Surrounded by spectacular scenery, wildlife, and a rich cultural history of Native and Russian settlements, Kenai is the heart of Alaskan adventure providing something for everyone. Originally settled as early as 1000 A.D. by Dena’ina Athabaskans, Kenai grew with the influx of Russian fur traders in 1791.

Just 11 miles from Soldotna, via the Kenai Spur Highway, Kenai is easily accessible from Anchorage via a 30-minute flight or 3-hour scenic drive. Stroll sandy beaches with a spectacular view of Cook Inlet, or experience the history of Kenai by taking a self-guided walking tour through historic “Old Town.”

The City of Kenai is on Cook Inlet, 156 miles south of Anchorage and 90 miles north of Homer. It is the largest city on the Kenai Peninsula (pop. 7,800) and is home to the peninsula’s biggest and busiest airport. Its industries include oil, natural gas, commercial fishing and tourism. It has been dubbed the “oil capital of Alaska” because of the extensive oil and gas discoveries nearby and in Cook Inlet.

Explore the City of Kenai’s 350 acres of parks and open spaces. Take a walk on the beach, spend a day fishing the world-famous Kenai River or play a round of golf at the 18-hole municipal golf course. The City of Kenai boasts magnificent views across Cook Inlet and on a clear day you will see three active volcanoes; Mt. Redoubt, Mt. Spur and Mt. Iliamna. At the ‘end of the road’ is Captain Cook State Park, the western end of the Swanson River canoe system and the city is surrounded by the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge.

Self-guided Old Town Walking Tour starts at the Visitors Center and features American and Russian landmarks. It will take you through Old Town Kenai to explore its history and culture including these highlights: The Russian Orthodox Church, a National Historic Landmark, which was built in 1894 and is still used for regular services today. This is the oldest Orthodox Church on mainland Alaska. Kenai Cabin Park consists of five historical cabins moved here and lovingly restored by members of the Kenai Historical Society. The cabins contain photos and objects of historical significance. The 75 mm Howitzer cannon from World War 1, on display near the cabins, was given to the city of Kenai by the Wildwood Military base, which has since become a Correctional facility. Moosemeat John’s Cabin is near the Visitor Center and also part of the walking tour. Named for the owner’s success in hunting moose to feed his family of 13 children. Fort Kenay was built by the U.S. Army in 1869 and housed more than 100 soldiers. In 1967 the fort was reconstructed as part of the Alaska Centennial celebrations.

Kenai Beach is a popular spot for dipnet fishing, which is only allowed for Alaska residents in July. Camping on the beach is available at the same time. Located at the end of Spruce Street.

The Kenai Visitors & Cultural Center welcomes visitors year-round. It houses an impressive permanent collection of Native Alaskan and local artifacts, art exhibits, and is home to the largest collection of mounted bald eagles in North America. In the gift shop you can purchase souvenirs, books, music and local products. During the summer months there is the Saturday Market, a summer food and crafts market that is open from 10am to 5pm. 11471 Kenai Spur Highway. 907-283-1991
www.visitkenai.com

The Kenai – Alaska’s Playground: No other destination offers such an up close and personal Alaskan experience. With over 15,000 square miles of extraordinary adventure and excitement to choose from, even the rest of the state comes here when they need a reminder of why they moved to Alaska in the first place. That’s why it’s known as Alaska’s Playground.
Check out Online Specials, a Free Kenai Peninsula Travel Planner and a Free Passport to Adventure on the Kenai. Full of discount coupons for your visit to the Kenai Peninsula. 35571 Kenai Spur Hwy, Soldotna. 800-535-3624
www.kenaipeninsula.org

Shortly after establishing Kodiak as a trading center in 1784, the colonizing Russians began to look for other places where similar communities could be set up as “controls” for area rule. Kenai was the first of these “controls.”

In 1791, Russia built Fort St. Nicholas (also known as Saint Nicholas Redoubt) in the midst of an Athabascan Dena’ina community near the present site of Kenai. This became the Russians’ second permanent settlement in Alaska. The Dena’ina hunted, fished, farmed, and trapped in this area but the Russians were only interested in the fur trade.

Alaska became part of the U.S. in 1867. The U.S. Military in Kenai established Fort Kenay from 1867 to 1869. A post office soon followed and a village grew up around it.

In 1957, oil was first discovered in Alaska near the Swanson River in Kenai and oil’s “boom years” were ushered in.

Today, Old Town Kenai still shows remnants of its Russian history. A self-guided walking tour takes visitors to the site of the old Russian parish, and the  Holy Assumption of the Virgin Mary Russian Orthodox Church where church services  are still held. Many Alaska Native and Russian artifacts are on display at  the Kenai Visitors & Cultural Center, where walking tour maps can be had at no charge.

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