You can view it from the water via a boat tour, but we opted for the hike due to the rain. It wasn’t too hard and probably took us 45 mins each way. We just found the trail via AllTrails. If you are interested in viewing more glaciers from the water, this is supposed to be a great day-tour from Anchorage.
Here’s what Portage Glacier looked like from our hike. Unfortunately, it has melted a lot over the years like most of the Alaskan glaciers.
After our hike, we were so exhausted and ready to meet up with our friends Shay and Kurt in Anchorage! We drove back from Whittier to Anchorage and met them at 49th State Brewing for dinner and beer. We sat on the balcony and the weather turned quickly from rainy to sunny and we were able to sit on their rooftop and enjoy some pretty yummy food and beer.
We also checked back into the Captain Cook Hotel for the next two nights. See current prices here.
Day 4: A Day in Anchorage, AK
Today we spent the entire day in Anchorage! We slept in a bit, grabbed coffees at Snow City Cafe again and then walked along the Tony Knowles/Coastal Trail which will give you spectacular views of Anchorage and the water. If you’re down for a more strenuous activity, do the hike the locals call Flat Top for great views of Anchorage from above.
After our walk, we went to get pics at the famous Anchorage mural and then grabbed brunch at the Bear’s Tooth. It was super sunny and nice and we were able to sit outside and enjoy some drinks and the wonderful weather. I LOVED this place. The food was delish, and I recommend getting the BT Benedict for sure.
After Bear’s Tooth, we headed to Potter’s Marsh which is essentially a boardwalk over some marshy wetlands right outside of Anchorage. It was a beautiful walk and breathtaking views. Plus, the chances of seeing some salmon and other wildlife are high.
We spent the rest of the day checking out my friend Shay’s old stompin’ grounds and then went brewery hopping! Anchorage really has some great ones. We loved Anchorage Brewing, 49th State Brewing, Double Shovel Cider Co, and Midnight Sun Brewery.
Day 5: Drive to Homer, Alaska, and stop to fish in Hope, Alaska
We woke up bright and early and grabbed some breakfast and coffee at Kaladi Brothers Coffee. I loved their coffee!
Then we drove over to Hope, AK on our way to Homer for some salmon fishing. Along the way, we stopped to see the Bore Tide come in which was basically a surf on the water that is pretty rare to see. It happened to be going on while we were there and we got lucky! People actually surf on it! See here for more info about it.
Along the drive out to Homer, you can also stop in Girdwood, which is a popular place to ski in the winter and hike in the summer. There are also some fun restaurants and breweries tucked in there as well.
Hope was BEAUTIFUL! We came here to fish for salmon and since we were with some locals, I don’t really have any recommendations for charters in this area. However, I do know there are great places in Anchorage that do tours and provide rental gear. Most of the salmon we caught in this area were ‘pinks’ which are usually not as great of quality and used more for canned salmon. If you’re really big into fishing for salmon, I recommend fishing for king salmon on the Kenai River. Here’s a great list of fishing charters.
Finally after 4 hours and 20 mins of driving from Anchorage we reached Homer. It honestly seemed like we had reached the end of the earth and it was hands down my favorite place we went to in Alaska. We went all out and stayed at the Land’s End Resort right on the tip of what they call ‘the spit’ and ate our first seafood meal at Captain Patty’s. It was AMAZING and I highly recommended eating there for some fresh seafood right on the coast.
See current prices for the Land’s End Resort here.
Day 6: Halibut Charter in Homer, Alaska
Today was the day we had all been waiting for! Deep-sea halibut fishing! I was really anxious but so excited. I was mainly nervous to get seasick, but am very grateful for the Dramamine that I took beforehand.
None of us got seasick because we took a pill in the AM and it turned out to be a great day. Our charter was booked through word of mouth. I honestly don’t know the name of the charter we took, but there are so many Halibut charters in Homer. I don’t think you can go wrong. The main thing you’ll want to do is make sure you book ahead of time. Ours was ~$300/pp just for the charter and fish.
Some of the halibut we caught were so large that the captain had to shoot them with a gun. YIKES! Not what I was expecting, but still a wild and once-in-a-lifetime experience. As a scuba diver, it’s hard for me to fish, but knowing I would be eating all of the halibut I caught, made me feel a little better about it. During the day, each person on the charter is allowed to keep one big halibut (they measure) and one small one. Most of us on the boat maxed out early and our fishing day ended a little earlier than normal around 2:30 pm. You may not only catch halibut—we also caught a few small sharks, salmon, and some cod.
Since it didn’t take us the entire day to catch our fish, we headed to Buttwhackers to get our fish filleted for us to get packaged to take home. It was $5 a fish and then our friends took them to the freezer to get them packaged and frozen for us to ship home. There are plenty of places in Homer that will do this for you overnight if you need to get that done.
Then we walked over to the Salty Dawg, the famous bar in Homer that has dollar bills all over the walls. Apparently, this is where the true local fishermen hang out, but it’s also popular with visitors. They even have a shop for just Salty Dawg apparel. I was a big fan because it was grungy and has been around for a long time. We sat out on their patio cause it was so nice outside. After a few drinks, we headed back to our hotel the Lands End where we sat on the patio for oysters. While sitting out on the patio we saw bald eagles and 3 pods of orca whales close to the shore! It was absolutely insane to see them so close up and I’ll never forget it!
For dinner we headed over to the Little Mermaid for an incredible dinner, highly recommend this place!
Day 7: Drive to Seward
We woke up and went around Homer to explore the shops! Some of my favorites were AK Starfish, Salt Co., and Salmon Sisters. Just walking along the boardwalk was so fun. We tried to grab breakfast at this famous spot called Wild Honey Bistro, but they were temporarily closed due to COVID, so we grabbed food and coffee to go at Captain’s Coffee Roasting Co. and they had pretty good breakfast sandwiches.
After breakfast, it was time to drive to our next town, Seward! We stayed at the Best Western Edgewater Hotel. See current prices here. It wasn’t anything fancy, but we had great views out the balcony, and it was located right downtown.
We spent our afternoon watching the fishermen come in with their catch at the docks, driving to Lowell Point for some beautiful views of the mountains and water, and then went to the Alaska SeaLife Center. At the SeaLife Center, we got to see a pair of sea lion lovers reunite after one got hurt in the ocean. National Geographic was there to film which was pretty fun to see! We also got to spot a few bald eagles during the day.
Since all of the bars were closed in town due to covid, we just went to dinner and went to bed, but I will say that the dinner we had was wonderful!! I highly recommend going to The Cookery for fresh seafood and oysters and is super close to the hotel.
Day 8: A Day in Seward, AK
We had a long drive ahead from Seward and back to Anchorage, so we grabbed breakfast crepes at Le Barn Appetit and went to Exit Glacier on our way back to Anchorage. Jack visited this glacier when he was 10 years old and could actually sit on the Glacier! Now, it’s completely melted back, and you can’t even get close to it. Super sad to see in real life.
In Anchorage, we stayed at the Historic Anchorage Hotel. It’s in a great location directly downtown. Check current prices to book.
Day 9: The Last Day in Anchorage, AK
We actually stayed 10 days because we were hanging out with friends and went to their house for a fish fry, but if you’re leaving today or the next day, I recommend ending your trip in Anchorage. You can eat at the old school spot loved by locals, Club Paris, or you can try a seafood joint like Simon & Seaforts Saloon and Grill.