Alaska’s Halibut Cove

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Hidden but Accessible

Every summer weekend, the population of Halibut Cove, Alaska, nearly quadruples. It’s an easy feat in a village of only 25 year-round residents.

Settled by Scandinavian fishermen a century ago, Halibut Cove remains a community tied to the catch from Kachemak Bay, although a handful of hardy artists, lured by the fjord-like landscape of the surrounding Kenai Mountains, have set up shop there too.

There are no roads to Halibut Cove. In fact, there are no roads in Halibut Cove.

Although float planes service the small community, most visitors arrive in Halibut Cove via the ferry Danny J, which departs from Homer. On its way, the Danny J skirts Gull Island, its eight resident species of seabirds—the comical puffins being a favorite—delighting passengers.

As the Danny J chugs onward to Halibut Cove, very little is revealed of the town until the ferry slips through the steep and rocky narrows separating Ismailof Island from the mainland.
Once the ferry navigates the narrows, homes perched on hillsides and in the trees come into view nestled under the gaze of towering mountains and glittering glaciers.

Don’t expect sidewalks here. A wooden boardwalk connects most of the homes and shops. On your walk, you might see bald eagles soaring high above, or otters in the harbor. Have your camera ready for each new surprise on this extraordinary boardwalk.

The centerpiece of social life in Halibut Cove is the Saltry restaurant. Every day, over a hundred restaurant guests feast on fresh fish and oysters scooped straight out of Kachemak Bay from the grand U-shaped deck of the former houseboat, which the owners had to float into its present location on a particularly high tide. Their efforts paid off: Alaskans consider the Saltry one of the state’s best restaurants.

From the Saltry, visitors can peruse two art galleries, grab a pastry at the Halibut Cove Coffee House or mail a postcard from the town’s floating post office. Kayakers can cruise the shoreline of Kachemak Bay State Park, Alaska’s first state park and only wilderness park. (Be sure to consult a tide table before embarking on any water excursion; the bay boasts the 2nd-largest tides in the world.)

An overnight stay gives visitors the most exposure to Halibut Cove. Choose from three lodging choices: the timber-framed Ridgewood Wilderness Lodge adjacent to Kachemak Bay State Park; the Scandinavian-styled boutique cabins of Stillpoint Lodge; or the quaint private units of Cove Country Cabins within walking distance of “downtown”. Each will have visitors considering a move to become the 26th resident of Halibut Cove.