Sun, sand, and surf – in Alaska? True enough, friends, the 49th state has a bunch of family-friendly beaches just waiting for your kids. Sandcastles, waves to jump, and rocks to explore; Alaska’s beaches are full of interesting creatures and engaging shorelines appropriate for the entire clan.
Whether your family loves tidepooling or the feel of sand between the toes, beach time in Alaska means valuable unstructured time, something AKontheGO counts as precious, especially with the “hurry-up” tempo of many vacations. So, parents, try these great Last Frontier beaches next time you’re visiting Alaska.
Kincaid Beach in Anchorage is a bit of a hike (1.2 miles one way), but once there, beachgoers can run along the shore, dig in the sand, and enjoy the view of Turnagain Arm, Cook Inlet, and the surrounding mountain ranges. Anchorage residents count this place as a favorite hangout all year long, and it’s the rare evening when at least a dozen folks are not walking this windswept beach on Kincaid Park’s southwest side. NOTE: Stay off the mudflats! Anchorage’s beaches are not suitable for venturing too far offshore, and the sandy, silty mud will suck a person down faster than you can say, “holy quicksand!” Stay safe and stay on the shoreline. Bring warm clothing, as wind can pick up without warning. Add food and water to your backpack, too, there are no services beyond the park’s main chalet.
Bishop’s Beach in Homer is the neighborhood hotspot, with rocks and sand, tidepools and creeks, all located in an estuarian environment perfect for family exploring. Located in Old Town Homer off Bunnell Avenue, Bishop’s Beach is also the gateway to Beluga Slough and the Islands and Ocean Visitor’s Center, just a short walk away and an excellent place to join a guided beach walk. We also love the fact that Two Sisters’ Bakery is just up the street, and usually swing by for a sticky bun and coffee on our way back from a few hours of sandy playtime. Bring buckets, shovels, rubber boots, and your camera; the scenery is gorgeous and the flora and fauna, amazing. The beach itself is part of the City of Homer park system, and a picnic shelter and restrooms are on site.
Sitka National Historical Park in Sitka is another little gem among beaches, not for the sand, but for excellent tidepooling available when the water goes out. AK Kid and I spent hours looking under rocks and peering into puddles of saltwater for all sorts of creatures, and AK Dad enjoyed spying on eagles as they waited for salmon to come rushing up the nearby river. The National Park Service also encourages families to check out Discovery Packs at their visitor center, with guidebooks, buckets, shovels, and family-friendly activities to engage kids 0-10.
Fossil Beach, along the rugged coastline of Kodiak’s Pasagshak Road smacked of Washington coastlines from my childhood, and our recent visit to the Emerald Isle was a trip back in time. Fossil Beach is an independent explorer’s paradise, and kids with a penchant for such should definitely convince their parents to make the drive to Kodiak’s south end. Heck, the whole stretch of road is full of sandy, foamy beaches, and even thought the weather was positively frightful during our Memorial Weekend visit, we had a blast playing on the soft, sandy shoreline. Plan to spend an entire day exploring the beaches of Kodiak, whatever the weather, and be sure to leave fossils behind for the next group of intrepid adventurers. Watch for bison on the road, foggy patches that obstruct visibility, and a lack of services. We usually grab a picnic lunch at Java Flats on the way out, where enormous sandwiches and cookies the size of dinner plates satisfy our hungry family.
Heed these important tips for visiting Alaska’s beaches:
1. Dress appropriately. Alaska’s oceans, even in the summer, are cold. Boots, hats, gloves, and jackets are must-have items. We always bring extra clothing, socks, and a towel.
2. Stay onshore. Unless you are an experienced Alaska ocean swimmer, our water is off-limits to all but the most modest of wave hopping. Wicked currents and wild waves are no joke, mom and dad.
3. Be mindful of our fragile ecosystems. Tidepooling is way fun, for sure, but leave the little critters in their natural home. Touching is okay, but only with one finger, and only with an adult around. Ask at the local visitor center for best times and places to tidepool, and take advantage of guided hikes with experienced naturalists.