If wrangling in a big catch is your idea of primetime, you’ll love the Kenai. If using that telephoto lens to capture an epic photo of a moose satisfies your adventure craving, you’ll love the Kenai. And if soaking in the splendor of the wilderness on a trek through the backcountry is your idea of relaxation, you’ll love the Kenai.
The Kenai Peninsula is often referred to as Alaska’s playground. From the northernmost community of Whittier, accessible only by tunnel (or air), to the southernmost community of Seldovia, accessible only by boat (or air), 90 percent of the 16,000 square miles that make up the peninsula are wilderness. That means more wildlife, more fishing, more hiking, and for all of us that enjoy the great outdoors, more fun!
While most of us think of the Kenai Peninsula as a weekending summer destination, it has one of Alaska’s most diverse economies. Major industries, including oil and gas, commercial fishing and tourism, are all strong contributors to the economy of the Kenai Peninsula Borough. The oil and gas industry offers jobs in exploration, extraction, storage, processing/ manufacturing and transportation, and accounts for approximately one-third of the labor force. Commercial harvest and fish processing in the borough traditionally includes five species of salmon, halibut, three species of crab, shrimp, clams, scallops, herring and various groundfish, but tourism is the fastest-growing industry in the borough. Created in 1991, the Kenai Peninsula Tourism Marketing Council boasts widespread membership.
NMS provides a variety of services on the Kenai. Our security team supports the Alaska Railroad and provides perimeter and access control for the Agrium plant and Tesoro refinery in Kenai as well as the BlueCrest Energy facilities in Anchor Point. In addition, our facilities management team provides facilities maintenance for Alaska Airlines and janitorial services for Alaska Communications throughout the communities on the peninsula.
Between 75 and 80 NMS employees live on the Kenai, whether they actually work there or not. Two long-time NMS employees, Jim Hibpshman, security captain on the North Slope, and Dustin Poindexter, safety specialist on the North Slope, give life on the Kenai a five-star review.
Jim lives with his family in Soldotna, about 150 miles south of Anchorage. Jim followed his brother to Nikiski after leaving the Marine Corps and met and married his wife there. After joining the Alaska State Troopers, he moved to multiple communities within the state, eventually to Homer and finally to his current home in Soldotna. Jim says the Kenai is a great place to raise a family.
Dustin grew up in Homer and currently lives with his family in Anchor Point. He says his claim to fame is that his home is the most westerly point on the U.S. road system – complete with a sign identifying the fact.
“If I could advise anything in regard to vacationing to or visiting the Peninsula, it would be to drive down from Anchorage,” said Dustin. “It can be a four- to five-hour drive if you take your time, but it is one of the most beautiful and scenic drives in the world.”
Indeed, the drive takes you through Turnagain Pass, past the Kenai River in Cooper Landing, and through Sterling (the city of a thousand street lights). When you get to Homer, the view of the Kenai Mountains, Kachemak Bay and the Homer Spit, is, according to Dustin, one of the most breathtaking in the world. His recommendations for cuisine include the Blue Bus Diner in Anchor Point for burgers, Fat Olives Restaurant in Homer for mouthwatering fare and a more refined dining experience, and AJ’s OldTown Steakhouse & Tavern in Homer.
If the Kenai Peninsula isn’t on your bucket list, sharpen your pencil, revise your list and place it at the top. It’s like no place else on earth.
For more information on the Kenai Peninsula: