Introducing Kenai Peninsula

Jutting into the Gulf of Alaska, the Kenai Peninsula is about the size of Belgium. Fewer than a tenth of Alaska's residents inhabit this southcentral extremity, and with mountains, glaciers, rivers, lakes, fjords, forests and fish galore, the area is an unparalleled recreational playground.

On the west coast is Cook Inlet, whose beaches offer razor clams, and whose waters support a vibrant fishing industry. You'll find the biggest salmon on the planet, which migrate each summer into the Kenai and Russian Rivers, attracting starry-eyed anglers by the tens of thousands.

On the rugged east coast, the Prince William Sound rains turn to snow among the jagged mountaintops, feeding North America's largest ice fields and sending glaciers toward the ocean. This sculpted seascape is a haven for marine creatures and heaven for kayakers, who could paddle for months among the berg-strewn fjords.

Down south, in Kachemak Bay, it's the best of all worlds, with islands and peaks, whales and trails, and plenty of succulent, barn door-sized halibut. There is the peninsula's fun-loving cruise-ship ports like Seward, dynamic hippie metropolises such as Homer, plus peaceful fishing villages the likes of Ninilchik and Seldovia.

The peninsula is largely well serviced, well developed and, being close to Anchorage, well frequented during the summer. Some trails are wildly popular and many campgrounds are filled to near-capacity, but if you hike a little further, you'll soon find only nature around you.