For Episode 85 of the “Talking GolfGetaways” podcast — sponsored by the great folks at 2UNDR.com (save 20% with promo code GNN20) — co-hosts Mitch Laurance and Darin Bunch take a look both backwards and ahead, recapping last summer’s trip to Alaska for those who might be planning a future visit to America’s 50th (and possibly most scenic) state.
Yes, there is golf in them thar hills along with the gold men have sought for centuries. The hosts recount Darin’s visit to a variety of golf courses, including more mainstream facilities such as the 36 holes at Moose Run on the Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson outside Anchorage (where he was greeted by black bears playing on the driving range); the “best greens in the state” at the friendly Settlers Bay in Wasilla; the expansive views at Kenai Golf Club; and more than a few quirky nine-hole tracks like Birch Ridge (across the street from Good Time Charlies in Soldotna) and Black Diamond way up north of Denali National Park, where the tundra is inviting and an old abandoned Jeep guards one of the greens.
But Alaska is about much more than the golf. No trip is complete without a visit to explore the wildlife and extreme scenery of Denali (with its famed 20,000-foot peak), and checking out the historic mining town of Talkeetna is a must-stop on your drive northward — you just might find you want to stay multiple days (and nights) at the 100-plus-years-old Talkeetna Roadhouse, a short walk from the Susitna River, and located among the downtown streets lined with fun shops, good eats and homemade ice cream. Not that you’ll need to go anywhere else for breakfast — Talkeetna Roadhouse instantly became one of Darin’s favorite breakfast spots anywhere in the world thanks to a sourdough pancake recipe that dates back a century and the magic of birch syrup made by Alaska Wild Harvest just down the road.
And, finally, what would a visit to Alaska be without exploring the extraordinary bodies of water that surround this outdoor wonderland. Down in the fjords on the east side of the Kenai Peninsula, the serene setting of Orca Island Cabins is simply dazzling — and perhaps the most memorable experience you’ll have in a state full of exceptional sights and sounds. Accessible only by a 30-minute boat ride out of the port town of Seward, Alaska, Orca Island Cabins is a collection of spacious, comfortable yurts nestled among the trees and rocky terrain. Kayaking, whale-watching and fishing are just a few of the activities to enjoy as you unplug (seriously, this is where the cell phone gets put away) and embrace true isolation, except for the few guests on property at the same time.
Other solid lodging spots Darin suggests include the family-owned Steller Bed and Breakfast in Seward (right around the corner from the historic-hip Salmon Bake restaurant and pub, where the food is as good as the name sounds and cabin rentals of its own are also available), and the newly remodeled roadside Eagle Rock Lodge close to Kenai Golf Club and Birch Ridge on the western side of the peninsula.