Overlooking the mouth of the river Kenai, this town is home to some beautiful scenery. Expect amazing views of the Alaska mountain range, Mount Spurr, Mount Iliamna and Mount Redoubt.
Not only is there a spectacular backdrop but the area is abundant when it comes to wildlife too. Expect bears, eagles and specific to this area moose. If you are looking for a quiet but interesting area to explore then Kenai should be a stop on your Alaska tour.
Many people visit for the great salmon fishing and the legendary salmon in the river is the reason Kenai is one of the oldest inhabited European settlements in Alaska today.
Beluga whales and bears often come to feed in the area so if you are lucky and visit at the right time you might be able to see both.
I’m an Alaska local and have love exploring my home-state. I have made several visits to Kenai and based on that here is my list of the best things to do.
1. Kenai Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Center
Found on the outskirts of town, this should be the first stop when considering a visit to Kenai.
You will learn a lot about the history of the place including the Kenai Cultural Exhibit, which is a permanent collection of historical and cultural artifacts. There are also Kenai traditional clothing exhibits to peruse too.
It is also a great place to pick up maps and resources for your stay in the area. Such as information on the best things to do, camping grounds, parking and market days.
2. Holy Assumption of the Virgin Mary Church
Dating back to the early 1800’s this pretty Russian Orthodox Church in Kenai holds plenty of history. The church still holds services to this day, but it is also open for visitors to take a look around.
The blue domes and neat features are reminiscent of the Russian architecture and a reminder of the fur traders who once worked and settled in Alaska.
It is located in a picture-perfect setting neatly surrounded by its own white picket fence. Across the street there is also a local gift shop if you are looking for a souvenir of your stay.
3. Kenai Beach
It might not be the sunshine and sand kind of beach you would expect in other areas of the world, but Kenai beach is an interesting place to visit.
You can watch the fishers and the netters catching fish in the inlet and the boats push off to go further afield. You may even spot some wildlife, whales, bald eagles and seals are all found in the area.
When the tide is out it is a nice place to stroll and view the rock pools and coastline, as well as the Alaskan Mountains in the distance.
Read also: 28 Amazing Hidden Gems in Alaska
4. Alaska Berries Vineyard
A certified Alaska grown winery where you can enjoy a tour of the vineyard and wine tastings too. The berry wines are totally home made and have a distinctive but not too sweet Alaskan flavour.
If you are travelling with kids, not to worry you can still enjoy a little wine tasting and the little ones can join in tasting the home-made jams. As well as wine and jams, Alaska Berries also produce cider, syrups and honey too.
The small farm is homely and welcoming and remember the gates are only closed to keep out the moose.
5. Russian River
On a good day this river and waterfall hike is a beautiful location to visit. You will see many people fishing for salmon in the river and you can watch the salmon swimming upstream jumping over the rocks.
A more adventurous hike is to walk to the waterfalls, but you must be wary this is bear territory and during the salmon spawning season the bears are here for fishing too.
Summer is the best time to visit but it is also the busiest too. Grab your hiking shoes or mountain bike and head out on the marked trails for some exploring at the Russian river.
6. Fishing Tours
If you are new to fishing and would like someone to take you out and show you how it’s done, or you just want to be taken to the best fishing spots, you should join a fishing tour.
Professional fishermen or women will take you on a tour visiting the top places to catch King Salmon, Silver Salmon, Halibut and Rainbow Trout.
This activity is also family friendly too, so you can bring along the kids and see who can catch the biggest fish.
7. Crescent Lake Hiking Trail
A scenic area and trail which is great for biking hiking and camping. You’ll find lots of places to park up your RV and plenty of picnic tables to use.
Whether you are here for fishing or not, you can enjoy the scenery and the amazing wildlife that call this place home. There are lots of bears but also beavers, otters, bald eagles and falcons too. An excellent place for wildlife spotters.
The hiking trails are very peaceful giving you awe inspiring views of the mountains, trees waters and wildlife. A great place to enjoy a beautiful walk.
Further reading: 15 Best Things to Do in Alaska
8. Alaska West Air Tours
Tours from Kenai by air include flightseeing for aerial scenery, bear viewing and fishing tours.
The guides know exactly where to go for your chosen adventure, the best fly in fishing spots, the top remote places to watch bears in their natural habitat and the most beautiful stops for Alaskan photography.
Seeing the area by air gives you a completely different perspective and some incredible memories of your time in Kenai.
9. Saint Nicholas Chapel
A tiny church in Kenai which, like the Holy Assumption of the Virgin Mary Church has a Russian Orthodox past. The chapel was built in 1906 over the graves of Igumen Nicholai as well as others listed on the plaque outside.
There are some podiums inside and the decoration is interesting. The outside is typical of the Russian shrines with its blue and yellow paint, but it is much larger which is why it is called a chapel.
10. North Peninsula Recreation Centre
This recreation centre is an excellent place to visit if you are travelling with small kids. It gives you a chance to enjoy some indoor activities or just relax whilst the kids have fun.
There is a warm swimming pool with a slide, a shallow area for the smaller kids and a hot tub for the adults.
On better weather days there’s a running track, picnic area and a baseball field to use. So, whatever the weather there is something to keep the kids entertained.
11. Resurrection Pass Hiking Trail
This massive trail is over 38 miles long and is great for those wanting to camp and hike or bike the whole trail. There are little cabins that you can rent at certain spots along the trail. This way you can hike, then stay in a cabin and hike some more!
The cabins are very basic, so you will have to bring your own supplies. If you are trekking for a few days a water filter is advised rather than bringing along heavy water. Make sure you pack carefully but lightly to bring everything you need.
The trail itself runs along resurrection creek, and there are beautiful views of the mountains in the distance.
12. Kenai National Wildlife Refuge
The information center here will tell you all about the area and the animals and wildlife that reside within the protected area.
Staff are happy to talk to you about the area, the wildlife and the history of Kenai. There are also informative videos to watch within the information center.
You can see moose, bald eagles, black and brown bears and many other birds who call the refuge home. The area is very large, and the animals roam free. so you may or may not have any sightings upon your visit.
13. The Parish House Rectory
Kenai’s oldest building, the parish house rectory was built in 1881. It is where the priest of the Russian Orthodox Church.
The building is an interesting place to see especially if you want to see the Russian influence on the village from long ago.
Usually, it isn’t possible to visit inside the building, but it does house oldest piece of non-Native art in Alaska. This is a 17th century copy of the 400-year-old Our Lady of Kazan.
Read also: 15 Best Small Towns to Visit in Alaska
14. Kenai River Brewing Company
Stop in here for an evening of beer tasting or just drop by after a day of fishing or hiking.
This craft brewery has a large taproom where you can try their lovingly crafted beers, do a tasting, buy a drink and also enjoy some delicious food that goes great with the beer.
As a visitor it is also a good place to talk to the local people about Kenai and the sorts of things you can do here. One of the best things you can do is mingle with the locals and learn about the secrets of the town.
15. The Bow Bar
For a place to relax and unwind in Kenai, The Bow Bar is the place most visitors head. Expect live music, a friendly atmosphere and maybe even some late-night karaoke.
Nice place to grab a drink while you are in town.