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Australian couple wanting help with 15 day RV trip May 2012

Brisbane, Australia
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Australian couple wanting help with 15 day RV trip May 2012

We do not want to rush so would prefer to visit less places so that we can really have a relaxing break. I think from what I have researched that a trip to Seward/Kenai area is beautiful and natural. Can we venture into Kenai area in our 26 foot RV without having to take tours?

It appears that there are some great half or one day cruises that we would like to take from Seward as well. How many days would you stay in the area? We will be driving from Anchorage. Where would you stay on the first day so travel is low. Once we leave Seward, where else do you suggest we visit? Do you think Denali National Park is a good option and where from there? I hope this makes sense. I am a bit lost at the moment as I have never organised a trip like this before. I do not really understand Alaska. Your expertise and experience will be most appreciated. Thanks. Ann and Gary

Manitoba, Canada
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1. Re: Australian couple wanting help with 15 day RV trip May 2012

Hi Ann & Gary, welcome to the forum.

You can certainly have a wonderful time in an RV without going on organized "tours", just taking day trips here and there.

When in May are you going? Some activities aren't available in early May to mid-May. And it would help if we knew your interests. Are you interested in wildlife, hiking, fishing, kayaking, museums, glaciers, etc.?

Coffs Harbour...
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2. Re: Australian couple wanting help with 15 day RV trip May 2012

We are here at the moment. It is so different from Australia. You will LOVE it.The scenery on the Glen Highway is so stunning it almost made me cry!!!!! We flew Jetstar to Honolulu and stayed o'night and then to Anchorage on Air Alaska. No problems. We are in Motels (Lodges) not RV. Lots of them on the road. Only tricky driving bit is in city. Had a great day out on Prince William Sound. More to come. We have one more week.

Greater Sydney...
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3. Re: Australian couple wanting help with 15 day RV trip May 2012

G'day Ann and Gary,

I cannot help you much in regard to those regions, as my only experience is a cruise in the SE, but I thought that as you are from Brissie you may not be aware of the weather conditions in May. It would get pretty cold in an RV at night even by our outer Sydney standards. Weatherbase is a great site to look at the average historic weather of places.

Anchorage

www.weatherbase.com/weather/weather.php3…

Seward

www.weatherbase.com/weather/weather.php3…

Talkeetna (near Denali)

www.weatherbase.com/weather/weather.php3…

Happy planning

Greater Sydney...
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4. Re: Australian couple wanting help with 15 day RV trip May 2012

Good point M_M. I see that cruising starts up on May 1 2012 though.

Brisbane, Australia
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5. Re: Australian couple wanting help with 15 day RV trip May 2012

Hello and thank you to all for your replies. Manitoba, We are looking at 16 to 31 May. We are really interested in everything although probably not the fishing. Also short hikes only. Maybe no more 2 hours return and not too difficult. I have a bit of a back problem. It is great to know we do not need organised tours and that we can take day trips here and there. Looking forward to some more info from you.

Brisbane, Australia
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6. Re: Australian couple wanting help with 15 day RV trip May 2012

Hi Ann and Gary

We live in Brisbane too and did an Alaskan cruise in 2004, 31/2 week RV trip around Alaska in 2008 and are planning our third trip back there...it gets into your blood. Feel free to to send me a private message and I'd be happy to have a chat and pass on some of our experiences....we were 100% independent and loved travelling in the RV.

We did a giant loop from Anchorage to Denali to Fairbanks to Valdez to Matanuska Valley, down the Kenai to Homer......

Cheers Deborah

Las Vegas, Nevada
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7. Re: Australian couple wanting help with 15 day RV trip May 2012

A great resource for planning is to read trip reports. You'll find a link to 2011 and 2010 reports under the Top Questions about Alaska. People have been great about including lots of details on, excursions, lodging, etc. (my caution about the 2010 reports is to start at the very end and work backwards).

Also, borrow a few Alaska travel books from your library. There's lot of great info on-line as well. Google a town's name, followed by the words "visitor information" and you'll find the town's web site with suggestions for activities.

For the Kenai Peninsula; click on a town's name to access more info. kenaipeninsula.org/excursion/interactiveMap.…

This site has lots of good info. www.alaska.org

Manitoba, Canada
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8. Re: Australian couple wanting help with 15 day RV trip May 2012

Any chance you could extend your trip to June 2nd? The shuttles into Denali start going as far as Eielson (8 hrs) on June 1st. Prior to that, they go only to Toklat (6 hrs), which doesn't give you a good view of McKinley (if it's out) and of course you get to see less scenery and have less area to look for wildlife. But if the May dates are firm, it's still worth going to Toklat. Leave Denali until the end of your trip.

