One of Homer's two outstanding museums, the Alaska Islands & Ocean Visitor Center takes a sweeping look at life along the Alaska’s 5,000 miles of Pacific coastline, from the bottom of the Inside Passage, clear out to the tip of the Aleutians, then all the way up to the Arctic. That long line matches that of the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge, five million federally-protected acres of islands, headlands, islets, rocks, spires, and other wildlife habitat (the visitor center is, in fact, the headquarters for the refuge).

In the museum, natural history goes hand-in-hand with 9,000 years of human history here, with a strong sense of theater throughout. An entire room is transformed into a seabird rookery, with sound and smell effects. A life-size trapper – "Mother was an Aleut, father was a Russian," he tells you – appears on a video screen in the door of a cabin, wanting to chat about the weather and fur prices. Special attention is given to the Aleutian Islands. The intimacy with nature of the island’s Native Aleuts is revealed in a rich collection of artifacts made with plant and animal materials (a surprisingly stylish seal intestines rain jacket with grass stitching). Native artifacts yield to displays on World War II in the Aleutians (the battle to dislodge the Japanese from Attu Island was the second bloodiest in the Pacific ), and the cold war military buildup and Atomic Age (three nuclear bombs were tested there)

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Drop in for the exhibits, a film, a path, programs, and ranger walks, which include guided tide-pool tours. Check website or call for low-season hours, as they vary.