Ninilchik, Alaska About halfway between Soldotna and Homer on the Sterling Highway is Ninilchik, a scenic area with a Russian accent, some great clamming beaches and a view of a number of impressive volcanoes across Cook Inlet. For many travelers, Ninilchik is merely a stop for gas and a quick look at the Russian church. But this interesting little village is well worth spending some time in.
History: The community is actually the oldest on the Kenai Peninsula, having been settled in the 1820s by employees of the Russian-American Company. Many stayed even after imperial Russia sold Alaska to the United States and their descendants form the core of the present community.
Like so many other Kenai Peninsula towns, Ninilchik suffered heavily during the 1964 Good Friday earthquake when the village sank three feet and huge sections of land, including its landing strip, disappeared into the Cook Inlet. Subsequently, ‘New Ninilchik’ was built on the bluffs between the Ninilchik River and Deep Creek, along several miles of the Sterling Highway.
Old Ninilchik Village, the site of the original community, is a postcard scene of faded log cabins in tall grass, beached fishing boats and the spectacular backdrop of Mt. Redoubt. There are a dozen buildings, including the Sorensen/Tupper home built in 1895 with fir logs salvaged from fish traps and the town’s first Russian school house.
The most spectacular building is the Russian Orthodox Church, built in 1901 and reached from a posted footpath in the village. The historic church topped with the unique spires and crosses of the Russian Orthodox faith, in on a wide bluff and commands an unbelievable view of Cook Inlet and the volcanoes on the other side. A Russian Orthodox cemetery adjoins the church and together they make for a photographer’s delight.
The beaches along Cook Inlet contain enormous clam beds and catching giant razor clams is a favorite activity for locals and visitors. You can rent or purchase a shovel in town and then head to either Ninilchik Bear State Recreation Site or Deep Creek.
Ninilchik is well known for its saltwater king salmon fishing and record halibut fishing. A major halibut fishery off Ninilchik has produced some of the largest trophy halibut found in Cook Inlet, including a 466-lb. unofficial world record sport-caught halibut. There are plenty of charters and expert guides located in Ninilchik.
The Kenai Peninsula State Fair is held in Ninilchik the third weekend in August. Touted as the ‘Biggest Little Fair in Alaska,’ it draws a crowd from all over the Kenai area for a rodeo, parade, crafts, food, exhibits and a great deal of fun.
Location: Ninilchik lies on the west coast of the Kenai Peninsula on the Sterling Highway, 38 miles southwest of Kenai and 188 road miles from Anchorage.
Access: By road via the Sterling Highway.
Accommodations: Six bed and breakfasts, three cabins, one hotel, two private RV/campgrounds, four state campgrounds, several restaurants/cafes, all services.