The Homer Chamber of Commerce Visitor Information Center, 201 Sterling Hwy. (P.O. Box 541), Homer, AK 99603 (tel. 907/235-7740; www.homeralaska.org), is on the right as you enter town. In summer, staff is on hand Monday through Friday from 9am to 7pm, Saturday and Sunday 10am to 6pm. Besides answering questions and handing out brochures on local businesses and public lands, they sell tickets for the halibut derby. Winter hours are Monday through Friday from 9am to 5pm.
The Islands and Ocean Visitor Center, 95 Sterling Hwy., Homer, AK 99603 (tel. 907/235-6961; www.islandsandocean.org), is more than a visitor center. It's one of Homer's best attractions -- a sort of museum of the outdoors for the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge and the Kachemak Bay Research Reserve, the cosponsoring organizations. Everyone coming to Homer should see the building, an architectural gem that perfectly reflects the rocky shores that the refuge and reserve take in, and to experience exhibits, some added in 2010, that use technology, interactive fun, and a sense of theater to re-create remote places in thought and feel. Films show frequently. The center is also the best place to stop for information if you plan to go outdoors anywhere in the area. An easy nature trail descends to the slough below the center. Admission is free. The center is open summer daily 9am to 6pm; check the website or call for winter hours.
The refuge itself consists of islands off Alaska from the Arctic to near British Columbia that include some of the world's most prolific bird and marine mammal habitat. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service manages these lands for the benefit of the animals, and people rarely set foot on their shores, but rangers in Homer offer daily programs and walks during peak summer season three times a day, at 11am, 1pm, and 3pm. Call for times and topics. The ranger's birding walks and guided tide pool treks could be a highlight of your trip. Birders can also call the Kachemak Bay Bird Alert Information Line (tel. 907/235-7337) to find out about recent sightings and upcoming birding events, and to leave news of their own observations, in season.
The Kachemak Bay State Park District Office, mile 168.5 on the Sterling Highway, 4 miles from town (tel. 907/235-7024; www.alaskastateparks.org), staffs rangers that can help answer questions about planning a trip to the trails and beaches across Kachemak Bay from Homer and give advice on renting remote cabins (although you make the reservation through the Anchorage office). Depending on staffing, the office should be open Monday through Friday from 9am to 5pm.
Unless otherwise noted, the Homer Chamber of Commerce (tel. 907/235-7740; www.homeralaska.org) is the best source of information for all these community happenings and for others listed on the events page of its website. Homer's Winter Carnival, in early February, the weekend after the Super Bowl, is a big community event, a small-town celebration with a beer-making contest, a parade, a Mardi Gras celebration, auto racing on the ice of Beluga Lake, and more.
The Winter King Tournament is a 1-day fishing competition on the third Saturday of March, for the largest king salmon caught by a fleet of sportfishing boats trolling for the fish in their winter ocean habitat. The purse exceeds $100,000 in cash and merchandise. The Jackpot Halibut Derby (www.homerhalibutderby.com), which runs from May through September, has a top prize that has reached over $50,000 for the biggest fish of the season, and smaller monthly prizes and tagged fish prizes. Grand prize fish are usually 300 pounds or more. Of course, you must buy your $10 ticket before you fish.
The Kachemak Shorebird Festival, in early May, includes guided bird-watching hikes and boat excursions, natural history workshops, art shows and performances, and other events. It's organized by Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge and the Homer Chamber of Commerce to mark the return of the annual migration.
Concert on the Lawn, in late July, sponsored by KBBI public radio (tel. 907/235-7721), is a 2-day outdoor music, craft, and food festival that brings together the whole town.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.