Artists, entrepreneurs, and adventure seekers find nirvana on the shores of Alaska's Kenai Peninsula.

By Susan Haynes
May 30, 2007

Whether you come by land, air, or water, getting to Homer is anodyssey. All routes cross a region of extraordinary naturalwonders. Then the town greets you like a giant pop-up card:forbidding mountains, alpine glaciers, dense evergreen forests, afast-moving sea, the 4½-mile-long sand spit, and a thrivingcommunity.

Tina Day and her husband, Bob, used to drive four hours southfrom Anchorage to reach this secluded town. "One weekend, walkingthe beaches, we decided to move here," Tina says. With minimalhand-wringing, "we sold our home, quit our jobs, bought a house inHomer, and found new work."

Any regrets? Recently strolling out on the Homer Spit, near thelegendary Salty Dawg Saloon, they could see the M/V Tustumena ferry sailing in, the sun setting behind the Mt.Augustine volcano above Kachemak Bay, and about 20 bald eaglesoverhead. "We almost had to pinch ourselves," Tina says.

Tina's extensive marketing background made her the idealexecutive director for the Homer Chamber of Commerce. But suchperfect job opportunities rarely present themselves in this town of5,400 people who rely on seasonal tourism for their economic base.More typically, "you can live in Homer if you bring your job andyour passion for this place with you," says Lisa Nolan. She camehere full-time in 1988 and has developed three localrestaurants―first Homestead, then Café Cups, and now thetrendy Fat Olives. She and her business partner/husband, Tiny,revel in Homer's sophistication, lack of pretense, and fun.

"In Homer, we have 'black tie' events," Lisa says. "Fishermenshow up in their Carhartts [rugged outerwear] coupled with top hatsand canes. Tuxedo jackets are paired with T-shirts, and sequineddresses with mud boots."

The big lure for charter-fishing business/B&B owner MichaelCoates, a Wisconsin native, is the outdoors. "I play hockey, ski,snowmobile, kayak, surf-kayak, boat, and fish―all within fivemiles of my house and mostly year-round," he says. To pad hisoff-season income, Michael drives a bus for local high-schoolactivities.

"Homer inspires your dreams, but it takes a great deal oftenacity to live here," says Asia Freeman, director of the BunnellStreet Gallery. "My husband and I have five different jobs betweenus [art, teaching, B&B, construction, and propertymanagement]." Moving from the San Francisco area, Asia's artistparents settled here when she was 6. "They weren't interested inthe kitschy, crafty arts commonly found in Alaska," she says."Instead, they invited visiting artists, poets, musicians, andwriters. They helped make this a destination for artists andcollectors." After attending Yale University art school andtraveling the world, Asia returned to Homer.

"We still juggle a lot to survive," she says. "But we have thisfantastic seasonal drug called the sun. It charges us up everysummer, when it's hard to sleep in the long daylight hours. Itkeeps us wired all winter."

(published July 2007)