While most people don’t think about beaches when traveling to Alaska, the state has the most coastline in the country, with a whopping 6,640 miles (33,904 miles by the NOAA). Even though it’s in the north and has a colder climate, many tourists and residents enjoy visiting the top beach towns and coastal cities in the Last Frontier for a special time.
Travelers going to Alaska with the intention of visiting a beach will have the best luck during the summer. June through August has nearly all-day sunlight, the warmest temps, and the least chance of the shores being icy.
While most people don’t get in the ocean, some brave the challenge and join the “polar bear club” with a plunge into the frigid water. Even during the summer, the sea doesn’t get out of the 40-degree range.
People who love the outdoors will get a lot out of Alaska’s pure natural landscapes. In addition to walking on the beaches, visitors and locals like to eat fresh salmon, go to museums, camp, hike, and even play snow sports. When you’re ready to see some of the world’s most unique shores, grab a jacket and visit one of these the state’s best oceanside towns and cities.
Here’s a look at the top beach towns in Alaska to live and visit, in no particular order:
Seldovia is a little seaside village across Kachemak Bay from Homer, yet it seems like another universe. Water taxis, air taxis, or the ferry from Homer, which leaves multiple times a day and takes 45 minutes, are the only options for visitors to get into town.
Locals proudly refer to their community as the “City of Secluded Charm”, and it’s hard to disagree. It also carries the motto “Alaska’s Best Kept Secret”.
The tiny town of 235 people (2020 census), nestled amid lakes, peninsulas, and waterways, maintained much of its extraordinary atmosphere. Whether you stay for a summer or a day, it is a relaxing getaway. Remote workers seeking a more rural and distinctive spot to call home can find it here.
Just a mile from the downtown area and the town’s famed boardwalk lies the local Outside Beach. On warm summer days, it’s the perfect place to relax after a trek along the Otterbahn Trail.
Volcanoes tower in the background while you relax on the sand, swim in the surf, or explore the tidal pools at this untamed stretch of beach. There is a high probability of seeing marine mammals, avian species, and birds of prey such as sea otters, bald eagles, and other seabirds.
Homer is a small town located approximately four hours south of Anchorage, sandwiched between the scenic Kenai Peninsula and Kachemak Bay. With its moderate temperature, excellent fishing, and beautiful scenery, Homer has earned the label “Halibut Fishing Capital of the World”.
With a population of 5,522 as of the 2020 census, Homer is in a rural area, yet it has more of the vibe of a West Coast Cape Cod than a rough-and-tumble frontier settlement. During the summer months, the region’s population increases to around 15,000 as people from the mainland and Anchorage come down to enjoy the outdoors by kayaking, hiking, biking, and fishing.
The town’s farmers market is a great social gathering place where people can chat over locally sourced goods like freshly shucked oysters and kombucha every other week.
Bishop’s Beach is a short walk from the Islands and Ocean Visitor Center, eateries. Motels just outside Old Town Homer and are the gateway to one of Alaska’s most breathtaking stretches of coastline. Children will love splashing about in the tidal pools, while adults can relax with a picnic in the park and take in the crisp Alaskan air.
The Homer Spit, situated 4.5 miles outside of town in the center of Kachemak Bay, is another fantastic beach destination. Miles of sandy, gently sloping beaches with animals, waves, and a view of snowy mountains can be found on this old glacier moraine.
Kodiak Island, AK
Kodiak Island is the biggest island in Alaska and the second largest island in the United States, with 3,670 square miles and more than 100 miles in length. As one of the busiest fishing ports in the country, the city and harbor can be seen from a distance of around three miles.
Kodiak City makes up about half of the island’s population, which is 13,101 (as of the 2020 census). Located on the Alaska Marine Highway ferry route, it is readily reached by regular flights from Anchorage and the boat itself.
From Anchorage, it’s just a four-hour drive down the Kenai Peninsula to Homer, where the nine-and-a-half-hour ferry voyage to Kodiak starts. Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge is a popular place for tourists and people who live in the area to see wildlife, attend cultural events, and do many different things outside.
There is more beauty to be seen down the shore at Fossil Beach. Remember to respect the cultural resources by looking but not touching them.
Also located just opposite the Kodiak airport, the Buskin River Beach is a quarter-mile stretch of gravel beside a clear-flowing stream. It’s a popular destination for those looking to relax on the beach, see animals, or catch a salmon. Here, Kodiak’s lush, green mountains frame the wide ocean view, and many people come to see marine life and exciting boat activity.
Anchorage is known for its mountains and easy access to the wilderness through Chugach State Park. The 2020 census estimates that the city’s population is 291,247. It’s located on a narrow coastal plain and sprawls up the foothills of the Chugach Mountains.
People from all over the world come to this Alaskan city to see the state’s beautiful landscapes and many animals. Anchorage is one of the best places to live in Alaska because of how gorgeous it is, how easy it is to get outside, and how great the arts and culture scene is.
