Our Honeymoon

Hey everyone! I am so excited to share our Alaska honeymoon with you! That’s right we went to Alaska for our honeymoon! We had a hard time narrowing down places at first (because I haven’t been to many places) but then we started to look into Alaska and we were hooked.

I wasn’t sure at first if Alaska was something we could afford to do. It is definitely a larger budget vacation but not impossible! We actually learned a couple more tricks we could have done to save even more on our budget. For one person you can expect to pay $2500.

Flights

Don’t just book when you see them, be patient. We had to wait and check everyday to find the lowest fares. We found the cheapest flights to be around $800 round trip per person but they went up as high as $1300 on some days. Another thing we learned about when we traveled to Alaska was there is a credit card that can help with flight expenses, Alaska Airlines Credit Card. If you join during a certain time of the year you can get a companion pass(you’re companion flies for just 100 dollars anywhere one time per year) and you can earn points to fly yourself. When we were on the plane ride home we actually got the credit card (they fly to more than just Alaska). A disclaimer: don’t just open a credit card – make sure it’s the right choice for you.

Hotels and Car

We rented a car and paid for hotels in Alaska as you’ll find out below. However, both combined were the highest expenses we paid on the trip. Our small rental car, which was the cheapest I could find at the time, was $850 for the week. Each night we stayed in Alaska it was hard to find a hotel under $175 a night. Yikes. We noticed as we traveled around that we were stopping to take pictures at campsites along our drive. They were in each city and huge! The best part about them was they had the best real estate. Yep, you heard me right better spots then our hotels! You can rent a camper van for the week for the same price as an SUV and you’ll be all set! Most of the campground fees were like $25/night. When we go back for another road trip this is what we will do.

Planning

Alaska is so big it’s impossible to fathom being able to travel there enough times to see everything. We wanted to be able to see as much as we could in what little time we had. We booked 2 days worth of flights and 7 full days to road trip. I used this blog to help plan some of our trip and some of my dad’s suggestions since he has been to Alaska to fish a couple of times.

What to Pack

I actually had to buy quite a bit of clothing to prepare for our trip. You’ll definitely want light layers that are insulated. We went at the end of the summer, August 31st to September 8th, and the weather was chilled in the morning and at night around 35-40 degrees and warmed up to 65 degrees almost everyday (I swear their 65 felt like 75!). I know everybody said it rains frequently but it only rained a little bit when we were in Denali (this is normal because it has it’s own weather system due to the mountain) so we had a clear, dry week.

Gear

The weather at this time of year is great but I was definitely in about three layers in the morning and down to one layer by mid-day. There were even some days I just was in shorts and t-shirt. The cool part about Alaska is that they get more sunlight then we do so the sun was up early and went down later so it felt warmer longer.

We also found out that the week we traveled to Alaska was the last week of open season. This means most of the businesses close up after labor day weekend. While our weather was absolutely gorgeous I would not plan on visiting past these dates.

Day 1: Anchorage to McKinley Park

We flew into Anchorage and grabbed our mid-size sudan rental car from Enterprise right at the airport. For your rental car skip the GPS and grab a map because there are only five paved roads in all of Alaska.

We drove a couple of miles from the airport to sleep off our long day of traveling at the Alaska House of Jade. It is a quaint bed and breakfast that my dad’s friends had recommended. It did not disappoint. We stayed in a large room with a comfortable king size bed. In the morning the couple made all their foods from scratch and we tried reindeer sausage for the first time (so good!). We discussed with the other travelers about their plans. One couple told us they were going to the Alaskan State Fair because the vegetables are so giant you have to see it to believe it. Unfortunately we could not fit this into our trip. The couple that owned the B&B also lent us a cooler and beer spray when we were discussing our plans for the week! If we could have we would have stayed their longer.

We noticed Anchorage is a bigger city in Alaska, with the mountains in the background it’s very picturesque. You will find native Alaskan’s working everywhere and they are laid back and pleasant people. We grabbed food at the grocery store before our start to the road trip. Be prepared to pay top dollar for some PB&J sandwiches and snacks. We asked why the groceries were so expensive ($10 for a loaf of bread) and they said it’s due to the fact that they have to ship everything in and that drives their prices up.

As we set off on our road trip we were giddy. We were heading north to Denali National Park and it was about a 4 hour drive total (our longest ride of the entire trip). I thought I would nap but turns out that every new scene we drove by had me wide eyed and crying most of the way. I have never witnessed land as beautiful as this.

