In Alaska’s Kachemak Bay, Between Beaches is a Perfect Place To Stay
By Kurt Jacobson
Three picture windows of my cabin lookout on Alaska’s Cook Inlet with Illiamna Volcano and Mount Redoubt framing the horizon. In the morning, the early summer sun rises over Kasitsna Bay, announced by bald eagle calls.
By sunset, the golden glow of the evening sun splashes a riot of color over Kachemak Bay as you dine on clams gathered from nearby beaches. These are reasons enough to come to Between Beaches cabins.
I was looking for something different for our annual Alaska trip and was attracted to the MacDonald Spit. Back in 1984, when I worked on the English Bay (now called Nanwalek) school remodel job as a camp cook, I fell in love with the area.
Between Beaches Clam Beds
One of the guys on the job lived in Seldovia and told me about MacDonald Spit and the clam beds there. I wanted to visit the spit for clamming and fishing ever since that conversation. I was sold on coming after a short conversation I had with Kristi McLean in 2018.
Kristi is the owner of Between Beaches on the property held by her family since the 1960s. An artist in several disciplines, Kristi excels in pottery, turning out renditions of salmon, octopus, tide pool creatures, and whatever else strikes her fancy.
Kristi also is active in commercial fishing, harvesting salmon from set-nets strung in and around Kasitsna Bay. On the side, Kristi rents out three of the best cabins in rural Alaska.
Summer Season Is Best
From May through September, guests can rent one of three cabins at Between Beaches. Each cabin is thoughtfully decorated with Kristi’s artwork and other rustic touches. Guests can easily access the beach on the Kasitsna Bayside and Kachemak Bay.
The Cannery and Fisherman cabins are side-by-side, making them perfect for 4-6 guests wanting to be close together. The Pioneer Cabin, situated closer to Kasitsna Bay, was built in 1959 offers a bit more privacy. All three cabins feature area rugs crocheted by Kristi’s mom affectionately known as Grandma Jo.
What appealed to my group was the spectacular views, but the creature comforts are worth noting.
Each cabin has an on-demand hot water system that makes wilderness showers a cut above most others. Inside each shower stall are a “kelp forest” pottery, wire, and pipe feature that Kristi created to support the shower’s knobs and the showerhead.
Other Creature Comforts
You could travel the world without ever coming across such unique and artsy shower decorations.
Our group enjoyed cabin’s comforts, beach-combing, tide pool nature walks, and fishing. Between Beaches also has a wood-fired hot tub, sauna, and Kristi’s art studio for pottery shopping to add to the mix of reasons to stay.
The amenities don’t stop there. Inside the cabins are sufficient pots and pans, salt, pepper, seasonings, and more to cook delicious meals from the abundant waters just outside your door. I prepared a fantastic meal of fresh salmon, steamer clams, and potatoes in the Cannery Cabin’s kitchen.
A plush comforter covers the beds, and a space heater keeps the cabins warm and cozy. Enjoy the selection of books in each cabin for times when you want to stay inside and read a bit. Both my brother and I enjoyed the quiet reading time when the weather was harsh.
Kayaking On Kachemak Bay
Outside the cabins, guests are immersed in the best of the Alaskan outdoors. To get out on the water, Between Beaches has enough kayaks for every guest. These sea-kayaks are perfect for exploring the Kasitsna Bay area if you are a beginning kayaker.
For experienced kayakers, take a trip to nearby Jakolof Bay, Tutka Bay, or paddle to the village of Seldovia. Due to our less-than-stellar kayak skills, we opted for other activities.
Kristi has started allowing guests to go out and pick salmon from her set-nets. This totally cool immersive Alaskan activity isn’t offered anywhere I’ve been, and I was excited to be allowed to check out commercial salmon fishing.
Commercial Fishing at Between Beaches
On two occasions, I went out in Kristi’s salmon boat with my friend Jonathan and a visiting temporary worker from Spain who found Kristi from searching Helpx.net.
As we approached the first set net, Kristi could tell there were salmon in it and said, “Look at that white float partly submerged in the water. That means there’s a fish or two below that spot.” As we got close, I could see a bright silver salmon caught in the net.
Jonathan and the Spanish temporary worker grabbed the rope, securing the net to the metal pins on the boat’s rail, while Kristi skillfully plucked the salmon from the nets.
My job was to film the whole experience and enjoy the moment. Kristi told me, “This activity is offered to guests on a limited basis.” The weather has to be right for this priceless experience.
After the nets were picked clean, Kristi allowed Jonathan and me to cast a few lures into the water to see if we could entice a salmon to bite, but our efforts failed. All those fish swimming into the nets made us think for sure we’d get a bite.
We didn’t leave empty-handed. Kristi saved the day by gifting us the pink salmon she had caught to take home.
With some 55 fish to clean, I was glad to see the professional cutting table with a hose nearby. My friend Donald and I managed to filet our 55 fish in less than an hour while my brother operated the vacuum-packing machine in the barn.
We were given the pink salmon but opted to buy some of the fresh-caught red and silver salmon Kristi offered.
These ended up being the bulk of the fish we brought home since the time we spent sport fishing on the Kenai River didn’t produce much.
Bear viewing trips can be arranged or fishing charters if desired. There’s more to the MacDonald Spit area than fishing or boating.
There are options for those looking for a hike in the woods nearby. Several trails are available to explore the coastal forest or hunt for wild mushrooms.
The 1.2 mile Otter Bahn Trail combines a trip to Seldovia with a walk in the woods. On the trail, one might see black bear, porcupine, three-toed woodpeckers, and plenty of seabirds near the waterfront part of the path. We were treated to a gorgeous waterfront rainbow on our walk.
Clam digging is a must at MacDonald Spit. We grabbed rakes and buckets then hiked a mere five minutes to prime clam beds on the beach. Kristi let use her knee-high cannery boots for the sloppy beach where the clams lurked just beneath the surface.
We gathered enough steamer clams for a feast then let them soak for a day to disgorge their sand in the bucket of saltwater.
With the groceries we bought in Homer and some salmon we got from Kristi, we had an amazing meal.
There are tons of awesome adventures to be found in Alaska but Between Beaches will go down as one of the coolest places we’ve stayed at.
With so many things to do at your cabin’s doorstep, it would be hard to find a better place at such a reasonable price.
Cabins cost around $395 with a two-night minimum and accommodate up to three persons. Glamping tents have been added for yet another way to enjoy this outdoor hotspot.
The tents cost around $250 per night for the Sunrise ten and $295 for the Sunset tent with a two-night minimum. Call Kristi for more info or reach out by inquiring through her website form.
Kurt Jacobson lives in Baltimore, Maryland, and spent many years as a professional chef. Now he travels the world and shares his stories here and on other travel websites.