Summer in South Central Alaska is stunning, and because the city is close to the coast, it also has beaches that are great for picnics, water sports, and walks along the tideline in the morning. Outside of Anchorage, whether in the winter or summer, there are many things to do.
The city has an impressive sandy beach, contrary to the popular belief of many. With its fine sand and crystal-clear vistas, Anchorage’s Kincaid Beach makes visitors and residents feel like they’re in Southern California. But the water is so cold that it’s not really an option for swimming. If you want to see moose, bears, migrating birds, and even beluga whales, you should bring a camera and visit the inlet.
You can find the city of Kenai on the Kenai Peninsula, just where the Kenai River flows into Cook Inlet. The town of 7,424 (as of the 2020 census) is famous for its abundant King salmon fishing and is surrounded by breathtaking landscapes and rich biodiversity. It also has a long history of native and Russian villages and culture.
Kenai is around 150 miles south of Anchorage, close to the towns of Soldotna, Seward, and Homer. Getting there takes just 30 minutes by plane or a relaxing and scenic three-hour drive.
It has one of the most varied and expanding economies in Alaska, which is good news for visitors considering a permanent relocation to the state. Beluga Whale Lookout on Kenai’s bluffs is a popular spot for tourists to see these whales in the ocean.
Access the north shore of Lower Cook Inlet from this public beachside location. Famous for dipnet fishing in July, Kenai Beach is restricted to Alaska residents exclusively.
During the summer, you can use the parking lot for a fee and even pitch a tent for camping in the area. In the off-season, this beach is used by locals for various activities, including strolling, biking, fishing, having a cookout, and kite flying.
Juneau is located in a vast wilderness region. You could spend your time in this capital city looking at the wildlife, hanging out at the beach, going on a fishing trip, climbing to the top of a glacier, or browsing the many galleries, museums, and shops.
Many Juneauites say they came to the city for a summer experience but ended up staying because of the small-town vibe, seemingly limitless events, and business energy. Many downtown attractions may be reached on foot from the docks in about 15 minutes.
There is something for everyone in Juneau, whether that’s a relaxing day of shopping followed by a night of drinking with the locals or an action-packed day in the great outdoors followed by a delicious meal with the day’s fresh catch. The city’s population of 32,255 (according to the 2020 census) is perfect for those who appreciate an excellent sense of community.
The beaches are popular with locals all year and serve as a gateway to other tourist attractions. At these city shores, you can swim, walk, boat, fish, camp, fish, and kayak, among other things.
Eagle Beach is near Mile 27 in Juneau and has a diverse ecosystem. In addition to Auke Nu Beach Access and Boyscout Beach, residents and tourists often visit Lena Beach Recreation Area for a time by the water.
Wrangell, one of Alaska’s oldest settlements, was established in 1834 at the mouth of the Stikine River. Tlingit, Russian, English, and American all have a hand in governing the roughly 2,127 people that call this town home as of the 2020 census.
People from the Tlingit tribe have lived in Wrangell for thousands of years. As a result, the city is full of historical and cultural items like totems around town from their time there.
Recreational opportunities like kayaking, salmon fishing, hiking, animal watching, and boat trips are popular with tourists and residents. Inns, bed & breakfasts, guesthouses, and short-term rentals are just some of the lodging choices accessible to visitors to Wrangell.
Petroglyph Beach is one of the most remarkable beaches in the state. The 3,000-year-old petroglyphs that adorn the rocks along the shoreline are the most exciting aspect here. It’s an amazing area to go tide-pooling at low tide and provides a beautiful view of the mountains. Visitors can search the shoreline for petroglyphs (both authentic and fake) and tidepool creatures.
Utqiaġvik (Barrow), AK
Formerly known as Barrow, Utqiagvik is America’s northernmost city and a fascinating coastal destination situated above the Arctic Circle. Barrow Beach, located at the very top of the planet, is a unique black sand beach that leads directly into the Arctic Ocean and is well worth the trip to check it out for yourself.
No roads go to Utqiavik, therefore, flying is the only option for getting there. Utqiagvik, with a population of 4,927 as of the 2020 census, may appeal to vacationers and those wishing to relocate to a chilly, remote town.
Package tours of the region are available throughout the summer months, and visitors may see polar bears, take pictures of snowy owls, and learn about the region’s indigenous culture. Utqiavik may be far from other places, yet it has a wide variety of restaurants serving various cuisines, including casual American fare, Mexican, Chinese, and Japanese.
Barrow Beach, known for its beautiful, soft, volcanic black sand, attracts many visitors and hosts local whaling boat races in the summer. Take a stroll down the beachfront and take in a breathtaking Alaskan sunset, or stop at the whalebone arch for a memorable picture op.
Real polar bears often come here to swim, fish, and explore the beach. They are very dangerous and should be avoided at all costs because of how fast they are and their ability to attack.
Keep these top beach communities in mind while planning your coastal Alaskan vacation. You can be confident that you’ll never forget seeing these beaches since they are among the most exceptional and unusual in the world.