We stopped for lunch at McKinley Creekside Cafe and then we were right back on the road again. We had a ATV ride planned for three pm through Denali Park. We arrived to our destination to go on the ATV ride and immediately regretted it. I had gotten the idea from the blog above but it was not what we thought. What we learned was that Denali National Park has a piece that was not put into the park due to there was an active coal mine (still active). This property was allowed to be developed and it felt immediately wrong in my gut upon arrival. We still enjoyed the tour, don’t get me wrong, and saw our first moose but overall we went to Alaska to be in the quiet and nature and this was not that. We also saw the bus from “Into the Wild” too.

After our ATV ride we settled in for the night in our cabins we rented through Denali Cabins. These cabins were nice but a bit overpriced due to the good location. A perk was that they had a restaurant right near the cabins so we got dinner and breakfast there and that was really convenient. Not going to lie though we were hurting due to the time change. Even though the sun was still up I still was jet-legged by 7-8 pm (which was 11pm our time) and this did not go away the entire week.

Day 2: Denali National Park & Preserve 

The day we had been waiting for anxiously had arrived. It was a foggy morning and I was worried about the weather but there was only about 10 minutes of freezing rain and the rest of the day was rather pleasant. As we pulled into the park there were winding roads and evergreens all around us. We pulled into the visitor station and paid for our pass for the day. I would just like to note the lady told us the buses would stop and bring us back to our car after we finished our hike but do not believe them – they did not pick us up and about ten buses went by…

We stayed within mile marker 15 but the park goes in 80 miles. I was really nervous about being dropped off for off-trail hiking so we played it safe and stayed within the first 15. Now that we went I think I’d feel more comfortable going in further. I was expecting to see wildlife everywhere and guess what, that is not true. You have to know where to look and be looking. Moral of the story don’t be afraid just be prepared.

We hiked the The Savage Alpine Trail and it was still spectacular. When you get close to mile marker 15 there were more people but for the majority of the hike we did not see anyone. It is a difficult due to length being about 7.7 miles total but you don’t need to do any rough climbing. There is no peak to this trail and they tell you to stay on the trail to help preserve the land otherwise Kevin and I would have continued to venture up. We saw some mountain goats, Arctic squirrels, and a couple more moose (not on the trail) for the whole day.

By the time we got to our car we said our goodbyes and departed from this magical wonderland mother nature has created and headed south towards Talkeetna. It was about a 2.5 hour car ride. I kept on thinking it was a mistake leaving and maybe I had gone all wrong with my trip planning. If you are feeling this way, don’t worry, you will feel like this in every place you travel too in all of Alaska (they’re all majestic).

We finally arrived at the Talkeetna Alaskan Lodge and it was about 65 degrees out and an absolutely clear night. If you are in Talkeetna you have to stay here! This was my second favorite place we stayed because of the view. The amenities were normal but the entire place is lined with windows and you can see the entire Denali National Park. The dinner I got here was also the best meal I’ve ever had! Get the reindeer meatloaf!

We thought this was funny…
And then it actually happened…. it was fine… we survived…

That night was so clear people were everywhere. I’m not kidding when I say the place was lined with photographers saying they’ve lived here forever and they had never seen Denali Park that clear. It was wild.

We attempted later that night to wake up to try and catch the Northern Lights. When we got up we were surprised to see about 50 people in lawn chairs out waiting too. Unfortunately they did not show for us but we did download an app, My Aurora Forecast, throughout the trip that helped us immensely.

Day 3: Talkeetna to Girdwood

We checked out of the lodge at nine am and said our goodbyes to an absolutely cloudless sky (I did not grab a picture). We headed south for three hours down the road we came from, past Anchorage, and followed along what they call the Turnagain Arm Pass on the Seward Highway. As soon as we hit this spot we were in awe!!!! We totally took a 45-minute detour just hanging out and taking in the view.

Now I wanted to hike one of the mountains, The Bird Ridge Trail, that lines the pass but Kevin was really jet-lagged so we ended up ditching our plans for the day and just kind of hung out once we got to Girdwood.

Girdwood is a very unique town that has formed from the tourism that comes from their ski resort. (Side note: The skiing here is death defying so I’m not sure who actually skies.) Basically the town is at the bottom of a U basin with the Chugach Mountain Range covering all side and water on the open side. The mountains have glaciers at the top, 7 to be exact, one of the glaciers is called Alyeska. They named the ski resort after this glacier, Alyeska (Allie-esss-kah). This is very confusing because people use Girdwood and Alyeska interchangeably but the town’s name is Girdwood. Either way Girdwood is very beautiful.