With 15 days and not wanting to rush, plus your interest of Kenai Peninsula and Denali already expressed, I'd suggest you concentrate on those areas and save Fairbanks/Valdez for another trip. Unless, of course, there is something you really want to see/do in those places, and there is a chance you might not be able to get back to Alaska.

Anyway, here is a sample itinerary to get you started. It takes it fairly easy yet still covers a lot of ground:

Day 1 – arrive Anchorage, overnight (I know that some RV companies, such as Great Alaskan Holidays, allow you to overnight in your RV right in their parking lot. Or if you prefer, overnight in a nearby hotel).

Day 2 – you wanted an easy day today, so first you’d do the mandatory orientation of the RV. Buy groceries and supplies. Maybe an activity in Anchorage (see Day 15 for ideas), then very scenic drive to Williwaw Campground (1 hr), stopping at Potter Marsh, Beluga Pt., etc: alaska.org/driving/portage-valley-whittier-s… . Reserve the campground in advance so you can get one of the few pull-through sites rather than a back-in one, makes it easier your first night driving a strange RV). If time, wander along the nearby trails.

Day 3 – maybe Wildlife Conservation Center (you can drive through, stopping to see the animals that most interest you, or just park at the gift shop and walk the route) and/or Begich Boggs visitor center (can also do those tomorrow if you prefer). Then a glacier cruise (26 Glaciers, Major Marine, or Prince William Sound Tours, depending on what you want to see). Be aware that the tunnel to Whittier is open only 15 min. per hour in either direction, on the half-hour going in and on the hour coming out, so be sure to allow extra time to get through. Overnight Williwaw CG.

Day 4 – Drive to Seward (under 2 hrs). SeaLife Center (maybe a behind-the-scenes tour or animal encounter?). Explore Seward. If you want to try kayaking, Sunny Cove offers a 3 hour tour of the bay, morning or evening trips usually have calmer water. Maybe Ididaride or Godwin Glacier sled dog tour. (Note: if you go with Godwin, book at the last minute when you know the flight can take off. Lots of problems getting refunds when the trip is cancelled). Easy 1 hr roundtrip hike to the face of Exit Glacier, or you can do that tomorrow after the cruise or on your way out of town on day 6. Overnight Seward waterfront.

Day 5 – at least a 6 hr. Kenai Fjords NP cruise. The longer you are out on the water, the more chance you have of coming across wildlife such as whales. Overnight Seward waterfront.

Day 6 – drive to Homer (4 hrs) with stops along the way, such as Cooper Landing (maybe do the 2 hr. roundtrip hike to Russian River Falls), Soldotna (nice Fred Myer store right on the highway to shop for more supplies), the town of Kenai (see the beach, etc.), the Russian Church in Ninilchik, and depending on cloud cover, a view of up to 5 volcanoes (4 of them active) from Anchor Pt. Walk along the beach or tidepooling (looking for small sea creatures left behind after high tide). More info: http://alaska.org/driving/homer-drive.htm . Overnight Homer.

Day 7 – Either Rainbow Tours wildlife trip to Seldovia, or noon Danny J to Halibut cove. Explore Homer. Overnight Homer.

Day 8 – Pratt Museum, Islands and Ocean visitor center. Drive to Girdwood area (4 hrs), maybe doing the 17 mile detour to tiny Hope to look around, especially if you are interested in Alaskan crafts: www.hopealaska.info/Local_Arts___Gifts.html . Overnight Williwaw CG.

Day 9 - explore nearby Girdwood (go up the tram if the weather is clear for a great view, Candle Factory for neat Alaska-made candles in the shapes of animals and native peoples, the Jade Shop if that interests you, Crow Creek Mine, do the first part of Winner Creek hike to the hand tram over the gorge (entrance near Crow Creek Mine). Drive to Matanuska Glacier area (3 hrs). Overnight nearby (maybe Grand View RV Park—a view that lives up to its name, a small café on site, laundry & shower facilities.)

Day 10 – I would suggest the 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 pm. Ice Fall Trek with MICA (assuming they are open by the date you get there). I know you said max hike of 2 hrs, but a lot of the time is spent gearing up and driving to/from the glacier, and there are several stops too once you’re on the glacier. You get to look down a crevasse (with the guide hanging onto you so no danger of falling in!) and the Ice Fall is breathtaking, wonderful photo op. I did the hike with a bad knee and managed just fine. If you’re not sure, contact MICA and discuss your abilities. You could always do their 1.5 hr. hike instead, but it doesn’t get out to the neat formations of the glacier. After, drive to Talkeetna (3 hrs) with a stop in Palmer to see the Musk Ox Farm.

