There’s lots of opportunity for adventure in Nome, which sits on the edge of Norton Sound and the Bering Sea. Photo by Kevin G. Smith, alaskastock.com.
I’ve had a soft spot for Nome ever since my first extended trip to this amazing city on the sea over a decade ago. If you appreciate the outdoors, Alaska Native culture, history, art, fishing, birding, hiking, or just walking a quiet Bering Sea beach where gold flakes are still mixed in with the sand, you’ll enjoy a weekend, or week, in and around this friendly town, exploring over 200 miles of mixed terrain and geology.
Nome fits our travel interests perfectly. My wife and I like to hike together. Kelly enjoys birding, and tolerates me offering insightful comments like “What’s that?” I’m improving and can at least tell the difference between red-throated, Pacific, arctic, and common loons, the latter often being the least common of all. Magnificent spring and fall migrations along perches and ponds delight birders here. You can find guided birding trips or bird on your own. There are a host of resources covering the birds around Nome, including Siberian “accidentals” that sometimes get blown across the Bering Sea and Strait.
While in Nome, I often fish the Seward Peninsula’s wild mountain streams. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game has identified the species of fish held in all the main road system streams in the helpful Nome Roadside Fishing Guide, which includes access points. I personally leave area salmon for residents to use for food and spend my time fishing for the beautiful, floppy-finned arctic grayling and pink-spotted char.
Mountain ranges line much of the road system, with most situated above the brush line. If you like to hike, just pick a mountain that interests you, and walk up the tundra-carpeted rock.
A stroll around town can also be fascinating. Today, Nome is a multicultural city of Inupiaq and Yup’ik residents with lineage dating back through generations of area ancestors, as well as Alaska Native and non-Native people attracted from outside the region. Some trace their ancestry back to the nineteenth-century gold rush that brought in colorful figures like Wyatt Earp.
The lure of gold is part of what excited my nephew’s girlfriend, Tiffany, about Nome. Two summers ago, she and Antoine flew from New York City, spent four hours sleeping at our house in Anchorage, and flew with us for a gold mining adventure at Nome’s AKAU Gold Resort.
Tiffany paid for a day of recreational mining, and she and Antoine were enthusiastically welcomed back for free as guests the next day. Much of Tiffany’s gold mining knowledge came from the reality show Bering Sea Gold. In four days, she ran into a half dozen of the show’s larger-than-life characters and, of course, got pictures with them.
Town of Nome
When in town, I peruse the shops for Alaska Native art. At a steep discount from what you’d pay in New York, or even Anchorage, you can find beautiful whalebone and ivory carvings and sculptures, sealskin drums, and wooden and ivory masks. I have a brother who works at a well-known New York museum, which qualifies me to say that much of this art is museum worthy.
What else will you find during an amble through the streets? Remnants of gold rush history are everywhere, including gold dredges and dredge digging buckets now used as giant flower planters. You’re also likely to see wild muskox. Alaska’s native muskox were wiped out by the nineteenth century, but a herd from Greenland was reintroduced to the Seward Peninsula in the 1970s and has thrived. In fact, it’s hard not to find them. Without much effort, you’ll see them on the way out of town and in the mountains along the Nome road system.
Nome hospitality abounds with dozens of hotels, bed and breakfasts, and lodges. There’s one main fishing lodge whose guide, former Alaska Department of Fish and Game area Biologist Fred Decicco, backcountry rafted a client to the current world-record grayling. If a fly-out trip for large grayling is your passion, you might like a stay at the cozy, locally owned Twin Peaks Adventures lodge. The owner, Ben Rowe, is a helicopter pilot, and Fred is a great fly fisherman.
All that, and I haven’t mentioned what the world may know Nome for best: the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, which finishes there in March. Attending that is still on my to-do list.
I hope you’ve found something to put into your vacation planner. If not, I bet you can find a rewarding adventure in Nome all on your own.