We found a local brewery, Girdwood Brewing Company, to chill at for the afternoon. Ironically we sat in Adirondack chairs and looked at the mountains until we could check into our cabin. We found out here that Alaska has a law for how much beer you can consume in one day. Turns out you can only buy 36 ounces total (3 beers)! This would never fly in New York…

While in Girdwood we took the Alyeska Aerial Tram ride up the mountain to the Seven Glaciers Restaurant. If I could go back we would have skipped this and just hiked up (about a 1 hour hike) and down. It was expensive and nothing special to be honest. When we reached the top of the mountain we ate at the Seven Glaciers Restaurant. I had been watching Chef’s Table and thought we would splurge for a night here to have the experience. To be honest it was really expensive and food was not good, like at all. We both agreed if we could go back we would get drinks at the bar, which actually has the best view of the mountain tops and glaciers, and we would have ate at, Jack Sprat Restaurant, which locals raved about.

the salmon was good but the sauce literally tasted like glue….

After dinner we did a 15 minute hike up to the top of the glacier. The view was pretty spectacular. Our pictures look as though we were photoshopped into them.

After dinner we checked into the Alyeska Hostel. We rented the tiny cabin and it was so cute! It is very small, be warned, but fine for a short stay. We were worried we would be cold but it was actually the exact opposite, we were quite toasty! I loved this cabin and the owner was very nice! This place was a steal and we did not have to share with anybody so I could not complain.

Day 4: Girdwood to Homer

We set off early in the morning for our fly fishing trip on the Kenai River out of Cooper’s Landing. It was a foggy morning to start therefore our drive was unremarkable into Coopers Landing. Once we arrived we met our fishing guide and got set up for the day. We packed our lunches and were dressed in layers to take off as the day got warmer. It was 7:30 am when we started and we ended at 4 pm.

We hopped into the row boat and the water was crystal clear. Our guide told us the water in the river comes from glaciers. This makes the bottom silty and gives the water a grey turquoise color.

We started off fishing for “silvers” which I know as Coho Salmon. Ironically when they enter the Kenai River they start to die and turn a blush color. You don’t want them to be too blush or they will be not good to eat. We actually used spinner rods and spoons to catch them. I unfortunately, did not catch any but Kevin got one. Our guide filleted the fish right there and gave us ideas of how to use it at home. We ended up shipping this home and we bought some other fish to ship too since after a certain poundage the price to ship is about the same. Aka, we should have caught more fish haha.

As the morning went on, the fog cleared and suddenly we were surrounded by sun and mountains. The entire ride was serene and beautiful. I was happy I was dressed in layers because I was down to my base layer for the majority of the day.

After the fishing spots for silvers were exhausted we spent the rest of the day fishing for small rainbow trouts and dolly vardens (which I called dolly partons haha). As we were fishing it was really cool because you could see 1000’s of sockeye salmon and big King Salmon swimming in the river too. It was pretty incredible. This was definitely Kevin’s favorite day.

We were really tired by the end of the day and wish we could have had dinner with our guide but knew we would be crashing later on. We decided to head out to Homer and get dinner on the way.

As we continued south the drive continued to become even more breathtaking. After you pass Soldotna it’s all beach houses and mountains. If you want to own a home in Alaska this is where I would go. The drive follows along the water and in the distance is the Aleutian Mountain Range. You will be able to spot two of the highest volcanos along the drive, Illiamna and Redoubt, that you will swear look higher than Denali.

We stopped in a town called Ninilchik and ate at a sandwich shop. On the way out the parking lot we saw a fish processing spot and popped in to see if we could get our fish processed. It is called Tanner’s Fresh Fish Processing. We met with the owner and he was super helpful especially since we had caught only a couple pounds of meat. You can actually order from them at any time and I think is great Christmas gift idea.

We finally arrived in Homer and for the first time in our trip got lost. I was using google maps and it took us right onto the Homer spit. Homer is a cliff town surrounded by water with this amazing landform, the spit, that juts out a sandy beach where there are restaurants and bars for a couple of miles. It is absolutely wild. I really could not believe it was real. After we called the owner we ended up finding our way to the Kenai Peninsula Suites.

I got the idea to stay here from the blog I mentioned earlier. Be warned this place is pricey but it was our honeymoon. This was the only place we were staying for 2-nights and it was so, so worth it. It had a jacuzzi, a personal deck for ourselves, a kitchen, a sunset view with two mountain ranges on different sides in the distance, and a beach view below. We spent at least an hour running around the property just exploring and taking in the view and watching the sunset in the jacuzzi on our first night.

Day 5: Homer

This day was my pick for an adventure. What’s an adventure without horseback riding? I was thankful I found this guy through facebook called Trails End Horse Adventures and he said there were openings for our date! He is a real cowboy, doesn’t have running water, barely has a facebook and only accepts mailed in checks before hand. At first I was like please don’t be a scam! However, he called me back to confirm what heights and weights we were so he could match up his horses and his address!