Day 11 – explore Talkeetna: maybe flightseeing Denali, river float or jetboat tour, SunDog sled dog tour if you didn’t do one of those in Seward, the Ranger station, and just walk along downtown (one whole street, lol). Another neat place for crafts and gifts for back home. Overnight Talkeetna.

Day 12 – drive to Denali (3 hrs). Claim your campground (after 11 a.m.) and pick up your shuttle tickets. Entrance activities: drive the 14 miles into the park that private vehicles are allowed to look for wildlife and do a short hike at the turnaround point, visitor center displays & film, the book store, free Ranger sled dog demo at 10, 2 or 4, whitewater rafting (might not be advisable for your bad back—check with the outfitter and maybe just go on the easy level if you go at all), maybe dinner theatre (hokey but fun, food is just average). Overnight Denali (I would suggest Riley Creek CG at the entrance if you want to be handy to everything including shower and laundry facilities, or else Savage River CG if you want to be in a more private area 14 miles into the park).

Day 13 – shuttle as far as you can go (depends on date, Toklat starting May 20 or Eielson starting June 1) to see scenery and look for wildlife. Must reserve shuttle in advance, as well as the campground, at www.reservedenali.com . Bring binoculars for both of you since most wildlife is seen at a distance, and food and beverages since none are for sale in the park. You can get off the shuttle almost anywhere to hike for a while, then flag down a later shuttle to resume your trip. Other activities as time allows. If you get to Eielson, there is a new visitor center to explore, and a free easy hike with a Ranger at 1 pm (I’m not sure if that starts early June or not, you can ask if you get there). Wonderful view of McKinley from Eielson if you're lucky enough to have the Mountain "out" that day (usually shrouded in clouds). Overnight Denali.

Day 14 – 2nd shuttle as far as you can go. Late afternoon or early evening drive to Byers Lake CG (1.5 hrs) to overnight. Visit Veterans Memorial (easy hike from the campground or you can drive there on your way in or out)

Day 15 – Drive to Anchorage (3.5 hrs). In Anchorage, possible activities: Museum, Native Heritage Center, zoo (your only chance to see polar bears and probably your only chance to see wolves—you can do an “encounter” with either if you like: http://www.alaskazoo.org/special-encounters ), watch the floatplanes on Lake Hood, Earthquake Park, walk a bit of Tony Knowles Coastal Trail, Alaska Wildberry for unusual preserves and souvenirs.

Day 16 - flight home

I hope this gives you some ideas.

Brisbane, Australia
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9. Re: Australian couple wanting help with 15 day RV trip May 2012

Hello again. Thank you for your ongoing help. Manitoba, thank for your extensive informative with the suggested itinerary. The links will be so helpful as well. We will actually be flying into Anchorage from Kansas after spending the first 2 weeks of May, visiting my son and daughter in law. I would think we will arrive in Anchorage in the early afternoon. We could leave Anchorage on the first day or early the next morning. It sounds as though you think Anchorage is worth a day. Yes, we can change the dates in Alaska. We can arrive 18 May and leave 2 June. It sounds like a good idea. As far as the campground in Denali, the more private the better. I have read on review that Kenai is beautiful and that Denali not as good but do you think Denali is a must? Hi Yescanada, I am reading reviews and researching as well as you suggested. Thanks for the links that will be very helpful. Hi Murtyd, Sounds like you had a great time. WOW! Planning your third trip.

Manitoba, Canada
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10. Re: Australian couple wanting help with 15 day RV trip May 2012

"We can arrive 18 May and leave 2 June."

That would be good. It will give you one day to Toklat, then the first trip of the year to Eielson. Or, if you delay it one more day, you can have the first 2 trips to Eielson.

"As far as the campground in Denali, the more private the better."

I stayed at Savage R. CG in 2009, nicely laid out with treed sites. Also, from the south end of the CG you can see the top of McKinley if it's out. You can choose to drive back to the WAC (Wilderness Access Center) to board the shuttles, or have the shuttles pick you up at the campground. Be aware that if you do the latter, you might not get to sit together.

"I have read on review that Kenai is beautiful and that Denali not as good but do you think Denali is a must?"

Nothing is a "must". Everyone has different priorities. If you get to go as far as Eielson, there is some really nice scenery, and of course Denali is your best *chance* to see a variety of wildlife. But if that isn't so important to you, then you can spend time other places.

Read some of the trip reports as Yescanada suggested, to give you an idea what other people did on their trips. That should help you make up your mind.