We met at 8 am as a group and he drove us down to the state land we would be trail riding on. Just a warning don’t drink too much coffee or water or you’ll have to potty in an outhouse with no door. He was definitely a character and was nice overall but can be mean at times if the horses are acting up so watch out. Props to him though because he did give me the most beautiful horse because he thought we matched up nicely. He wasn’t wrong! I’ve been around horses growing up and this paint horse was a beautiful horse and I was praying I would get matched with her.

If you don’t like heights like me, the ride down the hill at first is rough. I was basically having an anxiety attack due to the steepness. Of course I am here to tell you I survived so it all works out, right? Once we got to the bottom it was gorgeous. He took us through homesteads with some of his cattle. He is part of an association where they share a very large piece of land. It was all grass land with mountains on both sides of us with glaciers between the cracks. There were little streams we went through and bigger streams we did not. For the majority of the trip I could not take pictures because I was on the horse. On the way back I tried and failed. Therefore the only pictures I have are from when we stopped and had lunch.

As a side note some of the horses seemed like they were struggling and may have been a little lame so I wasn’t totally happy about that. Not to mention the climb down and up were very, very steep and difficult for them. However, he did say he basically took these horses in from people who were trying to place them and they do get rode often so it seems like they have a pretty good life. I don’t want to give him too much slack because his barn and stable were nice. While there were some negatives I have to say my overall experience was good and this was still my favorite day of the trip.

We finished the ride and said our goodbyes. At this point I was dying to get into the car and get home! I was overheated and my thighs were screaming. We decided to grab dinner quick at La Baleine Cafe on the spit and rushed home so we could nap. We ended up taking a 3 hour nap and we woke up just in time to catch the sunset.

Day 6: Homer to Seward

We got a late start to the day and we knew once we got on the road we were going to miss our cruise in Seward. We called the cruise and asked if we could have it switched to the next day and they said no problem! We were so surprised but thankfully it all worked out.

The drive to Seward was about three hours and we were there by lunch time. We didn’t have anything planned so we checked into our hotel and dropped our stuff off. Seward is a small port town surrounded by mountains and very developed compared to the other towns we had been too. There’s even a college here! Many people had talked about Seward being their favorite place in Alaska throughout our trip. While I will admit it was cool, I felt like it was probably my least favorite city but still spectacular in its own way.

We decided on venturing around the city by foot since it was nice out. We made our way around the port, board walk and saw a ton of jellyfish right off the bat. Above us were fisherman filleting their fish at the fish station. If you don’t like the smell fo dead fish stay clear of those. As we made our way to the shoreline there conveniently was a walking path that we could follow. The walk was picturesque and calming with sailboats in the distance and fisherman on the shoreline. Lookout to the water and you’ll notice big brown blobs floating, those are very large sea otters. During certain times of the year whales come in but this was not that season.

As we got closer to the end of the walk we came across a sign that said mile marker 0 for the Iditarod! We had no idea Seward was where it started.

Shortly after we passed the Iditarod sign we found the Alaska Sealife Center. It was actually pretty cool but small overall. Afterward we stopped into the Seward Brewing Company across the street for dinner and drinks! We loved it here. The whole ambience was sophisticated and the fish tacos here were to die for. After dinner we just stopped in from store to store until we found ourselves back at our hotel. At the hotel we decided to stay in and enjoyed the hot tub and the pool for the rest of the night.

Day 7: Seward to Anchorage

The next day we grabbed continental breakfast and then got ready for our 5 hour Kenai Fjords Wildlife Cruise through Major Marines.

As we walked onto the boat they took our picture and we found our seat. I was pleasantly surprised to find there was a Park Ranger on the boat to narrate the tour of the Kenai Fjords National Park. While I knew this was touristy I was excited!

As the boat launched they served us lunch immediately. It was surprisingly pretty good! Kevin and I moved up onto the top deck after lunch with our camera and binoculars trying to spot some wildlife.

We ended up seeing seeing puffins, eagles, seals, and at the end we saw a super pod of killer whales. This was so neat! They approximated it was about 45 whales. I’m not going to lie it was a pretty cool experience not just to see them but to hear them breath as they came up to the surface.

After the boat ride ended we got dinner in town at Chinooks restaurant. The restaurant looks over the harbor and was a great way to end the day in Seward and our Alaskan adventure. The rest of the day we spent driving back to Anchorage to fly out in the morning.

If you made it this far good for you! Feel free to share below what your next big trip is or if you have any suggestions for other things to do in Alaska!

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